OLIVER HOLT: Terry Venables reinvented the English game. He played tactically brilliant football we thought was beyond us and his memory will live on for the impact he made on his national team

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For all that he did before, at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs and for all the rich variety of things that came after, there is a generation of England fans who will always be grateful to Terry Venables for engineering the rebirth of the national team at Euro 96 and giving us memories to last a lifetime.

After England had performed so miserably at Euro 92 and then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, Venables, whose death was announced on Saturday, reinvented English football and made us believe we were capable of playing the tactically sophisticated, clever, attractive brand of the game we had been told was beyond us.

Venables’ short stay at the England helm was our game’s glimpse of The Enlightenment and its apogee was the 4-1 victory over the Netherlands in the final group game of the tournament that felt like our version of Total Football and remains the best England performance in a major championship that many of us have ever seen.

That was down to Venables. It was down to his irrepressible love of the game and his equally irrepressible determination to convey his knowledge and his insights to his players. Like so many of the greatest coaches, Venables was an educator who broadened the minds of his players as well as honing their skills.

Terry Venables, who managed England between 1994 and 1996, has passed away aged 80

Terry Venables, who managed England between 1994 and 1996, has passed away aged 80

Venables, pictured in 2018, guided England to the European Championship semi-finals in 1996

Venables, pictured in 2018, guided England to the European Championship semi-finals in 1996

He also enjoyed managerial spells with Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Tottenham

He also enjoyed managerial spells with Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Tottenham

I have lost count of the players I have spoken to who named Venables as the greatest coach they ever played for. I remember conversations with Graeme Le Saux, in particular, who talked about how Venables, and his assistant, Don Howe, improved him as a defender as soon as he joined up with the squad.

Gary Lineker, who played for Venables at Spurs, was another disciple. ‘Devastated to hear that Terry Venables has died,’ Lineker wrote. ‘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.’

Venables was a joy to be around when I first got to know him in the 1990s. I learned a lot from him, too, because he enjoyed the company of journalists and he was generous with his time and his knowledge and he was mischievous and inquisitive and he lived with a twinkle in his eye and he loved to talk about football.

It was a privilege for someone like me, who was just starting out in journalism, to be invited out with colleagues who knew him far better than I and sit and watch him moving salt and pepper pots around the table to illustrate a tactical point. He was terrific company, an endlessly engaging man, an innovative coach and a brilliant man-manager.

No one else could have conjured that last flowering of Paul Gascoigne’s genius that lit up Euro 96 and so nearly took England to its first tournament victory since 1996, a victory we are still waiting for.

Many urged Venables to drop Gascoigne from the England squad but he persisted with him and he was rewarded. As fans, we were rewarded, too. Without Venables, we would have been denied Gazza’s bravura individual goal against Scotland at Wembley.

No one else could have turned the pre-tournament controversies of the dentist’s chair in Hong Kong and the shenanigans on the flight back to London into a triumph of motivation for the team. The doctrine of collective responsibility that Venables encouraged fuelled the side throughout Euro 96.

No one else could have conjured the kind of football England played in that match against the Netherlands, a performance epitomised by their third goal of the evening, Gascoigne dancing into the box, beating a defender and then laying the ball back to Teddy Sheringham.

Sheringham could have shot but he didn’t. He shaped to shoot but instead he opened his body at the last instant and played the ball square to Alan Shearer, who crashed it into the roof of the net. It was champagne football, the kind of football we had always assumed we were incapable of producing.

So much of what he said and did made a huge impression on me. At one dinner in Paris before the 1998 World Cup, he went round the table asking each person if they wanted to be the best at what they did. Most of the company said they did. When someone obfuscated, Terry scoffed at them. Unlike other Caesars, he wanted people around him who were ambitious.

He laughed at the idea that he should have been dismissed as a dilettante as a player and a manager because he wrote television screenplays and had various — often unsuccessful, it must be said — business interests that he pursued in conjunction with pursuing a career in the game.

