Football: Howe counts himself out in favour of Venables

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The Independent Online
NOW even the part-time coach of Newbury Town has refused the poisoned chalice of the England managership in the wake of Graham Taylor's resignation, recommending that it pass to an out-of-work former company director instead.

It sounds bad until you realise that the coach in question is Don Howe, widely touted as a possible caretaker manager for England's new year friendlies against Denmark and Germany, and that the man he would prefer to see succeed Taylor is Terry Venables.

The 58-year-old Howe, who has been helping out his local Diadora League club, was coach to Bobby Robson when England reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990.

''If the FA approached me - which they haven't so far - my answer would be no,' Howe said. 'I enjoyed my 10- year stint with Bob (Robson), but now they should go for a younger man.'

That man, Howe asserted, should be the sacked chief executive of Tottenham, whose alleged involvement in agent- related activities is now being investigated by Lancaster Gate. 'The FA should forget the problems at Spurs and give Terry the job,' he said. 'The England job is about coaching rather than managing, and he's a terrific coach.'

Howe added that Venables' Continental experience - he led Barcelona to the Spanish title in 1985 - made him ideally suited. 'These days a game plan is so important at international level - Bobby Robson proved that at the last World Cup, switching systems according to the opposition.

'Terry could do the same, and making his appointment permanent would be a positive step - much more so than offering me the job of caretaker.' Howe's second choice would be Steve Coppell, who has also said he is not interested in managing England.

Chris Woods, on the other hand, is backing Ray Wilkins. The Sheffield Wednesday keeper, who won most of his 43 caps under Taylor, said: 'Ray would be a great choice working with somebody alongside him. He has the right pedigree, plays the game the right way and he gets on with players.'

Lou Macari completed his first major signing as Celtic manager yesterday when he recruited Wayne Biggins, once his top scorer at Stoke, in an exchange deal which took Andy Payton to Barnsley on Tuesday.

A managerial vacancy - if perhaps not one to excite Taylor, Venables or Coppell - was created when Hartlepool, 21st in the Second Division, sacked Viv Busby after a nine-month reign which had brought just eight wins.

Ian Olney, Oldham's record signing, faces a lay-off of at least three months after cruciate-ligament damage was diagnosed. A more celebrated centre-forward, Milan's Marco van Basten, has been ordered to rest for three months in a bid to overcome a persistent ankle injury which, the Dutchman hinted, threatened his career.