Terry Venables: ‘He’s a Campaigner, Writer, Grocer – and Footballer’

Michael Hart wrote the following article for an Evening Standard supplement in October 1970:

“Geoff Bradley is a friend of mine and a former business partner. His five-year-old son Ricky had his sight restored after being blind for three years. Blindness is very personal to Geoff.”

Perhaps not quite so personal, though, to Queen’s Park Rangers captain Terry Venables, who was explaining the origins of his ‘Fight for Sight’ campaign.

Nevertheless, the 27-year-old Venables has immersed himself thoroughly in the campaign. It is something he feels is worthwhile.

“We want 15,000 tons of waste paper – the equivalent to a cheque for £100,000,” explains Venables. “The money will equip a new research unit to investigate causes of blindness.”

Policemen, firemen, traffic wardens, American airmen at South Ruislip. And Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and QPR have agreed to help the campaign.

“We’ve been going only a fortnight and already 30 tons of paper have come in,” says Venables. At the rate of 30 tons a fortnight, it will take 20 years to reach their target. But Venables the optimist insists: “I’m delighted, thirty tons is very encouraging.”

Terry Venables is one of the nicest guys in football. He is sincere and friendly. After a night game in London, you can usually pick out the chirpy Dagenham boy chatting with players and fans.

The good suits, the smiling eyes, the hair slanting down to the eyebrows – Venables is known, respected and admired in football.

And he is the only player to have been honoured by England at all levels – winning Schools, Youth, Amateur, Under-23 and full caps.

He began his career on Chelsea’s ground staff when he was 15. He had 233 first-team games for Chelsea, scoring 26 goals, before moving to Spurs for £80,000 in 1966.

After three seasons, 139 first-team appearances, an FA Cup winners medal and a hell of a lot of stick from the White Hart Lane crowd, he was transferred to Rangers for £70,000 in June last year.

After the first seven weeks of the 1970/71 season, Venables topped Rangers’ scoring list with five goals, four of them penalties.

“We’ve been a bit disappointing,” he admits. “I think people probably expected a bit too much. But it will come. We’ll soon find that old rhythm.”

That covers Venables the footballer and Venables the charity organisation. He has three more sides to his life…so no wonder it took me a fortnight to catch up with him.

First, the book. Gordon Williams, a novelist, and Venables has been friends for a long time. For the last four months, they have collaborated on a 100,000-word novel about British football in the 1980’s.

“We’d been talking about a football book for ages”, says Terry. “It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this and, I must be honest, I could never have written a book on my own.”

“But it’s a true collaboration. We’ve even shared down to the typing. I’m pleased with the way it’s going. I reckon we’ll have finished it by the end of the month.”

As for the plot itself, Terry is not so forthcoming. “Well, we don’t want to give it all away, do we?”, he smiles. “Much better to keep it a surprise.”

Second, the business. Venables runs a grocer’s shop and a buying-and-selling business – “we deal in just about anything”, from premises in Grays Inn Road.

Third, the family. He lives at Gants Hill with his wife Christine, 27 and two daughters. They are thinking of moving to a large house in Loughton.

“It has been pretty hectic the last few months,” he says. “When I think about it, I suppose I’m trying to find out what I’d like to do when I hang up my boots.”

Steve Russell