Former England, Barcelona and Spurs manager Terry Venables dies aged 80

'El Tel', who coached his country to semi-finals of Euro 96, passes away after long illness

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Terry Venables will forever be remembered as the manager who oversaw the summer when football came home.

The charismatic boss, who has died at the age of 80, enjoyed a colourful and controversial career, the undoubted highlight of which was leading England to within a penalty shoot-out of reaching the final of the European Championship on home soil in 1996.

That fixture was his last as the national team’s manager, but by the end of the year he was combining a new role as Portsmouth chairman with another as Australia coach.

That "wheeler-dealer" streak saw Venables court controversy for his dealings outside of football.

"El Tel", as he became known during his time in charge of Barcelona, also co-owned and managed Tottenham, and was the subject of allegations of improper business conduct.

The one-time midfielder was born in Dagenham, Essex, on January 6, 1943, and was an only child.

He joined Chelsea as an apprentice in 1958 before signing professional terms two years later, and then winning a League Cup winner’s medal in 1965.

He had earned his two England caps the previous year in fixtures against Belgium and Holland, having represented his country at schoolboy, youth, amateur and under-23 level.

It was his transfer to Tottenham in 1966 that led to his most successful period as a player, during which he won the following year’s FA Cup with a 2-1 victory over his former club.

He left Tottenham for QPR in 1969, moving on five years later to Crystal Palace.

His talents did not just lie on the pitch, though.

During his playing career, Venables co-wrote detective novels, which were later turned into the TV series Hazell about a wise-cracking cockney private eye. It ran for 22 episodes from 1978-79.

After one season as a player at Palace he retired and joined the coaching staff and, in 1976, he was promoted into the role that proved his most natural fit – manager.

Venables required only one year to lead Palace to promotion from the Third Division and just a further two to secure the Second Division title.

In October 1980 he resigned to take over at QPR, leading the second-tier side to the 1982 FA Cup final, which they lost to Tottenham in a replay. The following season he guided them to the Second Division title, while becoming both their major shareholder and managing director.

He led QPR to a fifth-placed finish and qualification for the UEFA Cup in the 1983-84 campaign, but in May 1984 he resigned to become manager of Barcelona.

In his first season he led the club to their first Spanish league title in 11 years.

Venables signed Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes during his time at the Nou Camp, also selling Diego Maradona.

However, Barca only finished runners-up in the league during the following two seasons, also losing in the final of the 1986 European Cup to Steaua Bucharest.

His dismissal in September 1987 was followed by his appointment as Tottenham manager in October. He brought Paul Gascoigne to the club and linked up with Lineker again.

Venables led Spurs to 1991 FA Cup glory with a 2-1 victory an when he and Alan Sugar won the takeover battle for the club that June, he was also appointed chief executive, but his relationship with the then chairman gradually broke down.

In 1993 Sugar sacked him, and later that year the BBC’s Panorama programme alleged misdealings connected with Venables’ businesses, which he responded to by threatening libel action.

Despite any damage to his reputation, in January 1994 he was appointed England manager.

At the 1996 European Championship, England progressed to the knockout stages following a 4-1 thumping of Holland that still ranks as one of their finest performances.

Venables’ use of the "Christmas Tree" formation was considered instrumental to their success, which also included a penalty shoot-out victory over Spain in the quarter-finals.

England produced another memorable display in the semi-final, only to lose on penalties to eventual winners Germany.

Venables surprisingly returned to the England set-up as new manager Steve McClaren’s assistant in the summer of 2006. Failure to qualify for Euro 2008 saw them dismissed in November 2007.

He also managed Leeds United and Middlesbrough.

Venables, who died on Saturday, is survived by his wife and daughters Tracey and Nancy.

Updated: November 26, 2023, 1:37 PM