My interview with former Spurs man Andy Keeley:
Once again, a big thank you to Andrew Scott for arranging this interview.
I was privileged enough to interview former Spurs player Andy Keeley, a member of the famous FA youth cup side of 1973-74. Keeley was an extremely talented young defender who went on to play six times for the senior side, before moving to Sheffield United in 1977, Keeley then went on to play for Scunthorpe United before retiring in 1983. I have had privileges of being able to interview three of our former players over the last month, all of whom played for us during the 1970’s. This is a long term project of mine and one for which I’ll be continuing with over the future, to collect the memories of our former players and youth players, those who may have only played for the senior team on a handful of occasions as well as those who never made the step up. Giving them the recognition they so deserve. I hope you enjoy the interview.
What was your time at Spurs like?
Andy: In the main, amazingly good. I joined after playing in weekly trials at the old Cheshunt training ground. Out of hundreds of boys at the trials, the club signed just Martin Robinson and me. We then started to train with our team mates. I hated pre season almost as much as Steve Perryman. We trained with so many great players; Alan Gilzean, Martin Chivers, Jimmy Pearce and Pat Jennings to name just a few. At that time I was thinking how can I be anywhere near as good as them. As well as the great lifestyle and only having to work a few hours a day, I also made some fantastic friends in Noel Brotherston, Wayne Cegielski, Ian Smith, Neil McNab, Ralph Coates and many more. We had loads of fun and learnt how to enjoy the good times and deal with things when it didn’t go as planned.
What was your greatest memory from your time at Spurs?
Andy: Watching Jimmy Greaves train for his testimonial game (what a player) and being in the same club as Pat Jennings, who was not only the best goalkeeper of the era but also one of the nicest people you could ever meet.
As a young defender at the time which player in the game did you look up to?
Andy: I didn’t really look up to any other defenders in the game. You’d think that I would, but I preferred the more skillful players. Two of the players that I admired at Spurs for their ability were Jimmy Pearce and Neil McNab. Jimmy was so skillful even though he struggled with his knee injuries which cut short his career, and Neil joined from Morton at 15-16 Years old. I’ll never forget how he played in a friendly match; First team v Reserves. He controlled the game from start to finish. He was outstanding. He had a very good career but I never understood how he didn’t become a superstar.
How did it feel to make your debut for Spurs against Birmingham back in 1976
Andy: It was both scary and exciting. This is what you dream of doing and you want to do yourself justice. I remember, as most players do, how much of a jump up it was from reserve team football to league football. The game is so much faster than you would expect.
What was the pinnacle of your footballing career?
Andy: Playing for England under 18’s will always be in my best memories. Testing yourself against some of the best players from other countries, and adapting to their styles of play. We had a team that included Bryan Robson and Glenn Hoodle. In one match we played Spain, at Atletico Madrid with a 70,000 full capacity crowd. The noise from the crowd was so loud that it was difficult to hear each other. We had coins, seat cushions and a number of other things thrown at us from the crowd during the game. No stopping the game like today for bad crowd behaviour!! With this incredible atmosphere and the crowd intimidation we were even happier than normal to come off with a 1-0 victory.
What was it like to be an up and coming player at Spurs during that time?
Andy: I should write a book. A lot of memorable highs, and some not to nice lows. It was easier than now to break into the team as there was less pressure on the managers to win because of the financial down side of not being in the premiership. Without the money that is in the game today, managers relied more on youth players coming through, rather than being able to go into the transfer market and get an immediate player for the team.
On the bad side there was a sometimes healthy and sometimes a not too healthy competitive mentality; where there were a number of scraps and nasty tackles in training.
You went on to have a successful footballing career with Sheffield United and Scunthorpe, who was the greatest player that you ever played with?
Andy: At Sheffield United it was Alan Woodward, who played over 500 games for the club. He was the best striker of a ball that I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. In one game I was standing behind him. He was 30 yards out from goal and he slightly mis-controlled the ball a little too far in front of himself. He decided to toe punt the ball, like an old fashioned rugby player. The ball flew into the top corner of the net before the keeper could move.
At Scunthorpe United I enjoyed Ian Botham (famous cricketer, pretend footballer). Not much of a footballer but a character that every dressing room should have.
What are your memories of the FA youth cup campaign of 1973/74?
Andy: I remember the semi final v Arsenal and the final v Huddersfield. They were close games. In the semi final we needed to play at our best to compete with a star studded Arsenal team. We were the underdogs but knew that we had the talent and tenacity to beat them. Against Huddersfield we travelled to their ground for an evening KO against a team that we expected to beat, but they were like most typical Northerners, tough and uncompromising. Fortunately we won and I believe that our successful cup campaign was because of the camaraderie in our team. We were great friends and were prepared to fight for each other.
Do you still follow/support Spurs?
Andy: I do and I attend the occasional game, when I can get tickets. I saw Gareth Bale play a couple of times a few seasons ago and was so impressed with his control, passing, dribbling and shooting. Let’s hope that he will return one day.
Are you still in contact with any of your former team mates at Spurs?
Andy: Unfortunately I’m not and would love a re union with them. Ian Cranstone, Ian Smith, Michael Stead, Wayne Cegielski, Gary Anderson, Noel Brotherston, Neil McNab, Chris Jones, Roger Gibbins and John Margerrison.
What was it like making the transition from Spurs to going up to Yorkshire to play for Sheffield United?
Andy: At the time I wanted it. Being an arrogant young player I believed that I should have been a regular in the first team at Spurs, and had a few run in’s with Keith Burkenshaw about why he wouldn’t keep me in the team. I should have knuckled down and fought for my place but instead asked for a transfer. When I joined and first played at Bramall Lane it felt like a big step down from the Spurs. A few months after joining Sheffield United I married Simone (we are still married), at Easter. Not the best of times to get married as we had 3 games to play in 4 days. This made the transition so much easier. During our time with Sheffield and Scunthorpe we made some great friends, who we see regularly even though we now live back in Basildon.