Sub-plots thicken for defiant Venables

THE main reason that Terry Venables decided to leave his job as England coach after Euro 96 was his desire to clear his name in a series of legal battles this autumn, but last week he revealed a number of sub- plots that led him to his decision.

Venables has been upset that allegations have surfaced against him around the times of England matches in what he sees as an attempt to undermine his position. By announcing his resignation now, he hopes that they will stop in the run-up to the European Championship finals in June. After that time, he will be free to answer them publicly in detail without the constraint of not wishing to embarrass the FA.

He has also made it clear that "unsupportive" members of the FA's international committee, notably its chairman, Noel White, had made his position untenable with their desire to wait until after the championships before entering contract negotiations. Venables admitted that had they offered full backing through his litigation, his decision to quit would have been more difficult.

"It's cleaned up," he said of his resignation. "We are concentrating solely on one thing, Euro 96. People know what's happening and things will settle after the early interest. I think it's a fairly adult way of behaving."

Of the allegations, which he said were being made only through one or two papers, he added: "It's a bit of a coconut shy. You are having to fight with two arms behind your back." He was unable to reply properly because as England coach "you know you are in a privileged position".

Regarding the international committee's reaction to his disputes with the Tottenham chairman, Alan Sugar, the Daily Mirror and Panorama: "If you had everybody solidly in place, I could fight against the opposition, but if someone from within my own structure is making a meal out of it, the position is going to be untenable. It doesn't do us, the team or the country any good."

Despite everything, he has enjoyed the job "immensely", he says. "It has got better and better. It was a little strange in the first few months, but when I settled in it was great that I was able to look at the bigger picture. So far I have been working on systems. From now I will work on detail. It's going to be an exciting time. It's the biggest tournament for us for 30 years and the goal is to try to win it."

After that, the pending legal cases are likely to keep Venables from working again in football until Christmas at least. He will probably therefore miss out on a possible return to Barcelona, his former club.

He will hope to come back, however, and probably needs to, given legal costs. Japan and the US Major Soccer League, which starts this April, suggest themselves as lucrative homes. There appears nothing sinister in his recent holiday in Oman. The Oman FA yesterday said they had neither met him nor were seeking to replace Jozef Venglos.

Venables insists he has nothing lined up. Nor has he thought about the post of technical director with the FA, a slight modification of a previous statement when he said he was not interested. Neither has he considered working with his successor, though he will offer advice if required.

Some in the game have urged the FA to find a way of prevailing upon him to stay. Was there any turning back? An emphatic "no" was Venables's response, though as his predecessor, Graham Taylor, was fond of saying: "Never say never."

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