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

<span>Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA</span>
Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

The former England, Barcelona and Tottenham manager Terry Venables has died at the age of 80. Venables, who had a distinguished career as a player that brought two international caps, was in charge of England when they reached the semi-finals of Euro 96.

“We are totally devastated by the loss of a wonderful husband and father who passed away peacefully yesterday after a long illness,” read a statement from Venables’ family. “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.”

Related: Terry Venables: a life in pictures

Venables, known as El Tel after a spell at Barcelona during which he won La Liga and reached the European Cup final, had a successful, colourful and sometimes controversial career. Although he played more than 500 league games for Chelsea, Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace from 1960-1974, he is best known for his exploits as a manager.

“Devastated to hear that Terry Venables has died. The best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for,” wrote Gary Lineker on X, formerly Twitter. “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.”

The England manager Gareth Southgate lauded Venables as a “brilliant man who made people feel special”. Southgate famously missed the crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Germany as Venables’ side came up just short in Euro 96 on home soil.

“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 picture of Terry Venables is shown on the video screen at Tottenham following the announcement of his death.
A picture of Terry Venables is shown on the video screen at Tottenham following the announcement of his death. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The Dagenham-born midfielder was given the chance by Malcolm Allison to coach at Palace after retiring as a player because of arthritis, and after succeeding Allison as manager in 1976 he created a young side referred to as the “Team of the Eighties”.

Having won promotion from the third tier to the top flight he achieved 13th place, which was then the club’s highest finish in 1979-80, before departing early the following season for second-tier QPR with Palace bottom.

His achievements at QPR, where he won the Second Division, reached an 1982 FA Cup final and finished fifth in the top flight, earned his move to Barcelona in 1984. Defeat by Steaua Bucharest in the 1986 European Cup final in a shootout was followed by his first season at the club without a trophy but after his dismissal in September 1987, he did not have to wait long before Tottenham hired him.

A Spurs side including Lineker, whom he had first signed for Barcelona, and Paul Gascoigne won him the 1991 FA Cup, but weeks later he moved into a chief executive role under the new owner, Alan Sugar, after his own failed attempt to buy the club.

Venables’ time at Spurs ended in 1993 amid a court battle and soured relationship with Sugar and allegations of misdealings connected with his businesses, which he disputed, were raised that year.

In January 1994 Venables took the England job. He had announced months before Euro 96 that he would step down after the tournament because of upcoming court cases which he felt could interfere with England’s efforts to qualify for the 1998 World Cup – and he came agonisingly close to a perfect send-off. England lost their semi-final to Germany on penalties at Wembley, but had produced one of the team’s most memorable performances of the modern era in beating the Netherlands 4-1 in the group stage.

Terry Venables and his assistant Don Howe console Gareth Southgate after his penalty miss in England’s semi-final defeat to Germany at Euro 96.
Terry Venables and his assistant Don Howe console Gareth Southgate after his penalty miss in England’s semi-final defeat to Germany at Euro 96. Photograph: PA Images/Alamy

Venables went on to become director of football then chairman at Portsmouth and had a period as Australia’s manager before he returned to the dugout in England with Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough (working alongside Bryan Robson) and Leeds, where he was sacked in 2003. An unsuccessful time as assistant to Steve McClaren with England proved his final coaching position.

Venables had come through the ranks at Chelsea and won the League Cup there before moving to Tottenham, where he was part of the team that secured the 1967 FA Cup. His two England caps came in 1964.