My interview with former Spurs player Brian Woozley:

Islington born Brian Woozley was an attack minded midfielder who played for Spurs at youth team level during the mid 1960’s. Playing for Tottenham in the South East Counties League senior section and junior section, Brian’s brother David also played for Spurs during the same decade, while his nephew who is also called David, played for clubs such as Crystal Palace and Torquay United. Brian Woozley was an amateur with Spurs during his time there, and after leaving them he would go on to play for the likes of Croydon who he enjoyed a very good spell with, Hendon and Wembley. I recently had the great pleasure of speaking to Brian about his memories of his time at Spurs during the 1960’s.

What are your earliest footballing memories and how did you come about joining Spurs?

Brian: It would be going back to 1959 when I was playing for Islington Boys under 11 team, and their first game surprisingly enough was against Tottenham Boys at White Hart Lane, so that was a good start. Then after that and going to 1963, basically playing for Islington Schoolboys at under 15’s we used to train at Highbury the Arsenal ground once a week. And the one thing that I really remember about that was the underfloor heating at Highbury and it was magical, when you finished your game and you came into the dressing room you had underfloor heating, so in them days that was magical as you can imagine. Then basically after that a friends dad said to me would you like to get a trial for Spurs? And I said well yeah, I don’t mind. Anyway later on that year I got a letter signed by Bill Nicholson inviting me to take part in a junior trial match over at the Cheshunt ground, and that was at the end of July, so that’s how it all started.

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?

Brian: It was getting the 259 bus from Caledonian Road sort of twice a week to go training, and training was taken by Sid Tickridge, and one of the nice men there at Spurs was called Jimmy Joyce who was in the admin, and he was a lovely man who was really nice and very friendly. And so anyway I left school at 14 and took part in the trial which unfortunately I didn’t quite make the grade for an apprentice, but they offered to sign me on amateur forms, like a lot of the youngsters, and I think that even John Pratt signed amateur forms first of all. So at 15 I didn’t quite get up to the standard but they signed me on amateur forms and then two weeks later I got a job as a messenger with the Evening News, earning £3 a week, which was really expensive stuff! I was issued as an amateur player with a pass to go into the games (at Whiter Hart Lane) if I wanted to go in to watch the first team, and that was good. Anyway after that I played for the junior section of the South East Counties League, and my brother David also made the senior section of the South East Counties, and he played about 13 games for them, and he then went down a different road. I have two telegrams on me, one is dated 28/2/64 saying you’re playing tomorrow, meet at Spurs ground 1:30pm. The other one was, no training stop, meet at Spurs ground 1:15pm. And that’s how they used to communicate with you if you weren’t training that week. So in 1965 I signed the amateur forms and I was actually asked by the London FA to represent them in the FA Charity Youth Competition, which was mainly for amateur players like myself and John Pratt.

We played Kent in the first round and we won six-two, and Bill Nicholson was actually watching that match, and I was told that he was very impressed with my performance. And then shortly after and at one particular game John Pratt I think signed as an apprentice professional, and Ron Ashley took his place in the London side. After that I was made captain for London and then we went on to reach the final after playing five rounds, and we met Leicester who we beat in the final, after two legs. Notable players from Leicester at that was David Nish and he was playing for Leicester, and I think that he also went on to play for England. The other one was Rodney Fern who was quite famous, and as a result of playing for London I was issued with a cap which was beautiful. So that was my time and it was quite memorable really, it was three years that I actually played there and I think that I had one game in the Metropolitan League (it was five tiers as you had the first team, reserves, Metropolitan, under 18’s and under 16’s), so that was my time at Spurs. We had some good players in those times, lots of very good players.

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

Brian: I admired Dave Mackay and I just thought that he was an outstanding player, and obviously Jimmy Greaves you can’t take away from, and why he’s never been knighted I’ll never know. But they were two great players, and I didn’t even get to meet Bill Nicholson after all three years which is strange, although I know that he came to watch me but that’s about it I think. 

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Brian: Mainly midfield, sort of attacking midfield as I liked to go forward and have shots on goal, and I carried on doing that through my amateur career as well, I also played for London in midfield and it was just enjoyable really. Going back to the days of playing at Cheshunt, the pitches at Cheshunt were just fantastic compared to playing at Hackney Marshes on a Sunday or something. It was out of this world and they were just some of the greatest pitches that you could ever have I think in them days, although it is a lot better today. It was also a pleasure to put on one of these yellow shirts when I first had my trial at Cheshunt, and it was one of these silky shirts with the cockerel on it, although I never had a picture taken of me when I was at Spurs, which I do regret. 

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Brian: I suppose anybody was because they were such a good side in the 60’s and they went on to good things.

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

Brian: Well as I say I always admired Dave Mackay and I mean you couldn’t get any better that. He was outstanding going forward, defending, tackling and you name it he could do it you know, he was my idol really and I like to say that I based my game on him.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

Brian: In them days for a young lad of 15 years of age to sort of represent Tottenham made you feel like you were on cloud nine really, and that’s how I felt. It was just great and I loved every minute, and you know it taught you everything really, and although my hope was to have signed professional it wasn’t to be and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Brian: I had quite a few times once I left Tottenham, playing for a club called Croydon FC we went the whole season which was 42 league games without being beaten, which is quite an achievement really, and I don’t think that any other club has really done that.  

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with? 

Brian: Well there was quite a few actually. One year when I was playing for Tottenham youth I played against Trevor Brooking and that was in 1965, and he was playing at centre forward, and I was playing right-half with John Pratt playing left-half as that’s how it used to be in them days. I also played against Steve Kember who used to play for Crystal Palace, and also Jimmy Pearce used to play for Tottenham and he played when I first played for Islington Schoolboys under 15’s. Also Keith Weller who played for Spurs, went to Barnsbury Boys School which was the same school as me.

Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?

Brian: Basically I played for Maidenhead in I think around 1972, and basically Brentford came along and asked if I would like to represent them in a game at the London Charity Cup. I said yeah and I jumped at the chance to play for Brentford just for the one game, and you’ll never guess who it was against, it was against Tottenham at Tottenham! So I jumped at the chance and that was the first time that I came up against Graeme Souness, and boy did I know that I’d been in a tackle, and he really did see to me. He was a lot fitter than I was anyway, and he was always quicker on the ball than me so he really did stand out, and I think that was really just the start of his career at Tottenham really, because it would have just been a reserve side. So he was one player that really stood out during my career.

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

Brian: Well I didn’t think that I was going to go any further to be quite honest, I sort of played that well for London and Bill Nicholson said it was very good, but there was no sort of movement there and I wanted to be a professional. So I heard that Hendon were interested in me and they were a top amateur side at that time so I thought that I’d give it a try. I could have stayed on at a Spurs as they didn’t sort of say that they didn’t want me anymore but there you go. My time at Hendon was great and quite a lot of the side were England amateur internationals, and basically when I had went there they had drawn in the first round of the FA Cup at home to Reading. I was twelfth man that day at the age of only 18 which was very unusual, and I went on for the last 20 minutes but we lost the game in the end. Also Hendon in another year got through to the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup, where they were drawn against Skelmersdale United, and that was played at Derby’s Baseball Ground. Unfortunately we got beat and that was the dream of playing at Wembley gone, and as you can imagine you’re in the semi-final of the FAAmateur Cup and it would have been lovely, but there you go. After Hendon I went to a club called Wembley, and a Scottish amateur international called George Taylor was building the side there. So I went there and it was quite good there, and then from there I went to Maidenhead and while there although I played for them on Saturday’s, I used to play on Sunday’s in Islington for a local team called Carlton United who I don’t think exist anymore. It was a very experienced side and we had Peter McGillicuddy playing for us as well.

At Carlton we got through to the All Sunday Cup final which took us all around the UK and we went to Liverpool, and then in the final we up to Durham, and we won the final there which was quite good. After Maidenhead I went to Tooting & Mitcham who were managed by Roy Dwight who used to play for Nottingham Forest, and he was the only player that scored in the FA Cup final and then got carried off with a broken leg, and he was also the uncle of Elton John. So I went to Tooting and stayed there for a couple of years and then I went to Croydon and as I say we had quite a good side at Croydon in the league, and then after that I went to Horsham and then I finished my career at Dorking and that’s when I joined the police, so I couldn’t sort of carry on anymore after that which was a shame. I then spent 33 years with Sussex police, so I’ve been all around the place as you can imagine. 

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

Brian: Only Alan Hesling really, I don’t think that anyone used to live around my way, there was only one bloke who used to get the bus back with me and that was Alan Hesling. I think that he used to get on the 259 with me and he’d go his own way to south London and I’d go back to Islington. Also Ron Ashley was another good lad, and he represented Tottenham and London as well, after John Pratt turned professional.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Brian: Obviously the times of the 60’s are totally different to now with the fitness regimes that you’ve got today, and your eating and everything. So I’d say that you’ve just got to stick at your football. 

After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?

Brian: Oh yes without a doubt although I’m an Arsenal supporter because I was born and bred in Islington, but they still mean a lot to me. I support two teams in a funny sort of way, but I’ll always think of Tottenham without a doubt.

Spurs under 18’s versus Leicester City: (match preview)

After emphatically beating Southampton by seven goals to nil last Saturday, Matt Taylor’s Spurs under 18 side will be looking to make it three wins in a row when they host winless Leicester City at Hotspur Way tomorrow morning (the game starts at 11:30am). The club from the Midlands who sit at the bottom of the Under 18 Premier League South, haven’t registered a point this campaign, and they have conceded 36 league goals from their opening eight matches. However, Leicester have in recent years been difficult to beat, and with potent attacking players such as Kian Pennant and Terrell Pennant eligible to play tomorrow, Spurs will know that they will have to once again be very alert. Last season we beat Leicester four-three at their Belvoir Drive training ground and they were resilient that day however, tomorrow’s game will likely be a different kind of contest. Inform under 18’s striker Dane Scarlett became the youngest ever Spurs player to feature for them in a competitive game, when he came off the bench in our four-nil win over Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad on Thursday, so it will be interesting to see whether or not he goes into the under 23 side for their game against Leicester, or whether he remains with the under 18’s. I would like to wish Matt Taylor’s side all the very best of luck for tomorrow’s game, a win could lift them up to the top of the league table.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Lo-Tutala (c), Lusala, Muir, Paskotši, Hackett, Matthew Craig, Devine, Mundle, Robson, Santiago, Whittaker.

Subs from: Solberg, Cesay, Michael Craig, John, Mathurin.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 4-3.

My score prediction: Spurs 5-1.

My one to watch: Leicester forward Kian Pennant (16) who has scored three league goals from eight games so far this season.

My interview with former Spurs player John Pratt:

Hackney born midfielder and Spurs legend John Arthur Pratt in fact started his footballing career off with west London club Brentford, whose youth team he used to play for. An exceptionally hard-working, versatile and intelligent midfield player, Pratt joined Tottenham Hotspur as an amateur, after having been spotted playing by Spurs legend and double winner Terry Medwin at Clark’s College in Enfield, where Medwin was a coach at the time, and where Pratt was a pupil. The tenacious John Pratt signed professional forms with the club in the November of 1965, and he would play for the juniors and the youth team in the South East Counties League, before progressing onto the reserve side. Excellent at breaking up play in the middle of the park, the defensive minded midfielder also had an eye for goal as well as being able to strike a ball sweetly, and he scored a very respectable total of 64 goals from 462 first team appearances for Spurs, although not all of which were in competitive games. After having risen through the various ranks at the club, John was eventually given his first team debut for Spurs by the great Bill Nicholson, it came in an end of season tour of Cyprus in a friendly against a Cyprus International XI (John made his competitive debut for Spurs against Arsenal the following year), with Spurs winning three-nil thanks to a brace from Jimmy Robertson and a goal from Alan Gilzean. Pratt would go on to establish himself in the Tottenham first team in a spell at the club as a player that would last almost 15 years, and he won the 1972 UEFA Cup, the 1973 Football League Cup (he played a big part in the run up to the final of that seasons competition), and he also played in both legs of the 1974 UEFA Cup final, when we finished as runners up to Dutch side Feyernoord. After enjoying on the whole a very successful time at Spurs albeit with the team enjoying mixed fortunes in that long period of time, Pratt left Spurs to join American side Portland Timbers in the May of 1980. He would later return to Spurs to coach both the youth and reserve team, before becoming assistant first team manager to Peter Shreeves for a period.

After having left Spurs permanently, Pratt would later manage Chesham United, coach Stevenage Borough and become assistant manager of Worthing, to name just some of his post playing career roles. I felt extremely privileged to have recently got the chance to interview John about his hugely memorable and eventful time at Tottenham Hotspur.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

John: It was going to the Crown and Manor Boys Club in Hoxton where I was born, and going over to Hackney Marshes. I was in the under 11’s when I first went to Crown and Manor and they were called the minors, and when I was ten and a half they had a really good team, and they got to the London Federation of Boys Clubs finals. And the manager of the team was a guy called Dougie Workman, and he was one of those people that was far ahead of his time, he was a Chelsea supporter but in years later I let him get away with that. He was a forward thinking man and I got picked to play in the semi-finals, and all of the 14 year olds said no, no, no we aren’t going to have that, we want Jimmy Mason who was one of their mates, and they wanted him to play. But Dougie said well no, if you don’t want to play with him then I’ll get ten other boys that want to play with him. So they went out and I was sitting there but I was ten and a half so I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually they all came back in and said yeah alright we’ll play, and so we played on Hackney Marshes against a good team called Alexander who were from Stoke Newington. I was playing on the wing in them days and I was having a really good first half and then in the second half they had a Hackney and London fullback playing, and they changed him over to mark me and so instead of going down the right hand side of the pitch we predominantly went down the left hand side of the pitch. So obviously I wasn’t getting a kick of the ball and it was freezing cold, and I just got colder and colder and colder, and at Crown and Manor we had the British lightweight boxing champion called Arthur Howard. I remember him picking me up and carrying me from pitch 167 all the way back to the dressing room, I was so frozen! 

We ended up winning that game and I’ll always remember that welcome to the world, tactically it was the right thing for us to do but I didn’t get a kick of the ball in the second half as one the player was a very good fullback, and two we changed our tactics. That was my first realisation about playing football at any level, but my dad was a good footballer and he basically sort of showed me all of the techniques when I was around that age group. Then afterwards I had the good fortune that at the school that I went Terry Medwin from the double side at Tottenham was our coach at school. So I had another good mentor to follow, but basically most of it was off the cuff and you just played and you enjoyed yourself, perhaps a little bit more than the boys do now as there is too much pressure on young players now I think. 

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?

John: Well I played for Brentford when I was 14/15 in the youth team there, and I think that we had played Tottenham and I had had a couple of good games. However, because of the association with Terry Medwin when I was 16 Terry said that Tottenham wanted you to go and have a trial, and this was in 1964. I said well I’m doing alright at Brentford and I was only 15 and I’d had half a dozen reserve team games, but he said to me where are you going to go if you don’t make it at Brentford. And I didn’t have a clue as I was just a kid from Hoxton who didn’t know about all of the things in football, and he said to me well put it this way John if you don’t make it at Tottenham then there are 91 other teams that you can go to. And I thought wow what a good answer that is, I’ll have some of that, and so unfortunately for Tottenham it was the day that John White was being buried when I went for my trial. So one John went and one John came, and the 45,000 people who were there at Tottenham were hoping that the other one hadn’t gone, but that was the day that I had the trial. My dad used to say to me when I played for London and others, that all of the people around you ask them their names and say if you pass the ball to me and make me look good then I will pass the ball to you and make you look good. So when I went and had my trial up at Cheshunt I said to the winger and I said to the fullback that my name is John Pratt, and I said exactly that. So I probably got a little bit more of the ball than I may of done, because to be fair you know that people are trying to make themselves noticed and they are going to want to dwell on the ball and have it more than perhaps they should do. So after that I played for a year, and Bill Nicholson was big on education and he said to me that I want you to stay at school and so I said alright then I’ll stay at school.

So I stayed at school for a year as an amateur in the youth team and the first year that I was there the under 17’s were formed in the South-East Counties League, and I think that Bill Nicholson fancied winning that. I used to play in that sort of as a centre half or as a left back, and Tony Want who played in the first team and went to Birmingham also played in it, and he seemed as if he really wanted to win the under 17 league by putting some of us who were playing in the FA Youth Cup team in cup games. We did go on and win the league, but we were playing West Ham in the FA Youth Cup in I think the fifth round, and we’d drawn about three or four times. We were playing up at Upton Park and the only other amateur playing on that day was Trevor Brooking and myself, and I’d played centre half and after the game people were saying how did I play centre half. However, like Gary Mabbutt  I had a good technique to jump and head the ball, and I was a pretty decent header of the ball. So after the game Ron Greenwood came up to me and said that I understand that you’re an amateur, and I said yeah and then he said are Tottenham going to sign you. I said well I don’t know, and he said well if they don’t want to sign you then we’ll sign you and so I said well I’ll ask Bill Nicholson if he wants to sign me, so afterwards I went to see Bill and I knocked on his door and got an appointment with him because I actually worked for a month before I turned professional, in the import and export business in the city. And unfortunately it was a bittersweet situation because I signed on the 19th November 1965 when I turned pro and it was on a Friday, and I’d worked and then I met my dad at Liverpool Street station. We went on the train to White Hart Lane and then went across the road to Bill and this was after half past five, and on the Saturday I was supposed to play for England Amateurs.

