Football: Venables and Goldberg reach breaking point

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THE FUTURE of Terry Venables at Crystal Palace is likely to be decided at a meeting today with his chairman, Mark Goldberg. The two men had what was decribed as a "long and constructive meeting" at a secret location in London yesterday as they attempted to reach agreement on a financial settlement which would see the former England coach relinquish his post as Palace manager.

A statement issued by Palace said that "as has always been the case in the past, their discussion was friendly and positive". Goldberg said that he had "always valued Terry's expertise and I continue to do so." Venables added: "We are sorting out the problem. We have gone a long way but it will go into tomorrow."

Goldberg has expressed his concern with Palace's on-field performances - they lie 14th in the First Division and have won only one of their last 10 League matches - but of greater concern are the club's precarious finances. Venables is believed to be on a five-year contract worth pounds 750,000 a year and Goldberg is under intense pressure to reduce the club's expenditure. However, it is believed that the manager has clauses in his contract which mean that Palace cannot dispose of his services cheaply. With Venables said to be looking for a pounds 1m settlement, Palace may instead have to retain him in another post at the club.

It was suggested yesterday that Palace's problems are such that even Goldberg's own position may be under threat. It is likely that any agreement he makes with Venables will have to be approved by a board meeting this afternoon.

Goldberg is being sued by his own lawyers for more than pounds 400,000 in relation to his takeover of the club last summer and earlier this week his chief executive, Jim McAvoy, publicly criticised his actions. Sara Pearson, his public relations executive, became the latest to desert him when she resigned yesterday, claiming her firm were owed more than pounds 60,000.

Venables stayed away yesterday from Palace's training ground. The first team's training session was taken by Steve Coppell, the club's director of football, and Steve Kember, the reserve team coach. It is expected that Goldberg will ask Coppell, who has managed Palace on two previous occasions, to take charge of the team once agreement has been reached over the departure of Venables.

Newcastle's John Barnes and Stuart Pearce were talked of yesterday as possible successors to Venables, but it seems unlikely that Goldberg would be able to afford them. A source close to Barnes described a move to Selhurst Park as "highly unlikely".

Goldberg's silver Porsche sat empty for most of yesterday outside his office at Selhurst Park. Ted Buxton, Venables' personal assistant, and Terry Fenwick, his assistant manager, both attended meetings at the ground yesterday. Buxton said he did not know how events would unfold , but added: "What happens to him [Venables] happens to the rest of us [the coaching staff brought in by Venables]." Fenwick refused to comment on his future.

The Goldberg era, page 24