You didn’t have to like football to feel some sort of affinity with Terry Venables. He had bags of East London charm, oodles of enthusiasm and glossy good looks (as long as you didn’t mind the gold medallion around his permanently tanned neck).
As it happens, I like football very much – so it was an easy decision when, six years ago, El Tel’s wife, Yvette, invited me to stay in their Spanish hotel, La Escondida, in the Font Roja National Park, about 45 minutes inland from Alicante. The idea was that I would write about it in the Daily Mail.
My wife came, too – and she hates football. Flamenco was the theme on the first night. Standing near the entrance to the kitchen was a man wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt and sporting a neat, greying beard.
This was Terry. He was smiling broadly but beads of sweat were forming on his brow. Diners – residents and non-residents – were making their way on to the hotel’s terrace and taking their seats at tables dressed in white linen.
All was not well. We established this when my wife asked Terry if Yvette was around for a chat.
‘She’s in the kitchen because the chef’s ill and, as you see, we’ve got lots of people coming over,’ he said. ‘And they need to be fed.’ ‘Can she cook?’ asked my wife. ‘No,’ said Terry, with a twinkle.
This struck me as classic Terry Venables. Sailing close to the wind was in his DNA – something the FA couldn’t abide but one of the many reasons why footie fans loved him. If Diana was the ‘people’s princess’, Terry was the ‘people’s manager’.