Tuesday, August 16, 2011


AN: LONDON, 9/14/1993

Terry Venables' reign as England manager ended last night following his failure to guide the team to qualification for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. England's 2-0 loss to Holland sunk England's last ditch hopes of making the tournament.

Venables couldn't lead the national team to glory, making this the third successive failure in major tournament qualification, and now the former Spurs boss leaves the Football Association searching to fill what has become one of the toughest jobs in world football.

Venables said: "I am the biggest fan of the England Football team in the country, and I am devastated not to have taken this opportunity to get the team to the World Cup. For a team of England's stature miss out again is unacceptable and I hope whoever takes the job can turn the ship around and restore England's reputation."

FA Chairman Bert Millichip had no immediate comment on who might replace Venables, but the FA is set to meet next week to discuss candidates that could include Steve Coppell, Ron Atkinson, Graham Taylor, Joe Royle and Howard Kendall.

Bobby Robson quit the position in late 1989 when England could only manage a 0-0 draw in Poland meaning Denmark snuck into the best runners-up qualifying position for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Robson was out of work until he took the PSV Eindhoven job in Holland where he has had considerable success.

The English FA failed to tempt their first two choices to succeed Robson: Graham Taylor asked to take on the job at the end of the season, wanting to finish off his push for the title with Aston Villa. The FA declined his request and Villa finished runners-up to Liverpool.

Joe Royle, who was unproven at the time even as a top-flight manager, was a serious contender for the job and met with the FA, but fans disapproved and Royle himself told reporters he wasn't ready for the position. A formal offer was never made.

Brian Clough was the choice of 68% of football fans in a poll sponsored by AN, but the FA and Clough have had too many clashes and he was never in consideration for the job.

So it was Venables, who could foresee the frustrations in the board room at White Hart Lane, who was offered the job on am initial three-year contract, but the warm reception given to El Tel would soon turn ugly after failing, albeit narrowly, to qualify for Euro '92, and now next year's World Cup Finals.

Venables' first game in charge came just six days after his appointment in the job. The friendly against Italy at Wembley ended in a 1-1 draw, but the press heralded his offensive formation incorporating a five-man forward line of Lineker, Beardsley, Bull, Waddle and Barnes at one point. England beat Yugoslavia 3-1 a month later, with Brian Robson, Lineker and Waddle scoring one each.

But England's attacking formation was torn apart by Brazil in a 2-0 defeat in March, though Venables was heralded for trying to take the game to the South Americans. A friendly against Uruguay in May saw the debut of Venables' "Christmas Tree" formation where Gary Lineker played just in front of John Barnes and Peter Beardsley. The game ended with a 2-0 win and this formation would become Venables' trademark for the remainder of his tenure.

After watching West Germany win the World Cup over the summer, Venables' team took the field again in a home friendly against Hungary and won comfortably 3-0. By this time, the players seemed more comfortable with his wingless tactics and with tremendous depth up-front, with Waddle, Barnes, Platt, Gascoigne and Beardsley all an option to play just off the target man Lineker, or indeed Steve Bull, coupled with a short passing game, fans were optimistic about Euro '92 qualification.

Poland and Ireland were beaten handily before two frustrating draws against Ireland at Wembley and against Turkey in Istanbal. The Turks were beaten back at Wembley in the return fixture in October but England suffered their first competitive defeat under Venables against Poland in Poznan. Gary Lineker left the game at half-time and with the injured Steve Bull not in the squad, England lacked a cutting edge and chances to win were wasted. England lost 1-0 and the Poles leapfrogged both England and Ireland to win the group and qualify.

Venables escaped much of the blame. It had come down to one match which his team had dominated against an opposition that has a history of spoiling England's party. Venables' team has played with flair and confidence, but were unlucky in defeat. Supporters' attention was turned to the bigger prize of qualification for the '94 World Cup in the United States. His contract was renewed.

The International retirement of Gary Lineker was soon forgotten as Alan Shearer ended the fold and made an instant impression. Other young guns had reinforced England's spine: Paul Ince, Paul Merson, Tony Adams, Les Ferdinand, Nigel Clough and Ian Wright became regular starters in the side. A draw against Norway and a 4-0 win over Turkey was a solid start to qualification in the autumn of 1992. San Marino were mauled 8-0 with Ian Wright and Les Ferdinand both scoring hat-tricks.

But a bad-tempered 0-0 tie in Istanbal against Turkey proved a stumbling block, especially when Paul Gascoigne was sent off for a reckless challenge in the 92nd minute. Without the suspended Gazza and Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand both injured England slumped to a 2-1 defeat at home to Holland.

More frustration followed in a 1-1 tie in Poland and with injuries piling up, Venables abandoned his Christmas Tree and switched to a sweeper formation against Norway in Oslo hoping the wing play of in-form Lee Sharpe could open up a stubborn defence. The gamble didn't pay off and England lost 2-0.

England beat Poland 4-0 at Wembley in September of 1993 but their qualification campaign was sunk in last night's 2-0 defeat in Rotterdam.

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