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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 07:21 GMT
Black day for Venables

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Terry Venables looked pretty in pink when he arrived at Leeds United last July - now he leaves nine months later with his managerial reputation draped in black.

Venables breezed into Elland Road in a colourful open-necked shirt that matched his reputation.

The sun was shining and he was intent on enjoying an Indian summer to his career with a lucrative two-year contract in his pocket.

But after a brief spell at the Premiership summit in the first week of the season, it has been a lamentable exercise in crisis management from virtually day one.

And while Venables will rightly insist his demise has been aided by a financial downfall of epic proportions at Elland Road, there is little doubt he has also made the worst of a bad job.

VENABLES AT LEEDS
Venables has damaged his reputation
Took over: July 2002
Games: 42
Won: 16
Drawn: 7
Lost: 19

He now faces the end of an eventful career that leaves as many questions as answers about just whether he deserved his glowing references as a manager and coach.

The final verdict on Venables was always going to be results and - crisis or no crisis - his Leeds record is woeful.

Venables was tempted out of the comfort of a television studio to return to management in the hope of putting a final flourish on his career.

But the warning signals were posted when he lost Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United within days in a 30m deal.

Ferdinand was followed out of Leeds by Lee Bowyer, Robbie Keane and Olivier Dacourt.

Venables could only conjure up old favourites Nick Barmby and Paul Okon by way of recompense to an increasingly anxious support.

The breaking point came at the end of January when first Robbie Fowler was sold to Manchester City and then - most damagingly of all - Jonathan Woodgate was sold to Newcastle to finance Leeds' paymasters.

Venables vowed to stay on, but it was little more than a hastily-arranged and botched cosmetic exercise that did little to cover up the cracks between manager and board.

No-one has escaped unscathed from a catalogue of Elland Road catastrophe - and for Venables the failure is particularly wounding.

The man who has happily allowed his media supporters to grant him the grace and favour title of "the game's finest coach" is becoming somewhat accident prone in protection of his crown.

After he left his job as England coach, he failed to take a talented Australia squad to the 1998 World Cup.

He also had spells in charge at Crystal Palace and Portsmouth that were equally disastrous in both footballing and financial terms.

Venables patched up his good name by saving Middlesbrough from relegation, but if his last fling with management is to be at Leeds, it will be a particularly traumatic farewell.

He goes leaving behind the question that will always divide his backers and detractors.

Is Terry Venables, as a coach and manager, a hit or myth?





LEEDS UNITED

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