Football: Venables still yearns for Spurs: Trevor Haylett on the England manager's inside account of a messy football divorce

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES admits in his autobiography published today that while he considers the opportunity to manage England to be 'a glorious prize' it is still not sufficient consolation for losing the position he cherished above all others, that of running Tottenham Hotspur. 'I would have swapped everything, even the England job, for the chance to be back in control of Spurs,' he says.

The proviso, unsurprisingly, is that he would be solely at the helm or, as he prefers to put it, 'free of Sugar's baleful influence'. The book provides a fascinating chronicle of the breakdown in his relationship with Alan Sugar whom Venables had known slightly for several years and who he 'had taken an instinctive dislike to'.

In 1991, however, with Spurs on the precipice staring at oblivion, Sugar was 'the only game in town' as far as a rescuing partner was concerned and the two East Enders came together only to be separated two years later in a messy divorce. The allegations and the writs continue to fly and a court hearing to consider Venables's claim for unfair dismissal from his post as the Spurs chief executive is awaited.

The accusations were still circulating last November when the Football Association drew up possible candidates to succeed Graham Taylor as the England manager and for that reason Venables considered his chances slim.

He admits now that if the FA had kept to normal practice he would not have been on the shortlist. The decision to appoint Jimmy Armfield to seek the professionals' opinion swung the odds decisively in his favour.

Eventually Venables came to his formal interview for the job. In the book he recalls how a reasonably relaxed session was suddenly distracted when Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, announced that a woman was on the roof opposite threatening to jump. 'It just goes to show,' Kelly said, 'I bet she's got more problems than all of us.' 'I smiled and thought: 'Speak for yourself, if she had my problems she would have jumped 20 minutes ago.' '

Still the uncertainty dragged on and Venables explains how England could have lost him. Nigeria wanted him to oversee their campaign in the World Cup finals and Wales were prepared to make him their choice after discarding Terry Yorath.

Despite what Sugar has alleged about his business expertise, Venables is at pains to point out that besides the development of young players like Nick Barmby, Tottenham's profitability improved dramatically under him.

He does not disguise that he made mistakes in his association with Sugar and elsewhere. He adds: 'I have made plenty of mistakes during my career but that one (the one in which he agreed to work alongside Sugar) has proved to be the worst.'

Venables: The Autobiography; Michael Joseph pounds 16.99