McClaren insists on return of Venables to England set-up

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The Independent Online

The England manager-in-waiting Steve McClaren is winning his battle to persuade the Football Association to put aside its differences with Terry Venables and make the former national team manager a key adviser in the new regime that will follow Sven Goran Eriksson's departure after the World Cup finals.

It is understood that the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, is prepared to back his manager and force through the appointment despite resistance in some areas of the FA to bringing back Venables, 63.

A return to the England set-up has long been considered impossible for Venables, who, despite proving a popular manager of the national team, announced his resignation before the 1996 European Championship when the FA refused to offer him a new contract. The strategy is necessary because of serious opposition to Venables among the FA hierarchy.

Noel White, chairman of the international committee and one of the five-man FA panel which appointed McClaren, is not a fan of Venables. The famous quotation attributed to White when Venables was last linked to the England job was "over my dead body".

If Barwick has his way, however, the anti-Venables lobby will not even be asked. While he had to ratify McClaren's appointment with the 12-man FA board - it was little more than a formality on that occasion - the FA chief executive plans to push through the appointment of Venables without confronting any of the deep-seated resentment towards him. White is not on the main FA board.

It is a tough task for Barwick, who has already faced trenchant criticism for his role in the embarrassing failed attempt to appoint Luiz Felipe Scolari as Eriksson's successor. However, for Barwick, who has a friendship with Venables dating back to his days working as a pundit for ITV, this could prove a good opportunity to show that he is calling some, if not all, of the shots at the FA.

Stuart Pearce was McClaren's original choice as a coach to work alongside Venables but he has turned down the job and Sammy Lee, a coach in the current set-up, is understood not to have made his mind up yet about his future after the World Cup finals. What is certain about Venables, however, is that he wants his involvement with the England team to be more than a peripheral role.

Venables has made it clear that, if the FA appoints him, he wants to be a major part of the coaching set-up around McClaren and central to that will be his title.

While Eriksson is officially known as a head coach and his assistants are all coaches, Venables would expect a more senior title like technical director or director of football.

There should be no doubting Venables' enthusiasm for the job. Sources close to him said last night that he is "extremely keen" on taking the role.

McClaren has identified Venables as the man he wants alongside him when he takes over the England team in August - a bold move from the former Middlesbrough manager, who could well be overshadowed by Venables, a popular figure with players and certain elements of the press. But he feels that the former Tottenham and Barcelona manager will provide the experience he lacks.

There has also been a firm approach from Middlesbrough to Venables, but he is keen to see where the interest from the FA leads before giving a decision to the Premiership club - working with England is his first choice. However, McClaren is aware his own appointment has not been received with enthusiasm all over the country and feels Venables could provide popular appeal while he finds his feet in the job.

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