IT rained and it rained and it rained at the City of Manchester Stadium today. And still Terry Venables didn’t take out an umbrella. Steve McClaren’s former England assistant has learned that much over the last two weeks.
Venables was coaching a team of England legends against a Rest of the World side led by Sven-Goran Eriksson. The occasion was a charity match to mark the 100th birthday of the Professional Footballers’ Association. It was met with what felt like 100 years worth of rain.
It was all in a good cause; the match – which the Rest of the World won 3-2 – chipped in an estimated £100,000 towards the PFA’s ‘One Goal, One Million’ campaign, which aims to raise £1m for a rehabilitation and physiotherapy unit at the new Manchester Children’s Hospital. The attendance probably would have been higher than 12,617 but for the foul weather.
Afterwards, there was the clearest indication yet that Venables is likely to return to international management a lot sooner than McClaren. A lot sooner than Eriksson too, for that matter.
Venables didn’t actually say outright that he wanted the Republic of Ireland manager’s job, but he might as well have done.
“I thought I’d finished two or three times and something pops up, and you go again,” he said. “You can’t be away from the game because you love it.
“Someone said to me: Have you heard from the Republic of Ireland? I’ve not heard from anybody. I don’t waste my time thinking about jobs that might not come around. If it comes around, then I’ll think about it then, but not before.”
As for the game itself, it was entertaining to watch a cast list of football legends show glimpses of what they were once capable of.
No one wants a downpour on their birthday, though, and it was a shame for the PFA that this match took place on perhaps the wettest day of the year. (Not counting Friday, when I actually thought I was going to need a dinghy to get from the Manchester Evening News office to my car.)
Still, you’ve got to keep your sense of humour at times like these. And the person in charge of the public address system at the City of Manchester Stadium did that, judging by the decision to play ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ by Travis as the players swam off at half-time.
Abiding memories of the day? Neville Southall, in goal for the Rest of the World and carrying a few extra pounds, somehow flinging himself through the air to tip away a Dennis Wise shot. (A save that seemed to take so much out of Big Nev that he came off after 25 minutes.)
Wise, still looking as if he could do a job in midfield for Leeds as well as managing them, clattering into his former Chelsea team-mate Gianfranco Zola early on. Did someone say it was a friendly?
Ian Rush, a little greyer round the temples but still as sharp as ever, glancing in a Dmitri Alenichev cross to give the Rest of the World a 2-1 lead. For that split second, Rush was still playing up front for Liverpool, terrorising top-flight defences.
Shaun Goater missing a sitter, heading wide a Zola cross from six yards as the City fans in the crowd prepared to cheer their hero, then rising to his feet with a rueful grin.
And Ally McCoist belying a rather rotund physique to drive in a cracking third goal for the Rest of the World – which turned out to be the winner – and looking genuinely surprised after scoring.
But perhaps the most intriguing moment of the afternoon came outside the ground afterwards, as we media types waited for the players to walk past for interviews. Alan Shearer was a perfect gentleman, talking freely and happily about what a great day it had been, until the moment one brave reporter decided to ask him if he felt Sam Allardyce was under pressure at Newcastle.
Shearer politely but firmly made it very clear that he didn’t want to talk about it. As indications of Allardyce’s poistion at Newcastle go, it was a pretty good one. Big Sam is in big trouble.
As Venables said, you never know when managerial jobs are going to pop up. But if Newcastle carry on as they are, there may be one at St James’ Park before too long.