Venables needs Gascoigne and `fantasy'

England were accused of lacking "fantasy" and "brains" by Hector Nuez, the Uruguayan manager, after last night's lacklustre performance by next year's European Championship hosts. Paul Gascoigne cannot return soon enough, seemed to be the gist of his message to his opposite number.

Terry Venables, only too aware of his team's shortcomings in the absence of the Lazio playmaker, responded that it was not exactly "Disneyland" football from the South Americans either.

"It's always frustrating when you don't score and of course 0-0 is worse than 2-2," Venables said. "But I thought our team play was pretty good, even if our passing was a little anxious at times and it looked as though we were a little bit uptight. If we could have got that goal it would have released us to play more. We know we can play better than that."

Nevertheless, Venables had to search hard for the pluses other than that of extending his unbeaten run to seven games. "I thought there were one or two good performances. The two centre-halves [Tony Adams and Gary Pallister] were outstanding. Darren Anderton and Barry Venison produced pleasing performances also."

As for the belated introduction of the £7m man, Andy Cole, Venables explained that he thought the Manchester United striker might have more space being brought into the game at a later stage. He remarked that Teddy Sheringham - "he found it difficult early on" - also improved as the second half wore on. Of the effort from Cole which hit the crossbar Venables said: "It was a terrific header back by Adams but it wasn't to be. It was just what Cole needed, what we all needed.''

Gascoigne will be considered by Venables for the summer tournament with Brazil, Japan and Sweden but the England coach admitted: "He's got it all to do. We know what he's capable of. It just remains to be seen how fit he is. He looks fit and couldn't have done more to get himself so. It frightens the life out of the other players listening to the effort he has put into his comeback.''

Uruguay's manager pinpointed midfield as England's major problem. "England are very strong and physical team but they lack certain ability in front of goal," he said. "More importantly, they lack someone to run the team. Barnes was the one in charge but he's not the kind of player to make the whole team play.

"There is a lack of creativity about them, a lack of fantasy and brain in the last third of the pitch, the old Gascoigne, I believe, would certainly find a place in this team."

Despite his critical judgement Nuez finished on a diplomatic note by saying that with home advantage he could see no reason why England should not finish by the first or second in next year's European Championship finals.Venables has just 14 months to formulate a side capable of fulfilling that forecast.

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