LONDON — Terry Venables, a charismatic and tactically innovative English soccer coach who led his national team to the European Championship semifinals in 1996 after winning trophies at club level with Barcelona and Tottenham, has died. He was 80.
The death of Venables was announced on Sunday in a statement by his family to British media, saying he died on Saturday after a long illness.
The English Football Association said Venables left behind a legacy that “captured the imagination of many and enhanced the global reputation of the English game.”
Former England captain Gary Lineker, who played as a striker under Venables at Barcelona and Tottenham, described him as “the best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for.”
Charming, witty and popular, Venables, who was born just outside London, played for Chelsea, Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace — all clubs in the capital — in a 16-year senior career that included two appearances for England in the mid-1960s.
Palace and QPR were the first teams “El Tel,” as he was nicknamed, managed before he moved to Barcelona for a spell from 1984-87 where he led the team to the Spanish league title in 1985 — its first since 1974. He also led Barca to the European Cup final in 1986, where it lost to Steaua Bucharest on penalties.
During his time at the Camp Nou, Venables oversaw the sale of Argentina great Diego Maradona to Napoli.
As Tottenham manager from 1987-91, he won the FA Cup in what proved to be his final season and then became chief executive before his relationship with then-chairman Alan Sugar gradually broke down and he was fired. Later in 1993, the BBC’s Panorama program alleged improper conduct connected with Venables’ businesses, to which he responded by threatening legal action.
Venables turned to international management and his proudest moment was coaching England from 1994-96, including at Euro 96 on home soil where a talented team — containing the mercurial Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer and playing in a “Christmas tree” formation — lost to Germany in a penalty shootout in the semifinals. England's 4-1 win over the Netherlands in the group stage has gone down as one of the national team's great performances.
“He was an unbelievable personality and character, larger than life,” former England right back Gary Neville wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “He was someone who was a players’ man, looked after his players, stood up for his players in big situations."
Venables was hired by Australia in 1997 but failed to qualify the team for the 1998 World Cup after losing in a playoff to Iran. He still left a legacy on Australian soccer despite his short time in charge, Tottenham's Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said.
“The biggest testament," Postecoglou said, "is that anyone who I have ever come across that has worked with him will say he is by far the best coach, manager and tactician they have come across.”
Venables' final coaching spells were back in club soccer with Palace, Middlesbrough and Leeds, though he had a brief stint as assistant to England coach Steve McClaren in 2006 only to leave after the team failed to qualify for the European Championship.
Gareth Southgate, the current coach of England’s men’s team, described Venables as “tactically excellent” and “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,” said Southgate, who missed a penalty for England in the 1996 shootout against Germany. “A brilliant man, who made people feel special, I’m very sad to hear of his passing.”
Tottenham held a minute’s applause ahead of its game against Aston Villa on Sunday, with both sets of players wearing black armbands.
Gascoigne, who played under Venables at Tottenham and for England, wrote a brief message on social media.
“Such a sad day, cheers boss xxxx,” Gascoigne posted on X, with a picture of his former manager smiling and raising a tea cup.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press