Book of the week: Born to Manage: The Autobiography by Terry Venables


Where to begin with Terry Venables? His own choice here is 18 June 1996, when the England team he was managing hammered the fancied Dutch 4-1 at Wembley in the European Championship, an occasion he describes as “my most thrilling experience in football”, though his managerial reign ended in tears after England were knocked out on penalties in the semi-finals.

It’s not the only time things end in tears in this breezy but partial account of his life. The common view of Venables goes something like: “Good player, even better coach; if only he had stuck to coaching rather than styling himself as a business expert, he could have been one of the greats.” Yet why shouldn’t Venables have aspired to become the owner, full or part, of a major football club, an ambition he achieved at Tottenham and Portsmouth? And why shouldn’t he have pursued other business interests?

The answer in part lies in the way he did it, though if there is a mention in this book of the fact that in 1998 Venables was banned from holding company directorships for seven years, I missed it. The Sun columnist makes many digs at journalists, at one point calling some “traitors”, and wonders why they wished to “delve into my business affairs”. In his heart, I think he knows the answer.

Look at his record as a tactically acute manager, and it’s a brighter story. With England: Won 11, Drawn 11, Lost 2. With Barcelona: a first league title for 10 years, achieved less than a year after his arrival. He took both Crystal Palace and QPR into the top flight, and had some success with Australia, but hasn’t managed since a turbulent nine-month spell at Leeds ended in 2003. Now 71, he says he would manage another national side “tomorrow” given the chance. Who knows, there may yet be another chapter to his colourful career.

Published in hardback by  Simon & Schuster, £20