Venables still at the exit

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The Independent Online
Terry Venables has accepted the offer of new talks with the Football Association's chief executive Graham Kelly - which will be "in a couple of weeks," according to the England coach - but insisted yesterday that he would still be resigning from the job at the end of this summer's European Championship finals.

"My situation has not changed," said Venables in response to reports that the meeting may have been arranged to ask him to stay on. Instead, it is more likely to be a courtesy on the FA's part after Venables' answer to a question on Friday that, no, he had not been consulted about his successor.

Speculation has been fuelled, however, because the FA has not so far announced his successor. "Progress is being made," insists David Davies, the director of public affairs, but Venables himself said last week that with a World Cup campaign beginning in September, it was fortunate he had given plenty of notice.

It is likely, however, that the issue of the new coach will assume greater urgency once the Premiership season finishes in a fortnight's time and potential candidates are less burdened with club business.

Due to the fact that currently employed managers have been unwilling or unable to discuss the job, it has been assumed that there is no obvious candidate, and so the issue of Venables staying on continues to arise.

However, his problems which resulted in his resignation still remain - this autumn's time-consuming court cases, as well as, crucially, his perception of a lack of support from Noel White, chairman of the FA's international committee. There remains a feeling, despite all the denials, that if White backed Venables, then the coach might just continue, with his assistants Bryan Robson and Don Howe as caretakers for a few months.

Venables' situation may not have changed, but that of others can, is the inference. The FA would probably not wish a leader in absentia; besides which, the court cases could also yield damaging publicity.

So they press on in their search for a successor- speaking to managers through club chairmen - and remain confident of hiring the new man by the start of Euro '96. The Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle, his contract about to end, has emerged as a favourite, but a concern of the FA is that he would probably not wish to work with Bryan Robson, who has declared himself out of the running, but whom they are keen to keep involved. Venables himself sees it as a job for an older man.

I understand that having an Englishman is no longer seen as vital - which lends credence to recent reports that Alex Ferguson has been canvassed - and it also appears that the FA has accepted that they need to double the current salary of pounds 125,000 to attract a top manager.

That might raise the eyebrows of Venables, who will be out of work in July - though probably not for long - and says that he has nothing lined up.

At least there was some comfort for him with the news that Uefa has agreed to his request for 22-member squads at Euro 96. Though Venables is no ingenu when it comes to the politics of football, he will doubtless be hoping that the game itself assumes greater importance in the next few days, with the match against a talented Croatian side featuring Davor Suker and Zvonimir Boban on Wednesday.

Injuries have caused him considerable problems, notably in defence where he will be forced to field a second, or even third-choice, line-up, though the silver-lining is an opportunity to include striker Robbie Fowler.

ENGLAND (possible): Seaman, G. Neville, Wright, Ehiogu, Pearce, Stone, Ince, Gascoigne, McManaman, Fowler, Sheringham.