Terry Venables: the gambler of Euro 96: The England manager embodied an era of optimism (JONATHAN WILSON, 11/27/23, UnHerd)

It would be an exaggeration to say that modern football was born amid the battle between QPR and Watford for promotion from Division Two in the early Eighties, but in their rivalry was encapsulated a key fault line that continues to shape football today. Watford were managed by Taylor, Venables’s predecessor as England manager. When he took over Watford in 1977, they were in the Fourth Division. Within six years, he had taken them to second in Division One. His football then was, as he cheerily admitted, rudimentary: he had his players knock the ball in behind the opposing full-back, then had his side press to try to regain possession in dangerous areas, relying on an aggressive offside trap to offer defensive solidity.

Taylor said that each time his side got promoted he expected to be found out, but that it wasn’t until playing Sparta Prague in the Uefa Cup in 1983 that anybody did, largely because the Czechoslovak defenders had the technical ability not to panic when put under pressure. With better players, he amended his approach to an extent, but he remained always of a school that saw football as a game of chaos, and pressing as a way of guiding that. Venables, in seeking to impose order, was the cerebral Pep Guardiola to Taylor’s Klopp.