That was the only time in my life that I was good enough to play for England, and I used to play for a Sunday morning team called Samuel Lithgow which was another boys club in the London Federation of Boys Clubs. We had nine England amateur internationals in our team and me, and needless to say we won most of our games, and so I was due to play as I had got picked to play. In the Evening Standard and the News of the World on a Friday night it was John Pratt from Hoxton signs professional terms with Tottenham Hotspur. I arrived at London airport with my dad on the Saturday and they said no you can’t play because your a professional, but as I know now I wouldn’t have been a professional until the Monday. Because it was after half past five so I wouldn’t have been registered with the FA until Monday morning, but nevertheless one of the biggest days of your life when you found out that you were going to become a professional footballer happened on a Wednesday. We were playing in the Metropolitan League at Charlton and I had arrived from work as I’d had another afternoon off work, and the firm Gillespie Brothers were brilliant and they were really good to me, I spent more time playing football then I did doing any business on the import and export business. Anyway I’ve arrived at the game and Eddie Baily’s got his clip board and he’s thrown it on the floor and he’s said Pratt we’ve only got to sign you professional and he said what’s the game coming to. However, Eddie Baily loved me and he was one of the reasons why I did get into the Spurs first team and played in the early 70’s with him and Bill. So that was how I became a professional footballer and somebody has said what’s the game coming we’ve got to sign you professional, and so that’s how I signed for Tottenham.

I think that I had went to Tottenham three times prior to signing for them, and that was the Benfica game, the Glasgow Rangers game and the game against Aston Villa in the FA Cup sixth round. My mates at school were all Tottenham supporters but I had only been there (White Hart Lane) three times before I had actually joined them,  but I’m a Tottenham supporter now as I’m a fair bit older obviously and having done all of the things that I’ve done at the club they are my team. At the time I suppose if I had supported anyone it was Leyton Orient, because my dad played for Leyton Orient before the war as an amateur, and when he came back from the war they offered him £6 a week, but he was getting £7 a week working as a plumber at Truman’s. So it was a no brainer that he stayed at Truman’s, but he was a pretty good footballer and I was lucky enough to inherit his natural ability, I think.

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

John: I think inspiration wise it would sort of have been the Manchester United 1958 team that died in Munich. My mates were Arsenal fans and I remember that I went to Arsenal on the Saturday when they played Manchester United who beat them five-four, but the only thing that I can remember about the game was one of the goals that they scored. Duncan Edwards played but I can’t remember seeing him play although I obviously saw him visually, and I suppose that in 58/59 Bobby Charlton was the player that everyone wanted to aspire to be. Where I lived after the FA Cup final on the Saturday you used to go out, and you used to have to have a fight to be Bobby Charlton before you actually played the game, because everybody wanted to be Bobby Charlton. The irony is that ten years later I was playing against him, which was obviously an experience to say the least. Then when I was at Tottenham I suppose that Dave Mackay was a massive sort of influence by watching him play and the way that he conducted himself, and he was a born winner and I have always enjoyed winning. To be fair I didn’t watch that much football as I was always playing, and on a Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning I was always playing football. There’s loads and loads of people that I admire and since playing against them you become more and more aware of players ability and one thing and another, and having played in as many positions as I did. I think that I’m the only person to have played for Tottenham that’s played in every position apart from goalkeeper, for obvious reasons as I’m five foot seven. If I looked at people like Ron Henry who was my captain in the reserves, and when I was doing my coaching badges Ron was very influential there and also in the A team he was brilliant.

Also there was Terry Medwin and people like Jimmy Greaves, so there were loads of them really in and around Tottenham. Later on I had the great fortune to become very friendly with Bobby Moore, so there was lots of people to admire but there was loads of people that weren’t actually professional footballers that told you a lot of great things about life. Johnny Wallis who was the kit man used to train all us young lads, and apprentices and young professionals up until you were 20 and teach us all of the fundamental things about discipline and hard work etc, and technique and quality, and they were all of the things that Tottenham are known for. So the people were my dad, Terry Medwin, Johnny Wallis, Eddie Baily and Bill Nicholson. But the three managers that I played under Bill, Terry for the year that he was there and Keith Burkinshaw were people who I learned a lot from, and they all helped me to become a better player.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

John: I played every position to the point where I can remember we were training at Cheshunt and Cyril Knowles got injured (he had pulled a muscle or something) and Alan Mullery said to Bill what are we going to do about the left back, and he said that it’s not a problem, John Pratt will go and play left back. I just happened to look up and I saw the face of the reserve team left back at the time, and his face just hit the floor and he thought I must be a good player, because we’ve got a midfield player which I predominantly was, going to play left back. Because I played in the youth team at left back and centre half, as well as centre forward for few games and I took a right hiding there because I was alright at dishing it out. In midfield if you get kicked you know how to give a hard tackle back but I was having a really hard time, and it was about three games that I played and I went to see Bill, and I was taking a bit of a chance. I had only been on the first team squad a little while, and I said about being a centre forward I don’t mind taking it as long as I can give it a little bit back as I don’t have a clue, and he said it’s ok John Pratt Jimmy’s fit and he’ll be playing. As I walked out the door he went by the way I’m going to move you back to midfield, so I thought thank goodness for that, and so because of the education that I had had in the youth team of playing every position if I wasn’t a Jack of all trades, master of none then I wouldn’t have played as many games as I did. I also wouldn’t have been substituted as many times as I was, because with the  one substitute at the time you had to cover a number of bases and apart from the goalkeeper I covered most of them. So I was fortunate enough that I was reasonably good at most of those positions that it gave me that opportunity to play as many games.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

John: Just by watching them and looking at them the managers and Johnny Wallis, and basically listening and watching the way people conducted themselves and technically how they adapted themselves, and the approach that they gave it was just phenomenal. You learn different things from different people, I learnt awareness of the people around me from Jimmy Greaves, and my competitiveness sort of got me accepted into the first team squad. I went into a tackle with Dave Mackay and you could have heard a pin drop thinking that Dave was going to have a go at me, and instead he just slapped me on the back. So I was sort of accepted into the first team pool as they say.

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

John: Well basically you learn from different people, so with Greavsie people used to say that Greavsie weren’t a brave player and things like that, but when you knock a ball on to someone and you shout man on you see an opponent try and close them down and tackle them. Someone knocked the ball to Greavsie once and I shouted man on, and he knocked it back to me and then I played the ball, and I looked around and the look that he gave me was like what are you talking about man on! He’s miles away. So the next time the situation has happened the balls gone up to Greavsie and this player was onto him and Jimmy dropped his shoulder one way and went with the ball the other way, and I went keep your mouth shut when it comes to Jimmy Greaves you know, because he knows what he’s doing. People like Cliff Jones for example, he was only five foot seven but he was a good header of the ball and when I played wide on the left or wide on the right I would always make sure that I wasn’t staying wide on the right when he was on the left or vice versa. I’d make sure that I was getting inside the box, so that was one of the things that I learned from Cliff. Also Alan Gilzean, when I was playing centre half in the reserves I would be marking him at Cheshunt and his elbow would come out and hit me in the face and he’d tread on me, but it was just natural and he did it. I said look Gil you’ve just elbowed me, but it was such second nature and part of his game to feel the centre half etc and if you like give him a little bit of a whack, that  I said Gil I’ll have to give you a little kick soon (not that I would have done!) but I learnt those little things from him. You know if you’ve got any intelligence at all and there’s football intelligence and intelligence, but if you’ve got any football intelligence then you pick up things by looking at different people doing different things. 

The day that you think that you know it all is not a good day, because you are learning all of the time and I found that out when I was coaching. A lad would do something and I’d say could you do that again, and then I’d get the whole group in and I’d say now he’s under pressure because he’s got 20 lads watching him. He’d perform the technique which he’d done, and if someone sees one of the other lads doing it then they think that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it. So you’re learning all of the time and seeing different people doing different things, and I mean years ago Johan Cruyff did that turn and it’s forever been known as the Johan Cruyff turn. It’s peoples awareness of like forwards against defenders to touch them to feel you, before then pulling away. John Duncan was someone who scored goals of all different types like from the back of his head or anywhere, and he used to stand still in the box and where you had all the movement in the box he just used to stand still. He used to say well John well everyone else is moving and the great majority of the time the ball would find him, and he was quite prolific at putting it away. So different people you learn different things from.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?

John: Well I suppose with the youth team it would be from the under 17’s because the South-East Counties was the under 18’s, and then they brought in an under 17 team and to be fair you know in that league you could be playing someone who was 19. If there birthday fell the right way then you could be playing against a 19 year old as a 15 year old, which I did. I actually forgot to mention that when I was I think 13 I went down to Portsmouth in Easter time when they used to invite a lot of players down, and we stayed in a hostel which Dougie Reeves the centre forward at Portsmouth years before had run and looked after. And Jimmy Dickinson the famous Portsmouth player was I think the director of football there or in the hierarchy, so we played against Chelsea on the Royal Marine pitch down in Portsmouth. We lost like nine-one but I got the one and it was quite a long distance shot and so shooting from long range was something that I became a little bit well known for. My thesis on that is if you don’t buy a raffle ticket then you’re not going to win the raffle, and that’s something that I don’t see us doing at the moment. If you keep having shots on goal then the goalkeeper is going to say to his defenders to close him down and stop him trying to have attempts. Then when you close him down then that’s when you do your little push and runs, instead of trying to do the push and runs all of the time and making it a five a side game you’ve got to make people think, and also think that they’ve got to close him down. So you learn from different people. Ossie Ardiles used to use the weight of people running at him to beat them, so as they are closing him down the ball would come to him and as they’d close him down he would knock it past them and run past them. Ossie was a very intelligent player and an intelligent man, but you learn all of those things as I said before you are never too old to learn. 

Keith Burkinshaw once called me in one day on a Friday when I was in my 30’s and he said John Pratt I’m thinking of leaving you out tomorrow. And I said I’m glad you’re only thinking about it (I laughed but he didn’t) but he explained the reason why, and I could understand the reason why because he said I’m not saying that sometimes you don’t see a situation, but you can’t get your body in the right position to make the pass. He said what you’ve got to do is give other people credit that they see the same thing that you do, and your playing in a high class team that they should see what you’ve seen. So instead of trying to disappear, hold it up and knock it back for someone else to play the through ball, and the thesis we had at Tottenham was that for every sideways and backward pass there should always be a forward pass. That is pretty alien to the game in general at the moment, and I love me football but I personally think that it’s becoming very Italian 1970’s, where everyone keeps the ball and and they drop off. We was always taught at Tottenham like basketball to always create two on one situations, so if you’ve got the ball and you run at an opponent, then drag him into an area where he doesn’t want to be. And then you make a forward pass and you don’t have to follow the pass sometimes, particularly if you’re a defender but if I played right back my first look was the winger or wide player. And my second look was the midfield, while my third look was the second centre forward as we always used to play with two centre forwards, and he’d come short. If that wasn’t on then my last get out ball was a clip into the other centre forward to run into, and I don’t like all this arm waiving when people don’t have the ball trying to get people into positions. It’s the man off the ball that makes the play not the man with the ball. 

If you’ve got the ball and I run, and say I’m in the inside of the forward position and I want to go into the left hand side of the position and you knock the ball, then wait hold on that’s not where I want it, I want it here. Roberto Soldado’s movement was fantastic at Tottenham and he obviously didn’t get too many plaudits for what he did, but he would go one way and then go back in the aisle. Our fullbacks at the time were looking down at the ball which you shouldn’t do because you should know where the ball is, as that’s one of the first things that you learn as a footballer. So his movement was wasted, but it’s the man off the ball that makes the play and that was ingrained in us all of the time. Some memories from playing in the reserves with Spurs, was one when I was playing in Swansea and we had a Welsh fullback called John Collins who played a couple of times in the first team when he was young. So we’re playing Swansea away and they were constantly kicking us and we had a lad Roy Woolcott and he was a semi-professional player, and Roy was so hard and he was six foot three. This centre half was kicking him and he went whack, and he chinned the geezer! The referee didn’t see it and there was a commotion going on and he said he’ll be alright, but the crowd was shouting go home you cockney so and so’s and all that. But John Collins is going but I’m Welsh, but in the end he said whatever! The other one was when we had just signed Dennis Bond and we were playing at Fulham and Bondy came and he had this lovely new suit on and he looked a million dollars. We came in at half-time and big Roger Hoy who went to play for Crystal Palace, and in the end he had a go at Ron Henry about something. Well Ron flew at him and all of the teas went over Dennis, and we all turned around and said welcome to the club Den! But that showed the passion.

I think that at this moment in time that everyone should be captains and there was three of us later on at Tottenham, Terry Naylor myself as well and Steve Perryman who would always be shouting and encouraging, and if you had to shake your fist at someone then you shook your first at someone. But now if something happens then everyone accepts it but everyone knows what should be done and alright you’ve done that mistake, but show me what you’re all about. Like all things in life as you go on, you know the ones that you can have a go at and you know the ones that you can’t have a go at. Whereas as a manager there’s some players you look at and say sorry, and there’s others that you put your arm round and you say that they are a million dollars and get your head up. So we’re all different people and consequently you can’t treat everybody the same, but you should have 11 captains out on the team, not just one. I’ll always remember that Bill Nicholson used to say that playing football is like driving a car, you should be driving everyone else’s car so you know what they are doing. So I said Bill is that why I keep on smashing my car up! The other memory from the reserves was when Tottenham were playing Liverpool away and it was the time that they got beat seven-nil, and me and Terry Naylor were playing in the reserves and I was playing centre half. We were playing Chelsea and they had a load of young lads playing and so I’m marking the centre forward, and at the old ground at Tottenham they used to have the alphabets up. They used to put the half-times up when we were playing, and in the corner every 15 minutes they would put the first team score up, and so after 15 minutes we’re three-nil down at Liverpool. So me and Terry Naylor are laughing hysterically and the centre forward went what are you laughing at? And so I said that the first team were losing three-nil. And he said don’t you want them to win? Well put it this way I said if they were three-nil then I’d be marking you again next week!

We were only on half a bonus anyway if you didn’t get in the team, so it wasn’t a lot to lose to get back in the team. I was brought back in for the next game.

Do you remember much about your first team debut for Spurs in a friendly against a Cyprus XI in the May of 1968?

John: Well that was eventful because it was Cliff Jones’ last tour, and the pitches were like concrete with sand thrown over them. However, that was a good tour as we had Greavsie, Terry Venables, Dave Mackay, Gilly and Cliffy Jones, so there were some characters there on that trip, and it was great to be introduced into the first team on that tour. Me and Tony Want were only told a week before that we would be going on the tour, and so we had to go and buy some trousers and all this, that and the other down in Barnett’s down in Bruce Grove. The man there knew us and because our thighs were quite big we used to have our trousers taken in and those were days, as nowadays they have them taken out. It was a good trip though and it was a nice way to get brought into the first team squad. 

If possible could you share some of your memories of your time as a player at Spurs during the 1972 UEFA Cup winning campaign, the 1973 Football League Cup winning campaign and the 1974 UEFA Cup campaign, when we finished as runners up?

John: Well that was a terrific sort of three/four years really and of course I also played a few games in the 1971 League Cup campaign and got a medal for it, but there was only one substitute allowed back in them days anyway, so that was good. Then in 1972 I remember that I broke my nose before the second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final against AC Milan, and now they talk about people playing too many games. However, back then we’d played on the Saturday and then on the bank holiday Monday against Ipswich, and then we were playing AC Milan in the semi-final replay on the Wednesday, and I broke my nose after eight minutes against Ipswich. Colin Viljoen who eventually went to Chelsea did an overhead kick on the halfway line, and I’d gone up to head the ball and all my nose was on the other side of my face. So I had to have all of that pushed back the following morning up at the hospital at Bruce Grove, with the possibility that I could be playing on the Wednesday. That’s when Alan Mullery got called back from Fulham, and Steve Perryman scored two goals against AC Milan, and then we went out to the most electrifying atmosphere that I’ve ever played in, even more than Wembley, which was the San Siro stadium when we played AC Milan. I hadn’t headed a ball all week and I played in the reserves and Ian Hutchinson was the centre forward, and he was all arms and legs. Bill Nicholson said to me that he wanted me to play centre half but that he didn’t want me to head the ball, and I thought that I’m playing centre half but you don’t want me to head the ball, ok that sounds feasible to me. So I got the 90 minutes under my belt and then Bill just like Keith always told you the team either the night before, or an hour before the game. And the night before we’ve gone to Milan he’s said you’re going to be playing and I’m going to leave Alan Gilzean out, and I want you to mark Gianni Rivera, the AC Milan captain and captain of Italy. 

About that I thought ok then, because at that period of time over those four years if you like that was my job and I had marked the creative player of the other team, and I suppose with the ability that all of these players had if I could put them out of the game then they weren’t going to miss me as much as the other team were going to miss their player. That was a compliment from Bill for my ability and you name them I marked them and we had good results, but so I did think wow they’re leaving Alan Gilzean out but for me that was some compliment. So that was that one and I got the winners medal for that one and the runners up one for the other one. I suppose that the disappointing thing was that Feyernoord game because we had done so well but the referee didn’t have a great game that day, and Chris McGrath scored a goal which should have stood, and Martin Peters missed like three headers which you would have given him on any other day. Then they scored just before half-time and of course the crowd were fighting (that’s not the reason why we lost) but the fact that we conceded two goals in the last last five or ten minutes at White Hart Lane was the reason why we lost over the two legs. That was what cost us the game really and so that one was a bittersweet one, they had called Bill out just as he was going to give the team talk, and when he came back he threw his coat on the floor and said they’re tearing the place to pieces. So it wasn’t so eerie for me, but my wife and my mum and dad, and her mum and dad were there, as I had sort of flown them over to watch the game. It’s the only time that I would possibly say that I’ve been embarrassed to have been an Englishman. Having said that the Feyernoord supporters were no angels and they fought the good fight so to speak but it was eerie, and even the following day (we didn’t come back until the Monday) you sort of kept your head down.

