Football: Venables: 'I would have picked Gascoigne'

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TERRY VENABLES, the former England manager, said yesterday that he would have picked Paul Gascoigne for the World Cup. "If we are talking about a decision based purely on Gazza's fitness then I would have taken him in a squad of 22," he said, commenting on Glenn Hoddle's decision to discard the 31-year-old midfielder from his squad.

"We are told he was 65-70 per cent fit, although I believe he was more than that," said Venables. "Obviously he hasn't done himself any favours," he added, partly in reference to the fact that Gascoigne yesterday admitted in a national newspaper that he was drunk just a few hours before Hoddle told him in La Manga at the weekend that he was out of the squad.

"But it is not as though you have got to pick a squad of just 12 at this stage," added Venables. "We are talking about 22 for a competition that lasts seven weeks. I would have taken him, watched his progress and been prepared to put him on the bench or even in the team depending on how he developed.

"Maybe it would not have mattered if he had not played at all in any of the first round matches. But there would still have been time to get something out of him. The further you go in a big tournament like the World Cup or Euro 96 the more you need players who can make a difference in a match.

Venables, who signed Gascoigne for pounds 2.2m for Tottenham from Newcastle in 1990 and made him an automatic selection for Euro 96, added: "I believe Gazza was still our best player when we qualified for the World Cup against Italy back in October. I know Gazza had not had a drink until that party for 11 days. These boys work hard and have to have a release now and then. But in the end the manager or coach of the team makes his decision on what he thinks is best for everybody and Glenn has made his."

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