Venables receives backing for '98

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The Independent Online

Terry Venables appeared to win significant and timely backing yesterday when Sir Bert Millichip, the Football Association chairman, said he would like the England coach to continue until the 1998 World Cup.

Sir Bert and Graham Kelly, the chief executive of the FA, discussed Venables' contract in Oslo earlier this week. Sir Bert then expressed the view that Venables' contract should be extended - it is due to expire this summer. An FA spokesman yesterday confirmed that discussions with Venables would "take place in the near future".

Venables has had a difficult week with speculation over his motives in leaking an approach by Internazionale (and suggestions that he might even have made it up) being followed by a dull draw for England in Norway. Millichip confirmed that he spoke to Venables about the Inter job and he believed that contact had been made and that Venables had turned it down.

Venables made it clear this week that he would like his future to be clarified before next summer's European Championship finals. He also hinted that his preference would be to stay in coaching, rather than become the FA's new Technical Director.

Millichip, who retires next summer, appears to have expressed a personal view on being cornered by a journalist in the early hours en route back from Oslo. However, it is significant that the octogenarian was still solidly behind Venables. After all, this is the man who once said Venables would be England manager "over my dead body". In addition the FA were quick to support their chairman.

While there is some disquiet within the FA over the England coach's various legal entanglements there is recognition both at Lancaster Gate, and in the game generally, that he is the obvious footballing choice. Indeed, the youthful nature of the side Venables is building, and its obvious promise - despite the midweek bore - suggests the 1998 World Cup finals in France offer a more realistic prospect of English success than next summer's European Championship.

The two confirmed qualifiers for Euro '96, Russia and Spain, may help in England's build-up. Spain may play England in the spring while the Russians have been pencilled in to replace Portugal on 12 December if the Portuguese have to play off at Liverpool the following day.