Venables set for extended contract

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables looks ready to accept the challenge of leading England through a daunting 1998 World Cup mission.

And the extension to the national coach's current contract could be in place by the time he heads the new year delegation to Rome to map out the qualifying programme.

The Football Association confirmed talks will take place either side of Christmas - barring any devastating developments from Venables' courtroom appearance this week - and the former Tottenham manager said: "It will be helpful for both sides to have it settled."

It will not be easy negotiating a fixture timetable to ease England's challenge against World Cup runners-up Italy, old enemy Poland and the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

But Venables' immediate concern is Sunday's second big draw in Birmingham which will set out his European Championship task for which he was initially appointed.

Once that is known, he will look to the FA to give him a high quality build-up to next summer's finals, with so far only Croatia pencilled in for a Wembley visit in April.

"A team like Croatia will be top class opposition, and we have several teams who want to play us. I do not think we will be spoilt for choice.

"I want to wait for the draw on Sunday before we make any decisions, but whatever that does we want the best to play against. Teams like Portugal are a great test for us."

Croatia have offered Bosnia the use of their stadiums after the two former Yugoslav republics were grouped together alongside Slovenia in the qualifying competition for the 1998 World Cup.

"We are pleased that the Slovene and Bosnian squads have been drawn in the same group, as both of them are our neighbours," Ante Pavlovic, the Croatian federation, secretary, said .

"If they were to meet any problems during the World Cup regarding the playing of matches in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we are offering them our stadiums, although we have heard that they already have a standing arrangement with Italy."

The three westernmost states of the former Yugoslavia have friendly relations. Slovenia have kept out of the wars which have ravaged other parts of the country since it broke up. The other teams in the group are Greece and Denmark, whose captain, Michael Laudrup, was unimpressed with the make- up of the group.

"The draw is the worst imaginable for Denmark. Croatia worry me especially. We could have done without them. They are at the moment one of Europe's very best teams."

But Bo Johansson, who takes over from current national trainer Richard Moeller Nielsen after this summer's European Championship finals, was philosophical.

"I am happy and optimistic about the draw. It is obvious that Denmark and Croatia must be favourites for qualification, but a lot can happen between now and 1997."

Birmingham captain Liam Daish is protesting his innocence after being barred from playing in the remainder of this season's Anglo-Italian Cup.

Daish has been excluded from the competition while investigations continue into an alleged assault on Ancona coach Massimo Cacciatori in an explosive tie in Italy last month.

Cacciatori spent two weeks in hospital after suffering a fractured cheekbone and a gash below his left eye. The case is being investigated by the Italian judiciary.

But Daish is angry that no action has been taken against Cacciatori who is alleged to have entered the pitch during the game and attacked several Birmingham players.

Daish said: "I accept the fact that I can't play in the competition but I do not accept any guilt and I am disappointed that nothing has been said about the Ancona coach.

"It could have been me or Paul Tait who ended up in hospital after what happened that night. Yet as far as I know, the same coach will be in the dug-out when Ancona play at Luton tonight.

"Has Cacciatori been cleared of any blame? I'd like to know. I will sit out my suspension because the competition has to come first, but I am innocent."

The decision to suspend Daish followed a meeting of the the organising committee in London yesterday.

The competition is self-contained as far as disciplinary matters are concerned - red and yellow cards do not court towards domestic matches - but reports on the 15 November affair could still be forwarded to the respective national associations for further action.