The turnip syndrome: Hugh Bateson fears that the tabloids are turning on El Tel

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The Independent Online
Stand by for "Terry's vegetables" to hit the headlines.

The 0-0 draw in Oslo sparked a new low in the England coach's reception by the tabloid papers, from "Tel-ible" in the Sun, to the Mirror's "Dear Inter, for England's sake make Tel an offer he can't refuse" and it looks certain Terry Venables is about to get the treatment meted out to both of his predecessors, Graham "turnip" Taylor and Bobby "in the name of God go" Robson.

In truth, the tide has been steadily turning against Venables since the summer's flat Umbro Cup performances when the Mirror revealed that his opening 10 games had produced a worse record than Taylor's. Then, the prevailing view was that Venables had the time he needed "to solve his problems" and was still the right man in the right place.

But that was before he made the unpopular decisions to omit Matthew Le Tissier from the squad and Les Ferdinand from the Oslo game and before he ever mentioned Internazionale.

September's goalless draw with Colombia was greeted with criticism that the England team could draw a crowd of only 20,000 to Wembley, and the build-up to the European Championships will now take place under both a cloud and intense scrutiny.

It is an event which seems fated. Rosbon was pilloried during the 1988 competition - the first time "in the name of God, go" appeared, and Taylor was treated similarly in 1992 - especially after the substitution of Gary Lineker.

So at least Venables knows what to expect. And, as he said to his critics as recently as June, he seems determined to face it. "You can say what you like, it doesn't bother me." They will, and we are about to see whether it does.