When 'Diamond' Venables played at Stamford Bridge

When 'Diamond' Venables played at Stamford Bridge

It was sad to learn of the death of one of English football's great personalities, Terry Venables, last week at the age of 80.

Venables was a fine player particularly with Chelsea and Tottenham and went on to be an even more effective manager for Barcelona, Spurs and England. He was blessed with a good footballing brain.

As a student, I was fortunate enough to see Venables in action regularly playing for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the early-to-mid 1960s.

I still have programmes from that era with Venables playing at No.10 which in those days was known as "inside left".

Chelsea had an exciting forward line.

For the match against AC Milan in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup on Feb 16, 1966, the Blues forward line was Barry Bridges, George Graham, Peter Osgood, Venables and Bobby Tambling. That was quite a line-up by any standards.

From what I can recall of Venables' performances, he was a clever player and always looked comfortable on the ball.

He didn't score lots of goals for Chelsea (26 in 202 appearances) but created many chances for his teammates.

The Chelsea manager at the time was Tommy Docherty and Venables was known as one of "Docherty's Diamonds."

However, Venables didn't get on that well with his Scottish boss who he thought was a poor tactician.

Near the end of the 1965-66 season, Venables was involved in a major row with Docherty who suspended him and seven other players for breaking a curfew.

Venables was upset with what he felt was petty behaviour by Docherty which he described as "crass."

It came as no surprise when Docherty put Venables on the transfer list and he went on to enjoy three seasons with Tottenham before moving to QPR and finally Crystal Palace.

Surprisingly he only played twice for England.

He began his managing career with successful spells at Crystal Palace and QPR before taking on a huge challenge at Barcelona.

In a dream start, he went on to lead Barcelona to their first La Liga title in 11 years.

Venables was proud of his achievement at Barcelona and commented: "A lot of people seem to think I was just a slippery cockney boy with a few jokes.

"It's taken one of the biggest clubs in the world to acknowledge what I can really do -- coach.''

During his time in Spain, the British tabloids could not resist dubbing him "El Tel".

When asked what he missed most about London he replied: "The sausages".

From 1994-96, Venables proved a popular England manager of a team which included Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer.

Playing an attractive style, the team reached the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championship.

All the players praised his man-management.

Venables knew how to handle the gifted but sometimes troubled Gascoigne.

Venables was Tottenham manager in 1992 when Gazza was sold to Lazio.

Venables was concerned how Gascoigne would handle life in Italy, remarking: "I'm pleased for him but it's a bit like watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new car."

When Venables was sacked by Alan Sugar at Tottenham in 1993 Gascoigne complained: "Tottenham without Terry is like Westminster without Big Ben."

Venables could be quite an entertaining football commentator.

At the 2002 World Cup, when a Brazilian free-kick pierced China's defensive wall, he remarked: "You would think that if anyone could put up a decent wall, it would be China."

Outside of football, Venables co-wrote a television crime series called Hazell, featuring a cockney private detective.

A final word from Gascoigne: "Terry was the best I ever worked with -- everybody loved him."

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