Thoughts from Hotel El Tel: Terry Venables on golf, football and bandy legs

TERRY Venables and his wife Yvette have just opened a hotel in the Alicante Mountains. It’s called La Escondida (“the hideaway”) and has ten stylish rooms. It’s in a quiet spot. The Venables, who have owned the old place for almost 20 years, had at one time considered creating a hillside version of La Manga, the massive sports resort on the coast. Then they changed their minds after the economic collapse of 2008 as it would all be too costly.

The result is a chilled out place to stay without Sky Sports or pool tables. It’s got a bit of a Texas ranch feel, minus the horses and cattle (though horse-riding can be fixed).

I wrote a piece that can be seen at thetimes.co.uk/travel about the hotel… but here are a few ‘off-cuts’ that didn’t make the story. I’ve put them into bullet-points, for ease of reading:

* On golf:
TV: “Practice makes…”
TV leaves it hanging for me to complete the sentence.
TC: “Perfect?”
TV: “No! No! No! Practice a bad shot the whole time, slice it off. Are you going to get better? No! No! No!”
TV swings his arms several times as though playing a bad golf shot.
TC: “So what does practice make?”
TV: “Practice makes permanent!”
TC: “What do you mean?”
TV: “Practice makes it second nature. Permanent. Practice makes permanent!”
Pause.
TC: “OK, I’ll remember that.”
Pause.
TV: “Actually, I’m about the only one.”
TC: “The only one who what?”
TV: “The only one in football who doesn’t play golf.”

* On the state of English football:
TV: “We’ve got to have winners. Over the last 50 years [since England’s World Cup victory in 1966], we’ve had all these good players. They consistently play well for their clubs: ‘Look at me, I’m going to be man of the match.’ But do it under pressure.” He was referring to ‘doing it’ at the World Cup or European Championship.

* On looking back on things:
TV: “You can’t rewrite history, but you can rewrite your memories.”

* On the Football Association bigwigs:
TV: “They haven’t got enough know-how to milk a cow.”

* On having video tapes of football games taken at customs in Oman:
TV: “They thought they were sex tapes. They confiscated them.”
Yvette [Terry Venables’ wife, who was sick of him watching football games the whole time], with a strong hint of sarcasm: “They must have been bitterly disappointed.”
TV, ignoring this and looking at me: “They thought they were Debbie does Dallas or something.”
Yvette: “When they were gone, I thought: ‘Whoop! Whoopee! Take them away!'”

* On bungs:
TV: “I hadn’t even used the word when it was mentioned to me. Cricket, that’s the crooked game. Crooket! You can have that.”
[This word appeared to have been invented on the spot… TV was inviting me to ‘have it’ to use in the future, which I just have].

* The maitre ‘d joins us at our table and mentions the hotel’s wi-fi password (pronouncing it wi-fee):
TV, cuts in: “I’ve got a wif-ee as well.”
TV looks at his wife Yvette, and chuckles.

* On leaving his job as England manager after Euro 96:
TV: “What do you do after the Lord Mayor’s parade? Alf Ramsay, after the World Cup, went to [manage] Birmingham.”

* On letting Maradona go from Barcelona when he took over management of the club in the mid 1980s:
TV: “He’d have 16 friends with him, but no lady friend. He’d pay for everything. He was like Gazza like that: popular. He pleaded with me to let him go to Napoli. I didn’t want a player who didn’t want to play for me. ”

* On life, accumulating wealth, running a hotel and being an entrepreneur:
TV: “You’ve got to keep up standards – and some. Push. It’s like money in the bank. If you let it stand still: you lose.”

* On a friend he knows with bandy legs:
TV: “He couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.” [big laugh]

* We go with a group of locals who hunt rabbits using birds of prey. Some of the birds are better than the others at catching the rabbits, and when one escapes:
TV: “That’s like missing a penalty!”
We watch a few examples of hawks chasing rabbits, of which quite a few get away. At the end of the day the rabbits are on top.
TV: “It’s 4-3 to the rabbits!”

* Ordering rose wine from maitre ‘d Jose at lunch at the hotel:
TV: “Rose from Jose! Lovely!”

And so end Terry Venables’ thoughts and comments as told at La Escondida (hotelescondida.com). Rooms are from 140 euros a night, in case you’re interested, and easyJet flights to Alicante are dirt cheap.

Escondida may be a far cry from the likes of Dixie Dean, Leslie Compton and Frank McLintock running pubs after their football days were over, but that was a different era – things move on.

A final thought, of my own: what a pity Venables was not given a shot at leading the England team in the 1998 World Cup. It’s tantalising to think of what might have happened if he had. Only the FA knows why they did not appoint him – and El Tel has a few opinions on that…

Terry and Yvette Venables at La Escondida in the Alicante Mountains:

TEL

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