 You also didn’t want to speak because if you spoke with an English accent or in my case a London accent you felt that you were intruding on their territory so to speak, but it was better to have played in the finals than to never have played. I suppose the only regret really is that I had the good fortune in those early 70’s to play with so many good players and that we never won the league. Me as a workman like player if you like and as a team man winning the league would have been fantastic to have been the best over 42 games, yeah it would have just been the icing on the cake. Like most flamboyant teams if you like which we were, you have to win the right way and you have to win entertainingly and you have to do the right things. At this moment in time Tottenham are winning by dropping off and defending, whereas back in the day dare I say it Spurs supporters expected you to play in a certain way and to win a certain way. Alan Mullery has got a great saying and he says sometimes you have to win ugly, and that’s a fantastic line to go by and I mention that all of the time. Put it this way I’d rather win ugly sometimes than play all the best football in the world and lose every week. It’s like when you’re coaching which I went into, and when I was youth team manager they (Spurs) had not taken any apprentices for ages and ages, and the saving grace for me was that the government brought in the YTS scheme, and for every apprentice that we had we could sign two YTS players that the government played for. So we had people like John Moncur and Vinny Samways and Shaun Close who was another one that played in the first team, so there was like four or five of them which played in the first team, including Richard Cooke. And they were all 16 year olds and we were suffering some bad defeats, we got beaten nine-nil at Ipswich and centre forward Jason Dozzell who played for England a couple of times, got five!

Neil Ruddock played for Millwall and he was a centre half and he got three goals against us, and at that moment in time we just didn’t have that turn over where the experienced players in the youth team could help the younger ones. You need a certain amount of success to make people believe what you’re telling them is the right thing, it’s about enjoying it but the end result is about winning. Back to my memories of the 1973 League Cup winning campaign obviously the final when Bill Nicholson said to me that he wanted me to mark Graham Paddon. He said that he would give me the signal when to release myself, as I loved getting forward. I’ll always remember Terry Neill saying to me John I want you to get forward and score me some goals, because I know you’re going to run back so get yourself forward. The season that he was there I scored 13 goals, I was eighth leading goal scorer in the First Division, but that League Cup final was great, especially playing at the old Wembley which was iconic. Ever since I was about seven I sat there on cup final days and watched the FA Cup being played at Wembley and all of the things used to start at nine o’clock in the morning and went on until long after the game had finished on the television. So I as I say Bill said to me to mark Graham Paddon, and about 20 minutes in Bill shouted go on, and I marched on and when I came back I went to make a slide tackle and my left knee hit the ground while the rest of my body was going the other way, and I tore my abductor muscle. I had to come off after 25 minutes and the saving grace was that Coatesy came on and he scored, and having won it it would have been lovely to have run around the pitch but I was on crutches. 

Me and and Ralph were joined at the hip and he was a lovely man, and I remember that he went to the 1970 World Cup with England. I used to say to Coatesy what would have happened to your career if I hadn’t have been injured, having already gone to Mexico for the World Cup, but he was a lovely man. And it was better to be on the winning side than not, and he scored the winning goal which was fantastic, but that was a bittersweet memory, but it was better to be on the pitch for 25 minutes than not at all. People now are derisory of the League Cup and I go to these people that say that it’s a Mickey Mouse cup, well how many times have you won it and played in it? Have you played at Wembley in front of 100,000 people? So  I’ve been involved in all those four cup runs, the two League Cup campaigns and the two UEFA Cup campaign but we didn’t the league and we didn’t win the FA Cup. We got to the sixth round a couple of times, and I was only a pro for two years in 1967 when we won it, but it was a really good party at the Savoy afterwards which I thoroughly enjoyed. But winning the FA Cup and the league were the two things that I wish I’d had the opportunity to have had the chance of winning, but I’m not going to give the other four medals back. 

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Tottenham first team?

John: Well I suppose those campaigns which we did ever so well in and there was sort of a camaraderie, and we had a good team with Jennings and Kinnear, Knowles, England, Mullery, Philip Beal, Martin Peters, Chivers and Gilzean. Going back a bit further you had the good fortune of playing with Dave and Jimmy Greaves and Cliffy Jones on tour so they were fantastic memories. From a boy from Hoxton to have played as many games that I did was great, and there weren’t too many other people to have played more games than I have. So from someone that wasn’t supposed to be particularly adequate I didn’t do too badly.

Are there any memories from your time as assistant manager of the Spurs first team that standout?

John: Well I remember that we won at Liverpool for the first time in I think 73 years, but when people say that, me having a Leyton Orient background, Liverpool came up in 1960 with Leyton Orient. So I said I’m not being funny or anything but how can we beat Liverpool if they’re in the Second Division? And they were in that division for loads of years, but we had grounds like Anfield where we played particularly well at, and we had as many draws as we had defeats there to be fair, but then we didn’t win. So as assistant manager when we went there and Garth Crooks scored the goal that was great, also the European journey that we went on was good and we got Real Madrid but decisions didn’t go our way on that day. Mark Falco scored a fantastic goal and that was disallowed and then Steve Perryman got sent off straight away after that, but yeah it was a learning curve for me. Shreevesy was a fantastic coach, and I mean the Bill Nicholson and Eddie Baily partnership was what Keith Burkinshaw and Peter Shreeves were. They were both good for each other and as I say you always learn all of the time, and once again having been part of that as assistant manager I felt that we should have been given a little bit more time. We’d bought Chris Waddle, we’d bought Clive Allen and Paul Allen and they had their various reasons for needing time to settle in the team or settle at the club, but we weren’t given it, but having said that I’m back now doing match day hospitality for the club when we’re allowed to go there. So yeah it’s been a massive part of my life from when I signed in 1965, and I’m still there now in 2020 so I think that I should be super proud of myself. I’ve never been a boastful person but sometimes my mates go Pratty how many people do this and how many people do that, that you realise what you’ve done. I’ve had many a supporter come up to me and said that you weren’t a good player, and I go well everyone’s entitled to an opinion but the three people that mattered were the three managers Bill Nicholson, Terry Neill and Keith Burkinshaw, and they thought that I did a job for the team.

As I say now that the priority is that it’s a team game and it’s all about helping each other and getting the best out of each other. I suppose that one of the pluses that I’ve had for the club, was that when I was doing my coaching badges I helped shape Glenn Hoddle. It’s funny because I coached him when he was young and then playing with him when he made his debut and he scored at Stoke, and I’ll always remember Brian Moore interviewing him after the game and he said what made you shoot? And Hod went well John Pratt said shoot and if John says shoot then you shoot. And you know that’s lovely and we’re still mates till this day, and I think that’s the one thing that I would take away from all of my experience with Tottenham is, from all the eras from Cliffy Jones who is now 85 from the 60’s side to Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman and Ossie Ardiles and Paul Miller and Pat Jennings is that we are all mates. We all care about each other, and I’m lucky enough that from the era I played in that we all became firm friends that will do anything for each other. And if that’s the legacy I’ll take away from me then that will do me, because people are the most important thing.

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

John: Well it was 1980 when my contract was up and in my 16 years at the club I’d only ever been on a one year rolling contract. So I went in to see Keith and it was the only time that Tottenham have ever offered me a two year contract and I said to them am I going to be in the team? And Keith Burkinshaw who is sometimes a little bit too honest went well you’re my perfect substitute, and I took that as a compliment, I didn’t take it as a negative. I said well Keith I want to be in the team but I’ve had this offer from America to go and play out there for Portland Timbers, and I said that if I’m not going to be in your starting team, but then he said I’ll have to bring you back after three games like I normally do. And I said just imagine those three games have gone and start me it’s that easy, but I said that I needed a free transfer and he endeavoured to eventually get me one, and there was a little bit of haggling over that at the time, because the club wanted a quarter of a million for me, and I hadn’t cost them anything. I said well look I’ll retire as I’ve had a better career than I thought I’d ever have so forget it, and then all of a sudden I got a phone call from Keith saying that I had a three transfer. So I went and played at Portland Timbers for three years and it was just like being injured because during the campaigns when Spurs won cups, Stevie Perryman, Ossie and Paul Miller kept me in touch with everyone and the ball that they played at Highbury with against Wolves in the semi-final, they all signed that and sent it out to me. They also all signed an Ossie’s going to Wembley record and so it was like being injured and I couldn’t play but I was still involved, so that was great. Unfortunately the recession of 82/83 put an end to my time in America and I lost all of my money, but they were great years that the family had. My wife became Marie Pratt instead of the wife of John Pratt the footballer or the footballers wife, and the whole family had a great time there.

If somebody said to me you’re going to lose all of your money but you’ll have three of the best years of your life, I’d take that all day long. 18 months before that Keith had phoned me up and offered me the youth team managers job, and then when I came back from America (we had deportation orders and one thing and another) I said to Keith can I train down at the ground? I wanted to continue playing and that’s the reason why I didn’t take the youth team managers job anyway, and then Harry Redknapp asked me to go to Bournemouth with him as like a player-coach and then Keith said do you want to be the youth team manager? And we just sort of changed house and so I took the youth team managers job, then obviously I became the reserve team manager and the assistant manager and the sack which is now an inevitability in football, but Tottenham will forever be a part of my life and the people involved with it.

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

John: There’s a few so I couldn’t put one, people ask me who was the greatest player that I played with at Tottenham and years ago I used to say Dave Mackay straight away. Garry Brooke once asked me whose the greatest player in their position that you’ve ever played with? And I said that it’s Pat Jennings, but then no one ever says the goalkeeper, although going back to the greatest moment of my footballing career it was signing pro, playing at Wembley, making my debut against Arsenal which was my local team when we lost one-nil. The following year I scored my first league goal against Arsenal and I nearly got my mates in big trouble because they were in the Clock End and they said well we jumped up when you scored and then we spent the next 20 minutes trying to explain to the people around us who were angry that you were our mate, and that we lived in the same block of flats as each other. Then obviously the League Cup final and the UEFA Cup finals, and above all of them is having the good fortune of having played with as many talented players as I did play with. When you’re lucky enough to have had as many of those things as I had then it’s very difficult to name one, it’s like the lads who played in the FA Cup final and then the UEFA Cup final which was the best? Maybe the first or maybe the last, they’re all great at the time and in there own context they were always the best times.

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with? 

John: Well that’s what I was saying with Pat Jennings, but I always say Dave Mackay because Dave was all things to all people but that would be detrimental to Mike England the best centre back, Cyril Knowles the best left back. And also Jimmy Greaves who was the best goalscorer that I’ve ever seen, then there was Alan Mullery and Martin Peters and Alan Gilzean, where do you stop. Having played with Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman and Ossie Ardiles it’s very difficult to stop, because in there own way they were all very good players, and some of them great players. By the way George Best is the greatest player that I’ve ever played against, by far.

Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?

John: Well the only time that I’ve ever went into a tackle where I’m still shaking now was with Romeo Benetti of AC Milan, and he was built like a house. It was in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in Milan and I was shaking for about ten minutes after it, he had legs that were bigger than Mark Hughes’ and Alan Mullery’s and Graham Roberts’ all put together. He was a colossal and there’s a difference between being hard and being dirty, and there were nasty players such as Johnny Giles who is arguably one of the best player to play in England, and he could leave his foot in there, but there was one or two that I played with that could do that as well and be equally as nasty. I always like to think that I went for the ball fairly and sometimes people are going to be quicker than you and they’ll get to the ball first, but I can’t say that I ever deliberately tried to hurt somebody because that shouldn’t be in the game. It’s like all this pulling and punching and one thing and another, there’s no need to pull each other. 

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

John: It wasn’t all sweetness and light obviously, they bought Martin Peters and I got left out, they bought Roger Morgan and I got left out, they bought Ralph Coates and I got left out, so obviously those times weren’t particularly good times, but I like to think that I was a good professional and that’s why I got back into the team. I also think that I proved that we were a better team with me than they were without me, and I think that the statistics do prove that actually.

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

John: When I first joined Spurs Tony Want the left back who went to Birmingham was the best man at my wedding and we’re still mates. Also big Pat and all those that I’ve mentioned we’re all mates, and even the people that I didn’t play with but I coached I still like to think that I’m a friend of Gary Mabbutt’s and Graham Roberts and Micky Hazard and Steve Archibald and Clive Allen and Paul Allen, so there are numerous people, but probably the closest one at Tottenham was Tony Want. I’ve also known Pat since 1964 and all of the people still about like Alan Mullery, Cliffy Jones and Mike England and big Martin Chivers. The phone go’s and it’s how are you, and once you meet again it’s like yesterday that you were altogether.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

John: Have an open mind, look, listen and adapt yourself. There’s no substitute for hard work no matter what walk of life you’re in, Gary Player used to say that the harder I practice the better I become. Apply yourself and become the best player that you can be, and work to get as fit as you can. When I hear now about the wonder boys that play too many games, only the successful teams play too many games. Nowadays everyone’s bigger, my son is bigger than me and it won’t be long before my grandson is bigger than me. But back in 1967 Jimmy Robertson could do 40 yards in 4.4 seconds, in 2007 Thierry Henry was reported to be able to do 40 yards in 4.4 seconds, but who was the quickest? It’s the same.

After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?

John: Well obviously I’m a shareholder and ex player and ex coach and ex legend in inverted commas. Tottenham was good for me and I would like to think that I was good for Tottenham in my own way, which was at times making other players fulfil all of their ability. A reporter once said in an article that he once done that I used to watch caveat and champagne, Mackay and Blanchflower, now I’m watching bread and bread, Perryman and Pratt, but Perryman and Pratt played over 1500 games for Tottenham Hotspur between them. As good as those two other players were they didn’t play as many games as we did. Always be yourself, that’s what I would say to the young players of today.

My interview with former Spurs player Steve Castle:

A schoolboy with Spurs for a period during the early 1980’s, Ilford born Spurs supporting midfielder Stephen Charles Castle would go on to enjoy a very fine career in the professional game. A central midfielder with an eye for goal, Castle joined Leyton Orient in 1982 after not being offered associated schoolboy forms with Spurs, it was to be the first of three very successful spells with Leyton Orient. Castle would later play for the likes of Plymouth Argyle, Birmingham City, Gillingham and Peterborough, but since retiring from playing Steve Castle has since gone into football management. The manager of Royston Town since 2013, he has achieved great things at the club from Hertfordshire, and they play some great football as well. Playing with the likes of Des Walker, Martin Hayes, Gary Cooper and Perry Suckling at youth level at Spurs, all of those players weren’t offered associated schoolboy forms by the club, but still went on to have great careers in the game. I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with Steve to look back on his time at Spurs as a schoolboy youth player.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Steve: Going back quite a way it was as a young kid when I was playing for quite a successful team in Romford called Romford Royals, and I was playing with a player called Tony Cottee and several other lads who made it or get apprenticeships such as David Ridley, Ian Beal and and Carl Cowley. So we had a very successful football team which kept together for three or four years, and I don’t think that we ever got beat so that was quite a task in itself, and from there I went to a team called Redbridge United which was obviously where I lived. That was a reasonably successful team as well with players that had gone on to become pros so that would probably be my earliest memory, when you could go to most pro clubs if asked but really only if you signed associated schoolboy forms then you had a choice of whichever club you wanted to train for. 

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?

Steve: Well obviously Tottenham is my team as well so that was obviously a real bonus, but I was at Arsenal and I did play a couple of games for the county. I got an invitation from a scout called Johnny Simmonds and he used to play amateur football with my dad, he said that he saw something in me, and I was very excited about it and we were as a family as well. I went down to Spurs and I think I had a couple of training sessions before my first game which was against Leyton Orient and I scored two goals, and Robbie Stepney was really impressed and he said that we would like to offer you associated schoolboy forms. 

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

Steve: Bryan Robson when I was very young, and then Glenn Hoddle as well as Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa and Graham Roberts to a degree, but in general the Tottenham team of the late 70’s and early 80’s were my idols.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Steve: I played in a midfield role at Tottenham probably on the left hand side and occasionally centrally, then obviously as a pro I ended up playing central midfield all of the time but I could also play on the left as I was very predominantly left footed. So I was a midfielder and a left back as a push, but generally I was a midfield player.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Steve: Well Robbie Stepney, Ronnie Henry and obviously the older lads who were there at the time such as Gary Brooke, Terry Gibson who were a little bit older but were obviously playing youth team football at that time as well as Pat Corbett who I knew when he came to Leyton Orient. They were generally the lads along with Allan Cockram who were a couple of years older and who I always looked up to playing Saturday football, which was the first taste really of professional albeit in the Southeast Counties League. So they would be the group of lads who I would look up to. 

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

Steve: Yes, so at the time David Kerslake was above an awful lot of people especially in midfield, so obviously he would be one that would be there. Also Des Walker who although not a centre half did look an excellent footballer and I was very surprised when he didn’t get the invitation, but obviously he had other avenues and has made it into international football, but probably out of our little age group they would have been the ones.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

Steve: Well it wasn’t as successful as the rest of my career has been as I think that I’ve excelled at most of the clubs that I’ve been at, but I was a young kid who was probably overawed by an awful lot of things and I wouldn’t be the first person to be like that. However, as I said to you earlier on Tottenham was my boyhood club and it was a dream that I’d put the shirt on and played a few games but if I’m really truthful I don’t think that I done myself justice, as I really was intimidated by the whole atmosphere, and I probably didn’t have my best of times playing wise, and consequentially and unfortunately I didn’t get what I wanted which was an apprenticeship at Tottenham. 

