Gascoigne votes for Venables

Click to follow
"About Paul Gascoigne..." started the inquiry. "Oh, no," interjected Terry Venables, "what's he done now?"

Gascoigne had, in fact, added his distinctive accent to the chorus of voices begging the England coach to reconsider his resignation. The request left Venables both exasperated and touched in public, and probably quietly pleased in private.

"I was gutted when I heard he was going to resign," Gascoigne had said, resorting, under encouragement, to tabloid-speak. "It will be a tragedy for English football if he goes."

Gascoigne was speaking after another imaginative Venables coaching session at Bisham Abbey, where England are preparing for tomorrow night's friendly with Croatia.

It would, of course, be a much bigger story if Gascoigne had said: "It was a great relief when he resigned, I just wish he had gone immediately." Having been signed by Venables as a 21-year-old, and nurtured - to the point of favouritism - during Venables' stewardship of England, Gascoigne is hardly an independent witness.

He is, however, a man with little time for double-speak and political games. What you see is what you get and, when Gascoigne says it would "give the squad a significant lift" if Venables could be persuaded to stay you are inclined to believe him.

"The public are behind him, the players are, even the media seem to be behind him. What he needs now is the full backing of the Football Association. I hope they can come to terms with him. I don't know why they aren't behind him. If we don't snap him up someone will.

"The players have great respect for him. I've had a few managers, I've been abroad. He's different class. He has different ideas, he knows what he's talking about and knows how football should be played.

"When he is talking all the lads are concentrating and listening, even Bryan Robson, even Don Howe, with his experience. When the gaffer speaks at meetings and he says, `Anything to say, Don?', Don says `you've said it all', which is a compliment from Don to the gaffer.

"He is bringing in 17-year-olds to join in training - we never had that chance. They are going to feel on top of the world when they go back to club level. He has brought in Bryan to give him experience, and Don. Even if he wasn't selecting me I would feel he was the best.

"We all hope it won't happen, that the FA will say, `We want you, here's a five-year contract'. He should be there for the next 10 years. It must be nice for an FA guy to sit at Wembley and hear the crowd cheering Terry's name and think, `we have a winner here'.

"It would be brilliant if they could get him to change his mind, it would be the icing on the cake for the European Championships."

Venables constantly says he has had enough of the speculation, then appears to drop very gentle hints - like a knowing smile during a recent Sky interview - which suggest he could be persuaded to change his mind.

Yesterday, in response to Gascoigne's comments, he said: "It is very nice of him to say that. I did not know the players felt as strongly as that. But we've gone through all this before. It's out of my hands and I can't see any way round it."

This is not strictly true. The situation is as much Venables' creation as the FA's. He is, as Gascoigne reflected, `his own man'. The ostensible reason for his resignation, the series of autumn court cases, are still in the way. The other reason, the lack of backing from certain members of the FA, also remains but could, at least, be dealt with.

At present the situation is much as it was in January. Venables is still going but no successor has been appointed. That may change next week, when Venables is expected to meet Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, to `discuss the succession', but nothing is likely to be settled until the end of the domestic season.

If the FA followed Gascoigne's advice and offered Venables a long contract he might well accept it. But they would also have to be prepared to ride out any storms, from the court cases or the Teddy Sheringham transfer inquiry, which may follow.

Venables will select from a full squad for tomorrow's match at Wembley. Liverpool's Robbie Fowler is expected to be given a full debut in attack.