“ We had a brilliant group of lads with a lot of talent and ability, who all got on really well. To win any competition is an achievement and we were delighted to be able to win the league. Jimmy Neighbour was an excellent coach and as the season went on he really got the best out of us. A lot of that side are still in contact and have remained friends which is great in itself, and myself and Danny Foster still speak regularly most days. ” (Mark Yeates)
A talented Spurs Under 17 side who played good football, and of which included the likes of Philip Ifil, Mark Yeates, Jamie Slabber and Owen Price, would go on to win the 2001/02 FA Premier Academy League Group A (there were two Southern groups, with each team playing a total of 24 league games over the course of the season). In doing so Spurs qualified for the national play-offs to see who would be crowned national champions at that level, but Spurs were unfortunately knocked out by Sheffield United at the quarter-finals stage of the competition. Under the tutelage of head coach and former Spurs player Jimmy Neighbour, a man who the Spurs lads greatly respected, the Under 17 side started the 2001/02 season by recording three consecutive 2-2 draws against Wrexham, Newcastle United and West Ham United respectively. However, they soon started to turn draws into wins, starting with a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in game week four, courtesy of a goal from Jamie Slabber. Notable victories over the course of the normal league season included a 2-1 home win over Arsenal, a 4-0 win over Fulham and a 3-2 win against Millwall. Winning 13 of their 24 league games, drawing seven and losing just four, the late Jimmy Neighbour’s side had a very strong defence that season thanks to the solidity of the likes of Danny Foster, Philip Ifil and Ricky Dobson, Spurs conceded just 20 goals in group A, and scored 38. Very difficult to beat over the course of the normal league season, it was in fact Spurs’ north London rivals Arsenal who were their closest challengers for top spot in group A. And it was actually very close between Spurs and Arsenal in the end, with Arsenal finishing in second place and just three points behind group/league winners Spurs’ 46 points.
Taking four points from our two games with Arsenal proved to be Invaluable come the end of the regular season, but so was Spurs’ defence and difficultly to win against. The Spurs lads who played in Group A during the course of the season were given medals for winning the group/league, and they then had the national play-offs to look forward to (some of the players from that Spurs under 17 side were also part of the Spurs under 18 side that managed to reach the semi-finals of that seasons FA Youth Cup). Spurs played both Barnsley and Coventry City on one occasion in a three team mini league, and after drawing 1-1 away to Barnsley, Spurs crucially beat Coventry City 2-1 at home thanks to goals from Daniel Perry and Jonathan Black, which booked Spurs’ place in the quarter-final stage of the competition, where they would meet Sheffield United at home. However, Spurs lost 2-1 to Sheffield United in the April of 2002 and as a result of that they went out of the play-offs (Newcastle United ended up becoming national champions that season). However, to still have won Group A which had some really fine sides in it, was a great achievement for the Spurs players and coaching staff, and something that every player in that side was very proud of achieving. Six of the players from the 2001/02 season went on to play for the Spurs first team (includes first team friendlies), which is a really good achievement in itself. With the great help of a former Spurs player who played for the Under 19 side and reserves during the 2001/02 season in Paul O’Donoghue, I have been able to get a much better understanding of what the players in that Spurs Under 17 side were like (for example – style of play) from somebody who knew them very well.
In this piece I will be looking back at every player that played for Spurs’ Under 17 side in the league during the 2001/02 season, talking about what kind of player they are/were, providing some statistics and also looking at where they went after leaving Spurs.
Paul Rutherford: A good, solid and very consistent goalkeeper, Paul Rutherford is from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and he had previously played for Colchester United and Norwich City prior to joining Spurs as a youth player. Rutherford was an important player for the Spurs under 17 side during the 2001/02 season, and he made 24 competitive appearances for us in the FA Premier Academy League. The goalkeeper would go on to play for the Spurs Under 19 side during the following 2002/03 season, but at the end of that particular season he was released by the club. He joined Braintree Town in the summer of 2003, the first of a number of non-League clubs that he played for. Since leaving Braintree Town, Rutherford went on to play for the likes of Maldon Town, Wivenhoe Town, AFC Sudbury Town and FC Clacton.
