It’s time for number 3 in our rundown. Its El Tel!
3. Terry Venables
It was the summer of 1984 when Terry Venables was operating at his then club QPR in the old First Division, steering the Hoops to a respectable fifth finish come the end of the 83-84 season. Seemingly out of nothing the crooning white van man’s favorite Venables heard the call of a somewhat desperate Barcelona side in need of his management abilities.
It’s difficult to picture the modern day powerhouse that is Barcelona in the doldrums quite like they were back in the mid 80’s. No league title since 1974 (before that they hadn’t won it since 1960) and not even a sniff of a European cup in their history. The great Spanish city certainly did not have the positive football vibe it now conveys.
After being recommended by soon to be Barcelona favorite and friend of the Barcelona President, Bobby Robson, Venables got the call whilst in charge of QPR.
That call came right out of the blue, I just couldn’t believe it. Well you wouldn’t, would you? Going from QPR to Barcelona was amazing and it will never happen again. The stadium, the set-up – it’s all a bit different from Loftus Road. I pinch myself now really. I can’t believe I ever did it. It was an amazing leap.
Amazingly Venables was the Catalan’s seventh English manager in their history; their last being Vic Cunningham who went on to the lift the Copa Del Ray in 1971. The following year Barcelona won their first La Liga in 14 years coached by Dutchman Rinus Michels. With that in mind, Venables was fortunate to be able to concentrate on his new job without the expectation of a league title. Still the man from Dagenham had his doubters, most of all the man at the heart of his midfield Bernd Schuster.
The great German midfielder once commenting to the press;
Where did we find this English tourist? Among the other drunken holidaymakers on a beach in Majorca? He should have asked me.
How could El Tel quickly get his star midfielder and the fans onside? By Selling Diego Maradona of course. The newly appointed Barca manager was instructed by his board to sell possibly the greatest ever player purely because, due to his overly generous nature, the Argentine was flat-broke.
The man that would forever be immortalized by ‘the hand of God’ in just a couple of years time was soon sold for a record fee almost as quickly as he was brought for one. Diego eventually joined Napoli for around 5 million.
The Dagenham born wheeler and dealer had to replace the great man and eyebrows were certainly raised when Stevie Archibald’s name popped up. Even after the Barca board green lit a move for goal scoring machine Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez., Venables stuck to his guns and swooped for the Scottish striker instead. Sanchez was later signed by rivals Madrid and would go on to score an incredible 164 goals in 207 games. Archibald, although not as prolific, certainly pitched in with vital goals during his time in Spain
Despite their relatively modest trophy cabinet in comparison, Barca still considered the mighty Real Madrid has their closest rivals. As the fixtures were released for the up and coming season it became known that, as if fate had played a hand, Barca were due to play Real Madrid on the opening day at the Bernabeu. Venables went to Madrid with his side playing a new pressing game and won convincingly 3-0, the result set the tone for the season. The man the local’s affectionately caller ‘Meester’ led a dominant Barca side to a La Liga victory losing just twice all season. Even better they had finished 17 points ahead of Real Madrid. Not bad for a debut season.
The following year saw Real fight successfully to retain the La Liga crown with Barca behind them in second; there was however the small matter of a European Cup final for Venables to focus on.
After sneaking past FC Porto in the second round thanks to a Stevie Archibald away goal, then beating a Juventus side that contained a certain Michel Platini, Barcelona faced IFK Gothenberg in the first leg of the Semi- Final. After being absolutely destroyed away from home by the impressive Swedish side 3-0 in the first leg, The Catalans won the return leg 3-0 and won the ensuing penalty shootout.
Venables was set to achieve a masterful one-two in his first two seasons at the club. A first Barcelona European Cup triumph was in the club’s grasp. Not only that they were in fact strong favorites against finalist opponents Steaua Bucherest and the host city was Seville. What could go wrong?
In fact on the night not too much went right as the game was deadlock at 0-0 after extra time, the following penalty shoot-out was a disaster as Barca missed all their penalties and Steaua became the first and only Romanian club to win a European Cup.
Venables’ third and final full season with the Catalan club saw improved league form take his side to a close second against Real Madrid with new signing Gary Lineker taking second place on the La Liga scoring charts. The lack of a trophy however riled the Barca board and a month into the 87-88 season ‘El Tel’ was sacked.
The man from Dagenham would later return to England with spell at Spurs before taking a confidence filled England side to the Semi-Final of Euro 96. After that he returned abroad and came within a hair’s breadth of leading Australia to a World Cup after cruelly being denied via an Iran away goal.
Venables, whilst certainly not a globetrotting manager by definition like some names on this run-down, is well remembered by Barcelona and it’s fans as the man that got the club it’s mojo back to later become the dominant force they became soon after.
Barcelona: La Liga 1984-85, Copa de la Liga 1985-86