My interview with former Spurs player Destin Makumbu:
Destin Makumbu came through the youth set up as Spurs in the 1990’s before embarking on a fascinating career which saw him play in three different countries. The defender who is now semi retired from the game kindly agreed to doing an interview with me about his time at Spurs, Destin’s answers make fascinating reading.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?
Destin: Well my early memories were that, Spurs a huge club across the country and globe. Lots of good players, well tuned, very fit and Spurs lodge the training ground where we had great footballing education. Astro turf field at WHL, went away with the youth team back in 1999 to Berne, Switzerland, won the tournament and scored in the final too. Training/playing against Crouch, Ledley King, Johnnie Jackson and making my reserve team debut at 16. Getting called up to the U19s after 2 games with the under 16s, it was a big learning curve and test.
What was your time as a youth player at Spurs like?
Destin: I’d say my time as a youth player at the club was good except for the long term groin muscle injury i had. I had thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, every time i had pulled the clubs jersey on. Great set up, lovely grass field to train/play on. I owe the club a lot because it is where i learnt my trade, became a better player, understood the game much better and where we given the opportunity to play the game at a higher level.
What were the facilities and coaching like compared to what the current Spurs youth players have now?
Destin: The facilities and coaching back then was very good i thought, i loved it at the Lodge, it was tight and neat. Great fields for everyone, well cut, lean and absolutely no bumps, so we were lucky and we had access to a nice gym.
The coaching was good too, we were coached at a higher level. I’d say our coaches had great knowledge of the game and passed tons of advise on.
But today with the current climate, it is more well advanced with the new set up at Enfield. Been there once to see what’s it like, totally blown away to be fair with the whole set up, the indoor astro, the gym, the recovery area after the game. I’d say everything is miles better and ahead compared to what we had.
It is the best in world i believe, if not certainly top 2 for sure.
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Destin: Those were big Sol Campbell, Ledley King, Alton Thelwell, Narada Bernard, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Ian Walker, Luke Young, David Kersley and Ian Hillier.
You were a talented young centre half during your time at the club, were there any other defenders at Spurs or elsewhere who you modelled your game around?
Destin: Around that time i’d watched Sol, Led, Alton and Ramon a lot at training whenever i had the opportunity so that helped a lot. Played alongside some of them in the Reserve and plus one game with David Kersley. He talked me through the game well, learnt a lot from him. Outside the club it was usually big guns Desailly, Rio F, P Maldini and Canavarro.
Who were your coaches at Spurs?
Destin: Those were Bob arber, P Suddaby, P Holland, C Hughton, C Gross, G Graham.
How tough was it for a young player at Spurs back then, to break into the first team?
Destin: I think it is always tough for a younger to break through at any premier league these days even back then. You are expected to be superb and ahead of the pack which is not easy. I mean i had ahead of me, Sol C, Led K, Anthony Gardner, Luke young, Gary Doherty, Alton Thelwell and Ramon Vega.
All international players respectively. So younger players are not given time to flourish.
Were there any youth players at Spurs who you were particularly close to and are you still in touch with any of your former team mates?
Destin: I was particularly close to Johnnie Jackson, Paul Ellis, Charlie Mapes, Alton Thelwell, Narada Bernard, Yannick Kamanaman, Jamie Attwell, Blake Saker, Paul Tait and few others. Remained on good terms with most of the lads i had played with, exchange emails now and again.
Who was the greatest player that you’ve ever played with in your footballing career?
Destin: Without a shadow of doubt i would say Ledley King, i remember telling him as i was leaving the club, England Led, nothing less because i know you’re up there with the likes of Ferdinands Terrys etc or even technically better and faster too.
After leaving Spurs in 2001, you took a path less travelled by many young English players during that time. Signing for American side Milwaukee Rampage before having stints in Sweden and Norway. Could you tell me some of your memories of what must been an intriguing time for you?
Destin: Well in the A-league (USL) as it was known back, making my full debut at the old Swangard Stadium in Vancouver, BC. 90 minutes of pure abusive language from the home crowd so that really intimidating, a welcome to mens football at 19. On the main land US, playing right in the middle of the summer during the day, Milwaukee Rampage did not have the flood lights up, it was baking hot, 30-35 degrees, could not really breath. Our mouth would dry pretty quickly, we had drink breaks in between. In Sweden i’d say playing a friendly match in february in Kemi, i can not remember who were the opponent that evening but all i can remember was it was freezing cold, minus 34, we’d played on this hard sand filled with small stone field and it was indoors too. But that did not help at all, i had a diarrhea right after the game, my hands were frozen.
Beating AIK stockholm back in 2005 in Boden, that caused an upset in the league, they were expected to walk over everyone.Knockout Chicago fire in the US open cup in 2002, with Beasly and Josh Wolf on the field, two former US internationals whom had represented the nation in Japan/south Korea world cup 2002. Shut out Landon Donovan, basically it was my job not to let him score and he did not, my task was to stick with him the entire 90 minutes and not let him score and he did not. In Norway, since the population is around 5 millions, in certain areas or part of the country, i’d played in front of 20-30 people.
What (so far) has been the pinnacle of your career?
Destin: Winning the A-league playoff in 2002, tons of individual awards such A-league young Defender of the year, best starting 11 in the league that year, team of the week, player of the week. Defender of the year at Milwaukee Rampage 2002.In Sweden, Norrbotten SD 2007 player of the year, runner-up with Kuriren. In Norway, i’d say winning Ranablad 2009 and 2012 player of the year awards, top 3 players in the 3rd div in 2016, not a single yellow card in 2012 and played 24 games in div 2, i think it is a record in Norwegian Football, look it up.
What would your advice be to the current Spurs Academy players as they look to find their way in the game?
Destin: Well i’d say never doubt yourself, trust your instincts, listen to all the advises you are going to get from ex players, senior players, current coaches or even certain team mates. Enjoy the game, enjoy training on a regular basis because there are lots of kids would give an arm to swap places with you. Extra training on the field to work on your weaknesses, whether it is passing, shooting, long passes, speed, agility training, free kicks, corners the lot. Plus gym work to get yourself stronger but not so bulky, quickness and 1st 10 meters in football matters.In bed early, around 2100 or 2130 if you can, it help a lot, done myself and i know. Stay away from the nightlife, it serves you no good at all, it brings bad companies. Stay way from alcohol, eat healthy, do some yoga on your spare time and stretches and absolutely take good care of your body.