When discussing exceptional managers or men, Terry Venables is the only one that comes to mind for me. He excels in tactics, coaching, training, and interpersonal skills, making him stand out above all others.
Terry recruited me to play for Tottenham when I was 20 years old. Even though I didn’t want to leave Portsmouth, meeting him changed my mind. I was surprised when I found out that the club paid £2 million for me, but Terry assured me that they believed in my potential and saw me as a valuable player. He encouraged me by saying that I was already on my way to becoming a great player.
He had complete faith in me from the beginning, without any hesitation. I had an amazing year, thanks to him. When he departed the next summer, I was extremely heartbroken. I recall talking to a newspaper about it, but they had to censor my words. They simply stated that I was very distressed. This was very annoying.
However, once he was appointed as the manager for the England team, which was well-deserved, he gave me my first appearance in his inaugural match against Denmark in 1994. I recall the day of the game when we had a meeting before heading out to train and Terry announced the starting lineup. He stated, “We will be leaving for the bus shortly, but we have about 10 to 15 minutes. If anyone needs to make a call to their family, now is the opportunity.”
I am not entirely sure, but I believe he was thinking of me when he did that. That particular night was likely one of the highlights of my career. Terry showed genuine concern and his players could feel it. He always made you feel valued. In the year before the European Championship, I was dealing with an injury, but he took the time to discuss it with me and encouraged me to work with England’s physiotherapist Dave Butler. I would do my treatment at Spurs and then spend hours working with Dave. By the time the Euros arrived, I was fully prepared to take part in what turned out to be one of the most amazing summers of my life.
The team was filled with prominent figures like Tony Adams, Alan Shearer, Paul Ince, and Stuart Pearce, but Terry was the one everyone admired. He was the clear leader and we all paid close attention to his words. His actions on the training field were also well-respected and understood by the team. He would make adjustments in tactics and formations for each game, and everyone was able to follow along.
He had a passion for coaching and helping players improve. Winning football games brought him joy, as did seeing players happy. While he could be strict at times, his players respected and trusted his decisions.
Our tournament did not begin well with a 1-1 tie against Switzerland. Many of us were worried about being replaced. However, we held a meeting where our coach expressed disappointment and reminded us that we do not want to repeat that performance. Despite this, he has faith in us and expects us to have a similar outcome in the upcoming week.
At that moment, you experienced a great sense of relief. Returning to the training field, you were determined to win the game. The Scotland match wasn’t particularly remarkable, but once we scored our second goal, the atmosphere in the stadium, the country, and the changing room completely shifted.
The match between the Netherlands was unlike any other I’ve experienced. The intensity of the game made me forget about the physical exertion. Even with half an hour left, we were leading 4-0 against the Dutch and the entire crowd was chanting “football’s coming home”. It was a defining moment for Terry and showcased his determination and skill. It was a truly unforgettable night.
The semi-final performance was impressive, comparable to our performance against the Netherlands. However, the outcome was a significant setback. It took a considerable amount of time to recover from the loss. This was undoubtedly compounded by the fact that it was Terry’s final match and we were disappointed that he would not be leading us into the World Cup.
He didn’t show any of those qualities. During that evening in the dressing room, he once again displayed his fatherly figure, as that was his nature and how he interacted with others. Even in difficult times, he always managed to say the right things. As I mentioned, he was an excellent coach, but above all, he was a remarkable human being.