David Platt will captain his country for the eighth time against Denmark at Wembley tomorrow, reappointed for the first match of the Venables regime in preference to Arsenal's Tony Adams.
Others had been considered, Stuart Pearce, Paul Ince and Paul Gascoigne among them, but it had boiled down to a straight fight between Platt and Adams, and cosmopolitan experience and level- headedness had carried the day.
Platt had been Graham Taylor's favourite son. Back to the future, then? Not exactly. There will be changes, and exciting ones, too, when Venables names his team today, but it was important to set the right tone, and Platt's restoration to the captaincy (he displaces Pearce) sent out all the right signals.
Venables' inclination was probably to go with Adams. Essex men, and men's men both, they are kindred spirits who share the love of a drink and a laugh. The class jokers to Platt's house prefect.
Venables, though, has had enough criticism of a non-footballing nature not to lay himself open to more from those unforgiving souls disposed to drag up Adams' chequered past at the first hint of further impropriety, and Mr Squeaky Clean was the judicious choice.
Platt's credentials, like his behaviour, are impeccable. At 27 he is at the height of his powers, enjoying an excellent season with Sampdoria, where he is revelling in the attacking freedom Juventus denied him. More important still, with 20 goals in 45 internationals, he is England's one proven scorer and, as such, the captain is guaranteed his place.
Venables said: 'I've thought about it thoroughly, and there were strong pluses for other players, but I feel David is the right man. Playing in Italy, he is involved in something akin to international football every week, and he appreciates the importance of team play, as well as his own individual role.'
Platt was to be the coach's director of operations on the field, and would have an influential say off it, too. Venables would be a listening coach, always receptive to new ideas.
'There is no doubt' he said, 'that the captain has got to be someone who understands what you want, and can put that over during the game. For that reason, we've got to spend time together, discussing things, in case there are any areas where he may not be sure.
'It is up to him to examine my thoughts, and perhaps disagree, and come up with his own answers. Once we've got those answers, and he knows what they are, he can take care of their implementation during the game.'
Platt, naturally, was 'delighted' to be back in the job he regards as 'the biggest honour a player can have.' He was not a fist-shaking motivator, like Adams. 'I don't lose my temper and get nasty. If you do that, you're going to lose your concentration.
'I enjoy the tactical side of the game more. I know that there will be times when I've got to change something on the pitch because the opposition have done something different. It's about making decisions - the right ones - and I enjoy that responsibility.'
The captaincy issue out of the way, it was shades of deja vu, with Gascoigne arriving from Italy the way he spent much of the Taylor years. Injured.
The battering he took during the Rome derby on Sunday had left him with nothing more serious than heavy bruising, not the rib and wrist fractures which were the first dire prognosis, but Gascoigne was doubtful. Again.
'If the match was today, I couldn't play,' he said. 'We'll just have to see how it goes over the next couple of days. I really want to play - I missed too many England games with little injuries - but I don't want to let the others down by playing for 10 minutes and then coming off, just for the sake of one cap.'
Lazio had released him with the proviso that he took no risks. 'They expect me to use my head. I haven't done it before, but there's a first time for everything.'
Venables is optimistic about his best player's chances of recovering in time, but he is prepared to replace him with a young man capable of causing as much excitement as the clown prince himself. Standing by is not Carlton Palmer or David Batty, the prosaic scrappers beloved of the old regime, but Matthew Le Tissier who, with Darren Anderton, Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer would form an attack attractive enough to fill Wembley twice over.
Paul Parker and Paul Ince, both injured at the weekend, are expected to be fit, in which event the likely team is:
Seaman (Arsenal); Parker (Manchester United), Adams (Arsenal), Pallister (Manchester United), Pearce (Nottm Forest), Anderton (Tottenham Hotspur), Ince (Manchester United), Platt (Sampdoria), Gascoigne (Lazio) or Le Tissier (Southampton), Beardsley (Newcastle United), Shearer (Blackburn Rovers).
ENGLAND U-21s (v Denmark at Brentford tonight): Gerrard (Oldham); Watson (Newcastle), Campbell (Tottenham), Matteo (Liverpool) or Nethercott (Tottenham), Edghill (Man City), Parlour (Arsenal), Redknapp (Liverpool), Bart-Williams (Sheff Wed), Sinclair (QPR), Barmby (Tottenham), Sutton (Norwich).
ENGLAND'S POST-WAR CAPTAINS
91 games as captain Bobby Moore; 90 Billy Wright; 65 Bryan Robson; 31 Kevin Keegan; 23 Emlyn Hughes; 22 Johnny Haynes; 18 Gary Lineker; 15 Jimmy Armfield, Peter Shilton; 13 George Hardwick; 10 Ray Wilkins; 8 Gerry Francis, Mick Mills, Stuart Pearce; 7 Terry Butcher, David Platt; 6 Alan Ball, Phil Thompson; 5 Ronnie Clayton; 4 Martin Peters; 3 Ron Flowers, Alf Ramsey, Dave Watson; 2 Mick Channon, Bobby Charlton, Paul Ince, Frank Swift; 1 Peter Beardsley, Colin Bell, Trevor Cherry, Ray Clemence, Alan Mullery, Phil Neal, Mark Wright.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content