Football: Venison for the main course

INTERESTING bloke, Terry Venables. He has got this great gift of plausibility. Having made the recall of John Barnes - which was both unpredicted and unpopular - sound like the most obvious thing in the world, he may now be working on a justification for giving Barry Venison his international debut against the United States next week.

Venables is making a habit of surprise selections - last time it was Kevin Richardson and Steve Bould - with the result that, as Venison said yesterday, 'a lot of people will be thinking it could be me next time'.

Venison certainly did not think that this week and, having come to London to play for Newcastle against West Ham on Wednesday evening, he was back in the north- east coaching in Gateshead when the summons came to head back south and replace the injured Paul Ince. With David Batty also injured, Richardson dropped and David Platt arguably too valuable to play in a defensive role, Venison is suddenly in line for a debut.

'Injuries can offer people a chance which they might take,' Venables said. 'I am looking at quite a few people. I am impressed with the quality of competition and by the end of the year I hope the squad will be taking shape. Potentially it is a good one.'

Although his previous experience has been restricted to 10 Under-21 caps, Venison knows all about international football - his former Liverpool team-mates used to tell him about it.

'They would go away and all they would bring back was a smile,' Venison said at England's Bisham Abbey training ground yesterday. 'I'd have been left at an empty Anfield with Bruce Grobbelaar and Craig Johnston, and they came back and give us plenty of stick. I never got upset about it. You have to earn the right to be in an international set-up.'

Venison had six years at Liverpool but was rarely a regular. At Newcastle he has gone from full- back, to centre-back and now sits in front of the back-four. He has done it well, but half-a-dozen games is not much to build an international career on at the age of 30 and he knows it.

'Had Paul Bracewell not been injured I might not have even been in the side,' he said. 'I'm flabbergasted to be here and made my mind up before coming that I was going to enjoy it. You don't know how it will work out - I thought Kevin Richardson had a good game but he is sitting at home now.'

Venables added that Richardson, who played against Greece in May, was still in his plans. So, too, is Steve Bould, who withdrew from this squad through injury. Robert Lee, still suffering from a foot injury, remains but sat out training yesterday, along with Gary Pallister.

Lee remains doubtful for Wednesday but the Manchester United defender is expected to be fit, as is Graeme Le Saux who trained but, like Pallister, has a slight knock.

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