El Tel… that summer of ’96… that Cup run…

Terry Venables: a look back at his distinguished career

and let’s not forget .

Sad and surprising news at the weekend at the passing of ex-Spurs and England player and manager Terry Venables, who brought a smile back to the English game.

Terry Venables brought a smile to the game but also a determination and a new outlook. As the video above in his QPR days showed, he wanted players to play football, not so easy on you mud clogged English pitches of his playing days in the 60s and 70s.

But there was also that argument that he wasn’t as successful as you’d think. A playing career from Chelsea to Spurs then Palace and QPR, saw him disagree and fall out with managers like Tommy Docherty and Bill Nicholson, he only managed two caps under Sir Alf. He won the FA Cup with Spurs and the League Cup with Chelsea.

Always seemingly destined for management. He’d won one league title, the ’82/’83 Second Division, with QPR, after getting palace from the third division to the top flight before Barca came calling. Where he did win their first league championship in 11 years. Along with a sort of Spanish league cup but missed out on that European Cup in that dull final against Bucharest. And then after they was dumped out of the UEFA Cup by Jim McLean’s Dundee United he was dumped by the Catalans at the end of the season.

Which brought him to Spurs, after David Pleat’s [cough] departure. He brought us Lineker, Gascoigne a third place and so far the last of the eight FA Cups, that at the time was the record. Hoddle had just left and Waddle would only stay another couple of seasons and leave as Lineker arrived. Maybe with those four he would have delivered more at Spurs before his falling out with Sugar.

He then replaced Graham Taylor but with England hosting Euro ’96 he didn’t have any competitive matches, which on the one hand meant he could experiment and work out what he wanted but on the other gave the FA the chance they always wanted not to renew his deal and replace him, which they did before that summer of ’96.

Now it isn’t as badly hyped as Italia ’90, where England were atrocious for all bar one game. But England weren’t actually that crash hot at Wembley in ’96. Poor against the Swiss in their openers – when aren’t England poor in their opener? The Jocks were a match for them before Seaman saved that penalty. England finally went full Christmas tree and Gazza scored that goal.

Oh that goal. Followed by that demolition of the Dutch. Though thankfully letting that late consolation in so as to dump the Jocks out. They could have, possibly should have lost in the quarter final to Spain before putting possibly their best showing against the Germans in the semi. Oh for Gazza’s studs to have been that bit longer. Or Sicknote’s shot being inside the post, much like Waddle’s in ’90.

But then he put Southgate up for that pen. I wonder, if he hadn’t done that would the dullard have just disappeared into obscurity? Not got that pizza advert. Not be known and remembered so that we wouldn’t have to put up with him now?

It was magical, in parts, it was poor in others. And that kinda sums up Tel. I don’t want to run the guy down because he brought some fun and some proper football. I ain’t one of those Guardian type journos who you feel just didn’t like having what they saw as a “wide boy” enjoying himself and having the temerity to stand up for himself and his players, not sit back and let them look down on him.

Spurs and England could, should have been better under him, would have been interesting if he’d had those other players had stayed at Spurs and what would have followed with England. Kinda sure he would have gone with the kids like Beckham and Scholes. He was doing the press – with the old offside trap – before Pep had the hair he’s lost – Tel had great hair, he liked a sing-song and could write a book. Funny how his first one was “They Used to Play on Grass”… “ The novel predicted the end of grass as a playing surface, and that plastic pitches would become the norm in football”, when the first plastic pitch used in the British professional game was installed at QPR’s Loftus Road in 1981 when Venables was the manager.

Like management it seemed a natural move into broadcasting. He was a good pundit with the Beeb and then ITV, from an early age he seemed comfortable in front of the camera, not scared to say what he felt and thought. When you watch old highlights shows like The Big Match and so many of the players of that time were mono-toned deer in the headlights answering Brian Moore’s questions, Tel looked like a pro.

And so many of his ex-players gave glowing tributes following his death. He was a player’s manager.

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