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

Steve: Well as I say I initially got offered associated schoolboy forms and probably stayed for a year just after that but didn’t really do as well as I would have liked to, as I sort of mentioned. I was one of quite a big group that weren’t taken on that actually went and sort of done quite well after being released from Tottenham, and after I got released I played in a county game. Leyton Orient saw me playing in that county game and my dad was quite well connected to knowing people in that regard, and someone came up to him and said what’s going on at Tottenham, and he said I don’t think that he’ll be getting anything. It was a lad called Jimmy Hallybone that said that if he doesn’t then we’ll have a look at him down at Leyton Orient, and I played two or three competitive games under Ralph Coates at Leyton Orient at youth level and they sort of decided to take me on, on a two year apprenticeship. So I did my two years at Leyton Orient and I had another two years as I say as an apprentice before having another nine years as a pro. From there I moved on to Plymouth and there I had three years and had a successful period down there, I then went to Birmingham City for two years in the Championship and then went to Peterborough via Gillingham on loan. I then went back to Leyton Orient for the last few years of my playing career.

Being released from Spurs must have been incredibly disappointing and difficult. How did you find that at the time?

Steve: Obviously I was probably devastated at the time but I can’t remember as being as disappointed as other people would, as I pretty much knew that I wasn’t up to the standard at the time. Half of me was probably a bit relieved that I didn’t have to keep on to get to the high standards that were needed, and for my development probably Leyton Orient was perfect as I had that time to mature and get bigger as I wasn’t the biggest of people. The boy that I was at probably 15/16 was the man that I was at 18, so those formative years of development were really important and they sort of put me in good stead for a professional career. However, it was very very disappointing as Tottenham is one of the best clubs in London if not the country and it still has such an established set up, so it was still disappointing but I had the advantage of bouncing back quite quickly. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Steve: I’m very lucky as I’ve got a few. I scored a six minute hat-trick for Plymouth up at Stockport, I scored four goals as a youngster playing for Leyton Orient against Rochdale. I scored three goals against West Brom at West Brom which was probably my highlight I would say, but yeah I’ve been lucky enough and I’ve had a few promotions and I’ve played at Wembley. So there’s a few that I could add, I couldn’t add one specific thing.

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with? 

Steve: Well I shared a pitch with Glenn Hoddle albeit in a charity game which is obviously quite a testament in that, passing to him and passing back to me, and he looked fitter than me but that’s beside the point. I’ve played with quite a few good footballers with Steve Bruce being one and Gary Ablett and Mark Ward who were very good footballers for Birmingham when I was there. So I’d probably put Steve Bruce as a regular lad that I played football with on a regular occasion.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Steve: There weren’t many but unfortunately that’s the case, but for me my first competitive game that I played for Tottenham against Leyton Orient which we won seven-two and I scored two as well as the offer of the signing was a real highlight. After that we got invited with all of the parents of the under 18’s youth team to go and watch Tottenham play against Manchester United at Old Trafford, so that was another highlight. Obviously getting to know a few of the other lads that got invited, which was my first sort of time talking to lads like Martin Hayes, Perry Suckling and Des Walker which was really good. Obviously I didn’t realise that they were going to be as successful as they eventually were, but they were sort of the two highlights that I could name along with playing on what was the reserve team pitch at Cheshunt which was another highlight as it had a stand which was fantastic. Under 18 games and reserve games, as well as practice games were played there, so Cheshunt was an impressive place as well. 

Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?

Steve: Probably Jimmy Case the old Liverpool player who after playing for Liverpool used to play for Brighton, and I played against him on several occasions and he was a very strong player, who you could tell had been a top top player in his day. For playing against quality it was probably playing against Steven Gerrard, but yeah I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve played against a few including Glenn so it’s sort of been an experience.

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

Steve: No not really, because as a kid you sort of just go in and mix with everybody and as I told you before it was a time that I wasn’t particularly excelling so I sort of kept myself to myself, and I wasn’t a confident or overly confident person. As a 14/15 year old lad you probably just keep yourself to yourself a little bit.

Now as a manager yourself, what would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Steve: Just express yourself and enjoy it, I had that sort of disappointment of probably not doing that and it getting that little bit too much for me. Don’t worry about not getting taken on or don’t worry about getting released or whatever like that because there’s always pathways, and just prove yourself in the nicest possible way by working hard and really trying to make the most of every chance that you get.

After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?

Steve: I’m still a Tottenham supporter and I have no regrets and no resentment, and in an actual fact looking at it now I wasn’t good enough at the time but it will always be a fantastic grounding even though it didn’t work out for me. Little did I know it just gave me the resilience to be what I was over these last 20 years. 

Spurs under 23’s 2-4 Manchester United: (match report)

Our under 23 side suffered their first Premier League 2 league defeat of the season against Derby County just before the international break, and unfortunately and rather unluckily for Wayne Burnett’s side they followed this up by losing by four goals to two against Manchester United on Sunday, at Leigh Sports Village. In what was a pulsating quite end to end game which was competitive and played at a good intensity, Spurs fought back from a goal down after Shola Shoretire gave Manchester United an early lead. However, Spurs got an equaliser through Kion Etete (his first goal of the season) less than ten minutes later after a good spell in the game for the visitors. Influential Spanish midfielder Arnau Puigmal did regain the home team’s lead shortly after the half hour mark, before he got his second and Man United’s third of the game in first half additional time. Spurs started the second half strongly however, and their hard work paid off when Harvey White pulled a goal back. An interesting 40 minutes or so followed as both teams went in search of that important next goal, but it was Manchester United who scored it in second half stoppage time through the potent Anthony Elanga. This was far from a bad performance from Spurs, and they played with a good intensity, pressed well and created some good chances too. Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Alfie Whiteman starting in goal. A back four consisting of Marcel Lavinier, captain Jubril Okedina, Tobi Omole and Dennis Cirkin sat in front of him. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, George Marsh and Harvey White formed a three in midfield, while Dilan Markanday and Jack Clarke started out on the flanks, either side of lone centre forward Kion Etete.

Spurs got the game underway and a good early cross forced Manchester United defender William Fish in to making an early clearance from inside his box. Marcel Lavinier was shown an early yellow card for a sliding challenge on Hannibal Mejbri, as both sides enjoyed a fairly even amount of the ball during the opening stages of the game. However, the home side took the lead on 13 minutes through Shola Shoretire, after Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri picked up the ball on the right flank before advancing past Dennis Cirkin and delivering a nice cross towards Shoretire, whose powerful header nestled inside the top right hand corner of Alfie Whiteman’s goal to finish off a good Manchester United move, 0-1. Spurs tried to respond through Cirkin who went on a good run towards the Man United box before forcing a good low save from Paul Woolston, who pushed the ball behind for a corner kick. Soon afterwards the lively Jack Clarke won a free kick in a good position out on the left, he stood up to to take it and delivered a good ball into the oppositions danger zone, but it was cleared away by Mejbri. Spurs did manage to draw level on 22 minutes after a good move which saw Markanday pass the ball to Lyons-Foster down the right side of midfield, ended in the 19 year old whipping in a delightful cross for Etete, who met the ball inside the Man United box. The striker lunged towards the ball before volleying it past Woolston and into the bottom right side of his goal, 1-1.

Spurs looked to go ahead shortly after the restart when Etete passed the ball to White who slipped it into Clarke down the left, but his low cross into the box was cleared away by Teden Mengi before Etete could get to it. Woolston was then put under pressure by Etete, and the goalkeepers pass came to Lyons-Foster on the edge of the box, but he ended up hitting the ball well over the bar. Whiteman gathered comfortably a low cross from Anthony Elanga before Manchester United regained the lead. Shoretire picked the ball up on the left before cutting inside and entering the Spurs box and then passing it to Puigmal who sorted his feet out quickly before firing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the outstretched Whiteman’s goal, 1-2. Mengi then blocked Markanday’s effort from long range before Jack Clarke was shown a yellow card for a foul on Alvaro Fernandez. An excellent corner kick from White was missed by Woolston however, Clarke didn’t have enough space to convert at the back post, as the ball went behind for a goal kick. Lyons-Foster crucially cleared Hannibal Mejbri’s cross before Northern Ireland international Ethan Galbraith whipped an effort narrowly wide of Whiteman’s goal from long range. A cross from the right flank from Lavinier eventually came to Etete inside the Manchester United box, but he shot wide on the turn. A challenge from Mejbri on the lively Markanday unfortunately meant that the 19 year old had to come off before half-time, and he was replaced by J’Neil Bennett. 

Man United extended their lead in first half additional time after Lukasz Bejger’s through ball wasn’t dealt with by the Tottenham defence, and it allowed Puigmal to run through into the box and power the ball past Whiteman (he got a hand on the ball and looked disappointed to have conceded) and into the back of the net in what was the final piece of action from the first half, 1-3. Man United got the second half underway and early on in the half Whiteman had to be alert to gather Anthony Elanga’s cross from the left. However, Spurs pulled a goal back on 52 minutes through midfielder Harvey White. George Marsh’s persistent pressing paid off after he won the ball off of Mejbri on the edge of the Man United penalty area, he then passed the ball to Clarke down the left side of the box. The Yorkshireman then cleverly squared it to White who was waiting in the middle of the box, and he calmly side footed the ball past Woolston, 2-3. William Fish headed narrowly over from a Hannibal Mejbri corner kick as the game continued to be played at a good tempo. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster was replaced by Elliot Thorpe in central midfield, and the newly introduced midfielder was shown a rather harsh yellow card for a foul on Mejbri. Omole did well to block behind Anthony Elanga’s shot on goal, before Jamie Bowden made his return from injury to replace George Marsh. 

After Clarke played the ball down to Lavinier down the right flank, the former Chelsea man gave it back to Clarke who squared it for Lavinier in the Man United box, but the right backs low effort was saved well by Woolston before a foul was given against Spurs for a Clarke foul on the Man United goalkeeper. Having already switched flanks with Clarke, Bennett came inside from the left and had an effort from range saved by Woolston as Spurs took control of the game. The impressive Teden Mengi blocked an effort from Harvey White on the edge of the Man United box before Cirkin was shown a yellow card, and then Lavinier received Bowden’ down the right, before threading the ball through to Clarke down the right side of the Man United box. However, Clarke’s powerful low effort was saved by Woolston, before Okedina did well to block substitute Mark Helm’s effort, with Ethan Galbraith hitting the ball over on the follow up. After Hannibal Mejbri passed the ball to Fish inside the Spurs box, Burnett’s side looked to be in trouble but for an excellent block from Okedina on Fish’s shot. Omole then did well to block Anthony Elanga’s shot inside the Spurs box before Fernandez hit the ball over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Omole’s long pass forward almost set Etete through on goal at the other end, but William Fish did well to win the ball. Then a good long pass from the substitute Bowden set Etete through on goal but his heavy first touch saw the ball roll through for Woolston to gather inside his box.

Manchester United secured the win in second half additional time after Anthony Elanga received the ball out on the left flank. He managed to get away from Lavinier before entering the Spurs box and tucking the ball past Alfie Whiteman and into the back of the net to bring an end to a pulsating game of football which could have went either way, 2-3.

Player reviews:

  • Alfie Whiteman: The 22 year old didn’t actually make a save against Manchester United, as all four of the home team’s efforts on target ended in goals. Whiteman’s distribution was good and direct.
  • Marcel Lavinier: The former Chelsea right back really grew into the game, and he had a strong second performance, particularly going forward. Lavinier went on some good runs, and he also linked up well with Jack Clarke after the winger had switched flanks.
  • Jubril Okedina: The Spurs captain showed good leadership and took defensive responsibility in certain situations when the home team came close to scoring. Okedina made a crucial defensive intervention during the first half and an excellent last ditch block in the second half.
  • Tobi Omole: Showing good composure in central defence, the versatile former Arsenal player did well on his first competitive start for the club. He made some good and important blocks during the second half.
  • Dennis Cirkin: Having to defend against Manchester United’s Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri was always going to be a difficult task for the left back. The skilful winger did have some joy down our left side, but Cirkin did respond well and he went on some good tricky runs of his own at the opposite end of the pitch.
  • George Marsh: Playing as the deepest of a midfield three, defensive midfielder George Marsh did well in the game, and he played a good part in us scoring our second goal of the match, thanks to some good pressing from the tireless midfielder.
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: My man of the match, see below.
  • Harvey White: Playing as the most advanced of a midfield three, our second goalscorer of the game (he took his goal well from inside the Man United box) Harvey White had another fine game for our under 23 side, as he took his goal involvement statistics for the team this season to four (two goals and two assists). Getting himself into some good forward positions, White was tidy with the ball at his feet and he also pressed really well. It was really interesting to see him play in that role.
  • Dilan Markanday: The lively winger played out on the right flank, and the 19 year old did cause problems for Man United left back left back Alvaro Fernandez with his fine agility. Unfortunately Markanday had to go off through injury just before the end of the first half, but hopefully he will be back playing again very soon.
  • Kion Etete: I was impressed with how Etete performed up front on his own today. The former Notts County man held the ball up and protected it really well, and he showed good awareness and ability to link the play as well. Etete took his goal well on the volley and on another day the very hard working centre forward could have had more goals, due to his good movement off the ball.
  • Jack Clarke: The former Leeds United winger showed good strength on the ball as he attempted to accelerate past players down the left flank (he later switched onto the right flank), and Clarke was involved in some good passages of play for Spurs, setting up White’s goal with a clever pass with the outside of his foot, before also coming going to getting a goal of his own later on in the game.
  • J’Neil Bennett: Coming onto the pitch just before half-time, winger J’Neil Bennett had one good effort saved by the Manchester United goalkeeper after cutting inside from the left, and he also went on some good forward runs.
  • Elliot Thorpe: The second half introduction of the central midfielder saw the 20 year old always looking to play forward and create. Unlucky with one such forward pass that came close to creating a clear cut chance for Spurs, Thorpe’s work rate was consistently very good during his time on the pitch. 
  • Jamie Bowden: The second half substitute went about his job quietly but effectively during his 20 plus minutes on the pitch following his return from injury. Bowden was nice and tidy in his play and he made some good long forward passes. It was great to see him back playing again.

My man of the match: There were some good and strong performances out on the pitch against Manchester United on Sunday evening but a very assured performance from Brooklyn Lyons-Foster as a number eight during his 63 minutes on the pitch, made him for me our best player on the day. Putting in a very similar performance to when he played for our under 18’s in a game against Fulham back in the 2018/19 season (also in midfield), the versatile midfielder had that same calming effect on the game today. Playing with a good intensity, Lyons-Foster read the game and pressed players to really good effect, and he always tried to be first to the ball every time, and as a result of this he made some good interceptions. Despite playing out of position he did well, and the midfielder whipped in a delightful cross to pick out Kion Etete for his goal to get his first assist of the season.

Spurs u23’s stats:

Goals: Harvey White – 2

Rodel Richards – 2

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

George Marsh – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Alfie Devine – 1

Kion Etete – 1

Assists: Harvey White – 2

Jack Roles – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Dennis Cirkin – 1

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

J’Neil Bennett – 1

Brooklyn Lyons-Foster – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Clean sheets: Brandon Austin – 2

Alfie Whiteman – 1

Spurs under 23’s versus Manchester United: (match preview)

I remember very well the last time that our under 23’s played Manchester United in the Premier League 2, it was back in January 2018 when Wayne Burnett’s side were bottom of the league, and needed a win with not that many games remaining that season. Spurs came from a goal behind to beat Manchester United three – one that night at Old Trafford, now almost three years later the newly promoted club will be looking to record their third league win in a row, having impressively beaten Brighton and Everton in their last two matches. Sunday’s game which takes place at Leigh Sports Village (the game starts at 5pm and is being shown live on MUTV) will be another tough game for Spurs who suffered their first defeat of the season in the last game week, against Derby County. Manchester United have a fantastic academy and they have a very good under 23 squad, with players such as Uruguayan winger and recent signing Facundo Pellistri, striker Joe Hugill, midfielder Arnau Puigmal (he has three league goals to his name this season), and right back Ethan Laird, Spurs will have to be at a very good level to overcome this Manchester United team, but then again you could say this for every game in this highly competitive division. Alfie Devine made his competitive debut (he scored our only goal of the game) for our under 23’s in that that one – two loss to Derby County, but he played for our under 18’s on Saturday, so I would imagine that it is unlikely that he will feature again. I’m really looking forward to watching our under 23’s on late Sunday afternoon, and I will of course be writing an in-depth report of the game. I would also like to wish the lads all the very best of luck for the match.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Lavinier, Okedina (c), Lyons-Foster, Cirkin, White, Thorpe, Markanday, Richards, Georgiou, Etete.

Subs from: Austin, Omole, Mukendi, Pochettino, Bennett.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: Spurs 3-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Former Sunderland schoolboy Joe Hugill (17 year old striker), who already has three Premier League 2 goals to his name this season despite only being a first year scholar.

