Football: Venables not keen on FA's quibbles

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES spent last night considering not the small print but the large cost of a contract which could see him out of pocket if he takes on the management of England.

The Football Association's search for Graham Taylor's successor drags on into its 10th week today because of the conditions it has found it necessary to impose on the man it acknowledges as the best coach in the country.

Venables was prepared to accept the FA's proviso that he would forfeit the job should any allegations of financial malpractice against him be proved. He also swallowed, without complaint, disqualification from the FA's commercial activities, in which previous England managers have always had a say.

He was not so keen on plans to engage Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds United manager, as 'technical director', with responsibility for overseeing the country's coaching network, but the real reaction came when his would-be employers indicated that they wanted him to drop his court action against Alan Sugar, in which he is claiming his dismissal as chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur last summer was unfair.

The FA feels it would be embarrassing to have the manager of England engaged in acrimonious litigation against the chairman of one of the country's leading clubs, but Venables can ill afford to defer to its sensibilities.

The pounds 800,000 or so he hopes to recoup from that case was earmarked to replace the money he paid recently to settle debts perceived to be damaging his England prospects, and giving up pounds 800,000 for a two and a half year contract worth pounds 500,000 is bad business by anybody's standards.

It was an offer he could well afford to refuse, and he said he would sleep on it before giving his answer today.

Having described Venables as the best man for the job, the FA is not in the strongest of bargaining positions, and the likelihood is that if he calls the FA's bluff he will get the job on terms more to his own liking - possibly as early as tomorrow.

Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, said last night that he still hoped to make an announcement 'before the end of the week'. It was left to another member of the sub- committee delegated to hire the new manager to deny the suggestion that conditions were being imposed on Venables in the hope that he would 'go away', and enable a 'safer' appointment to be made.