Nicky Eyre: A former England youth international (he played for England in the Victory Shield) from Braintree who had played for Ipswich Town as a youngster, goalkeeper Nicky Eyre only made five league appearances for our under 17 side in the 2001/02 season, as he was deputy to first choice goalkeeper Paul Rutherford during that particular season. Eyre was great at communicating to his defence and he was also a very good shot stopper who had great reactions, and he did go on to play for Spurs’ reserve side on occasions, but didn’t feature for the first team. After leaving Spurs the goalkeeper went on to play for the likes of Grays Athletic, Rushden & Diamonds and Chelmsford City before retiring from playing the game in 2014.
Michael Eade: A then schoolboy goalkeeper who actually didn’t feature for the Spurs Under 17 side during the 2001/02 season, but who did make the bench in the league for them on one occasion. Michael Eade joined Spurs as a schoolboy after going on trial at the club, but he wasn’t offered YTS by Spurs. However, Michael joined Luton Town on YTS terms and he would play a good number of games for their various youth sides. However, Michael Eade was released by Luton at the end of the 2005/06 season after not being offered a professional contract by the club. The goalkeeper then decided to go to America to pursue a soccer scholarship, and he spent three years playing for Park University, and at the same time he obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Michael still lives in America.
Daniel Perry: An unassuming full-back who did his job efficiently and had good technical ability on the ball, Daniel Perry was born in Welwyn Garden City and he joined Spurs as a schoolboy youth player. Perry made 24 (he started 22 of those games) FA Premier Academy League appearances for Spurs’ Under 17 side during the 2001/02 season, and the defender scored one goal for the team, with that coming in the 2-1 play-off victory against Coventry City, in the April of 2002. Towards the end of the following 2002/03 season and a season after he had been a consistent and important player for the Spurs Under 17 side, Daniel Perry joined Cambridge United on trial. And Perry signed scholarship forms with the Cambridgeshire based club at the end of the 2002/03 season. However, I am unsure about where he went after leaving Cambridge United.
David Tyrie: A robust and determined defender who liked a challenge on the pitch and also the physical side of the game, Norwich born ex-footballer David Tyrie had previously been with local side Norwich City prior to joining Spurs. During the 2001/02 season the player who often played as a centre-half for Spurs would make 25 league appearances for Jimmy Neighbour’s side, scoring one goal. Capable of playing as a central defender on either side, David Tyrie would later play for the Spurs Under 19 side during the following season, before later moving to Norwich City, where he mainly played for their Under 19 side. The defender would later move into non-League football where he played for Wroxham and Heybridge Swifts. David later moved to America, and one of the teams that he played for there was the Western Massachusetts Pioneers. He still lives in America.
Philip Ifil: A very highly rated full-back, Londoner Philip Ifil was an assured defender who had great confidence in his ability during his Spurs days. Ifil was also strong defensively but could also support the attack well. The defender made a single Group A appearance for Spurs during the 2001/02 season, when he played at right-back in a 0-0 draw with Charlton Athletic. Ifil would later go on to progress up the youth and reserve ranks at Spurs, to make five competitive appearances for the Spurs first team. Ifil would also become a regular starter for the Spurs reserve side during the 2000s. After going on some loans he departed Spurs in 2008 to join Colchester United. Ifil then later played for Dagenham & Redbridge and Kettering Town, before joining and playing for Watford Sunday League side Evergreen.
Marcel McKie: Former England youth international Marcel McKie was a first year scholar at Spurs during the 2001/02 season (he was an important player for the Spurs Under 17 side that season). The talented Edmonton born former player who made 17 league appearances for the Spurs Under 17 side during the season that we won Group A, was a good and technical left-back who was also a solid defender. McKie would works his way up the various ranks at Spurs to make a number of friendly appearances for Spurs’ first team, before later leaving Spurs in the mid 2000s. After going on trial with a number of clubs Marcel signed for Kettering Town in 2006. Other clubs that he later played for include St Albans City, Enfield Town and Butlins Bognor Regis, the club which he last played for.