Spurs under 18’s versus Southampton: (match preview)

After defeating Norwich City two – nil in their last Premier League South game before the international break, Matt Taylor’s Spurs under 18 side welcome Southampton to Hotspur Way on Saturday (the game starts at 11:30am) for their latest league game. Currently occupying sixth spot in the league table, Spurs have won four, drawn two and lost one of their opening seven league fixtures this season, while the visitors Southampton have picked up five points from their seven league games (they’ve accumulated two points from three away games). Spurs will be looking to record back to back wins again, and if they do so then they won’t be too far away from league leaders Crystal Palace. Last season Spurs beat Southampton two – nil at their Staplewood training ground, and six – one at Hotspur Way, in what was the final under 18 game before the season was curtailed. It will be interesting to see whether or not Alfie Devine plays on Saturday or whether he plays again for tar under 23’s, following his competitive debut for them against Derby County before the international break. I would like to wish the team all the very best of luck for this behind closed doors game.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Lo-Tutala (c), Lusala, Muir, Paskotši, Hackett, Cesay, Matthew Craig, Whittaker, Santiago, Mundle, Scarlett.

Subs from: Solberg, Michael Craig, Haysman, Carrington, Mathurin.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 6-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 3-1.

My one to watch:  17 year old forward Sam Bellis, who has scored four goals from the five league games that he has played for Southampton’s under 18’s so far this season.

My interview with former Spurs player Greg Howell:

Joining Spurs as a schoolboy in the 1980’s at the age of 11, Swindon born boyhood Spurs fan Greg Howell spent ten years at the Lilywhites, leaving the club as a professional at the age of 21. A part of the last Spurs side to win the FA Youth Cup in 1990, Howell unfortunately suffered a really bad knee injury as a second year professional, which effectively put an end to his time at the club. A spell playing in New Zealand with Wellington United followed, before Howell returned to England to forge a career in the non-League. Playing for the likes of Enfield (player-manager), St. Albans (during two spells) and Aylesbury United, the talented midfielder who had a tremendous passing range, is the son of Ron Howell who played for Spurs as a schoolboy in the 1960’s. I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with Greg to look back on the ten highly interesting and eventful years that he spent with Spurs.

What are your earliest footballing memories and what are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs. Plus how did you come about joining the club?

Greg: Obviously my dad (Ron Howell). So Barry Fry used to be brilliant and he used to let me go in the dugout when my dad was player-coach at Barnet, and one of my earliest memories was when they played Arsenal in a pre-season friendly, and I think that Terry Neill brought the whole first team down. My dad’s got photos of me in the dugout and I think there was Brian Talbot, Viv Anderson and them type of players playing. So obviously with my dad’s background all I wanted to do was play football ever since I could walk, as my mum would say. I really had some fond memories, such as when my dad got to the FA Cup fourth round with Enfield and I think they played Barnsley, and they were going to hold it at Southbury Road, but they couldn’t because the attendance was going to be too high. So they swapped it to White Hart Lane, and this was the time when the new west stand was just being built, so there were only three sides up, and I remember my dad telling my uncles to just turn up at ten past seven and you’d be able to just pay on the door. They turned up and there was a queue and they couldn’t get in, and I think that they said afterwards that there was 4,000 fans that couldn’t get in, and that it was a capacity crowd of about 33,000. That was for a local non-League side although they were very very good at the time, but yeah I remember being there on my mum’s knee watching the game, and although they got beat three – nil in the replay, although they should have won it at Oakwell, my dad got man of the match that day, he was outstanding.

I think that Mick McCarthy and Steve McGavin were playing, so they had a good side at the time but that was sort of at the end of my dad’s career as he went into the non-League. From then I played for my school team, and what was really big back then which is something that I talk to my son about, because now it’s all academies, academies, academies and they take them at six years of age. However, back then it was your district and your county, and I represented Enfield and I say this to my son all the time, and I loved playing for my district. I then got picked for my county Middlesex before then getting picked for the whole of London, but I think it was when I was playing for Middlesex I’ll always remember who scouted me, and he was one of the best up until ten-15 years ago, and he was a guy called Dickie Moss. So Dickie scouted me, and all it was at that time was a Monday night at the ball court where we used to go up to and train, and it wasn’t Astro at the time, it was cement. That sorted you out and it did used to get a bit tasty in there, but yeah on a Monday night we used to train there and I used to go up and get my expenses which I think was a couple of quid. That used to be up on the fourth floor and Dickie used to be up there, and you used to have a cup of tea and a biscuit, and I’ll always remember it as they were great times. Then obviously playing for school, and I think back then as a schoolboy we played at Middleton House which is a the back of where the new Spurs training ground is, and the pitches were lovely there as well. 

I then carried on as a schoolboy all the way up from 11 to 15 and I can remember playing for my secondary school team at the time which was Salisbury, and we managed to get to the final of the Middlesex Cup where we beat a team called Latymer. They were always the school that everyone wanted to go to, and we beat them in the final 4-1 and I remember that Mount Salisbury had never won the trophy before. There was a guy who had been to the school whose name I can’t remember,   and he had done really well for himself and was living in America, and he heard about this Middlesex Cup against Latymer. And so he flew all of the team over to Atlanta, and I was the only one who couldn’t go because obviously I’d been offered YTS at Tottenham, and my mum wasn’t very happy about that at the time because Spurs said that I couldn’t go. So I missed out on a great trip there but these things happen, and you’re never going to turn down a two year YTS at your boyhood club who I lived around the corner from, and could see the floodlights from my bedroom. So it was always an ambition of mine and when I got the two year YTS it was the best feeling in the world when I left school. As I will tell you later on in the interview if it wasn’t for my injuries I do think that I would have played, and fingers crossed would have made a lot of appearances for the club, but I think that I did the cartilage in my right knee in the first year of my YTS, so they obviously weren’t fond memories. However, you were treated so well, and I remember John Sheridan and Dave Butler (John was brilliant) got me back fighting fit after my first one, when I basically had a clear out of the cartilage on my right knee.

When I came back from that injury it took me a while to get back into it again, but when I did I featured in a lot of the games. So I was a first year YTS and obviously second year YTS was like Ian Walker, Neil Smith and Warren Hackett, and as it’s all sort of coming back to me now, previous to that when I was a schoolboy still at school, I think I was 15 when I was on the bench against Arsenal, so that was my first ever memory. I’ll always remember getting dropped off on a Saturday morning with my mum after I’d had my breakfast, and I didn’t know anyone there because obviously it was all sort of YTS boys at the time. However, looking back I think there was Dave McDonald and Billy Manuel and them sort of boys along with Ian Gilzean who I got on really well with in the end. So that was my first memory in the end, and they made quite a big thing about that in the programme saying that I was one of the first boys to ever feature as a schoolboy in the youth team, and it was against Arsenal, so that was a really brilliant memory. So going back to when I started my first year YTS, the memories I have of that, and after my knee injury was fantastic because we went on to win everything, and I think that it’s got to be up there as the most successful youth team there ever was. I think we won everything, like the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup, the Southeast Counties League and obviously the FA Youth Cup. However, what I remember fondly the most was the days when we used to play against Arsenal. We talk about it now because I still go and watch a lot of the academy and under 23 games at Tottenham, and I speak to people there still and I say this is too nice. We wanted a fight in the car park afterwards, and I remember us going to a couple of nightclubs, and we used to have our bar and Arsenal used to have their one. They were great times and I think that they all sort of talk about them now, the likes of Ray Parlour, Andy Cole and Mark Flatts, and they had a great team as well but they could never beat us for some reason.

I remember when they beat us one – nil at White Hart Lane in the first leg of the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup, and it went back to Highbury and they made such a big thing of it, and there was a massive crowd. I played in that game as well and we beat them two – nil and we were parading the trophy around Highbury, which didn’t go down too well. That year was fantastic but obviously the highlight for me and I still talk about it now, was playing at Old Trafford in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup against obviously Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage and Mark Bosnich who was in goal, but it was a shame that it wasn’t the Beckham/Neville era. I think that I was a sub for that game but I came on for the last half hour and did really well, and after that game I got picked for the England under 17 squad, just off the back of that really. And then we obviously got Middlesbrough in the final, but going back to the quarter-final that was the day that I probably had one of my best games in a Tottenham shirt against Man City at Maine Road, which was the old stadium. I’m pretty sure that my mum and dad were telling me at the time that Man City were the favourites, and they had Gary Flitcroft and Mark Hughes, and they had a really good side. I think that they were the favourites and we beat them two – one or one – nil, but I probably had my best game in a Tottenham shirt, that year anyway. Although I didn’t score that night I did used to score quite a few goals as I was a goalscoring midfielder, but then it was obviously Man United in the semis (we really wanted them in the final!), and then we played Middlesbrough in the final. I think that we beat drew at Ayresome Park and I played the whole of the first leg, and I was always looking to the final, but Keith Warden and Pat Holland pulled me to one side and said that they’d spoken to Terry Venables and said that they had to play players who were getting released from the club. That was a shame really because of what we’d done and what we’d won, but I don’t think that they could have taken on so many professionals.

So on that day they told me that I was going to be a sub but they did tell me that I was going to be coming on, and I think that I came on for the last half hour of the final along with Stuart Nethercott I think it was. So that was one of the highlights of my career, and then when I was a second year YTS obviously we were the older ones then, but obviously I’d struck up a really good relationship with Ian Walker. I remember that he was staying up at digs in Alexandra Palace and he didn’t like it, and because me and him had sort of hit it off he ended up coming and living with us and my mum, and so we became really really good friends. However, going back to when I was signing YTS Jamie Redknapp was at Spurs as well, and me and Jamie were really similar players and Harry had played with my dad when he was at Millwall and Harry was at West Ham. And he told my dad and my mum that he wanted a meeting with us, and we went and saw him and had a bit of a dinner, and he said that he wanted to take me to Bournemouth. However, obviously because I was living with my mum and was a Tottenham boy, but my dad thought that it would be a good decision to go down to Bournemouth with Harry as he did sort of promise that if I didn’t get injured then I would be in the first team with Jamie at 17/18. However, my mum said no he’s not going anywhere! Which in hindsight if I’d have go down to Bournemouth and not been with my mum, it was quite a decision, but I wasn’t too fussed really. I just said to my mum what do you think, but she said no I don’t want you going, and so I said fair enough. Going back to my second year that went quite well although it didn’t go as well as planned but we did have a really good side as well. We did have the first year YTS’s coming through at the time and they had a really good group of boys coming through, with players like Darren Caskey, Andy Turner, Jeffrey Minton and Kevin Watson who all sort of made first team appearances. 

So that was another good group of boys coming through and I think that we got beat by Birmingham that year in the FA Youth Cup, I think that it was in the fourth round, and I missed a penalty that night and it just didn’t go for us. That year I had a few injuries but I still played well that year, and then you sort of come round to the end of the season where are you going to get a professional contract, which is all that you ever dreamed of doing and wanted. I remember that there was a few clubs sort of coming in for me, and I remember the day when we were all at White Hart Lane in the box holders lounge and we were all getting called up to see Keith Warden and Patsy Holland, one by one. It was a tough day that was when you’re seeing boys coming down who weren’t getting offered contracts, and I remember me going up and they said that Terry really thinks a lot of you and he’s got high hopes for you, and so they offered me a two year professional contract. So that was obviously one of the best days in my whole life, and then for some of the boys it was probably the worst day in their whole life. I remember that there was various agents getting into contact with me and my mum, and I didn’t really know what it’s all about to be honest. I remember Eric Hall getting in touch and saying that he wanted to see me and my mum and my dad and everything else, and we went and met him but we didn’t need anyone at that time. So my dad said when we go up to sign my contract he’ll come with me to see Terry, and I remember the day we went up there to the ground with my dad. And it was obviously a really really proud day for my family, and I remember my dad saying to me let me do the talking and I’ll ask for this and I’ll ask for that, and I’ll ask for a bit of appearance money. I was like ok dad I’ll leave it all to you, and I remember Terry sitting there and he shook my dad’s hand and he obviously remembered my dad from playing against him from when he was at QPR, and they’d had some battles together, so they were having a laugh. 

The contract was all there in front of me and he sort of said to my dad, Ron I’ve got really high hopes for him and this was the best compliment I ever received from anyone and I still talk about it now, he said to my dad that he’s the best passer of a ball at the club since Glenn Hoddle. So you can imagine that was a great compliment, and so we sat there and Terry said this is what we’re going to offer him and before I could sort of say anything my dad said that will do. So there was no negotiations, no appearance money, and so I looked at my dad and thought really! But he said that will do and where do you sign, but obviously the money was great after YTS when you were on £27.50 a week I think, when you used to get your boots and bits and pieces. So going from that to a really good contract was brilliant, and I think that my dad said I could have got a bit more money out of it but then again I didn’t want to sort of rock the boat at 18 and start asking for this and that. However, I also remember him saying as well that I was at the bottom of the ladder, and when you think that YTS is the bottom of the ladder and you’ve crept up that ladder by getting that professional contract, no you’re at the bottom now and you’ve really got to work, and this is where all the hard work starts son. After I signed that contract obviously Ray Clemence was my reserve team manager and what a great man he was, and I’ve got some fond memories of Ray. So he was my reserve team manager and I think we played Norwich at Carrow Road as a first year pro, and we won one – nil. I played against Ian Crook who played for Norwich that night, and other than the Man City Quarter-final that was one of my best games for Tottenham. I can remember on the coach on the way back Ray called me down to the front and said listen I think that you’re going to be in the squad (I think that we were playing Wimbledon in the FA Cup) the following weekend. And he said just listen and keep doing what you’re doing and take the day off tomorrow.

I can remember going into the ball court when I should have had the day off and recovered, and I went in to do a few extras, and I went in the gym and I was messing about in the ball court. I can remember going up for a header playing about with a few of the young lads, and when I went up I got knocked in the air and as I came down the knee my left leg buckled underneath me really badly. It was one of them where my shin and my foot went one way, and my thigh and my body went the other. And I just knew straight away that it was something serious, and I went down into the home dressing room and they called the doc and everything else, and they thought that it might settle down, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything until the swelling went down. This was two or three months and I remember Ray coming in and saying to me is it that bad, and can you strap it up and will it be alright and this and that. And I said I don’t think I can as I can hardly walk, and I know for a fact that it was Nick Barmby who came through and sort of took my place, and I can remember him scoring the diving header against Wimbledon on ITV. Then obviously once I done that and once we knew the extent of the injury I had my operation done in the Princess Margaret by John Browett who done Gazza’s, and then that was it for 14 months. I think that a month later was when Gazza done his knee in the FA Cup final, and then once he done his we struck up a really good relationship because we were both sort of in rehab together. And for me that was really it, I never thought that I could really come back from it and I was told as well by the surgeon, and my mum and dad were told as well that I might not ever play again, it was that serious. However, I managed to still come back and I did sort of get a bit of money from the PFA, and I can remember Terry left the club (these 14 months out took me to the end of my two year contract) and I was sort of left in limbo really. I was on the verge of being involved with the Spurs team by playing that well against Norwich at Carrow Road, to all of a sudden like going in to do some extra training thinking that it was good, but it ended up being the worst thing that I’ve ever done.

I later went out to New Zealand to play for a team called Wellington United and so I went out there, and then I came back and I think that Harry Redknapp was at West Ham and he said to me to come in and do some training. So I done some training there just with the youth team to get my fitness, and that youth team was an unreal one which had Lampard, Carrick and Rio Ferdinand, and so I was training with them for a little while. But I remember at the time that he was overloaded with midfield players and I would have had to have paid the money back with the PFA to sort of semi-retire from the professional game, but then that’s when I went into the non-League scene. That’s when I sort of played for various clubs in the non-League.

Could you talk me through your memories of that famous 1989/90 FA Youth Cup winning campaign?

Greg: So obviously the Man City quarter-final at Maine Road was probably my best game, and we weren’t favourites as Man City were favourites but we ended up beating them one – nil. I had probably one of my best games in a Spurs shirt that night, and then we played Man United over two legs in the semi-final and again I don’t think we were favourites for that, because they obviously had Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage and Mark Bosnich playing. Obviously we got through that one and then played Middlesbrough in the final, which was at the old ground at Ayresome Park and it was a shame really because I think that the following year Sky Sports came in and that was when it was televised. Obviously ours wasn’t as we were the year before, but I think that there was about seven or eight thousand at White Hart Lane that day when we beat Middlesbrough in the second leg in the final. Obviously there was Ian Walker, Ian Hendon and Scott Houghton and Warren Hackett and David Tuttle, and we won it off the back of our defence and having Ian in goal, that’s how we won that, the league and the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup finals. I remember that Ian Walker and Andy Cole had been at Lilleshall, as had a few of the Arsenal and Spurs boys but I hadn’t fancied going there that much. So every time that he played against them it was brilliant and the games were so heated, and you know what the Spurs v Arsenal games are like now, but when you watch it now I don’t see any of that passion or the tackles. The way I look at football now is that there’s not the personalities, I think that there’s so much money involved now in the game that they are athletes and everything is structured. Back in our day and I always said that Terry Venables was the best coach although I didn’t really work under him, because everyone sort of looked up to him when we sort of trained and used to play against the first team and the reserves, and also the times when I used to train with the first team squad. He was a fantastic coach (the best!) and he used to let you let your hair down but at the right times, and if you look back at some of the players we had there such as Paul Stewart, Pat Van Den Hauwe, Andy Gray, Steve Sedgley, Gazza and John Moncur, we had some great characters.

Everyday going into training was a joy really as it was enjoyable, and it didn’t feel like work it just felt as if you were going in with your mates to play football. The atmosphere was fantastic at the time, especially under Terry Venables.

