Terry Venables may net Newcastle job
Terry Venables has not been offered the manager's job at Newcastle United, but there has been preliminary contact with the 65-year-old former England coach as Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, seeks to bring a measure of stability to a club of which he has lost control.
It is not known what terms and conditions could be offered to attract Venables to St James' Park, or indeed any other potential candidate, and the uncertainty about the club's future makes any decision fraught with hazards. The position was not made any more appealing by last night's exit from the League Cup, a 2-1 defeat against Tottenham taking place in front of St James' Park's lowest crowd since 1992. It was Newcastle's fourth consecutive defeat.
Next up are Blackburn Rovers at St James' on Saturday. Rovers have won on their last three visits to Tyneside.
"It's a big challenge," said caretaker Chris Hughton of the next Newcastle manager's task. One of the understatements of the century. Hughton has been left in limbo, another day passing without instruction from above.
Put up for sale by Ashley eleven days ago, there are no buyers for Newcastle as yet, though the investment bank commissioned to sell Newcastle, Seymour Pierce, has received interest from companies in China and America.
Last night, Chris Nathaniel, who is fronting the Nigerian consortium reputedly interested in a takeover, said that he hoped there would be movement "in the next 48 hours". Nathaniel described the Nigerians' offer as "very serious".
The business background complicates an already difficult managerial scenario. The contact with Venables came yesterday morning but there was no face-to-face meeting with Ashley or any other members of the Newcastle hierarchy.
None of that quartet – Ashley, managing director Derek Llambias, Dennis Wise and Tony Jimenez, were present last night.
It appears that Venables was spoken to in a theoretical manner and that he has no offer to accept or refuse. It is expected that there will be further contact, possibly today, but events will have to rapidly gather pace if Venables is to be in place by the time of the visit of Blackburn.
Venables was left thinking of what may or may not transpire but the vague nature of the situation was illustrated by reports that another former England manager, Glenn Hoddle, is also thought to have been contacted by the Newcastle hierarchy.
Hoddle, 50, has been out of management since leaving Wolves just over two years ago. Newcastle could be sounding out others, a possibility not likely to reassure those already contacted.
But both Venables and Hoddle know Dennis Wise, the head of recruitment at Newcastle. Venables' knowledge is from England days together and Hoddle from being Wise's colleague and manager at Chelsea. Both Venables and Hoddle also know Wise's assistant Tony Jimenez from Stamford Bridge, where Venables was a season-ticket holder.
A relationship with Wise is hardly likely to appease newly militant Newcastle fans. Wise and Jimenez are compromised, as is the entire situation, by Ashley's decision to put the club up for sale.
That was done following supporter unrest at the departure of Kevin Keegan and the subsequent demonstrations prior to and during the dismal home defeat to Hull City. Evidence of the fans' boycott was powerful last night.
In the financial circumstances it is difficult to see how Newcastle can attract any new manager with anything approaching a long-term proposition. If a quick sale proceeds then new owners could dispense with Venables, or Hoddle, or someone else, almost as soon as he has walked in.
But if Newcastle can say to Venables that he is wanted only as a short-term measure in order to shore up a club already fearing a long struggle against relegation, and that Venables will be paid accordingly as a fire-fighter, then money may talk.
But injuries, form and the overall situation have made matters close on untenable for any coach and the players' unease has to be addressed. Bringing in someone of Venables' stature – he is thought of highly by Alan Shearer – would be a welcome diversion for the players who would hope that the injection of a new voice at the training ground would spark some kind of positive reaction.
Assistant to Steve McClaren with England, Venables' last club job was at Leeds in 2002, where he lasted a mere nine months. Before that he had been in a similar position at Middlesbrough, helping Bryan Robson and the club avoid relegation in 2001.
Venables has been close to becoming Newcastle manager once before. In the wake of Sir Bobby Robson's dismissal, then chairman Freddy Shepherd spoke at length to Venables. No agreement could be reached then and that may be the case again.