Football: Venables gets High Court reprieve after dismissal by Sugar: Legal relief for Spurs' chief executive in the wake of the extraordinary scenes at White Hart Lane which brought his temporary ousting

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES was dramatically reinstated as the chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur last night after obtaining a court injunction against the decision of Alan Sugar, the club chairman, and his fellow directors to oust him.

It was an astonishing final twist to a day which saw the White Hart Lane club in turmoil, the power struggle, an old-fashioned 'clash of personalities', pushing apart the manager- turned-boardroom supremo and the tycoon he had helped buy into Spurs.

A statement issued on Venables' behalf said: 'At 8.30 tonight Mrs Justice Arden, sitting in the Chancery division of the High Court, ordered the immediate reinstatement of Terry Venables to all his positions at Tottenham and instructed the board not to implement any of the resolutions passed at today's board meeting.'

Venables was naturally delighted at the reprieve. 'I'm back in the game,' he said. 'I have got to speak to my lawyers so I don't know the exact position, but it gives me a chance.'

The club responded with a statement saying that it had been given no chance to put any evidence to the court, but would do so when the hearing reconvened on 25 May.

All week Venables had known that, for all his support in the dressing- room and on the terraces, his boardroom chair was being kicked from beneath him. Yet when the vote to oust him came during an hour-and-a-half long board meeting in the morning at White Hart Lane it was still a shattering blow, leaving him shaken and emotional.

When he emerged after the meeting, more than a hundred supporters locked outside the gates of the north London club almost drowned out Venables's words in their support for him. 'Sugar's voted to dismiss me,' he began. 'I am talking to solicitors and that's all I can say.'

One fan burst through the cordon to embrace him. Another shouted: 'What's happening to you mate?' Venables replied 'I don't know mate,' and turned to kiss his daughter Tracey, another club employee, at the door of his blue Mercedes car, in which he was driven away by Jonathan Crystal, his friend and only remaining supporter on the five-man board of Tottenham Hotspur plc. Venables's contract, worth pounds 250,000 a year, has three years to run.

Last night, back in the West End club and restaurant he owns, Venables made a vigorous defence of his work, rounded on his critics, and said that he might have sufficient backing to buy out Sugar.

'I keep hearing about the good of the club, but I think if anyone is an expert on that then I'm the one,' he said. 'It's not just about the club and the building, it's about the people. I have been told there are no grounds for this. I've got backing in several directions, but he does not want to sell. Neither do I. He seems to be saying that we don't get on and that only one man can run the club, but he knew that when we started.

'They say they want me out, but I'm not accused of anything. They have finished with me, but whether I have finished with them is another matter. Can I buy Sugar out? I genuinely do not know. Of course it's something I want to do and I think people are expecting me to do it. I have invested a lot of money - my life really. It's my life and my living.

'I have borrowed money at a time when a lot of people could not raise tuppence in the City. I have put myself in a bad corner financially, but I felt it was the right thing to do. You only have one life.

'I don't believe I have ever done better work anywhere. I am immensely proud of what I have done. My conscience is clear, but I can't understand or control what other people are doing.'

Should he succeed in removing Venables, Sugar may seek to placate the strength of public feeling against him by making a formal approach to Glenn Hoddle, the former Tottenham hero now in charge of First Division Swindon Town, to return as manager. Venables believes an approach has been made by Sugar to an individual outside the club and he thought that man to be Hoddle.

It was Venables's determination and resolve, as much as all the pound notes, that kept the club alive two years ago. His departure would bring in its wake serious repercussions throughout the structure of one of football's biggest and most glamorous clubs. Among those who may have to consider their futures are Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence, coaches appointed by Venables last summer to run the first team under his overall charge.

An hour after Venables left the ground, the managerial pair arrived, grim-faced and refusing to comment, for their own meeting with Sugar. Later, however, Clemence said: 'We talked over a number of things and Doug and I have a lot to think about over the weekend and nothing will be decided until after that. We are thinking about what has been put to us by the board.

'I have no idea what's behind it. It's something Terry and Mr Sugar have obviously disagreed on but it's not for me or Doug to comment on. It's over our heads.'

Meanwhile the man at the centre of the controversy declined to speak to journalists. Sugar's aides said he was busy in meetings throughout the day and it was not a question, they insisted, of his being 'frightened to come out'.

He issued a statement which implied he was concerned about the financial future for the club with Venables remaining in his post, even though at the end of the month the year-on figures are likely to show a trading profit in the region of pounds 5m.

'Whilst I have control of the company,' Sugar said, 'it will never have any financial problems and I confirm that such financial resources will be applied as is appropriate to a football club. I have never intervened in any matters to do with the playing department and never intend to do so. This area is firmly the responsibility of the appropriate professional football managers. Any suggestion that I will be involved in team selection or management now or in the future is ludicrous.'

Nevertheless, his statement will not assuage the strength of feeling against him, especially as he did not answer the billion-dollar question: 'Why?'

Ted Buxton, the club's chief scout, spoke for all Venables's admirers inside White Hart Lane, saying: 'This is the worst day in the club's history. We are all devastated. Terry is irreplaceable. He is the best man in the world for the job.'

Although Venables's job as chief executive is under threat, he cannot be forced to sell his shares and he can lose his position as a director of the club only if a full shareholders' meeting votes him off.

He was not allowed a vote at the board meeting, which went against him by three votes to one. Apart from Sugar, those opposing him were the finance director, Colin Sandy, who works for Sugar's property company, and Tony Berry.

It was also decided to reappoint Douglas Alexiou, a director of the football club, to the plc board.

The players were quick to voice their support for Venables. Teddy Sheringham, the Premier League's leading scorer, said he would 'seriously consider' his position. 'Both the players and the supporters look upon Terry Venables as a legend,' he said. 'Terry is Mr Tottenham.' Gordon Durie said: 'I'm amazed. I don't think Alan Sugar realises how much Terry Venables means to the players and the fans.'

(Photograph omitted)

Ken Jones, page 55