Football: Venables' threat

Terry Venables, the Australian national coach, revealed yesterday that he is on the verge of walking out as Portsmouth chief executive after takeover talks came to a halt.

Venables took over the First Division side when he paid just pounds 1 for a 51 per cent shareholding and looked like taking complete control of the club when he agreed a three-year option to buy the former chairman Martin Gregory's 46 per cent stake in the club.

But after talks lasting more than two months, Venables said yesterday that the negotiations had "broken down" and hinted that he would consider an offer for his shareholding. "I want to stay and I would put up a fight, but if I thought that somebody else could achieve something for the better of the club I'd have to consider it," he said.

The cash crisis at Portsmouth was made clear last week when the construction of a new stand at Fratton Park was put on hold because of outstanding bills. There was some cheer yesterday for Portsmouth supporters, however, as the team won for the first time in 12 games, beating Bury 2-0 at Gigg Lane.

The Manchester City manager, Frank Clark, who had to watch his side lose to bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield on Friday, was fuming at reports yesterday of growing unrest in the boardroom. "Some of the stuff being said is scandalous. People who supposedly have the good of the club at heart were almost inciting supporters to riot if we lost," he said.

More than 2,000 fans demonstrated outside Maine Road after Friday's 1- 0 defeat, calling for the heads of the absent chairman Francis Lee and the manager. Clark claimed the poor run of results had not affected his own resolve to carry on, but that it may affect the resolve of the people who employ him to allow him to continue. Board members are believed to be discussing the situation this weekend.

Japan reached the World Cup play-offs by beating Kazakhstan 5-1 in Asian zone Group B yesterday. They play the runners-up of Group B in Malaysia next Sunday for a place in the finals.

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