Ten years and 16 days after Andy Moller's penalty cut short the euphoria of Euro '96 at the semi-final stage, and ended his reign as manager, Terry Venables yesterday breezed back into the England set-up.
It was as if he had never been away. There were a few more wrinkles but the tan, the twinkling eyes and ready quip were all still in place. There were even a few less pounds on the waistline, as if Venables, 63, had been putting in gym time since getting the call to prove his age would be no barrier to rolling back the years.
It should not be. Look at Sir Bobby Robson, whose name Venables invoked as he said: "If you can retain the enthusiasm alongside the experience you can only improve." The difference now, of course, is that Venables is the assistant coach, not the boss. It is a bold, even brave, move by Steve McClaren. Managers do not usually employ potential replacements among their support staff. The nearest equivalent is that of Mario Zagallo, who coached the 1970 Brazil team to World Cup success, then twice returned as assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira, winning again in 1994, but being less successful in Germany this summer.
McClaren would be delighted at a similar outcome. So would the Football Association, even if they agreed Venables' return through gritted teeth. The deal was only concluded yesterday morning, the blazers signing it while still reeling from the Daily Mail headline which greeted McClaren's other key appointment. It read: "Gambler, womaniser, drinker and brawler, so that's why John Terry has been made captain of England." With these decisions, as much as with the axeing of David Beckham, McClaren has proved he is his own man. Perhaps he has taken advice from Graham Taylor, whose chief regret from his time as England manager is that he did not back his beliefs and instincts enough.
In bringing in the two Terrys, McClaren has provided a Cockney counterweight to his Teesside takeover. His other new staff, Steve Round and Bill Beswick, worked with him at the Riverside and his media interlocutor, the FA director of communications Adrian Bevington, has a Middlesbrough background.
Venables and Terry may be from different generations but they have much in common. Venables hails from Dagenham, Terry from nearby Barking. For those looking for omens, Sir Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore came, respectively, from the same places. Both Terrys also chose to begin their playing careers at Chelsea, becoming tenderfoot captains of the club. Venables is very much an admirer of Terry, seeing the same qualities which led him to make Tony Adams his captain, despite a similarly controversial past.
"They both lead by example. They both want to win badly," he said. "They are both players who put themselves on the line, who put the team first, who have the bravery to want the ball in any circumstances."
Venables admitted he felt he had "unfinished business" with England but had doubted he would ever get this opportunity to conclude it. It has been a long wait. As if to emphasise how long 10 years is in football, only two of the squad played under him, Gary and Phil Neville, and none of Beckham's 94 caps were awarded by Venables.
"The game has not changed that much," said Venables. "It is as much about attitudes [as tactics]". It seemed a strange thing for a man so steeped in coaching to say but, two feet away, John Terry nodded in agreement. Unlike the last few years with England, it seems as if the key figures are at least on the same wavelength.
McClaren's dream team: The new back-room staff for England
* TERRY VENABLES (Assistant coach)
One of the most respected English coaches in the game. Success at Crystal Palace and QPR led to Barcelona where he won La Liga and reached European Cup final. Took England to Euro 96 semi-final but had less success with Portsmouth and Leeds.
* STEVE ROUND (Coach)
Made nine appearances as a full-back for Derby County but was forced to retire through injury. Joined Boro when McClaren did, initially as second team coach, becoming assistant manager in 2005. He will continue to work at the Riverside.
* RAY CLEMENCE (Goalkeeping coach)
Won 61 England caps and also a stack of medals with Liverpool. Goalkeeping coach since 1996, he also has responsibility for overseeing national goalkeeper training and oversees the under-16 to under-20 age group teams. Recently recovered from cancer.
* BILL BESWICK (Psychologist)
Something of a departure for England, although not another Eileen Drewery. Came to McClaren's notice after coaching England's basketball team to Commonwealth Games gold and has worked with him at Derby, Manchester United and Middlesbrough.
First squads: Hits and misses
* TERRY VENABLES (Friendly match against Denmark, March 1994)
HIT: Graeme Le Saux. Earned 36 caps in six years and scored one goal, against Brazil. Played in all England games in the 1998 World Cup.
MISS: Matt Le Tissier. Adored in Southampton but won only eight caps. Scored three and hit the bar twice in an England B match before France '98 but missed the squad.
* GLENN HODDLE (World Cup qualifier against Moldova, September 1996)
HIT: David Beckham. 94 caps and 17 goals, makes him the fifth most capped Englishman and the fourth longest serving England captain (58 games).
MISS: Andy Hinchcliffe. A temporary replacement for left-back Le Saux, his England career was limited to seven caps.
* KEVIN KEEGAN (Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland, March 1999)
HIT: Ray Parlour. The "Romford Pele" did enough to earn 10 caps and only the poor eyesight of a linesman prevented him scoring for England.
MISS: Chris Armstrong. Called up after a spate of injuries, the closest he got to the pitch was warming up and once the regulars were fit he never returned.
* SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON (Friendly match against Spain, February 2001)
HIT: Ashley Cole. Became first-choice left-back and has won 51 caps. Is regarded as one of the world's best left-backs.
MISS: Gavin McCann & Michael Ball. Surprise call-ups, neither played more than 45 minutes in an England shirt.Reuse content