Escape Euro 16... at the Hotel El Tel: Ex-England boss Terry Venables is revelling in his new role as a hotelier in SpaiN

A gentle orange sunset bathes a valley in the mountains above Alicante. 

Birds of prey hover on thermals over pine-covered hills and terraces studded with olive trees.

Terry Venables and his wife, Yvette, are sitting on the terrace of their Spanish hotel, enjoying a break from attending to the needs of guests, teasing each other about the reviews on Amazon of the books they’ve written – the former England manager’s football tales, and his wife’s memoir about an East End family of undertakers.

‘How many five-star reviews have you got?’ Yvette asks him.
‘I don’t know.’
‘I’ve got loads.’
‘I’ve done 22 books, though,’ Venables replies. ‘How many have you done?’
‘One, but it’s one good one!’ Yvette laughs. ‘And I wrote it all myself!’
It’s a typically warm exchange between Venables – known as El Tel after his successful stint managing Barcelona in the 1980s – and his wife of 35 years.
There’s no mention of the Euro 2016 football championships at all. There’s not a pitch, footballer, or even a ball in sight.

Venables is 18 months into his latest managerial role, running La Escondida (The Hideaway), a boutique hotel and restaurant in the mountains near Alicante.
‘Just listen to that silence,’ he says. ‘This place is so relaxing. It’s the best if you want a good rest. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?’
Venables says he has noticed that his hotel guests – who come predominantly from the UK, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Spanish – look totally different when they check out.
‘It’s interesting to see the change in our guests. They look pressured and exhausted when they arrive but they are all bronzed and fit by the time they leave.’
These days telephone calls to Venables do not come from top football executives, scouts, fellow managers or agents but from a group of local decorators, gardeners and cheese-makers.

And every day the varied roles of a hotelier keep him busy. He has to make sure guests have everything they want and ensure that local tradesmen have completed jobs to his satisfaction.

Most pressing of all, however, he has to organise an improved irrigation system to the line of cypress trees that lead down to a dusty ravine in front of the hotel.
And this being Spain, there’s also some maddening bureaucracy to deal with – the local tourist board won’t allow the couple to call La Escondida a hotel because there are no TVs in the rooms.

He is also considering what to with a 13th Century tower and building in the grounds that is currently derelict.

Venables has owned the property for nearly 20 years. Initially, he thought about creating a sports resort similar to La Manga along the coast, but he changed his mind after the 2008 economic collapse. 

Instead, it opened as a boutique hotel in 2014 – there are ten stylish rooms, two cabins and a renowned restaurant.

Venables, now 73, says that being a hotelier is a good way to keep fit. ‘As I’ve discovered, running a hotel is a fast-moving business. It’s a full-on, seven-day operation. 

You’re constantly on your feet, continually up and down stairs, pacing around the place, attending to our guests.’

He adds: ‘One day I’m going to attach a pedometer to see how far I walk in a day. I’m sure it’ll be several miles. I’ve never been so healthy.’
He has applied his skills as a successful football boss to hotel management. Certainly his tenures as coach of Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and the England and Australia national teams, have seemed to be invaluable preparation for running a hotel. ‘Managing those sides hasn’t done me any harm,’ he smiles.

‘Running a hotel is like being in charge of a football team. It’s all about getting a group of talented people together who know what their jobs are and what they’re supposed to be doing.

‘It’s like that with football players. When they know their roles, that makes it easier for the manager.

‘That’s what we’ve done here. We employed keen, enthusiastic and talented chefs, waiters and reception staff with a real desire to succeed at what they do.
‘It’s no different, really, from encouraging your players and getting the best from your team.

‘You can’t afford to stand still in the centre circle. If you stand still as a football manager, you’ve lost.

‘It’s like that when you’re a hotelier, too. You want to be constantly pushing forward.’




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