Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey - Norman Giller's Blog (No. 459 - 27.11.23)
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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 459) (27.11.23)

Submitted by Norman Giller

El Tel and the broken dreams

What a lousy Sunday that was. Lost my dear old mate Terry Venables and then, with tears still stinging my eyes, watched Spurs throw away three points against an Aston Villa team taking Tottenham's place in the top four of the Premier League.

I was braced for Terry's departure from this mortal coil for a couple of years, ever since he became prisoner of the ex-footballer's curse of dementia. But his passing still came as a punch in the gut.

I had lost an old pal and, much worse, his Brazilian-born wife Yvette and his family had lost a loving husband, Dad, granddad and smashing bloke, who had, let's say, a few warts but was basically a wonderful and extremely entertaining human being.

Like his old Chelsea and Tottenham club mate and fellow Dagenhamite Jimmy Greaves, he was not just a brilliant footballer but as waspishly witty as anybody walking this earth. My word, will they have some laughs together Up There with their old muckers like Mooro, Cloughie, Big Mal and Bestie.

Don't expect much sense from me in this emotion-dripping blog ('So, what's new?' Ed). I suppose you realise I insert the Editor comments. Paul Smith is far too much of a gentleman to interfere with my flow.

Last time I chatted with Tel, he was full of optimism about a high-class boutique hotel he and Yvette were opening in a former hunting lodge set within a 500-acre estate an hour inland from Alicante. He had bought it back in the 'eighties with ambitious plans to turn it into a luxury hotel and football camp complex.

This was when he was the La Liga-winning manager of Barcelona. The project was put on the back burner when he got involved in the buying-Tottenham adventure. We all know that ended in tears at the High Court, with his defeat by Lord Sugar after they had not just washed but spun dry Tottenham's dirty washing in public.

The refurbished hotel was finished and ready for business. I had my room booked. Then suddenly Terry could not remember what he was doing in Alicante and the dreams he and Yvette had were broken along with their hearts. They returned to London for the final journey.

Terry and I had been mates from when he was a 16-year-old apprentice at Stamford Bridge, and I had a close up view of his amazing life. At times, I felt I needed a heat shield to watch it from my ringside seat.

I broke the story about Chelsea banning him from taking a nightclub singing engagement with the Joe Loss band. Chairman Joe Mears quite rightly wanted him to put football first, and a recording contract was cancelled.

He and his first wife, Christine, lived around the corner to me in Ilford, Essex, in the days when footballers were not among the richest people on earth and were still in normal orbit. My late, lovely wife Eileen, and Christine were schoolgate friends, and I was writing regularly about Terry the footballer in the Daily Herald and then Daily Express.

The next I knew Terry and Christine were getting divorced and around the same time Tel was best man at the wedding of his old chum George Graham on the morning of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane ... where Venables was again best man on the pitch against Gunner George. He was never out of the headlines.

Terry was the only footballer to win England caps at all five levels from schoolboy through to Alf Ramsey's senior team ... constructive midfield schemer with Chelsea, Spurs and QPR, innovative coach and manager of Crystal Palace and QPR ... El Tel in Barcelona, Spurs saviour and then - according to Sugar - bung-involved villain ... big band singer, tailoring business director, newspaper columnist, novelist, box game deviser, TV pundit, drinking/dining club and pubs owner. Oh yes, and he steered England to the semi-finals of Euro-96 and a year later he took Australia to the verge of World Cup qualification for the first time. He hated the description but he had become the Nearly Man of football.

Terry managed to get himself banned from being a company director for seven years, and right up to recent times was fighting to clear his name in a legal battle with the BBC. He also told me he had been the victim of phone hacking.

There was never a dull moment in his tempestuous life. And everything he did was carried out with a Cockney geezer swagger, a winning smile and two fingers to his many critics.

Our own Uncle Norman interviewing Terry and Alan Mullery on the eve of the Palace-Brighton match when they were both young managers

Our own Uncle Norman interviewing Terry and Alan Mullery on the eve of the Palace-Brighton match when they were both young managers

I told him years ago that he was morphing into his Dad, Fred Venables, a larger than life character who whenever he was with Terry managed to outshine even his son with his jokes and trademark cackling laugh.

Tel, you came a long long way from Bonham Road in Dagenham, that also produced the Allen family, West Ham and England centre-half Ken Brown, Sunderland master Charlie Hurley, the Fisher brothers of Millwall, Spurs chief scout Dickie Walker and Fulham defender Fred Callaghan (with whom Terry was once sent off at White Hart Lane for having a bout of fisticuffs. 'It was about the time of the Ali-Earnie Terrell "What's Mah Name" fight,' Terry recalled, 'and both Fred and I tried not to laugh when somebody on the terraces shouted as we sparred, 'For gawd's sake, Tel, tell him your name.')

I was reporting a Chelsea match at Stanford Bridge for the Daily Express back in the 60s when Terry started studiously pacing out ten yards for the free-kick wall to go back against an Italian team in a Fairs Cup tie. John Hollins was waiting to take the free-kick for Chelsea. Terry loudly got to the count of five as the Italian wall parted to let him through, and then he shouted, 'Give it now, John.' Hollins pushed the ball through the opening in the wall and Terry steered the ball into the net. It was a goal that had Venables cheek written all over it.

He and Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty were always fiercely arguing. One day, the Doc suddenly said during a war of words with his skipper, "Who's managing this club, you or me?" Terry shot back, "Neither of us ..." Tommy, a comedian himself, fell to his knees laughing.

We won't see their like again. Rest easy, Terence. And thanks for the entertainment.

I will leave our guru Paul H. Smith to give the gruesome details of yesterday's defeat by Villa HERE, but just let me say it's crazy for the keyboard warriors to turn their guns on Ange Postecoglou. They are needlessly spreading the poison of pessimism. Once Maddison and Romero are back in action and Ange has made a couple of purchases during the January transfer window I am confident he will get Spurs back on track for a top four finish.

The extent of Bentancur's latest injury will be monitored today. He was running the show until that terrible tackle flattened him. The Postecoglou knockers have not taken that incident into account. It was a game changer.

Meantime, it's Manchester City on Sunday followed on the Thursday by West Ham. Easy peasy...

Have faith. Or, as El Tel used to say, 'Go on, my son.'

Economic report (continued). Number of The G-Men books sold to Spurs Odyssey readers after my unashamed sales pitch last week: Uh, two more, which is 11 altogether! It is a must-read for Spurs fans of a certain age who will tingle at memories of Jimmy Greaves and Alan Gilzean playing together. Please order direct from me at I am making a donation for every book sold through me to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes who missed the gravy train. Go on, treat yourself to a Christmas present.

Spurs Odyssey Quiz League 2023-24

Week 16 of season nine of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:

Who won 61 international caps, started his League career at the same club as Kevin Keegan, and who was the manager who bought him for Tottenham in 1981?

Please email your answer to me at and make the subject heading Quiz Week 16 Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will do my best to respond to all who take part.

The rules are the same as in the previous eight seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake - two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact. That's when I become as popular as Sol Campbell in an Arsenal shirt.

This year's main prize will be a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion 2024, plus three signed books to be revealed at a later date. We have retired the omniscient David Guthrie after his three victories.

Last week's question:

Who scored on his Tottenham debut against Nottingham Forest, collected back to back FA Cup winners' medals, was awarded an OBE and with which club did he start his League career?

Answer: Garth Crooks OBE/Stoke City

See you back here ... on Monday after the visit to the Etihad. COYS!

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