Football: Goldberg denies attack on Venables

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The Independent Online
THE CRYSTAL Palace chairman, Mark Goldberg, has moved to distance himself from criticism of Terry Venables in which he was said to have admitted that hiring the former England coach was a mistake.

Venables left his lucrative coaching post earlier this month to become a consultant to the cash-strapped club in what had seemed a pure cost- cutting move by Goldberg. However, when the Palace chairman appeared at a meeting of the Palace Independent Supporters' Association earlier this week, it initially seemed that there may have been other factors behind Venables' departure.

Goldberg was reported to have told fans: "Did I make a mistake in appointing Terry Venables? Yes, I think I did and when you make a mistake you have to turn it around. You haven't had value in the last six months and I haven't had value either. I would never have made the decision if I could start all over again."

The Palace chairman has also been quoted by The Express as declaring that: "The youth team is fitter than the first team and since Steve Coppell and John Cartwright have taken over, the players have a greater level of fitness already. We never got into a situation where we played with the same players and the same system."

Goldberg's reported comments were clearly at odds with the truce between himself and Venables which had existed since an end was called to the coach's pounds 750,000-a-year, five-year contract at Palace. With Venables understood to be fuming at reports of the fans' meeting, the chairman yesterday maintained that his comments had been "misrepresented".

"I deny that I have criticised Terry Venables or his management of the team," Goldberg said. "I was purely talking to the fans about the fact that our plans for the future will involve playing with more passion, fight and fitness as we need to compensate for having had to sell two players of great skill in Attilio Lombardo and Matt Jansen.

"That wasn't meant as a criticism of Terry Venables in any way. He was an asset to Crystal Palace while he was there and brought in many quality players at good value. The only mistake I admitted to was due to the financial implications of bringing in Terry, and had nothing to do with his management."

Goldberg's version of events was largely supported by leading members of the fans' group who attended Wednesday night's public meeting, with the Association chairman Andy Gilbert saying that: "Mark Goldberg did say many of those things but he was not overly critical of Terry Venables. Some of the fans were but he was admirably restrained. He admitted he was on a learning curve and that although he had brought in someone he believed was a world authority on football, it hadn't worked out."

One thing that does appear certain, however, is that Coppell, who was moved aside from coach to become director of football before Venables took over, is now seen as Palace's manager for the future. Goldberg, meanwhile, denied reports that the entire first-team squad had been put up for sale to further ease the financial problems at the club, insisting that Palace now "had time" to consider their next move.