RIP El Tel: Ange, Bozza lead Aussie tributes for Socceroos’ 1998 nearly man


Terry Venables, who has died aged 80, was a gifted, charismatic, influential coach who achieved much success, notably with Barcelona, and was popular with players and fans alike.

Nevertheless, in Australia and England he will always be remembered for what he nearly achieved.

In 1994 he picked up an England team that had failed to qualify for the World Cup finals and took them to the semi-final of the home-hosted European Championships, playing some glorious football, only to lose on penalties.

In the wake of that disappointment he was persuaded to coach Australia, where he played briefly towards the end of his career for Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic (now Canterbury Bankstown).

It was hoped he could end a 24-year wait to appear in the World Cup finals, and he came to the brink of doing so.

With Venables coaxing the best of an exciting young squad including Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Mark Bosnich, Robbie Slater, John Aloisi and Aurelio Vidmar the Socceroos impressed in high-profile friendlies and swept Oceania qualifying to earn a play-off with Iran.

RIP Terry Venables…what a wonderful manager,learned so much,and an even better man…xmb

— Mark Bosnich (@TheRealBozza) November 26, 2023

After a 1-1 first-leg draw in front of 129,000 in Tehran, Kewell scoring, Australia drew 85,000 to the MCG, double the then-record for a soccer match in Australia. Kewell and Vidmar put them 2-0 up but, after an interruption by a pitch invader broke the momentum Iran struck twice in the last 15 minutes to take the place in France.

Vale Terry Venables. If not for that sliding doors moment when serial pest Peter Hore disrupted the game against Iran, he would’ve taken a very good Socceroos team to France 98. And who knows where we would be now as a football nation? The same place or somewhere different.

— Athas Zafiris (@ArtSapphire) November 26, 2023

The Socceroos went on to reach the final of the Confederations Cup, losing to Brazil, a month later, but that only served to make the pain of missing out more raw and Venables went back  to England. Australia finally returned to the finals under Guus Hiddink in 2006.

Australian Ange Postecoglou, another of Venables’ successors as Socceroos coach, and the current Tottenham manager, paid tribute to his impact ahead of a Spurs match with Aston Villa.

“If you are asking about a person who embodies everything this football club has always wanted to be, it is Terry,” Postecoglou told Sky Sports.

“It wasn’t just about the way he managed or coached, it was the person he was.

“He influenced Australia as well. He 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.”

A class tribute from Ange Postecoglou after the passing of Terry Venables

‘He influenced Australia as well and almost got us to a World Cup.’ ????????

LIVE coverage ???? #PL

— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) November 26, 2023

Born in Dagenham, east London, Venables made more than 500 appearances for Chelsea, Tottenham, QPR and Crystal Palace as an intelligent midfielder, also winning two caps for England.

Moving into coaching he developed an attractive team at Crystal Palace and impressed enough at QPR to be hired by Barcelona. There he won the clubs first La Liga title for 11 years and led them to the final of the European Cup (now Champions League).

He returned to England and oversaw Tottenham’s 1991 FA Cup success before taking over England.  

After Australia he coached Palace (again), Middlesbrough and Leeds, without recapturing his early success. A ma of wide-ranging interests he was also chairman of Portsmouth, co-wrote a book and a TV series, and ran a London west end club.

Gary Lineker, who he signed for Barcelona and Tottenham, Alan Shearer, his centre-forward at Euro’96, and Gareth Southgate, the current coach of England’s men’s team who missed the fateful penalty in the semi-final shoot-out, were among others to pay tribute to Venables.

Devastated to hear that Terry Venables has died. The best, most innovative coach that I had the privilege and pleasure of playing for. 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.…

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 26, 2023

So sorry to hear the news of my very first England coach, Terry Venables. A man who gave me a chance to play for my country and became without a shadow of doubt my number one England coach in my whole career.

There were three things that were important to me about Venables. The…

— Gary Neville (@GNev2) November 26, 2023

A touching message from @GaryLineker about his friend, Terry Venables

Our thoughts are with Terry’s family and friends, he will be deeply missed.

— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) November 26, 2023

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