Football: Venables on his way out at Palace

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES was on the verge of parting company with Crystal Palace last night after talks with his chairman, Mark Goldberg. If Venables goes, Palace are expected to offer the manager's position to Steve Coppell, who has filled the job on two previous occasions and is currently the club's director of football.

The imminent break with Venables is believed to be a direct result of Palace's worsening financial situation, although Goldberg has also expressed his unhappiness with the team's performances. Palace have played poorly in recent weeks and are now languishing in the bottom half of the First Division.

Venables is expected to leave as soon as negotiations about a final severance payment are completed. The former England coach agreed a deal believed to be worth pounds 750,000 a year when he accepted Goldberg's offer last June, shortly after the Palace owner took control of the club. The pay-off may now be the subject of some acrimonious debate as money is in short supply at Palace.

The club said in a statement last night: "Mark Goldberg is having discussions with Terry Venables at the present time. These discussions are as amicable as they can be. The situation will be resolved mutually and an official statement on the matter will be made within the next 48 hours."

Venables believes he has not been given sufficient resources to rebuild the club and said on Sunday that he was surprised by the timing of last week's sale of Paul Warhurst to Bolton for pounds 800,000 (Warhurst played for Bolton against Palace in a 3-0 defeat for the London side on Sunday). He is also unhappy with the prospective sale of Matt Jansen, Palace's highly rated striker.

Jansen is likely to be sold within the next fortnight, for around pounds 5m, but it is understood that Newcastle, who had been favourites to secure his signature until now, may lose out to another Premiership side, possibly Aston Villa or Tottenham.

Countering complaints about a lack of transfer funds, Goldberg has pointed out that Venables has brought in 13 players in his brief reign. However, despite the pounds 1.3m purchase of two Chinamen, Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai, and the recruitment of Lee Bradbury (pounds 1.5m from Manchester City), and Craig Moore and Gordan Petric (pounds 800,000 and pounds 300,000 from Rangers), Palace's results have not improved.

When Venables goes, his assistant Terry Fenwick looks certain to follow him. Goldberg is then expected to offer Fenwick's job to John Cartwright, who returned to Palace last year to run the club's football academy. Cartwright managed Palace's highly successful youth team of the late 1970s, when, ironically, Venables was first-team manager and Fenwick played in Cartwright's side.

Coppell has managed Palace twice before. His first spell ended when he resigned following Palace's relegation from the Premiership in 1993. He returned briefly as technical director two years later and again when he replaced Dave Bassett following his departure for Nottingham Forest two years ago.

Coppell promptly led Palace to promotion, but was moved into his present role following a run of poor results in mid-season. Attilio Lombardo took over as caretaker player-manager but was unable to halt the slide towards relegation.

In the past Coppell has said that he regards himself as "a Palace man", but it remains to be seen whether he would step into the breach this time. He was unhappy with the way he was moved aside last year and may feel that he would have too much to lose if he became manager. Whoever takes charge could face the prospect of fighting a relegation battle and having to sell players.

Goldberg had difficulty raising the funds to complete his takeover of the club from Ron Noades last summer. Palace are understood to owe pounds 1m to Noades, who is also owed a further pounds 4.5m by Goldberg in loans - due to be repaid in June 2003 - arising from the deal. Goldberg and Noades yesterday agreed to to relax Palace's payment terms to help the club over their current financial difficulties.

Goldberg is also being sued by his solicitors, S J Berwin, for more than pounds 400,000 in costs arising from his purchase of the club.

Goldberg is also in talks with Jim McAvoy, who took over as Palace's chief executive last October in an effort to sort out the club's various business difficulties. McAvoy said: "I make no pretence about my disquiet regarding the decisions he is currently making at the club. I expect to make a more detailed statement within the next 48 hours."