Football: Howe's other team falter: Trevor Haylett on how Terry Venables' helper is going from Taunton to Wembley

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IT WAS not the most auspicious start for the new England regime. Only 18 minutes had elapsed, but already two goals had gone in and even with a restricted view behind a concrete pillar in a creaking stand Don Howe could see that the last team to benefit from his coaching skills was sliding to defeat.

The man chosen to steer Terry Venables away from the traps waiting to sabotage his international baptism was with his other footballing interest on Saturday: Newbury Town of the Diadora League Second Division who were trying their hardest to reach Wembley whence Howe will begin his national service all over again in two days' time.

The quarter-finals of the FA Vase in front of a thousand and a few at Wordsworth Drive, Taunton, to England v Denmark before expectant millions is not quite the ridiculous to the sublime but you take the point. Ask him 'Why Newbury?' and you are likely to get the answer 'Why not?'

Responding to an invitation from long-standing Brummie pals, John Holt and Martin Deaner, who had rescued the struggling Berkshire outfit and valued his expertise, Howe has discovered a refreshing new dimension to a career he thought had given him everything and could offer nothing new.

'I do it because I enjoy it,' Howe said. 'It's interesting and stimulating. What I do with them in training is no different to what I did at Arsenal or Chelsea. There are some good players at this level and every week I see lads who could make it in the League with a little help.'

On Saturday it was Newbury who needed the help as their Wembley dream turned to dust on an awkward surface and obligatory slope. Presented with two early goals, Taunton, disciplined and determined, never looked back.

After seven minutes Peter Rhoades-Brown, a flying winger in his days with Chelsea and Oxford but here a faltering sweeper, lost control of the ball and Andy Perrett was away. He is the Andy Cole of the Great Mills League with 60 goals last season and 54 already in this and the Newbury goalkeeper was forced to bring him down.

The inevitable penalty award brought the cry of 'Come on Bosnich' from among the away support but to no avail as Derek Fowler converted. Then a long ball caught Newbury napping again and after a scramble there was Perrett to ram it home.

Overwhelming pressure in the second half and a disputed goal-line clearance yielded only despair for the visitors. The filling between more glamorous fare in Turin, where Howe supplied radio commentary on Arsenal's Cup-Winners' Cup tie, and Wembley had stuck in the craw.

'I just hope we are handed two goals in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday,' he ventured, struggling to raise a smile. It was his one and only reference to England. Requests to talk about Newbury met with a similar polite refusal. Martin Hicks, the former Reading centre-half, is the full-time player-coach and Howe is conscious his is very much a secondary role.

Nevertheless he can not escape his fame. It was nearing 6pm when Paul West, Taunton's spiky No 7, emerged from the dressing-room. The hard-man pose softened as he recognised the man beneath the trilby. 'That's Don Howe, that is,' said West, turning to his mate. 'Good luck, Don, you're the tops, you are.'

Goals: Fowler pen (9) 1-0; Perrett (18) 2-0.

Taunton (4-4-2): Maloy; Morris, Ewens, Graddon, Walsh; West, Palfrey, Fowler, Jarvis; Durham, Perrett. Substitutes not used: Ward, Hendy.

Newbury (3-5-2): Honey; Hicks, Rhoades- Brown, Gribben; Richardson, Seymour, Gardner (Denton, 40), Parr, Kemp; Masters, McDonnell. Substitute not used: Deaner.

Referee: I Hemley (Ampthill, Beds).

(Photograph omitted)