TERRY VENABLES, ONE OF ENGLAND’S GREATEST MANAGERS, HAS DIED AT THE AGE OF 80
Tributes poured in on Sunday after the death of Terry Venables, the former Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and England manager, and nowhere was his passing felt more keenly than at Tottenham, where he won the FA Cup as both a player and manager.
Shortly before kick-off ahead of Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat by Aston Villa, a minute’s applause was scheduled, but lasted longer, such was the strength of feeling from both sets of supporters. Older Spurs fans remember him as a stylish midfielder signed from Chelsea to beat the Blues in the 1967 FA Cup final, and then returned as manager of one of their most entertaining sides in the club’s history, winning the 1991 FA Cup with stars such as Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker and Gary Mabbutt.
Football fans across the land remember Venables most for three short but transformative years as England manager, taking the Three Lions to within a whisker of reaching the final of Euro ’96, losing to Germany in the semi-final on penalties.
Venables’ legacy was assured after bringing the joy back to England’s supporters, the high-water mark being his team’s 4-1 defeat of the Netherlands, with Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham in scintillating form.
A catalogue of Venables’ achievements as a player and manager would put him into the top echelon of coaches from his era, taking unfancied sides such as Palace and QPR to record heights before leading Barcelona to their first La Liga title for over 12 years in 1985. The following season it was another penalty shoot-out that denied his Barca side their first European Cup final win, and Venables was in great demand before he joined Tottenham in 1988.
Players from that era, including Gary Lineker, led the tributes on Sunday following Venables’ death after a long illness. “The best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for. He was much more, though, than just a great manager, he was vibrant, he was charming, he was witty, he was a friend. He’ll be hugely missed,” said the former England captain on social media.
Gary Neville, who was called up as a relative rookie by Venables for England at Euro ’96 was more effusive: “There were three things that were important to me about Venables. The first is when we hear people that play for Pep Guardiola now say that he can call the outcome of a game in training a few days before the match arrives, Terry Venables had that very same capability, he’d come through the Barcelona system. In Euro 96, I played as a conventional right back in the first match, the right of a back three in parts of the second match against Scotland and as a right winger when we were in possession in the third match against Holland and in the fourth match against Spain in the quarter final as a right wing back. The ability that we had to change systems during matches and from game to game was incredible, it blew my mind.
“England certainly needed more like him and it was a real sadness when he left at the end of Euro 96, I felt it never got as good again for England as it was under him. The second thing was that he was an unbelievable personality and character, larger than life. He was someone who was a players man, looked after his players, stood up for his players in big situations like the pre-96 trip to Hong Kong and the dentist chair incident. He was someone who the players trusted and had great faith in and he always spoke openly and he was a personality that was far too big for the then rigid and stiff FA football association and that’s why they got rid of him after Euro 96 and why the relationship ended.
“The third thing is what all great coaches need. He had an unbelievable ruthlessness and clinical side to him. We had brilliant leaders in that dressing room like Ince, Adams, Shearer, Platt, Gascoigne, Southgate and Seaman. He handled them all really strongly and they all knew who the boss was. There were many times where he would come in at half-time and call out one of the senior players and there were few England managers who could do that and Terry had that quality. I sit here today thinking back to my special times with Terry and can say he is without doubt the most technically gifted British coach we’ve ever produced.”
Alan Shearer, whom Venables stood by despite a 13-game barren streak for England ahead of Euro ’96, said simply: “RIP Boss. I owe you so much. You were amazing.”
Gareth Southgate, England’s current manager who played under Venables, added: “Tactically excellent, he had a wonderful manner, capable of handling everyone from the youngest player to the biggest star. He was open minded, forward thinking , enjoyed life to the full and created a brilliant environment with England that allowed his players to flourish and have one of the most memorable tournaments in England history.
“A brilliant man, who made people feel special, I’m very sad to hear of his passing and my thoughts are with Yvette and all of his family.”
As well as his former players, tributes came in from the journalists who knew him best. Martin Samuel of the Times wrote a beautiful tribute, saying: “At times as a young journalist, you felt like his pupil, but he never talked to you like that. It was just that being around him, you couldn’t fail to learn.”
Jeff Powell of the Mail, recounted how he helped his old pal get the Barcelona job:
Gerry Cox, former FWA Chair, worked with Venables at Tottenham in the early 90s and said: “He always had time for the media, understanding, unlike his great friend George Graham, that you were better off having the press on your side than alienating them. He would invite you to the training ground every day of the week, and always come up with a newsline to send us reporters home happy.”
And Norman Giller, who knew Venables as a teenager, tweeted: “Farewell El Tel, a good mate since he was an apprentice at Chelsea. Nobody will ever beat his record of a full house of England caps, including schoolboy and amateur. A very humorous man, always full of ideas for the next big adventure. When Venners was a swaggering, full-of-himself young captain of Chelsea, Tommy Docherty said to him: “Who’s managing this club, you or me?” Terry: “Neither of us …” Two of the wittiest people I ever met, always with daggers drawn. Happy days.”
Norman Giller, left, with Alan Mullery and Terry Venables when the former Spurs team-mates became managers.