Football: Venables must wait on England verdict: Armfield decision due

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES' credentials as the next England manager will be closely examined tomorrow by the king-makers of the Football Association as speculation increases that the former Tottenham chief executive is the recommendation of Jimmy Armfield, who has been canvassing opinion on Graham Taylor's successor from within the game.

Significantly, bookmakers yesterday suspended betting on the race, having gradually reduced Venables' odds to 5-2. In the space of three hours last week backers placed nine separate bets of pounds 100 on the man who did not even warrant a place on the short-list when the FA considered the candidates to replace Bobby Robson three years ago.

This time leading managers have come out overwhelmingly in support of Venables, who would seem to meet more of the requirements than any other contender.

An England player at every level, he has managerial experience at the highest echelons both at home and abroad and his tactical acumen and ability to communicate his progressive ideas on the training field has impressed many of the star-name players who have played under him. He also has the advantage of being immediately available, having decided not to take another job in the game since his dismissal from White Hart Lane last summer.

Armfield has been impressed with the strength of support for Venables, who is also Wales' choice to be their manager if agreement cannot be reached with Terry Yorath, and will inform the committee which comprises the FA chairman, Sir Bert Millichip, the chief executive, Graham Kelly, Noel White (Liverpool) and Ian Stott (Oldham) at tomorrow's get-together.

Millichip is known to be concerned at possible FA disciplinary action against Venables over the investigation being carried out into Spurs' financial dealings. That inquiry, led by the chief executive of the Premier League, Rick Parry, is not expected to announce its findings until the end of January and the FA will be seeking guidance on Venables' culpability, if any.

Kelly yesterday reacted coolly to continued conjecture that Venables is their man while Millichip, just returned from Las Vegas, where he attended the World Cup draw, said no announcement was imminent. 'People are very impatient and I can understand that but it will all come out in the fullness of time,' he said.

Kelly explained: 'We have not had a meeting of the sub-committee for a couple of weeks and when we do we will start considering names but we are not yet at that stage.'

He also claimed to be suspicious of reports that several candidates were not interested in the biggest job in English football. Leeds's manager Howard Wilkinson is the latest who is supposed to have expressed a lack of interest in it, thereby following the lead of Kevin Keegan, Gerry Francis and Ray Wilkins.

'Most people are interested and most of the names I have seen quoted would be interested in one form or another. I don't think anybody has ruled themselves out unless it's through unavailability because they are on a long contract,' Kelly said.

Armfield believes the new man should be installed before England begin their post-Taylor era in the spring with scheduled fixtures against Denmark and Germany.

The friendly game in Hamburg on 20 April, however, looks likely to be called off because it coincides with the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday and would be a potential target for neo-Nazis. In that event the new manager would be left with only one certain date, the 9 March Wembley game against the European champions. The FA has ruled out any possibility of facing the Republic of Ireland, who cancelled their friendly with Norway that month when they were paired in the same World Cup group.

The Tranmere chairman and Merseyside businessman Peter Johnson could move closer to a takeover of Everton this week. He is expected to hold talks with the family of the late Sir John Moores, who left his 40 per cent shareholding in the club to his sons.

The Spurs striker, Teddy Sheringham, could be fit to face Norwich on 27 December after coming through a test on his damaged knee yesterday but Mark Robins, the Norwich forward injured in the Uefa Cup victory over Bayern Munich, will require a cartilage operation after breaking down again.

Sheffield United's David Barnes and Charlie Hartfield have been suspended for one week and two weeks, respectively, and fined for a 'breach of club discipline.'

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