Steve McClaren finally got his feet under the England manager's desk at the Football Association headquarters yesterday and it seems that his new employers are ready to grant him the first wish of his regime. Terry Venables has agreed in principle to join McClaren's staff and talks have begun over his salary and title.
McClaren plans to announce his back-room staff at a press conference on 11 August, when it is also expected that he will name the successor to David Beckham as England captain. It is a sign of how sure McClaren is that Venables, 63, will be part of the new England set-up that he has already taken his opinion on who should be the new coach in the wake of Alan Shearer turning down the job.
Venables' return to the England fold has been no easy task given the acrimony with which he left the manager's job after the European Championship of 1996, but the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, promised McClaren from the start that he would help him get his man.
The finer points of Venables' contract would now seem to be little more than a formality with the title "technical adviser" one of those suggested to describe his new role.
Venables is currently away from England on holiday and hopes to have the terms in place when he returns next week. His relationship with Barwick and the FA's director of corporate affairs, the lawyer Simon Johnson, who has played a key role in negotiations, goes back to their days when they all worked together for ITV Venables dealt with them over his contract as a pundit.
Barwick presented McClaren's request to appoint Venables to the FA board as crucial if the new manager was to feel he had the backing of the organisation. Whatever misgivings the governing body's councillors might have had about the decision, they were swept away by the imperative of backing the appointment.
It is understood that McClaren has already picked his coach, and the candidate in question has agreed to take up the job. That man is not thought to be Stuart Pearce, a name that was widely tipped in FA circles as an alternative to Shearer. McClaren will today meet Peter Taylor, the Crystal Palace and current England Under-21 manager. Taylor is expected to be asked to stay on with the Under-21s and could yet have a role in the senior side.
On his first day at Soho Square, which McClaren described as a " no-excuses environment", the 45-year-old met the staff of the FA in private. His first big public set-piece will come at the Landmark Hotel in London a week on Friday, when he introduces Venables, his new coach and announces his new captain. The squad for the friendly against Greece on 16 August is announced that weekend and McClaren may, by then, want to make it clear whether he intends to carry on selecting Beckham for England.
"I'm excited and looking forward to a big challenge," McClaren said. "With the players and the coaches and the staff, it [the FA] is such a fantastic step up. It's a no-excuses environment. The priority is the England team, looking at the players, looking at the squad, prepare for the Greece game and the Euro qualification and looking further ahead, to the European Championships.
"I will look to make a few changes and freshen a few things up. But I'm really looking to get my feet under the table and get comfortable. Since the World Cup it has been a bit of a vacuum and I was itching to get started. I will do it my way and get on with the job.
"I think initially I have to assess the players. We want to develop good relationships with the clubs so we will be speaking to their management, coaching staff and medical staff.
"We will be trying to bring the nation closer together, bringing the England team closer to the clubs and bringing the England team closer to the fans. What we need to do is build a team that can achieve something and give the fans something to be proud of."
A dispute that concerns one of the FA's leading figures, but which should not involve McClaren, grew yesterday when Sir Trevor Brooking was moved to deny suggestions that he might resign as director of football development. Brooking has become increasingly outspoken over what he perceives as his fundamental differences with members of the FA's main board about the development of young players.
Brooking is at odds, in particular, with Lord Brian Mawhinney, the chairman of the Football League, and a new board member at the FA, over who takes responsibility for youth development and its funding. Brooking, who has rarely been a controversial character, has described the development strategy as "at a standstill" and that "everything I've tried to do has been blocked".
"I've got to stick up for what I believe is best for the game," he said. "If England fail to win a trophy with the current crop of players within the next six years I don't think we'll do it in the following six years either. The players will not be good enough. I'm trying to highlight these issues."
An appointment of Mark Palios, Barwick's predecessor as chief executive, Brooking still retains considerable clout in the game.
However, the former West Ham and England player appears to have made a powerful enemy in Lord Mawhinney, who described Brooking's criticisms as "outbursts". "I'm not impressed with the argument and I'm not impressed with the methodology," he added.Reuse content