Football: Selection of England manager imminent: Venables the favoured candidate as Armfield reveals FA's intention to make full-time appointment early in the new year

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THE England team can expect the new year to usher in a new era, since it became clear yesterday that the Football Association expects to make a permanent appointment sooner rather than later and possibly even before the Christmas decorations have come down.

According to Jimmy Armfield, the FA's special adviser, the list of possible successors to Graham Taylor has shortened dramatically after the secret meeting of king-makers held this week.

It looks increasingly likely that Terry Venables, the former Tottenham chief executive, will be the chosen one and that the restraining voices at the FA who fear the results of the continuing investigations into Tottenham's finances have been persuaded that no other candidate meets all the criteria for the job.

The committee who will make the decision, including the FA chairman, Sir Bert Millichip, the chief executive, Graham Kelly, Ian Stott (Oldham) and Noel White (Liverpool) are, Armfield said, in a 'positive' frame of mind, in no mood to 'linger' and determined that the new man, who will be a full-time appointment, must be in place well before the friendly with Denmark at Wembley on 9 March.

They are to reconvene in early January, by which time the former England captain should have taken vital last soundings. 'I have two people to see between now and then and that is not going to be easy because of the crowded holiday programme,' Armfield said.

Once they are fixed on their man, a formal interview will take place. 'Then the new man will have to spend a lot of time meeting the press. I also want him to talk to some of the people I have met and have time to get around his players.'

John Fashanu, the Wimbledon striker, will discover at lunchtime today if he is to face a misconduct charge after the FA said yesterday it required more time to consider his aerial challenge with Gary Mabbutt in which the Tottenham captain sustained serious facial injuries.

The two players came together yesterday at Lancaster Gate, where a commission of inquiry heard evidence lasting four hours from representatives of Tottenham and Wimbledon as well as the match referee, Keith Hackett.

'There is so much evidence to sift through the members could not reach a quick conclusion,' the FA spokesman, David Bloomfield, said. 'You would not expect a judge and jury to deliver a verdict immediately after hearing all the evidence.'

Chris Sutton has signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract with Norwich City, thus warding off interest from Blackburn and Arsenal. Norwich also hope to re-sign a number of senior players whose contracts expire at the end of the season - Ian Crook, Ian Culverhouse, Gary Megson and Daryl Sutch - and their manager, Mike Walker, who has been linked with jobs elsewhere.

Sutton's decision was welcomed by Walker, who said: 'It goes some way towards answering a couple of questions I had as regards where we might be going in the future. It all bodes well for continued success.'

Cardiff City look certain to face disciplinary action after the violent scenes which marred their home game with Swansea on Wednesday. Nine people were arrested and a police officer required treatment for a serious facial injury.

Dick Advocaat has been confirmed as the Netherlands coach for next summer's World Cup finals after negotiations with Johan Cruyff broke down.

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