Ricky Dobson: A centre-half with great pace, Ricky Dobson was a determined player who made 18 league appearances for the Spurs Under 17 side in 2001/02, and he was an important member of Jimmy Neighbour’s side. The left-sided defender would later play for the Spurs Under 19 side and the reserves now and again, before leaving Spurs permanently in 2004. To name some of the clubs that Ricky played for after leaving Spurs, he played for Grays Athletic, Billericay Town and Cheshunt.
Gareth Jenkins: A technically good defender with a fine left foot, Australian former footballer Gareth Jenkins made just one league appearance for the Spurs Under 17 side in the 2001/02 season. The Newcastle born former Spurs youth team player made more appearances for the Spurs Under 17 side during the following 2002/03 season, but Gareth was later released by Spurs before returning to Australia.
Liam Francis: A full-back with great stamina and who was also a solid defender, Liam Francis (he made four appearances for Spurs’ Under 17 side in the league in 2001/02) joined Spurs as a youngster after being scouted by Micky Hazard. The left-back later progressed up to the Spurs Under 19 side, before leaving the club not long afterwards.
Lee Barnett: A technical central midfielder who was reliable and rarely gave the ball away, Lee Barnett had good composure on the ball and he was a good passer of the ball also. Barnett made an impressive 27 league appearances for Spurs’ Under 17 side in 2001/02, scoring two goals. I was unfortunately unable to find out where Lee Barnett went after leaving the club, after he had stepped up to play for the Under 19 side.
Danny Foster: A commanding player who was a focused and sure footed defender, Danny Foster was a former England youth international. At Spurs for many years as a youth player prior to becoming a scholar at the club, the Enfield born former footballer was a really important defensive member of the Spurs side which won Group A in 2001/02. Foster made 22 league appearances and scored four goals, but it was not only his defensive qualities and organisation skill which made him such a valuable squad member, but he was also a great leader within the side. Later on playing for the Spurs Under 19 side and reserves in his Spurs career, the defender later had a good career in the game, playing for Dagenham & Redbridge, Brentford and Wycombe Wanderers. After retiring from playing Danny was assistant manager at Wingate & Finchley for a short time.
Mario Noto: A local lad who was a highly skilful and energetic midfield player, Mario Noto was rated quite highly by Spurs but was unfortunate to have had a number of talented midfielders ahead of him in the Under 19 side. However, as an Under 17 player at Spurs in 2001/02 Mario scored four goals from 27 league appearances. He would often play on the right flank during that season, and he was a good team player who was intelligent on the ball. Mario’s career post Spurs took him to Reading, where he played as an Academy player, and later on he went into the non-League to play for teams such as Harlow Town, Boreham Wood and Enfield Town. Mario is currently the assistant manager of Enfield Town.
Joe Watson: A solid defensive midfielder who was able to break up the game well and win possession. Joe Watson made 15 appearances for the Under 17 side in 2001/02. Unfortunately I was unable to find out where Watson went after leaving Spurs, and whether or not he continued playing football.
Owen Price: Tooting born former footballer Owen Price was one of the youngest players to play for the Spurs Under 17 side during the 2001/02 season (he made 14 appearances for them that season). A good technical midfield player who arrived at Spurs with quite a bit of hype from Charlton Athletic, Owen Price was a popular player at Spurs and he particularly impressed with his distribution over a long distance. The former Spurs player who would later play one game for the first team during his time at the club (it was a friendly game against Falkenbergs), was also a regular for the Under 19 side and also the reserves. Price left Spurs in 2006 and went to play for GIF Sundsvall in Sweden for a time. Enjoying a long playing career which saw him play for a great variety of clubs such as Ljungskile SK, Lewes and Chatham Town. Owen is currently the assistant manager of non-League side Erith & Belvedere.