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

Greg: Well obviously my first hero was Glen Hoddle and I did try to base my game around him because I was obviously a good passer of the ball as well, and I scored goals from midfield. So he was definitely one of my first heroes and he was the king of White Hart Lane as they used to call him, and I’ll always remember his last game which was against Oxford, when he went went round the goalkeeper and put the ball into the empty net which was fantastic. So Glen was my first one, and then after that when Paul Gascoigne joined the club I looked up to him and he was brilliant. He was brilliant for the young lads and he was the first one on the training pitch playing rondos like the piggy in the middle, and he was always the last player off the training pitch. I used to love standing out there practicing my free-kicks with him and we used to be out there for hours with Ian Walker and Erik Thorsvedt, and they used to have to drag us off the training ground at Mill Hill because he just loved playing football. I’ve got some fond memories of Paul from when I was in rehab with him, and when he eventually went to Lazio he invited me out there and I went and spent the weekend with him in this villa in Rome. I went to one of the games and I met his manager at the time Dino Zoff, and I also went into the changing rooms before the game, so it was just fantastic. However, that was just the guy he was and I remember when my mum was really ill at one point and he would ring her up and talk to her on the phone and have a laugh and a joke with her, and he was always buying her chocolates. He was just great and he just used to treat all of the young lads well, and I do say now that he would have been one of the best players in the world if not the best if he hadn’t have injured his knee the second time. They were fantastic times, just the best really.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Greg: I was a central midfield player but we used to play a diamond, so I used to play to the right of the backside of the diamond. I always had an eye for goal and I used to take the free-kicks and the penalties, and I remember when Harry Redknapp wanted to take me to Bournemouth, me and Jamie were very similar players, good passers of the ball and had a good eye for goal. Jamie had a great career whereas mine after my injury I didn’t sort of get back to the heights of what I would have done. So yeah I was an attacking midfield player who was good at set pieces, good at scoring goals and also a really good passer of the ball.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Greg: I’d have probably have said Terry Venables as he always liked me, and I can remember Keith Warden saying to me he really liked me. Whether that was because Terry was a midfield player and a really good passer of the ball or whether he saw some of what I done in his game i don’t know. However, he used to take me to one side and have chats with me and tell me what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong, but he was always encouraging and always trying to give you confidence. That is what I say to my son now to enjoy his football and be confident, and play how you want to play and don’t let anyone tell you what to do and how to play. All these players now they seem to be able to play in all of the same positions and this is why this Jack Grealish is a breath of fresh air and he’s the nearest player that I’ve seen to Gazza. I’m not saying that he’s as good as Gazza but he’s the nearest thing to him, but I still keep in contact and play golf with Harry Kane and I’m in business with David Bentley who I’ve got a flooring company with called GFS Bentley & Howell Flooring which is based in Bishop’s Stortford. So I still keep in contact with ex players, players now and obviously a few of the coaches down at Spurs such as Stuart Lewis whose doing really well, and he was at Tottenham as a youngster as well and he’s a good family friend of mine. I’m just sort of looking at my son and I do see a lot of myself in my son but I’m not putting any pressure on him, I just want him to enjoy his football and we’ll see where it goes. 

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

Greg: Gazza. He’d always say to me when we used to be in rehab and when we used to be swimming at the Swallow Hotel where we used to spend a lot of time, he used to say that he’d talk me through games and get me through games, if I had got to that level. He was brilliant for me and I always used to watch him play in training, and another one who thought a lot of me and I used to clean his boots and that was Nayim. He was a technically gifted player who had so much skill it was just frightening, and so yeah I used to look up to Nayim, Gazza and obviously Terry who was great for the ball playing midfield players. I always say now that I was a typical Tottenham player who was good on the ball and on the eye, and looked to pass and score goals, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty can they do it.

How difficult was it for a young Spurs player like yourself to break into the first team during the 1990’s?

Greg: To be honest with you Terry was brilliant and he used to give all of the youngsters a chance and he would have looked to have given me my chance and I’m 100% sure of that, because Ray Clemence liked me and he was sort of pushing me through before I done my knee. However, the boys that came through the year after me such as the likes of Sol Campbell, Darren Caskey and Andy Turner were all given their chance, along with Paul Mahorn. So it was a great club back then for giving players a chance, it really was.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

Greg: I wouldn’t change it for the world, like still even now I get people saying to me do you have any regrets or do you beat yourself up, but I say listen if it was meant to be then it was meant to be. If I was meant to have gone on to play 200 or 300 games for Tottenham then I wouldn’t have gone in the next day to have gone Into training to do some extras. I would have had the day off and it might have been different, so I always say that things happen for a reason and now I’ve got a wonderful wife and a wonderful family, and I live in a wonderful area. I’ve also got a successful business and I look at some other players such as David Bentley who I’m in business with and who I’m a really really good friend with, and when I talk to them it’s all a bit of a blur to them for some reason. They always say that they were like race horses and to honest with you I wouldn’t say that they enjoyed it, and I know that David used to always say to me that it was a nine to five job, and that he had to go to work. So I think that it’s much harder now than what it was back then, and as I say we did used to have some fun back then and like I say now they are athletes whereas now you can’t drink and you can’t eat the wrong foods. I think David used to tell me that they were weighed every day and had a urine test everyday. If you were half a pound over or half a pound under then they would want to know why, and people say to me that it’s the best job in the world and it is and the moneys great but it affects some players. It’s really not easy now.

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

Greg: Like I said when my contract ran out and I think Terry left the club as well at the same time, I did say would there be any chance of another year but Terry said no, and I’ll see if I can take you to where I go. I was sort of waiting around and I didn’t really know what to do, but like I say from 11 to 20 everything was done for me like dentists and doctors, and I could ring up the club if I needed anything as everything was done for me. Then when I left it was like right what do I do here, and this is where even now lads have there problems, and I’ve been talking to and educating a few of the boys that left Tottenham a few years back just to have a chat with them really, and to just tell them that it’s not the end of the world. What you’ve done so far is great and now they do have to do there education and there A Levels, and so if it doesn’t work out as a footballer then you can go out and get another job in London and play non-League football and be on a really really good wage. And then also have a chance of getting back into the Football League’s, although obviously when I left I was like what do I do know and a few people such as Terry tried to get me sorted out, and like I say Ted Buxton (the chief scout at the time) rang me and said do you want to go to New Zealand. Of course they speak English there and I said yeah, and I remember Ian Walker driving me down and my family to the airport, and I was like right, and then I can remember being on the flight and thinking what have I done! However, once I got there and I settled in and they’d gave me a flat and a car with good wages, plus I was coaching in some of the schools so in the end I really enjoyed my time out there, I absolutely loved it. Like I say when I was out there Tony Potts who I was in the same youth team with me, they were looking for a centre forward, and so I asked him if he wanted to come out there and he did, and I’m pretty sure that he enjoyed his time out there as well.

When I came back from New Zealand I’d obviously spoken to Harry Redknapp through my dad and I went to West Ham and trained there, and Harry was obviously great like that for getting my fitness. So he was great to let me train there but I didn’t sign as they had too many midfield players plus I would have had to give the PFA my money back, so then I think I went to Enfield and that didn’t work out for me. I was offered a contract but the manager at the time didn’t put the contract in the top drawer and he didn’t file it with the FA, so then I started to find out all of the tricks and the trades of the non-League game. I then went to St. Albans under a guy called Allan Cockram who was a fantastic manager, and he used to be at Tottenham too. I think that I had four years at St. Albans and I got to the second round of the FA Cup where we played Bristol City after I’d scored the winner against Wisbech in the first round. However, we got beaten I think 7-3 by them, so that was one of the highlights of my non-League career, and then I had a little spell with Enfield bringing the young lads through when we were playing at Boreham Wood when the Southbury Road fiasco was going on. I really enjoyed that and since then I’ve just enjoyed playing and now coaching my sons team – Potters Bar United EGA under 15’s. So I’m involved with that and I’m really really enjoying that, and we’re playing at the stadium, and that’s a really good league as EGA is just under academy football. I’m also sort of involved with an agency called YMU with Rob Segal whose sort of really good friends with Daniel Levy, and I do a bit of scouting for them and watch players. So yeah I’m still involved in the game in quite a big way really, obviously through my son and my business with David and going to watch the youth team at Spurs and the under 23s, which I enjoy doing. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Greg: I’d probably say winning the FA Youth Cup and obviously signing my professional contract, and Terry Venables telling me that I was the best passer of a ball since Glenn Hoddle. As compliments go they don’t come much bigger than that, and like I say it weren’t meant to be and I’m a big believer in that and also to be positive, and it just wasn’t meant to be. I haven’t got any regrets and like I say I’ve got a lovely family, a wonderful wife and I’ve done alright for myself.

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with? 

Greg: I’ve still got photos of it and I remember playing in the game when Lazio were there to make sure that Gazza was fit enough to travel and sign. That was a game at Mill Hill and it was such a great game with floods of water. Sol Campbell played in that game as well. I was up against Gazza and me and him had such a battle, so I would say that Gazza was the best player by far that I’ve ever played with. 

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?

Greg: Obviously for the youth teams it was the games against Arsenal, also all of the cup finals along with the FA Youth Cup which was by far the most prestigious don’t get me wrong. But the final against Highbury when we were one-nil down after the first leg and then we beat them two – one in their own backyard at Highbury is something I’ll always remember, and the marble foyers and the changing rooms and everything else. I remember in the warmup thinking that they’d already won it, and yet we were the ones who beat them two – nil and were singing we are the champions and jogging round Highbury with the trophy at the end. So beating Arsenal was one of the highlights as well, and then reserve wise it was beating Oxford United five – one at White Hart Lane and in that game I was exceptional and I sort of ran the show. And Terry came up to my mum and said that you must be really proud of him, so that was one of the best reserve games that I ever had. Also a few of the tours that we had were good and I scored a few goals in Germany but I can’t really remember whereabouts we were. I do remember that in one of them we played Paris Saint-Germain in the final and beat them, but we just got that confidence that we were going to win as we had such a great back four and a great goalkeeper in Ian. If ever we got beat it was like what are they doing they aren’t supposed to beat us.

Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?

Greg: I only played against him once but probably Vinnie Jones in a reserve game. I remember me and John Moncur playing against them and he was playing and I was looking at John Moncur like I’m not going near him. He hit me in one tackle and I’ll always remember that. Training wise at Tottenham the toughest one was definitely Neil Ruddock.

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

Greg: Just Ian Walker really, and when I signed YTS we sort of struck it off really well and had a really good relationship. Obviously he wasn’t happy in his digs he was staying in, and my mum said that there was a room free in mine in Tottenham, and the club sorted it out with my mum and paid my mum for food and this, that and the other. So he came and stayed with me and obviously we struck up a really good relationship, and we’re still in touch now. So Ian is the only one that I’ve really kept in touch with, although Tony Potts is somebody who I also stayed in touch with as he came out to New Zealand with me to Wellington United. Also I still see Ollie Morah now and again and he coached my sons teams as well, but in terms of talking to it would be just Ian and Ollie. 

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team:

Greg: Just stay focused, it’s so professional now and you’ve just got to stay focused and work hard at your game, so there’s nothing more I can say really now because like I say they’re athletes and they’ve got to eat the right food and they’re not allowed to drink. It’s very very different from the days back in the early 1990’s when I was playing. Enjoy yourself and express yourself. Will we see another Paul Gascoigne that’s the thing. One day I would love to see my son put that white shirt on, and he’s got half a chance but as long as he enjoys it that is the main thing.

After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?

Greg: It was the best time of my life and I still go and watch them now and I went loads to watch them last year. I still go and watch the academy side and the under 23 side and I’m still involved in a little bit now with recruiting young players, and like I say from when I got scouted by Dickie Moss when I was 11 and going to do my first session on a Monday night in the ball court to now going to watch them at 47 is a privilege and it always will be. It was the best time of my life and I’ve actually won something there and people still say to me now that Spurs still haven’t won that FA Youth Cup since 1990 and to be honest with you that’s quite devastating really, because that’s over 30 years ago and we still haven’t won it since.

Looking back at the Spurs reserve team which won the Football Combination League (Division 1) during the 1961/62 season:

(Thanks must go to former Spurs players David Sunshine and Derek Tharme for sharing their memories of certain former Spurs players, which helped me to write this piece. Bob Goodwin’s excellent book the Spurs Alphabet also came in very useful for individual player statistics. Pictured above was a highly influential player in the reserve team during the 1961/62 season – Eddie Clayton. I unfortunately couldn’t find any pictures of the reserve team together during that league winning season.)

At a time of immense success within the club, Tottenham Hotspur was at its very best (to date!) during the early 1960’s. Our first team, A team and our reserve side were all very successful during this period, and they were winning the silverware to show for it too. Our reserve side had been richly talented for a number of years running up to the double winning season of 1960/61 however, the Spurs glory years meant that a good number of very talented players who in many other years would have been regular fixtures in the Spurs first team, would mostly play for the reserves during this period of great success. Players such as the great Mel Hopkins, inside forward Eddie Clayton, Ken Barton, John Smith and John Hollowbread were all regular fixtures in the Tottenham reserve side during the 1961/62 season. A season when these talented players struggled to get into Bill Nicholson’s Spurs first team, due to the players that were in front of them, this meant that our reserve side turned into an extremely talented one, with a great wealth of talent within a squad which contained experienced players alongside young prospects who were looking to make the grade in north London. We had won the reserve league before (the London Football Combination League), in fact we had already won it six times before winning it during the 1961/62 season, first winning it way back in its old format in 1920. However, arguably no side would have been as richly talented and as competitive for places, as the won which had won it in 1962. Of course there were no substitutes allowed back in the early 1960’s however, when you had absolutely first class internationals such as Mel Hopkins, who made 26 appearances for the reserves in the Football Combination League during the 1961/62 season, it spoke volumes about just how good our first team was during the early 1960’s, and also how unlucky many players were. 

The Football Combination League was a very competitive one during the early 1960’s, and with teams like Arsenal and West Ham United in the league, Spurs would have had to have been very good on a consistent basis to have won the league during that particular period. Although there was no official manager of the reserve side during the 1961/62 season (Harry Evans was the most responsible coach for the side up until his untimely death during the season, while Jack Coxford and Johnny Wallis would have served as coaches, with Bill Nicholson most probably picking the team on most occasions) Spurs’ reserve team started the Football Combination League season off by recording a 4-2 home win over London rivals West Ham United on Saturday August 19th, 1961. Goals from John Smith, Jimmy Collins and a brace from a young Frank Saul saw us to our first victory of the campaign, although we would end up suffering a rare 5-3 defeat to Arsenal in our next game. It was however, a season of great joy for Spurs’ second team, and in a campaign where they won 23 of their 34 league games, scored a staggering 123 goals, conceded just 44 goals and defeated the likes of Mansfield Town 8-0 and Ipswich Town 10-3, Spurs won the league in style (they finished on top of second place Arsenal by five points). With so much attacking prowess in the reserve side, you had the likes of the already experienced Eddie Clayton who was in outstanding form during that 1961/62 season but you also had centre forward Frank Saul who was also prolific, as well as Terry Dyson and Bobby Smith dropping down to play for the reserves on occasions, Spurs were quite literally spoilt for choice.

 You then had half backs such as Freddie Sharpe and John Smith who once again added experience to the side, while you also had for example the highly skilful Anthony Smith at centre half, with acrobatic John Hollowbread in between the sticks. It must have been an absolute delight to have watched this team during that season, and watching them play good but well structured football too. All of the Spurs players in that reserve side at that time were good players in there own way, and just like the A team and the junior team during the early 1960’s you had to have been a very good player to have been associated with Spurs at that very successful time in the clubs history. With Spurs academy games currently being played behind closed doors, I have been unable to report on games, and while I am still doing my match previews I will now be doing a number of historical pieces on Spurs, and I also do plan on doing more interviews with ex Spurs players in the very near future. This piece which is of the same format to the one in which I wrote on the Spurs A side that won the Eastern Counties League during the 1960/61 season (I will also be looking back at every player who played in the Spurs reserve side during this particular season), is one in which I have researched a lot, and have written in a way which hopefully makes it easy enough for people to read, and also find informative. 

The team: 

Frank Smith: Colchester born (1936) Frank Anthony Smith was a part of the Spurs A team which won the Eastern Counties League during the previous 1960/61 season. The big, tall, well trusted and commanding goalkeeper who was strong in the air, had previously played for home town side Colchester Casuals, and had joined Tottenham back in 1953. Behind Bill Brown and Johnny Hollowbread in the goalkeeping pecking order during the majority of his time at Spurs, the goalkeeper who had previously worked as a mechanic prior to joining Spurs, would go on to reach treble figures for games played for the Lilywhites at reserve team and A team level, and below. A player who was unlucky not to make the step up to the Tottenham Hotspur first team, Smith eventually left Spurs at the end of the 1961/62 season, a season in which he made five appearances for the reserve side. After leaving Tottenham, Smith went on to play for Queens Park Rangers, and while the goalkeeper wasn’t always first choice during his three seasons at the west London club, he did make over 60 competitive appearances for them. He would later enjoy a good spell with Wimbledon, before later retiring from the game, but then coming out of retirement and playing for non-League side Cheltenham Town later on in the 1960’s. However, after permanently leaving football Smith worked in banking, and he was last known residing in county Surrey.

