Football: Venables not my choice says Noades

Crystal Palace 0 Coventry City 3

STEVE COPPELL sounded like a man preparing himself for the end of his third reign at Selhurst Park, but the second coming of Terry Venables may not be as imminent as Mark Goldberg, Crystal Palace's prospective new owner, would like.

Goldberg meets Venables today hoping to persuade the former England coach to return to manage the club he left 18 years ago. He will offer a deal said to be worth more than pounds 3m that includes share options and performance bonuses. Coppell would be offered the chance to move into an "upstairs" role.

After Saturday's depressing defeat, Coppell seemed resigned to his fate. "I am a Palace fan and I want Palace to do well," he said. "If Terry Venables is the best man to get them out of this situation and that's been decided, I will go along with it for the good of Crystal Palace."

While Coppell's tone had changed from earlier in the week - when he had insisted that he would remain as manager "until the owner, Ron Noades, tells me otherwise" - much will have to be resolved before Venables can be appointed.

Quite apart from Venables' own intentions, the fact that Goldberg is not due to complete his takeover until October could be a problem. The agreement between Noades and Goldberg - who is paying for the pounds 30m deal in instalments - allows for the former to remain as chairman until the autumn, although he cannot take major decisions without the new man's agreement.

Conversely, Noades is not prepared to commit to expenditure which he considers excessive and for which he would have to pay in the event of Goldberg's takeover not going through.

Noades said: "If Mark feels that Venables is his man, then that's something he has to discuss with Terry Venables and Steve Coppell. When he is in a position to make that appointment, if he has completed the purchase of the club, then he may do so. It may be a good appointment, I don't know. But it's not something I would contemplate doing as that's not the route I would choose."

Goldberg has a slightly different view. "Ron does have an understanding with me that if Terry Venables accepts and I am prepared to bankroll the difference between what Ron would pay and what I would pay then he would be happy for Terry to come on board," he said. "But Ron's not as confident as I am that Terry might accept my offer."

While the possibility of a Venables appointment is being openly discussed, formal negotiations have not even been opened yet. When Goldberg made his first approach, Venables said he would not talk behind Coppell's back until the club changed hands. When Goldberg made contact again last week and explained the new situation, the two men agreed to meet today.

Venables' contract to coach Australia expires this summer. For a manager of his pedigree a club of Palace's stature may have limited appeal, although the fact that the job is in his native London may help. Presuming Goldberg can offer an attractive enough deal, much may depend on whether he can convince Venables of the viability of his plans. Venables said yesterday that he shared his view of Palace's great potential and would go into the meeting "open-minded". However, he said he wanted Goldberg to "show proof that there is substance to what he says".

Whoever is in charge at Selhurst Park in the weeks ahead will face an awesome task keeping Palace in the Premiership. They were dreadful on Saturday, defending shambolically and creating next to nothing in attack.

What a contrast with Coventry, who earned a club record seventh successive victory with ease. Gordon Strachan's team looked everything Palace were not - confident, enterprising and well-organised - and in the splendid Dion Dublin had the most accomplished player on the pitch.

Goals: Telfer (1) 0-1; Moldovan (40) 0-2; Dublin (77) 0-3.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Miller, Edworthy, Ismael, Hreidarsson, Gordon; Smith, Roberts, Fullarton, Rodger (Jansen, 45); Dyer (Bent, 72), Brolin (McKenzie, 79) Substitutes not used: Linighan, Nash (gk).

Coventry (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson, Dublin, Breen, Hall; Telfer, Soltvedt (Strachan 82), Boateng, Whelan; Huckerby, Moldovan. Substitutes not used: Ogrizovic (gk), Williams, Boland.

Bookings: Crystal Palace: Hreidarsson, Fullarton. Coventry: Boateng, Telfer.

Attendance: 21,810.

Referee: D R Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

Man of the match: Dublin.

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