Nicky Wettner: An aggressive and physical midfielder who was a very committed and tough player. Nicky Wettner made 17 league appearances during 2001/02, and he would patrol the midfield well whenever he played that season. Wettner also played at left-midfield towards the end of that seasons FA Youth Cup run, and he did well. After progressing up to the Spurs Under 19 side and later leaving the club the midfielder played in the non-League, where he played for Aveley.
Jeffrey Seitz: A triallist from Spandau in Germany, Jeffrey Seitz made two substitute appearances for the Spurs Under 17 side in 2001/02. After not being signed by Spurs and going on to continue his playing career, Jeffrey went in to football coaching in Germany. He is currently the manager of SC Staaken.
Jonathan Black: A Northern Irishman from Larne in County Antrim, midfielder Jonathan Black was a highly rated Northern Ireland youth international who joined Spurs as a youngster. A good free-kick taker who wasn’t afraid of the physical side of the game, but who was also good on the ball, the midfield player made 20 appearances in 2001/02, scoring one goal. Jonathan Black later suffered a career ending injury at the age of 19, which very sadly ended his career in professional football. However, he has since began a promising coaching coaching career. He coached back in Northern Ireland, at Greater Osceola United and at Tottenham Hotspur. Jonathan currently resides in America, where he continues his coaching career.
David Hicks: A combative midfielder who had good potential, David Hicks made five league appearances for the Spurs Under 17 side over the course of the 2001/02 season. Hicks later stepped up to play for the Spurs Under 19 side in the following seasons, before moving to Northampton Town on a free transfer in the January of 2004. The midfield player later played for clubs such as Stevenage, Wealdstone FC and Enfield FC.
Mark Yeates: Dubliner and former Republic of Ireland youth international Mark Yeates was in former Spurs player Paul O’Donoghue’s eyes the best player in the
Spurs Under 17 side during the 2001/02 season. A popular member of the Spurs Under 17 side, Mark Yeates made 26 league appearances (he often played as a CAM) in the 2001/02 season, scoring six goals. Yeates was and still is a very creative player with an outstanding skill level, Yeates is also very skilful on the ball and he has an eye for a forward pass. Going on to quickly progress up to the Under 19 side and reserves, Yeates made his first team debut for Spurs against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2004, and he got an assist on his debut. He made a decent number more appearances for Spurs’ first team, before leaving the club permanently in 2007 to join Colchester United. A long and successful career followed for the man who was unlucky not to win a senior cap for his country. Yeates played for clubs such as Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Watford and Notts County. Now at 36 years of age and still going strong, the forward thinking player currently plays for non-Legaue side Bamber Bridge.
Tim Ford: Tim Ford was a slightly built winger who made 13 appearances for Spurs’ Under 17 side in the league in 2001/02. Ford would often take corner kicks for the Under 17 side when he played for them. I am unsure where Ford went after leaving Spurs, unfortunately.
Jamie Slabber: A centre-forward who only needed half a chance to score inside the box. Enfield born former footballer Jamie Slabber had a real eye for goal and he more often than not caused problems for defenders. Jamie Slabber scored an impressive 12 league goals from 11 appearances for the Under 17 side that season, and the player who would often play up for the Under 19 side and later the reserves, would make one competitive first team appearance during his time at the club (it came as a substitute against Liverpool in a Premier League game in 2003. He got an assist). Slabber went on a couple of loan moves during his time at Spurs, before being released by the club towards the end of the 2004/05 season. The striker later played for a lot of clubs in England, such as Grays Athletic, Chelmsford City and Eastleigh. Slabber was also an England C international.
Michael Malcolm: A highly rated centre-forward who joined Spurs from Wycombe Wanderers as a schoolboy. Michael Malcolm scored 11 goals from 26 appearances for the Under 17 side in the league in 2001/02. A striker who liked the ball played in-behind, the Harrow born former footballer later played for the Under 19 side and the reserves. Michael Malcolm was released by Spurs in 2005, and he later played for a number of clubs in England, such as Stockport County, Weymouth and most recently Cray Wanderers. Malcolm made four appearances for Spurs’ team in friendlies during his time at the club.