Roy Brown: Still a teenager during the 1961/62 season and who didn’t sign professional forms with Spurs until the October of the previous season, Roy Ernest Eric Brown of Hove, Sussex (born in 1945) first came to Spurs’ attention playing in an international trial match involving England and the Rest at the beginning of the 1960’s. Then a fine young goalkeeper who stood at over six foot tall, the player who would spend almost seven years in north London would go on to establish himself as a regular for the reserves in the years to come. Brown only made a single appearance for the reserves during the 1961/62 season in the Football Combination League with John Hollowbread and Frank Smith ahead of him. Patiently waiting for his chance in the first team during the 1960’s as both the great Bill Brown and Pat Jennings played for the Tottenham first team in goal, the youngster from Sussex who did also make the bench for the first team on occasions, made his first team competitive debut (his only ever appearance for the Spurs first team) in the October of the 1966/67 season. Brown’s debut which was against Blackpool in the league came about due to the first choice goalkeeper Pat Jennings being injured, and although Spurs lost the game he was given the man of the match award after putting in a very good performance in between the sticks. Never again to play for the first team after that game against Blackpool, Brown as he recalled to me in an interview back in 2018, was not content to just be picking up his wages as a reserve and so he went in search of regular first team football. 

Brown joined Reading in 1968 and would make over 60 competitive appearances for them in a spell which also saw him go out on loan to then Southern League side Dartford. He would later join Notts County in the summer of 1970 with whom he enjoyed a successful four year spell at before finishing off his career with Mansfield Town. After retiring from the game Brown worked in a number of jobs of which included working for Reading council, but now retired the former goalkeeper who won a number of youth team and reserve team honours with Spurs, lives back in his home county of Sussex. 

John Hollowbread: Goalkeeper John Frederick Hollowbread from Ponders End in Enfield (born in 1934), was described to me by former Spurs player David Sunshine as an acrobatic, extremely agile goalkeeper and a great shot stopper, who was like current England international Jordan Pickford in his style of play. Hollowbread himself had played for an England Youth XI during his teenage days and the Enfield man and the former Tottenham Technical College pupil in fact started his footballing career playing for the now defunct Enfield FC (he also worked in the printing trade), just like the great Peter Baker did. It was playing for the team off of the Great Cambridge Road where Hollowbread was spotted by Arthur Rowe’s Spurs and he signed for the First Division side as an amateur in June of 1950. The tall goalkeeper worked his way up the various ranks at Spurs and into the A and B teams, and then into the reserves while also serving in the army in between this, during his national service. In total John Hollowbread would go on to make over 350 competitive appearances for Spurs below first team level, and he eventually made his first team debut for the Lilywhites in November 1956, in a friendly against Scottish side Heart of Midlothian. He would make a further 81 first team appearances for Spurs (73 of which were competitive) with his competitive debut coming close to two years after that friendly with Heart of Midlothian, in a league game against Blackburn Rovers. In an almost 14 year spell with Spurs the goalkeeper was often a second or third choice goalkeeper, firstly behind both Ted Ditchburn and Ron Reynolds in the pecking order, and later behind Scotland international Bill Brown. 

Often playing for the Tottenham reserve side during most seasons, Hollowbread was the first choice for Spurs during Bill Nicholson’s second season in charge of the club, the 1958/59 season where he played the vast majority of the first teams games up until Bill Brown was signed at the end of that season. Sold to Southampton at the end of the 1963/64 season for a fee of £3,000, he would play just over 30 competitive games for the Hampshire based club before suffering a career ending knee injury. Hollowbread did go on to play local football in county Hampshire where he resided for a number of years, playing mainly with Mullard Sports. He would also run a pub in the county before later becoming a bar manager at the Bramshaw Golf Club in the New Forest, Hollowbread would later retire to Spain where he passed away in Torrevieja in the December of 2007. During that 1961/62 reserve season he was a near ever present in the side, making 28 appearances and putting in some really strong and consistent performances. Very interestingly Hollowbread took and scored a penalty kick for our reserves in the Football Combination League that season! It came in an 8-0 home win over Mansfield Town in the March of 1962.

Alan Dennis: Born in Ashcot Somerset, during the Second World War (1944), but brought up in Bermondsey south London. Full-back Alan Edmund Dennis (also a talented cricketer during his youth) played for London Schools during his youth before signing for Arsenal as a junior, before then moving up the road to Tottenham Hotspur to sign as an amateur in the May of 1960. The left back who played for England Schoolboys with a then future Spurs manager David Pleat, in fact captained them on six occasions as he proudly recalled to me in an interview I did with Alan back in 2018. Only making his competitive debut for our A team during the previous 1960/61 season, Dennis would make the step up to the reserves to make two appearances for them in the Football Combination League during the 1961/62 season, both of which came at left back. A talented and intelligent defender, Alan Dennis would spend the majority of his five years at Tottenham playing in the A team and the reserves where he established himself as a regular in the side. Dennis did also make two appearances for Bill Nicholson’s first team on two occasions, both of which came in friendlies against Arsenal and Leytonstone respectively. Released at the end of the 1964/65 season, Alan linked up with former Spurs player Tony Marchi who was the manager of Cambridge City. A now versatile player, Dennis spent two years with Cambridge City before moving on to Dover in 1967. He would later play for Harwich & Parkeston, Clacton Town and Tilbury, before then moving into management where he took charge of Truro City for a spell in 1979. Now retired Alan currently resides in county Kent.

Phil Beal: Born in Godstone, Surrey (1945) Philip Beal made an incredible 479 first team appearances for Spurs in a spell which spanned over 15 years. The former Surrey Schools player was an extremely versatile player throughout his career and he played in a good variety of positions. The always highly rated defender who signed for Spurs as an amateur in the May of 1960 and would make his Spurs A team debut during the 1961/62 season, would also in the same season make one appearance for our league winning reserve side as a right-half in the Football Combination League. In the coming seasons he would establish himself as a regular and important player for the reserves, and the former England Youth international made his Spurs first team debut in a league game against Aston Villa in the September of 1963. The defender who always kept great positioning would enjoy a highly successful spell in the first team, winning the Football League Cup in 1971, the UEFA Cup in 1972 and the Football League Cup again in 1973 during his 13 seasons almost exclusively with the first team in his almost 500 appearances for them (he scored one goal for Spurs during that time). A player who was more than capable of sweeping up at the back, Beal always kept fantastic composure in games no matter what position that he played in, and the hardworking player was always so reliable for manager Bill Nicholson. Unfortunate not to win a single cap for his country England, Beal’s influence on the club that he spent so many of his footballing years at was quite profound, and he was a key component in the Spurs sides which won four major trophies during his time in north London (he missed out on playing in the 1967 FA Cup final against Chelsea due to injury). His extremely successful time at Spurs finally came to an end in the summer of 1975 when Spurs manager Terry Neill released him.

Beal was one of the greatest ever homegrown players to come through the Tottenham Hotspur youth set up, but after leaving Spurs he signed for Brighton & Hove Albion. After almost two years on the south coast, he moved on to America to play for Los Angeles Aztecs before later playing for Memphis Rogues. However, Beal did return to England where he finished off his career by playing for Crewe Alexandra, Oxford City and Woking, before working as a chauffeur amongst other later jobs. Now retired, Beal was an occasional match day host at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium prior to the current situation. He is without doubt a Tottenham Hotspur legend.

Ken Barton: A popular player amongst his teammates at Spurs, Kenneth Rees Barton was from Caernarfon in north Wales (born in 1937), and he played for his hometowns boys club as well as Wales Schools prior to making the trip to England to join Spurs in his youth. A full-back who predominantly played on the right hand side of defence, Barton linked up with Tottenham as an amateur in 1953, later signing professional forms with the Lilywhites after a trial period at the club. Barton like many other young players at Spurs during that period in time, worked his way up the various youth ranks and into the A team and the reserves. Although the Welshman did make his first team debut for Spurs in a friendly against Plymouth Argyle in 1955 (he would play in another friendly for Spurs during his time at the club), he would spend the majority of his time at the club playing for the reserve side. He did also make four competitive appearances for the Tottenham first team, all of which came in the league, and he was one of only 17 players that Bill Nicholson used during the 1960/61 First Division winning season (Barton made his competitive debut in a league game against Manchester United during that season). Yet he was never able to establish himself in Tottenham’s excellent first team which was filled with stars, and he would have found it extremely difficult to dislodge regular right back Peter Baker who was an excellent player for Spurs. A steady player, Barton who was also Spurs’ PFA union man during his time at the club, actually made the most appearances of any Spurs player during the 1961/62 season when we won the Football Combination League (32). A consistent performer for the side throughout that campaign (he played all of his 32 games at right back), he also scored a single goal for the team, with that coming in a 2-1 away win over Crystal Palace. Barton was strong in the tackle although not the quickest of players, he was in someways akin to Danny Blanchflower in his style of play.

Barton left Spurs in September 1964 to bring an end to an over 11 year association with the club. He joined Millwall, but he didn’t spend long at the south London club and in the December of 1964 he moved on to Luton Town, who he made 11 competitive appearances for. He finished his career with Dunstable Town, before going on to work for a pharmaceutical company. Sadly Ken passed away at the age of 44 in Chester, northern England in 1982.

John Smith: One of many good players around at Spurs during the early 1960’s, Shoreditch born (1939) John Smith played both for London and Middlesex Schools during his schoolboy days. Comfortable operating either at half-back or inside-forward, the east Londoner was signed by West Ham United as an amateur in 1954 and he had represented England at youth and under 23 level, which goes to show just how highly rated he was on the international scene and at club level. An attack minded player, Smith also played for the army team during his national service however, it was at West Ham where he made his first step into the professional game. Making over 120 competitive appearances for West Ham scoring 20 goals, the promising Smith caught the attention of Bill Nicholson’s Spurs and in March of 1960 the Lilywhites paid a sum of £20,000 plus offering striker Dave Dunmore to West Ham in the deal. Smith was signed as a first team player with real potential however, he spent the majority of his time in north London playing for the reserves. In total John Smith made 24 competitive appearances (he made his debut in a league game against Everton in 1960) for Spurs plus three more in non competitive fixtures (he scored one goal), he was also another of the 17 players used by Bill Nicholson during the season that we won the double in 1960/61. During the following season (1961/62) the player who posed a good threat going forward spent the majority of the season playing for the reserves. He made 28 appearances for our reserve side during the Football Combination League winning season, scoring an impressive total of 12 goals, as he played all of those games at half-back (27 at right-half and one at left-half). Yet another consistent performer throughout that season who offered a lot to the side and also more than played his part in our success, Smith would stay at Spurs until the March of 1964 when he moved on to Coventry City.

Going on to have a successful career in the English game, Smith enjoyed spells with Leyton Orient, Torquay United and Swindon Town. However, it was with Swindon that he enjoyed the finest moment of his individual career, as he helped them massively to defeat and upset Arsenal in the final to win the 1969 Football League Cup. Following that successful spell with Swindon, Smith went on to play and manage Walsall, before going over to Ireland to become player-manager of Dundalk. Smith spent one season at Dundalk, where he helped them to win the 1973/74 Leinster Senior Cup. Smith would later return to England after leaving the game and at the time of his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of 49 in 1988, he had been the manager of a McVitie’s social club in northwest London.

Mel Hopkins: Born in Ystrad, Rhondda, Wales in 1934, one of Spurs’ finest left backs of the 20th century Melvyn Hopkins, the son of a miner signed for the club in 1951 having previously been on the books of the Ystraad Boys Club. Hopkins loved to attack and get forward down the left flank, but he also maintained a good amount of tenacity too in his defensive play, as well as possessing great pace. At his peak he was probably the best left back in England however, to get to that point he had to rise up through the various ranks at Tottenham e.g. the A team and the reserves. A Wales international (he won 34 caps for his country) who played for his country at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, Hopkins had arguably his finest game against Brazil in that tournament when he effectively marked their legendary winger Garrincha out of the game. The former Tonypandy Grammar School pupil who lived in digs in Ponders End during part of his time at Spurs during the 1950’s, made his debut for Spurs under then manager Arthur Rowe in a First Division game against Derby County in 1952. Hopkins would make a further 270 first team appearances for the Lilywhites enjoying his best period at the club in the mid 1950’s. However, he did suffer a very bad injury when he broke his nose and upper jaw in an international game against Scotland in 1959 which kept him out of action for a long time, and he was never able to dislodge Ron Henry from the Spurs first team upon his return to full fitness. As a result of this Hopkins unfortunately missed out on playing for Spurs’ first team during the double winning season, something which he was incredibly disappointed about. He did stay at Spurs until 1964, but during the 1961/62 season he was almost exclusively with the reserves. Playing for them on 26 occasions (all at left back) Hopkins along with his compatriot Ken Barton on the other flank were far too good to be playing reserve team football, but that just shows how richly talented Spurs were at that time.

After leaving Spurs in the October of 1964 Mel Hopkins signed for Brighton & Hove Albion, before later going on to play for Canterbury City, Ballymena in Northern Ireland, Bradford Park Avenue and Wimbledon. After retiring from playing Mel scouted for Derby County and then Lancing, he also worked as a sports centre manager at Horsham Sports club, one of a number of positions that he held after leaving football. Mel settled on the south coast and he passed away in Worthing at the age of 75 in October 2010. A number of Mel’s old Spurs teammates attended his funeral at Worthing Crematorium. He is yet another Spurs legend who was a big and important part of the Spurs reserve team during the title winning season of 1961/62 season.

Freddie Sharpe: Brockley born (1937) half-back Frederick Charles Sharpe started a nine year association with Spurs when he joined them as an amateur in the June of 1954, after being spotted playing for London Boys against Germany Boys who were touring England at the time. Sharpe was comfortable playing as a number four and as a six, and this stood him in good stead throughout his professional career. The south Londoner played mostly in the A team and the reserves during his time at Tottenham however, he did make two appearances for the first team, with the first coming against Nottingham Forest in the September of 1958. He scored the winning goal of the match in that one with a powerful strike, yet he would only go on to play one more game for Bill Nicholson’s side due to the world class players that were in front of him, and that also came during the same season. A good and versatile player who was calm in possession and who also asserted himself well on games, Sharpe was very good with both feet and he was never afraid to go into tackles. During the 1961/62 season the player who stayed at Spurs until the summer of the following season played almost exclusively for the reserves. Making 23 appearances for the side during that campaign, Sharpe played 19 of those games at left-half and four in central defence. Another player who was popular amongst the Spurs squad, Sharpe would later play for then Second Division side Norwich City who he made over 110 competitive appearances for, before finishing off his career with Reading who he captained up until his retirement at the age of 32 in 1971. Enjoying a good career in the game, Freddie would later on in life teach sport in schools, as well as working as salesman, and owning a car valeting business. I interviewed the now 83 year old former Spurs man who resides in southeast England as recently as this summer, and his love for Spurs was still as strong as it has ever been. 

Tony Marchi: Anthony Vittorio Marchi (born in 1933) always had time for the youth players at Spurs as recalled David Sunshine to me, and the local lad of Italian heritage who was born just up the road from White Hart Lane would enjoy two successful spells with Spurs. The left sided half-back who played for London and England Schools as a teenager joined Spurs as an amateur all the way back in the summer of 1948 to begin the first of two successful spells at his local club. Marchi rose quickly up through the ranks at the Lilywhites and while still 17 years of age he made his first team debut (one of 317 appearances for Spurs) for Spurs in a league game (Second Division) against Grimsby Town in the 1949/50 season. During the following 1950/51 season when Spurs won the First Division for the first time in their history, Marchi was one of the players used by manager Arthur Rowe. By the mid 1950’s he was a regular in the Tottenham first team, and he was a more than consistent performer within the side. However, the summer of 1957 saw Italian giants Juventus come calling for Marchi and their big bid of £42,000 was accepted by Spurs. He was however, loaned immediately out to fellow Italian side Lanerossi due to the fact that Juventus had exceeded their limit of having one non-Italian player in their squad. The left-half who was an England B international enjoyed a fine season with Lanerossi, chipping in with over half a dozen goals before moving back to the city where he should have been playing – Turin but to Juventus’ rival club Torino. He played one season with Torino before looking to return to England, and in the June of 1959 Tottenham Hotspur signed him for a second time. During the following 1960/61 season he found himself being one of the 17 first team players used during the double winning season, meaning that he was the only player used during both the 1950/51 and 1960/61 title winning seasons.

Yet Marchi’s greatest success with Spurs was his strong involvement in the side that won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963. The Londoner eventually left Spurs two decades after he joined them in 1965 when he took the position of player-manager of non-league side Cambridge City. He would later go on to manage Northampton Town before running a wallpaper business after leaving the game altogether. Tony Marchi made 12 appearances for the Spurs reserve side during the league winning season of 1961/62 (he scored one goal), he played 11 of those games at left-half, and one interestingly as a centre forward. The now 87 year old former Spurs man now resides in southern England.

Bill Dodge: Hackney born (1937) half-back William Charles Dodge joined Spurs from Eton Manor as an amateur in 1955 along with Eddie Clayton. The late footballer who was a regular for the A side and the reserves during his time in north London, made his first team debut in a friendly against Brazilian side Bela Vista at White Hart Lane in 1958. Dodge made 12 additional appearances for the Spurs first team during his more than seven years at the club (ten of which were competitive, with his first one coming against Blackburn Rovers in the league in 1959), the half-back who was comfortable playing on either side would struggle for first team opportunities come the beginning of the 1960’s. During his final season at Spurs, he made nine appearances for our league winning reserve side scoring one goal. Six of his appearances that season came at right half, while the other three came at left half. Upon leaving Spurs in the summer of 1962 Dodge joined Crystal Palace but he didn’t feature much for their first team, and he would later play for non-League clubs Kettering Town, Ashford, Canterbury City, Leyton-Wingate (player-manager) and finally Aylesbury before retiring. Dodge was a tough tackling defensive minded player who was also good on the ball, with his best skill without doubt being his tackling. 

