Reposting John Gregory's comments about Terry Venables as coach, from a few weeks ago.
Secrets of 30 years in the Venables laboratory
Richard Williams, The Guardian, September 2, 2006
"Not many people outwitted Brian Clough, but Terry Venables did. It happened almost a quarter of a century ago, and the Venables-inspired free-kick with which Queen's Park Rangers got the better of Nottingham Forest one Saturday afternoon in the early 80s encapsulates all the streetwise inventiveness that Steve McClaren will hope to get from his 63-year-old assistant as England begin their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign today.
"Absolutely," John Gregory replied this week as he was reminded of an incident that forms a telling snapshot of the Venables effect. Gregory, then a member of the QPR midfield, had positioned himself next to the defender on the right-hand edge of Forest's four-man wall as Mike Flanagan prepared to take a direct free-kick from 10 yards outside the penalty area. A couple of seconds later Flanagan's low drive was whistling into the corner of the net, having passed through a gap where the defender no longer was.
As Flanagan celebrated with his team-mates, Gregory ran over to the bench. Approaching the applauding Venables, he grinned and drew his forefinger across his throat. Job done. Another dividend from those hours spent on the training ground. "You just wheeled him round," Gregory continued, reflecting on the defender's unscheduled disappearance. "We spent an hour on things like that every Friday."
In those days Venables' training sessions were like laboratory experiments. "He was a really deep thinker and he was always looking to innovate," Gregory said. "We always practised free-kicks and sometimes you needed to be Einstein to understand what was going on. We spent hours on them. He was very meticulous, but it was always enjoyable."
...The secrets of Venables' success as a coach are not simple, but they are straightforward. He treats his players well, he gets them to enjoy themselves and, most profitably of all, he engages their minds.
"I was 27 years old when I signed for QPR," Gregory said, "and I'd spent about a week in pre-season training with Terry Venables when I suddenly realised that although I'd been in the game for 11 years, I'd never been coached.
"He occupied your brain. Everything he did was so imaginative. In the four years I was with him, he rarely repeated coaching sessions. There was always something new, and it made going to work feel exciting. And he wasn't a dictator. It wasn't 'my way or no way'. He'd throw ideas back to you and invite you to have your say."
By the time Venables arrived at QPR, he had already nurtured Palace's team of young stars. Among them was Kenny Sansom, later an England full-back, who remembers the excitement and enthusiasm radiating from a coach not much older than his players...
On the tactical side, both Gregory and Sansom emphasised Venables' debt to the Liverpool of the 1970s. "He stole the offside game from Liverpool," Gregory said. "We even practised it in five-a-side games every day, so that it would become a habit. And then George Graham, who was a youth-team coach at QPR under Terry, took it to Arsenal very effectively."