Francis is latest to snub England job

GUY HODGSON

The pool of talent the Football Association will draw from to appoint a successor to Terry Venables as England coach took on the overflowing abundance of a Yorkshire Water reservoir yesterday when two more candidates withdrew from consideration.

Gerry Francis, a former England captain and now manager of Tottenham Hotspur, said his immediate future lay in club football and implored the FA to press Venables to change his mind. Chelsea's Glenn Hoddle, meanwhile, joined Kevin Keegan, Bryan Robson, Joe Royle and Ray Wilkins in saying he was not interested in the job.

Francis, who slipped from the bookies' favourite to second in the running, made his statement in response to what he described as "intense media speculation". It was also delivered before the surprise announcement that Spurs have been suspended for a year from European competition by Uefa.

"Although my agreement with Tottenham expires this summer," he said, "at the present time I am of the same opinion as I was two years ago, when I was interviewed about the England position. That is that if my future is in football, it would be at club level. I would also urge the Football Association to persist, if possible, to try to persuade Terry to change his mind and not to lose the invaluable experience gained over the last two years."

Hoddle's contract at Stamford Bridge runs out at the end of the season, which would coincide with Venables' stepping down after the European Championship final in June. He has not signed a new deal, but he discounted any chance of his becoming England coach.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "I don't wish to look and plan too far ahead. I have got enough problems of my own as a club manager." He, too, spoke of the need for continuity in the England camp.

William Hill offer odds of 8-1 on Venables doing a U-turn and remaining in charge for the opening World Cup qualifying tie next September. Puzzled punters, meanwhile, have latched on to Howard Wilkinson and Frank Clark as likely contenders.

Wilkinson's rating has been cut from 8-1 to 5-2 joint second favourite, while Clark - his Nottingham Forest side are England's only European survivors - has come in from 33-1 to 20-1.

Wilkinson, who is under contract at Leeds until the summer of 1997, refused to discuss his chances of landing the post. He said: "I have nothing to say about the job - and that includes questions on whether I want it or don't want it - or the qualities required to do the job, the possible candidates or any other aspects of this particular issue."

The Middlesbrough manager, Robson, despite his claims, is the 7-4 favourite for the post, with the former Switzerland manager, Roy Hodgson, now in charge at Internazionale, 12-1.

A spokesman for William Hill, Graham Sharpe, said: "We are very sceptical about high-profile managers who make diplomatic statements stressing how happy they are with their current jobs. We believe most managers are so confident of their own abilities they would find it almost impossible to turn down running the national side if offered it directly."

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