Football: Spurs defiant on Barmby

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES, the Tottenham chief executive, last night refused to back down over the Football Association's request to release Nick Barmby, his teenage striker, to join the England squad for next month's World Youth Championship in Australia.

Having made his protests in advance and stated his case for Barmby remaining at home for Spurs' FA Cup quarter-final tie at Manchester City on 7 March, Venables was 'naturally disappointed' when his young forward was named in the England party, though it did not weaken his determination to continue the fight.

After the announcement of the squad, Venables suggested that the player should join up straight after the Maine Road game. That was turned down by the FA. Then Venables went into discussions with his legal advisers to decide his next move, which is expected to be announced at White Hart Lane tomorrow.

It seems only the threat of being drummed out of this season's competition will persuade Spurs that they have no option but to release Barmby. That is a possibility open to the FA, whose chief executive, Graham Kelly, stressed that it was not his style 'to threaten clubs or to blackmail individual players, particularly those of 18 and 19.'

However, Kelly added: 'Rest assured, we will employ every means at our disposal to ensure that the principles laid down are observed and the rules upheld.' Other penalties available to the governing body include fines and the possibility of banning those players kept at home from playing domestic football during the same period.

In his strongly worded statement, Venables said: 'The potential damage to the club, its supporters and its shareholders ought to have persuaded the FA in the interests of the English game that regular first-team players were inappropriate for selection.

'It should not be forgotten that Tottenham have a long history of making players available without difficulty to the FA. The club has also had a tradition of successful involvement in the FA Cup and has always honoured its obligation under FA rules to field its best team in such competition. That it wishes to do now.'

The 18-man squad also includes Chris Bart-Williams, of Sheffield Wednesday, and Arsenal's Ian Selley. Barnsley may risk a fine by withdrawing their goalkeeper, David Watson. The First Division club's No 1 keeper, Lee Butler, has had an operation and their manager, Mel Machin, said: 'I don't want to be left with a third-string keeper. We wrote to the FA stating our case but received no reply.'

The FA do not expect withdrawals. 'Having come so far over the last couple of years setting up the Premier League, I would be very surprised and saddened if any club were to break their own rules which commit them to supporting the FA and international football,' Kelly said.

'I understand how the club managers are feeling,' Graham Taylor, the England manager, said. 'Three years ago I was in the same situation, but the fact is now I am the international manager, and this tournament gives me a chance to assess how these players will do at a higher level later on.'

ENGLAND SQUAD (FIFA / Coca-Cola World Youth Cup, Australia, 5-20 March): Sheppard (Watford), Watson (Barnsley); Johnson (Norwich), S Watson, Thompson (both Newcastle), Unsworth (Everton), Hughes (Crewe), Harriott (Oldham), Myers, Pearce (both Chelsea), Caskey, Barmby (both Tottenham), Selley (Arsenal), Butt (Manchester United), Bart-Williams (Sheffield Wednesday), Pollock (Middlesbrough), Mike (Manchester City), Joachim (Leicester). Stand-by players: Marlowe, Day (both Tottenham), Fenton (Aston Villa), Tinkler (Leeds), Berry (Aston Villa), Warner (Nottingham Forest), Matteo (Liverpool).

Match reports, results, page 39