Terry Venables was remembered as “the inspiration of a generation” as tributes flooded in for the former England, Barcelona and Tottenham manager following his death at the age of 80.
The nation rallied behind Venables’ England team at Euro 96 in the summer football came home as the team brilliantly blew away the Netherlands 4-1 – Venables himself described the performance as “perfection: my most thrilling experience in football” – only to lose to Germany on penalties in the semi-final at Wembley.
The Football Association marked the passing of “a true football icon” and said: “Our modern game mourns the loss of not only a great character but an innovative, forward-thinking manager who was an inspiration to a generation of English players and coaches.”
Current England boss Gareth Southgate missed the crucial spot-kick in that game against Germany and led the tributes to his former manager, who made famous the ‘Christmas Tree’ formation.
“Any player will have great affinity with the manager that gave them their opportunity, but it was quickly evident playing for Terry Venables that he was an outstanding coach and manager,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
Venables’ death on Saturday was announced by his family in a short statement.
“We are totally devastated by the loss of a wonderful husband and father who passed away peacefully yesterday after a long illness,” they said.
“We would ask that privacy be given at this incredibly sad time to allow us to mourn the loss of this lovely man who we were so lucky to have had in our lives.”
In Spain, Venables, who became known as ‘El Tel’, won LaLiga in 1984-85 and the Spanish league cup and also led Barcelona to the 1986 European Cup final where they lost to Steaua Bucharest on penalties after a goalless draw.
On his return to England he lifted the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991, but it was his spell as England boss at Euro 96 for which he is most fondly remembered.
Gary Lineker, whom Venables signed for Barcelona from Everton in 1986 and then brought to Tottenham in 1989 after he took the job at White Hart Lane, paid his own tribute.
“Devastated to hear that Terry Venables has died. The best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for,” he wrote on social media.
“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. Sending love and condolences to Yvette and the family. RIP Terry.”
Another former England striker Alan Shearer, who was the spearhead of Venables’ Euro 96 side, posted on X: “Extremely sad news the great Terry Venables has passed away. RIP Boss. I owe you so much. You were amazing.”
Paul Gascoigne played under Venables for Spurs and England. The former midfielder 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.
Such a sad day, cheers boss xxxx pic.twitter.com/LNgDvCjafm
— Paul Gascoigne (@PaulGazza_8) November 26, 2023
Venables followed through with his decision to quit after his Euro 96 disappointment to focus on a number of court cases related to his business dealings after the FA’s decision to refuse him a contract extension the previous winter.
Gary Neville was given his international debut by Venables.
The former Manchester United defender wrote on X: “He was someone who the players trusted and had great faith in.
“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.
“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.”
The Club is extremely saddened to learn of the passing of former player and manager Terry Venables.
Our deepest condolences are with Terry’s friends and family at this incredibly difficult time. In tribute, we shall hold a minute’s applause prior to kick-off and our players will… pic.twitter.com/ot67eolKJl
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 26, 2023
“He was a great man and a great manager and I will always be grateful for the belief he had to put me in his team at only 16 years of age.”
Venables went on to coach Australia to within an away goals loss of World Cup qualification before moving on to Palace, Middlesbrough, where he was appointed to mentor a struggling Bryan Robson and successfully escaped relegation, and Leeds.
Tottenham’s current Australian head coach Ange Postecoglou, a former Socceroos boss, paid tribute, telling Sky Sports: “If you are asking about a person who embodies everything this football club has always wanted to be, it is Terry.
“He was the manager for the (Australia) national team and almost got us to the World Cup, but the biggest testament 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.”