Would we rather, he asked, that he spent hours on end, as other players did, at the local snooker hall or stayed for all-day sessions in the pub? Venables’ mind was too lively and too restless to be confined. 

Venables signed both Paul Gascoigne (L) and Gary Lineker (R) during his time as Spurs boss

Venables signed both Paul Gascoigne (L) and Gary Lineker (R) during his time as Spurs boss

He played twice for England and is here pictured at home with his international caps

He played twice for England and is here pictured at home with his international caps  

Former Tottenham manager, Venables (right) stands next to Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough (left) as they lead out their sides at the 1991 FA Cup final

Former Tottenham manager, Venables (right) stands next to Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough (left) as they lead out their sides at the 1991 FA Cup final

He started his football career playing for Chelsea, before he would enjoy spells at Tottenham, QPR and Crystal Palace

He started his football career playing for Chelsea, before he would enjoy spells at Tottenham, QPR and Crystal Palace

Venables (right), pictured at the Nou Camp in 1984, would go on to manage Barcelona and guide them to the league title in 1985

Venables (right), pictured at the Nou Camp in 1984, would go on to manage Barcelona and guide them to the league title in 1985

Former players and names from within the sporting world have paid tribute to the former England manager

Former players and names from within the sporting world have paid tribute to the former England manager 

Sporting world mourns loss of ‘vibrant, witty man who was a joy to play for’

Gary Neville 

An extremely sad day. One of my great regrets is he didn’t continue as England manager. He was a great character and was on to something — he would almost predict the outcome of games and change the system. I’ve got no doubt this was the most technically gifted, tactically aware coach England have produced.

Terry Venables will be remembered as an England fan. Nationally he will be remembered for bringing those great times at Euro 96. He was a joy to play for.

Ange Postecoglou 

If you ask about a person who embodies everything this football club (Tottenham) has always wanted to be, it’s Terry. It wasn’t just about the way he managed or coached, but the person he was. He influenced Australia too as manager of the national team; he almost got us to the (1998) World Cup. The biggest testament is that anyone I’ve ever come across who has worked with him will say he is by far the best coach, manager and tactician they have come across.

Gareth Southgate

It was quickly evident playing for Terry Venables that he was an outstanding coach and manager. 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 and created a brilliant environment with England that allowed his players to have one of the most memorable tournaments in England history. A brilliant man who made people feel special.

Jamie Redknapp

Every day working with you was an education. Euro 96 was one of the best times of my life, thank you for believing in me and giving me my debut for England. I owe you so much.

David Beckham 

I met Terry in Barcelona and while training at Tottenham at the age of 9. He was one of our greatest England managers and loved by players and fans.

Paul Gascoigne 

Such a sad day, cheers boss xxxx.

Gary Lineker 

Devastated. The best, most innovative coach I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for. He was vibrant, charming, witty and a friend. He’ll be hugely missed.

Alan Shearer 

Extremely sad news. RIP Boss. I owe you so much. You were amazing.

Stan Collymore 

Vivacious, funny, a super coach, a man who lived life to its fullest.

Cliff Jones 

Sad to hear of the passing of team-mate and friend Terry Venables. A man of many talents.

Frank Bruno 

I remember how he got the whole of England into believing we could win Euro 96. A sad, sad loss.

He could not boast the depths of achievement in the game of Sir Alex Ferguson or Bob Paisley but then neither Ferguson nor Paisley could say that they managed Barcelona and took them to a European Cup final.

His memory will live on and on for the impact he made on England and the hope and the belief he brought back to the national team. He made playing for England fun again. He made it stimulating. He made players believe that they were even better than they were. He gave them the tools to excel.

He was never a company man and so he never stuck around for too long. His independence of thought was always going to bring him into conflict with his bosses, sooner rather than later. He was too bright and too challenging to fit into their strait jackets.

That was why the FA did not renew his contract after Euro 96. To many of us, that is a source of eternal regret because with Venables in charge, England would have had a real shot at winning France 98. We will never know what might have been but Venables would have approved of us dreaming the dream.

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Post source: Daily mail

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