Derek Tharme: Having been a key player for the A team during the previous 1960/61 season when they won the Eastern Counties League, Brighton born fullback Derek Tharme joined Spurs in 1956 (he initially shared digs with Mel Hopkins) having previously been a schoolboy with Brighton & Hove Albion, and then on the books of local club Whitehawk at the time of being signed by Spurs. Tharme, who was a left back but could also fill in on the right, was a highly intelligent defender who despite his height was of good build, strong, pretty fast and just a good all round left back. A player who could have made it at Spurs according to David Sunshine, Tharme was a part of the Spurs A team that won the East Anglian Cup, Derek was a stalwart for the A team during his time at the club, and while he never played for the first team he did play for the reserve side. Making eight appearances for them during that 1961/62 season (his final one at Spurs), Tharme played six of those games at left back and two at right back. After leaving Spurs at the end of that season he moved to Southend United, Hastings United with the great Bobby Smith, Crawley Town and Burgess Hill. He also managed a number of clubs in the Sussex County League before leaving the game. Now retired, Derek lives back on the south coast.

Anthony Smith: Very skilful centre half Anthony Brian Smith made the second most appearances of any player in the reserve side during the 1961/62 season (30), with all coming in his natural position of centre half as he impressed throughout the season. The Lavenham born (1941) defender spent the vast majority of his time at Spurs in the A and reserve teams, since joining them as an amateur back in the August of 1957. Tony Smith was known by Spurs teammates for his ball juggling and communication skills, and having already been a key part of the A team that won the Eastern Counties league in 1961, he was well suited in playing in a highly competitive and very talented team. During Smith’s almost nine years at Spurs he only made two first team appearances, they came in friendlies against Reading and Leytonstone. After leaving Spurs in 1966 he moved to South Africa where he played for Southern Suburbs, Addington (under Spurs great Peter Baker), Durban Spurs, Durban United, Durban City and Hillary. Smith also went into football management in the 1980’s when he took charge of South African side Bush Bucks. It is unknown where the former Spurs man went after that.

Brian Fittock: Extremely skilful and agile left winger Brian Fittock was a terrific striker of the ball during his playing days, and the man from East Ham in east London had performed really well for the A team during the 1960/61 season. Fast forward a season and during his five appearances for the reserves (all as an outside-left) Freddie Fittock as he was known by his teammates, scored four goals in the Football Combination League. However, the reserves was as high up as the player who had a great sense of humour would get, and later on in the 1960’s and after leaving Spurs he dropped into non-League football. 

Les Allen: Dagenham born (1937) inside-forward Leslie William Allen started off with local club Briggs Sports before signing for west London club Chelsea in 1954 via a stint at Spurs as an amateur. A strong and powerful attacking player, Allen had good distribution, could hold up the ball well, took his goals clinically and fitted in really well within the first team squad. Allen scored over 11 goals in 44 first team appearances for Chelsea however, he was playing for their reserve team at the time Spurs signed him in 1959, due to the fact that the prolific Jimmy Greaves was in front of him in the pecking order. Les Allen’s time at Tottenham was hugely successful, and the statistics (75 goals in 147 appearances) showed for it, and he was a highly consistent performer during the double winning season of 1960/61, when he scored 27 competitive goals for Bill Nicholson’s side, including one against Sheffield Wednesday which effectively won Spurs the league title. The 1960/61 season was without doubt Les Allen’s finest season at Spurs, and while he often wasn’t a regular up until he left the club in 1965, the former England under 23 international more than made his made his mark on the history of the club. In the seasons that followed the 1960/61 one Allen did play a fair few games for our reserve side. And during the Football Combination league winning season of 1961/62 he made three appearances for our reserves, scoring three goals from those games, all of which were played as an inside-left. 

Allen left Spurs to join Queens Park Rangers in 1965, and he enjoyed a successful time in west London which saw him win the first ever edition of the Football League Cup in 1967, and he also served Rangers as player-manager during his spell at the club. He would later manage Greek side Aris Thessalonika, and then non-League side Woodford Town (player-manager), before serving Swindon Town as chief scout and later as manager in the 1970’s. The now 83 year old worked in the automotive industry after leaving football for good, and his son Clive and nephew Paul would also go on to play for Spurs’ first team in the 20th century.

Roy Moss: Roy G Moss was born in Maldon, Essex (1941) and joined Spurs in the late 1950’s. A goal scoring centre forward by trade, Moss was a very skilful player who had been in really fine form for the Spurs A team that won the Eastern Counties League during the 1960/61 season (he scored 14 goals in 22 appearances). During the 1961/62 season Roy Moss played three games for our reserve side scoring two goals, yet despite being a very good young player at the time he was never to get beyond reserve team level at Spurs. He left the Lilywhites at the end of that season to play for Gillingham who he made 14 appearances for (scoring two goals) during two seasons. Moss left Gillingham to play for Canterbury City, before going on to coach sport for a number of years after leaving the game.

Colin Brown: Colin D Brown also known as Buster Brown had previously played for Aylesbury United where he scored 15 goals in 56 appearances for their first team. An energetic and enthusiastic centre forward, Brown was only ever part-time at Spurs due to the Watford born player also working in the print trade. Brown had scored 28 goals in 29 appearances for the Spurs A team during the 1960/61 season, his third last one at Spurs, although in the 1961/62 season the player with a powerful right foot who was also good in the air despite his lack of height, would spend virtually all of that season with the A team bar playing one game for the reserves, which he played at inside-left. Unfortunately where Brown went after leaving Spurs in 1963 is a bit of a mystery, and it is unknown whether or not he continued his playing career. 

Jimmy Greaves: Adored by Spurs fans and former teammates alike, Spurs’ greatest ever goal scorer (306 goals in 420 appearances) James Peter Greaves in fact made his debut for Spurs in the Football Combination league during the 1961/62 season, following his move from Serie A winners AC Milan. The inside-forward played against Plymouth Argyle in the December of 1961, scoring a brace in that game. An extremely skilful player, Greaves was the scorer of fantastic goals throughout his career, from those early days at Chelsea where he started his career in 1955, to his latter playing days in the non-League. Such a clinical player, Greaves read the game to perfection, had excellent close control as well as possessing great speed which allowed him to glide gracefully past players with ease. The East Ham born player who won the 1966 World Cup with England, is without doubt one of if not the greatest player to ever put on a Spurs shirt. Whoever Greaves played for he scored goals and oozed class in every aspect of his play, the forward won two FA Cups, two FA Charity Shield’s and one European Cup Winners Cup during his over nine years in north London. The Spurs legend also played for the likes of West Ham United, Barnet and Chelmsford City after leaving the club, in what was an incredible career which was filled with goals. Back in 2011 Greaves was briefly the assistant manager of Witham Town, his only official coaching role in the game. Jimmy’s son Danny played for Spurs at youth level during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Derek Possee: Still very young during the 1961/62 season, Southwark born (1946) winger Derek James Possee made just the one appearance during that campaign, with it coming at outside-right. Possee joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1961 and would go on to make 19 competitive first team appearances for Spurs (he scored four goals) after progressing up from the reserves. A fast, direct and quite traditional English winger, Possee would stay on Spurs’ books until 1967 when he moved to Millwall. After a very successful spell at the south London club, where Derek Possee scored a really good number of goals (he is currently Millwall’s third all time top scorer), Possee moved to Crystal Palace. He later moved to Canada where he eventually settled and where he remains today, he played for Vancouver Whitecaps and also held a number of positions in football in the country.

Barrie Aitchison: Colchester born (1937) winger Barrie George Aitchison, like Spurs reserve teammate Frank Smith started his career with local side Colchester Casuals. Aitchison signed for Spurs as an amateur in 1954 by manager Arthur Rowe, after being spotted playing by Rowe for London and Home County Schools. A versatile winger who was capable of playing on either flank due to being two footed, Aitchison possessed good pace and was a really good crosser of the ball. Barrie spent almost all of his time at Spurs playing for the reserves and the A team, and during the 1961/62 season he was a very important player for the reserves, scoring 15 goals from 29 appearances (15 as an outside-left and 14 as an outside-right). Aitchison did also play once for the Spurs first team during his time at the club, that came against an Army XI, and he scored a goal in that game in 1960. Released by the club in 1964, Aitchison played for Colchester United before suffering a very bad injury to his leg, he later played for Cambridge City (under Tony Marchi) and finally Bury Town. He later went on to work for a furniture upholsterers in Colchester. Barrie turns 83 tomorrow!

Jimmy Collins: Scottish inside forward (right footed) James Collins was born in Lorn in Ayrshire in 1937, and the skilful player who excelled at A team and reserve team level started out with Lugar Boswell Thistle. Collins signed for Spurs in the summer of 1956 after being spotted by a club scout, and he soon went on to establish himself in the A and reserve teams. Only ever making three first team appearances (two competitive) for Spurs’ first team, with the first coming in a friendly against an Army XI, Collins made 26 appearances for the reserves in 1961/62 (all at inside-right), scoring ten goals. Making a big impact on the reserve side during the time that he was at Spurs, Collins’ influence on the team during the 1961/62 season was no different. Collins left Spurs in October of 1962 to join Brighton & Hove Albion, where he enjoyed a good almost five year spell, scoring 44 goals in 201 league appearances. He would later play for Wimbledon, Stevenage, Southwick (player and manager), Shoreham, Saltdean United and Corals. Sadly Jimmy passed away at the age of 80, where he lived in Shoreham-by-Sea in 2018.

Frank Saul: Known by teammates as the Canvey Kid, Frank Landen Saul of Canvey Island in Essex, was a standout player within his youth team at Spurs ever since joining them as an amateur in 1958. The fast developing forward who turned professional in 1960 and who made his debut for both the A team and the reserves while still at school, was the type of forward who could play up front as well as out on the flanks as an inside forward. Saul was quick and strong, he could ride a challenge well but he was also good with both feet, which helped him in front of goal. Making his competitive debut for the first team in a league game against Bolton Wanderers in September of 1960, the then 17 year old who was one of the players used by Bill Nicholson during the double winning season, he was also used by the reserves during their league winning season of 1961/62. The striker who scored 60 goals from 158 first team appearances made 25 league appearances for the reserves during that season (mostly at centre forward) as he scored 22 goals. Arguably Saul’s finest moment in a Spurs shirt came when he scored against Chelsea in our 2-0 win over them in the 1967 FA Cup final. Saul left Spurs as part of the deal which brought Martin Chivers to the club in 1968, as he went the other way to Southampton. Saul later played for Queens Park Rangers, Millwall and Dagenham before later going into the fashion industry and the building industry, after leaving the game.

Eddie Clayton: Bethnal Green born (1937) Edward Clayton joined Spurs initially part time as an amateur in 1955 from Eton Manor, along with his good friend Bill Dodge, after being spotted by the great Sir Alf Ramsey, Eddie combined playing for Spurs with his day job as an apprentice printer. Clayton missed virtually two years of his footballing career however, as he had to do his national service, and he ended up being stationed in West Germany. An inside forward by trade, Clayton was a versatile player who was highly thought of among the younger players who followed the reserves and the first team. Good on the ball, a calm and composed player and somebody who had good distribution, Clayton had an eye for goal too and a thumping shot at his disposal, and he scored 26 goals in 125 first team appearances for Spurs. Making his first team debut in style up at Goodison Park in 1958 in a league game against Everton by scoring a brace, Eddie followed this up by scoring the winner against West Bromwich Albion soon afterwards. While he was with the reserve side exclusively during the 1960/61 double winning season, Clayton did make a couple of first team appearances during the 1961/62 season however, he was again with the reserves for most of that time. The stylish ball playing inside forward was outstanding for the reserve team that season and he played a big part in us winning the league. Averaging a goal a game, Clayton scored 24 goals from 24 appearances (all at inside-left) and he scored some big ones in big games too, as well as scoring four goals on one occasion in a 10-3 win over Ipswich Town. Extremely unlucky to miss out on playing in the 1967 FA Cup final having been a regular for the first team that season, the player whose older brother Ronnie served Spurs as a scout for a number of years, left Spurs after 13 years at the club in 1968. 

Clayton later on his career played for Southend United, Ashford Town, Margate (where he remains a club legend), Aylesbury United and Leyton-Wingate. He also coached at Norwich City despite being offered the chance by Bill Nicholson to coach Spurs’ reserves. He then trained successfully to become a teacher, a job that Eddie did for many years, and now retired he still supports Spurs and enjoys playing golf in his spare time.

Terry Dyson: Terence Kent Dyson, born in 1934 in Malton, Yorkshire, was another of the double winning squad who played for the reserves during the 1961/62 season. A speedy and tricky winger who had an eye for goal, Dyson had been on Scarborough’s books prior to joining Spurs as an amateur in the winter of 1954, but during that 1961/62 season he chipped in with five goals from 14 appearances for the reserves. He turned professional in the April of 1955 but had to wait a while to become a regular in the first team. He did however, force his way into the side for the start of the double winning season when he was a key player for Bill Nicholson’s team. The scorer of 68 goals in 239 first team appearances, the small but highly skilful winger enjoyed arguably his finest moment in a Spurs shirt when he scored a brace in the 5-1 triumph over Spanish side Atlético Madrid in the 1963 European Cup Winners Cup final. He left Spurs in the summer of 1965 and would later play for the likes of Colchester United and Guildford City before managing several clubs at non-League level. The only Spurs player to ever score a hat-trick in a North London Derby would later run a sports shop prior to retiring. 

Terry Medwin: Swansea man and former Wales international Terence Cameron Medwin (born 1932) was the scorer of 90 goals in 247 appearances for Spurs’ first team. The highly skilled and potent winger was another of the players who made a significant impact on the first team during the double winning season, but during the following campaign he made 11 appearances for the reserves, scoring five goals. The player who joined Spurs from Swansea Town in 1956, had a hugely successful time at Spurs and along with his compatriot Cliff Jones, the pair were a major thorn in opposition defences sides. Apart from playing a big part in our double winning success, he also helped us to win the FA Cup during the following season. Medwin retired from the game in 1964 while still on Spurs’ books however, he would later hold a number of coaching and managerial jobs such as being manager of Enfield and Cheshunt, and the assistant manager of Swansea City. Nowadays the legendary former Spurs man lives back in his native Wales.

Ron Piper: Of slight build but still a skilful and creative inside forward, Ronald David Piper (born in Crestwell, Derbyshire in 1943) started his career off on Arsenal’s books as an amateur, but joined rivals Spurs as an amateur in 1960. A regular for the A team during his first season at the club, Piper made 11 appearances for the reserves during the 1961/62 season, scoring two goals. He did make one appearance for our first team in a First Division game against Blackburn Rovers in 1963, but he left Spurs after being released at the end of 1964/65 season. He would go on to play for Guildford City and Wimbledon before retiring from the game and settling in Suffolk. Piper used to work for Lowestoft Town football club.

Bobby Smith: Legendary centre forward and Spurs’ second all time top scorer Robert Alfred Smith grew up in Lingdale in North Yorkshire (born 1933) and played for Redcar United before moving down to London to sign for Chelsea as an amateur in 1948. A very robust striker who wouldn’t back out of anything, was strong in the air and clinical in front of goal, the skilful Bobby Smith always caused defenders problems. Prolific throughout his time at Spurs and outstanding during the double winning season, Smith won six major trophies during his extremely successful time at Spurs, and he scored an incredible total of 251 goals from 358 appearances for the first team in all competitions (includes friendlies). A true Spurs legend, the Yorkshireman dropped down to the reserve side on eight occasions during the 1961/62 season, scoring ten goals and also even playing at centre half on one occasion. Smith would later play for the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion, Hastings United and Leyton Orient in a career that spanned over 20 years. Sadly Bobby passed away in Enfield, London in 2010. His profound influence on Spurs was the stuff of legends.

Graham Thomson: Skilful, quick and creative inside forward Graham Thomson still holds the record for being the youngest ever player to play for his first club Kings Lynn. The county Norfolk man who played seven times for Spurs’ reserves in 1961/62 (all as an outside-right) scoring two goals, joined Spurs in 1955 and remained at the Lilywhites until the end of that 1961/62 season until deciding to leave, as his wife wanted to return to Norfolk. Thomson would later return to Kings Lynn before playing part time for Spalding, the final team of his footballing career. A keen golfer, Thomson resides back in his home county.

Spurs under 18’s versus Norwich City: (match preview)

Our under 18’s return to Premier League South action when they take on Norwich City in county Norfolk this Saturday (the game starts at 11:30am). The match which takes place at Norwich’s Lotus training centre is Spurs’ last league game until after the international break. Matt Taylor’s side sit in seventh place in the league after six games, and having gone two games without a win they will be looking to return to winning ways against a Norwich side who have conceded 16 goals from just six games this season. Steve Weaver’s Norwich side have lost three league games in a row so they will also be looking to record a positive result on Saturday. Spurs will most likely be without 16 year old central midfielder Alfie Devine, who played the whole of Spurs’ under 23’s (his competitive debut for them) league game against Derby County earlier today, and he also scored our only goal of the game as we lost 2-1. Our under 18’s came very close to doing the double over Norwich in the league last season but for a 93rd minute Zach Dronfield equaliser for Norwich in our last visit to Norfolk. Tomorrow both teams will be looking to get points on the board in what should be another very interesting game, though sadly I will be unable to see it due to the current situation, I would however, like to wish Spurs all the very best of luck for the game.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Lo Tutala (c), Cesay, Muir, Paskošti, Lusala, Matthew Craig, John, Whittaker, Haysman, Santiago, Scarlett. 

Subs from: Solberg, Hackett, Torraj, Mathurin, Mundle

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: 1-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 4-2.

My one to watch: Norwich’s inform 18 year old forward Thomas Dickson-Peters, who has already scored seven under 18 league goals from four games so far this season.