International Football: Players break their chains: Ken Jones sees signs of a promising future for Terry Venables' flexible approach

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The Independent Online
SUCH was the welcome that Terry Venables received on his debut as England manager, it could be imagined that nothing less than a knighthood will suffice if he ever gets around to winning a World Cup.

After the events of the last few months, Sir Terry would make interesting reading but it was his qualities as a coach that came under scrutiny last night. Venables quickly became an enthusiastic scribbler in the Royal Box, but the signs were, to say the least, encouraging.

Freed from the tactical restraints imposed by Graham Taylor, their football pleasingly flexible where it had been all too predictably sterile, England gave the audience much to enthuse over.

Over the last few years it has been rare indeed to see England attempting to pick their way into opposing penalty areas instead of coming in high from the flanks.

So when Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley combined at close range to make a chance that forced Peter Schmeichel to make an excellent save from the Lazio man, there was a clear indication that things were changing.

It could only be thus under a coach who requires his players to employ their brain cells along with their ears, and the crowd responded enthusiastically to a series of purposeful movements.

Football is neither one thing nor the other, not short nor long, but a game of options which is the very essence of Venables' philosophy. It was borne out when England took advantage of a switch in initiative to take the lead in the 17th minute. Gifted the ball on the edge of his penalty area, one of the new caps, Graeme Le Saux, immediately sent Alan Shearer away with a perfectly weighted 40-yard pass that had the Danish defence at full stretch. When the ball was then turned across their goalmouth, David Platt arrived at speed to finish clinically.

It was as good a goal as you are likely to see anywhere, the application justifying Venables' belief that there are enough good players available to make a mockery of England's absence from this year's World Cup finals.

Less pleasing for him were the chinks that showed in the defence when Denmark raised their game in the second half to make a number of chances.

Doubtless there are difficult days ahead and it is far too early to predict where Venables will take England. But the new caps, especially Darren Anderton, acquitted themselves well, and had the Spurs man been more positive he would have marked his debut with a goal.

Even a narrow victory was enough to satisfy a capacity crowd and, if Venables made enough notes for the inquest to be interesting, he is bound to be pleased with the overall performance, particularly the number of opportunities that England made.

On the evidence of this performance he is unlikely to hear the derision that haunted some of his predecessors.

(Photograph omitted)

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