Millichip 'regrets' Venables exit

For the first time in what seems months, we have two whole days without football. What to do? Talk to your partner (if they are still there), scythe the lawn, buy fresh food, rather than eat microwaved Polyfilla?

No. Talk about football. After the drama of the weekend everyone was having their tuppence or pfennig-worth yesterday. While Terry Venables spoke of matching the German mark, Franz Beckenbauer tipped England to win tomorrow's Wembley semi-final.

In Birmingham they went one better, the FA arranging a whole day's conference, with 600 delegates, just to talk about the game. There was also the first sign of buck passing as Sir Bert - "Venables will be coach over my dead body" - Millichip said he "regretted" Venables would not be staying on but insisted it was not his fault.

The FA chairman's colleague, Charles Hughes, went even further, claiming credit for everything from England's ability to take penalties, to rising attendances, to the Premier League's new wealth. To no one's surprise, the FA's director of coaching had a set of statistics to back himself up.

Also in Birmingham, Andy Roxburgh, Uefa's technical director, delivered the sort of reasoned, yet passionate address that made one wish he had not turned down a similar job with the FA.

Since the successful accessions of Terry Venables and Craig Brown - and continual disaster on the European club front - coaching has become fashionable in Britain, but Roxburgh recalled "18 years of working against the contempt people had for training [coaches]". Afterwards Roxburgh, the former Scotland coach, said that "for years the difference between the UK and countries like Germany and France is they have had professionals training and doing the coaching whereas we have had amateurs. Only now have we adopted a professional mentality."

The man responsible for running coaching in England since 1964 listened without a flicker of self-doubt. Hughes did admit that England had "not taken advantage" of the 1966 World Cup win, because the structure to do so was not in place. "It is now," he said, "and a win in Euro 96 would act as a spur and enhance what we are doing."

Hughes's department does appear to have belatedly realised that coaching needed to be modernised, and a new system begins in August. The high-priest of long-ball football ("87.1 per cent of goals come from five passes or less," he claimed yesterday) was given unexpected support from Bert van Lingen, the assistant coach of the Netherlands. "I'm a fan of Wimbledon," he said. "We can't find that kind of player. Dutch players are too lazy and too intelligent, they don't want to play that way."

Two of the tournament's better referees have been awarded the remaining Wembley matches. Sandor Puhl, of Hungary, who refereed the World Cup final, takes charge of England-Germany tomorrow and Pierluigi Pairetto, who refereed England-Scotland, will oversee Sunday's final.

England's chances of reaching that stage continued to improve yesterday in line with the steady recovery of Paul Gascoigne (ankle), Teddy Sheringham (dead leg), Tony Adams (knee) and Darren Anderton (hamstring). None trained but all are getting better.

One unlikely source appears convinced. Beckenbauer, the former World Cup-winning German captain and coach, said: "England start favourites because their team have really improved and are at home. Germany were lucky to beat Croatia and they will have to work hard to get to the final without Jurgen Klinsmann."

Venables, naturally, put the onus on Germany suggesting they were the team to measure against. "They have all-round players and they always seem to be able to come out just on the right side of games."

This is Venables' final week and Millichip, stirred by "the finest exhibition by an English football team that I have seen in the last 30 years" against the Dutch, admitted: "I have spoken to Terry and he knows I did my utmost to persuade him not to go. So, yes, I have regrets about that. But we have made a very good appointment in Glenn Hoddle to take over."

England yesterday lost the battle of the strips and will have to wear their away kit against Germany, who will play in their usual white. England officials insisted that the change to what is described as an indigo blue shirt did not matter, but to many observers the outfit looks grey and experts have warned that players can have difficulty picking out team-mates.

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