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Former Super Eagles coaching target and England manager Venables dies aged 80

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Terry Venables, who was an initial Nigeria target to take over Clemens Westerhof  in the days leading to Nigeria’s debut at the World Cup in 1994, has died.

The Chairman of the National Sports Commission at the time had proposed Venables to take over Westerhof’s job following a fall out with the Dutch.

Venables had previously managed England’s national soccer team and Tottenham Hotspur.

He died aged 80 after an illness, his family said on Sunday.

Venables guided England to the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championship on home soil before losing to Germany on penalties.

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

In addition to his spell in charge of Tottenham, during which he won the FA Cup in the 1990-91 season, he also took charge of Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Barcelona in a glittering managerial career.

During his time at Barcelona, Venables earned the nickname El Tel, winning LaLiga and reaching the European Cup final in 1986. Venables was also responsible for bringing British strikers Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes to the Nou Camp.

“The best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for,” Lineker, who also played under Venables at Spurs and England, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“He was much more, though, than just a great manager, he was vibrant, he was charming, he was witty, he was a friend.”

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Venables started his professional career as a player with Chelsea in 1960 and played for Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace before retiring to take over the manager’s role there.

 

As a player, he made over 500 league appearances and won the League Cup with Chelsea in 1965 and the FA Cup with Spurs in 1967. He made two international appearances for England.

Venables also had a two-year stint as chief executive of Spurs from 1991-93.

“We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Terry Venables, our former player, manager and chief executive, who passed away on Saturday,” Spurs said in a statement.

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Current England manager Gareth Southgate, part of the Euro 1996 side and who missed a penalty in the shootout defeat by Germany, said Venables “made people feel special.”

“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,” Southgate said.

“Tactically excellent, he had a wonderful manner, capable of handling everyone from the youngest player to the biggest star.”

Venables also brought the mercurial Paul Gascoigne to Tottenham from Newcastle in 1988, helping him become one of the most sought-after midfielders in the world.

“Such a sad day, cheers boss,” Gascoigne said.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.