Venables rules out a return to QPR

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Queen's Park Rangers must continue their search for a new manager, after Terry Venables pledged his future to Ports- mouth to end speculation that he could make a dramatic return to Loftus Road.

Venables had been touted as a possible successor to Ray Wilkins, but admitted he is happy with his new post as director of football at Fratton Park. The former England coach, who took QPR to an FA Cup final in 1982 and the Second Division title the following season, said: "You won't be seeing me turn up at Loftus Road in the next couple of days. As far as I am concerned, it is business as normal - and business as usual for me is Portsmouth Football Club.

"I am happy doing what I am doing with them. It's a nice club, a nice area and there are a lot of nice people."

Portsmouth's chairman, Martin Gregory, who asked Venables to take on an advisory role to assist the Portsmouth manager, Terry Fenwick, last month, is the son of the former QPR chairman Jim Gregory - who appointed Venables as manager at Loftus Road in 1980.

Venables' decision leaves the QPR owner, Chris Wright, still searching for the right man to try and take the London club back into the Premiership at the first time of asking.

Wright said: "We have seen one or two people, but the current managerial merry-go-round has changed the picture. Someone we thought might be available isn't and someone we thought wasn't available is. I'd like to have someone in place before the weekend, but I don't think we'll get there. We are working as swiftly as we possibly can, but we've got to make sure we get the right person."

With Venables counting himself out of the running and Ray Harford continuing to fight for his job at Blackburn, the QPR spotlight has fallen on Charlton's manager, Alan Curbishley. However, QPR's London First Division rivals warned that it will prove expensive if they try to recruit Curbishley.

Charlton's executive director Jonathan Fuller said yesterday: "We have had no approach from QPR and would not welcome one. Alan has three years left on his contract with us and we also have him still registered as a player. So if he went, we would demand a considerable fee as compensation."

But Fuller admitted: "We wouldn't stand in his way if he made it clear he wanted to go, but that has not happened and, hopefully, it won't."

Charlton's vice-chairman and managing director, Richard Murray, who has held the financial power at The Valley since Roger Alwen stepped down as chairman, said: "I have heard the speculation that Alan is on QPR's short-list, but if they approached us for him I would strenuously resist it." Murray refused to put a price on Curbishley's services but the figure could be as much as pounds 1m and he confirmed: "If QPR want him and he wants to go it will cost a considerable amount."

Curbishley, the former West Ham and Birmingham midfielder, is not commenting on the possibility of a move to Loftus Road. After taking Charlton off the bottom of the table with a 2-0 win at home to Southend on Tuesday night, he said: "It is not a fair question to put to me, although I have been flattered to be linked in the newspapers with the vacancies at both QPR and Manchester City."

Meanwhile, coaches Frank Sibley and John Hollins, the former Chelsea manager, remained in caretaker-charge of Rangers for last night's game at Norwich.

Slaven Bilic, the Croatian international, is thinking over his future with West Ham. The 28-year-old defender, a target for Tottenham, says he is considering West Ham's offer of a new contract. "It is too early to say what the conclusion will be," said Bilic. "But I think and hope I will stay here. I am completely happy at West Ham. I have a superb relationship with the players, the manager and the fans. But you never know."

Bilic, who cost West Ham pounds 1.3m when he joined them from the German side Karlsruhe last February, has become a huge favourite at Upton Park. He helped West Ham finish in the top 10 in the Premiership last season then starred in Euro 96 for Croatia.

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