TERRY VENABLES finally linked up with Middlesbrough last night and admitted the fight to save the club from relegation is one of the biggest challenges he has faced in his colourful football career.

The former England coach was unveiled at Boro's Rockliffe Park training base in Hurworth, near Darlington, after over a week of on-off talks.

Venables, who was originally offered the manager's job on a lucrative two-and-a-half year contract, but was forced to turn it down because of TV commitments, will be Boro's first-team coach.

Bryan Robson retains the title of manager, but Venables will be in charge of first-team selection.

Robson's long-term future is still uncertain and will be reviewed at the end of the season when Venables leaves.

Boro's slide has seen seven defeats in the last eight games.

The club are joint bottom of the Premiership and have picked up only one point out of a possible 24.

Venables, 57, said: "It's a big challenge - maybe my biggest challenge.

"It's going to be a tough job ahead for everybody at the club. Nobody is under any illusions.

"The initial arrangement was that I would be here longer. By the middle of last week it became clear it was going to be difficult.

"The chairman, Steve Gibson, rang me on Friday, and I said it was physically impossible for me to do it because of my TV work. I had mentioned coming here for six months, but it wasn't going to be ideal from Middlesbrough's point of view.

"They said the supporters and players wouldn't know where they stood if I was going to be the manager for six months.

"We spoke again at the weekend and they decided they would bring someone in to help with the coaching - and that's me.

"Bryan will remain in the same situation at the club and I will be coaching the team."

Robson, Venables' assistant with England during Euro '96, confirmed: "Terry will mainly pick the team. He has a great reputation as a football coach. I've worked with him and I know how good he is."

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