Venables is talk of the Toon

NEWCASTLE could be ready to turn to Terry Venables as Bobby Robson’s replacement.

There is a growing belief that Venables, the man who helped Middlesbrough out of a hole but could not halt Leeds’s tailspin, is at the top of the list.

It is understood that he - like Robson, a former Barcelona and England manager - has discussed the possibility of taking over the hot-seat at St James’ Park on a caretaker basis.

The Magpies were saying nothing, while there was also no word from the Venables camp, although his agent was said to be on business in the north of England, but not specifically on Tyneside.

However, bookmakers Ladbrokes temporarily suspended betting yesterday afternoon after the 61-year-old’s odds, which started at 50-1 earlier this week, were slashed from 11-2 to 4-5.

“The money keeps coming, we’ve had to temporarily suspend betting,” said Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush. “Punters were staking three and four figure sums.”

Speculation over Robson’s replacement has reached fever pitch - two local polls overwhelmingly supported a move for Celtic’s Martin O’Neill - with clubs queuing up to insist their managers are not available.

Birmingham were first, for the second time this week, insisting Steve Bruce is not up for grabs.

“The relationship between the club and the manager is a strong and loyal one,” said a statement.

“Both parties are focused on building upon the success already achieved and we are all committed to the future of the club.

“Whilst the club acknowledge that recent media speculation is a result of the manager and the club’s achievements, focus continues to be on delivering long-term success at Birmingham City Football Club.”

Neighbours Aston Villa soon followed suit as David O’Leary’s name was thrown into to the hat.

“The story is based on pure speculation, but I suppose it’s a compliment to Aston Villa because we clearly have one of the best managers in the country,” chief executive Bruce Langham said.

“The simple fact is that David O’Leary is under contract to this club.

“We haven’t had any approach, but one from Newcastle - or anyone else for that matter - would not be welcomed and would be rejected.”

With Bolton having issued a hands-off warning over Sam Allardyce and Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren having ruled himself out, the list of domestic candidates is gradually being whittled down, although it is understood there has been a great deal of interest, including inquiries on behalf of Luiz Felipe Scolari, Hector Cuper, Dick Advocaat and Ottmar Hitzfeld.

But if it is Venables to whom Newcastle ultimately turn, in the short-term at least, there is some merit in that.

The hugely-experienced coach may not have enjoyed the best of fortunes during his spell at Leeds, where he had little choice but to preside over the sales of Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Olivier Dacourt, Lee Bowyer, Robbie Fowler and Jonathan Woodgate as the club’s financial problems reached crisis point.

However, he enjoyed a far more successful few months on Teesside during the 2000-01 season, helping Bryan Robson to steer his Boro side away from the relegation zone before deciding he did not want the job on a full-time basis.

Also in Venables’ favour are his relationship with United skipper Alan Shearer, the man who came close to firing his England side to glory at Euro 96.

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