My interview with former Spurs academy player Mario Noto:
In the latest of my series of interviews with former Spurs academy players I had great pleasure of interviewing former Spurs youngster Mario Noto, about his time at the club during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. A talented central midfielder, Mario went on to play for a host of other sides following his departure from the club, going on to forge a successful career in the non league, where he is still playing today at Bostick premier side Enfield Town.
Questions: What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Mario: It must be Dick Moss a local Tottenham scout bringing me across to training at Spurs lodge. He scouted me playing for my local Sunday league club Winchmore Hill. I had a successful 6 week trial and then signed for the club, one of the happiest days personally. A few other things stick in my memory about that day 1. Was Dick big scout coat with the Spurs badge when he first approached my coach and then parents 2. Driving down luxborough lane and entering the training ground was special.
What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?
Mario: It’s was great and loved every minute of it. Training and playing everyday, working to become a footballer and fulfil your dream. It was a great club to be at just a shame it did not work out for me. I haven’t got a sob story or bad injury that stopped me. I was honest and very realistic, I done really well in my first year but was not good enough in my 2nd year. Had the opportunity to train with some great players and watch Tottenham every week. Got to learn my trade under George Graham, Glen Hoodle, Jimmy Neighbour. And Pat Holland. I remember the gaffer George Graham at the time giving me a lift down the lane as I walked into training one morning, it was a long walk lol. It was a great place to be and got treated really well.
Who was your footballing inspiration/hero?
Mario: I could not pick just one player, Beckham would be up there as I played right midfield, Bergkamp as I was an Arsenal fan and Ginola from my time at the club. I loved technical players and players that could change the game.
I grew up watching lots of football and with my Italian heritage a lot of serie A and following AC Milan players like Baggio, Boban, Savićević Milan side of the 90’s. I just appreciated good players.
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Mario : Jimmy Neighbour who sadly is no longer with us, most definitely. He was my U15 and U16/17 coach, he understood me as a player and taught me a great deal, how to be a good player on the pitch but also a good person off it. He had a great humour about him but you knew when it was time to work.
Were there any other players at the club or outside, who you’d model your game around?
Mario: We were always told watch the first team so Jose Dominguez, Ginola and those above I have mentioned at the time. I like technical players Anderton was very talented watched him pass the ball for fun. I feel that people don’t appreciate players like him or others that are not the top stars but they are so technically gifted.
What was the toughest thing about being a young up and coming player during that time?
Mario: I guess that there were so many of us trying to show that we were of the level required to progress and break into the first team. It was not only within your group that you had to compete and show everyday that you were the best. You had to deal with the competition of the players from the age group below and try to compete or leap frog the players from the year above. Players came from abroad and you had to stand out as we were all good players.
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?
Mario: Jamie Slabber, Daniel Perry, Marcel McKie and Danny Foster were from the same area so it was easy for us to become close friends.Slabs made his debut against Liverpool and I was singing his name from the Park lane end at WHL. We’ve played against each other on the non league circuit and still chat to him. The others I would say mainly on social media Mark Yeates and Danny Foster I catch up with from time to time along with Jonny Black, Daniel Perry, Paul Ruderford, Nick Wettner, Nick Eyers, and Owen Price. Lee Barnard (who played for the first team and went on to play at a high level), Ben Bowditch, Rob Burch and Mark Hughes from the year above again bump into in non league.
What was your greatest memory from your time at the lilywhites?
Mario: I could not just single one out if I made my debut then I guess that would be it but unfortunately I didn’t.
1.Going to the Milk Cup in Ireland on tour and reaching the latter stages
2. Being involved in the FA Youth Cup run to the semi final against Everton and seeing Wayne Rooney score a wonder goal
3.Scoring the 2-1 winner against Arsenal at under 15/16 level we all went mental.
4.A bit of a controversial one was when I returned after being released and signing for Reading FC. I curled a free kick into the top corner against Nicky Eyres in front of all the academy coaches in an academy match at Spurs lodge. (It was a kind of see what I can do moment)lol felt good though
But genuinely loved my time at the club and was so fortunate.
Could you talk me through your career after you left Spurs?
Mario: Wow OK.
From Spurs I signed for Reading FC and played under Brendan Rodgers and Alan Padrew. I was involved with the first team squad regularly but did not make an appearance for the 1st team. Which I was gutted about as thought I deserved to be and I firmly believe if Alan Padrew did not depart for West Ham then things may have been different.
After Reading I had a 3 month trial with Crystal Palace which again I thought I was a tad unlucky not to get a deal but they had just been promoted to the prem and were able to sign players with more experience.
I went to Italy for a period of time after Palace to 1. Clear my head as I was disillusioned with the game as I was always an honest player that worked hard and had ability but just didn’t have that bit of luck needed. Looking back it wasn’t the right move but at least I got to spend time with family.
I came back and had a successful trial with Nationwide conference club at the time Canvey Island and began my non league journey.
I then signed for Chelmsford city as Canvey Island manager Geoff King took charge and brought me with him. I left Chelmsford after promotion to the conference south and signed for Boreham Wood also gaining a coaching role at the clubs academy and spent 8 years there that included promotion from Ryman Premier and conference south to the National League.
Due to a change in my work commitments I was not able to fulfil my role as the club became full time so had to move on. I signed for Harlow Town in the Ryman Division one North got promoted to the Ryman Prem. This year I signed for my local club Enfield Town in the Bostick Premier (Ryman or Isthmian league) looking to build and help the club progress.
Mario: What was the pinnacle of your footballing career?
Signing for Spurs is defo one.
Promotion to the National League with Boreham Wood would have to be the other one.
Who was the greatest player that you ever played alongside?
Mario: I played in a few reserve games and got to play alongside Darren Anderton/Gus Poyet but mainly I would have to say Jeff Minton at Canvey and Chelmsford. Technically brilliant Abby always was involved in the game
What would your advice be to the current Spurs academy players, as they look to make their way up the footballing pyramid?
Mario: I would say that they need to work extremely hard even harder then they think they are and devote themselves to the game, be a scholar of every aspect of the game. Take every opportunity they get to improve and work at their game as they have all the facilities and support to do so. Continuously ask questions on how to improve. But to also be realistic as they may not make it at the top level but they could have a great career at any of the levels Prem to league2 or National league. The most important thing is to remain balanced my motto for young player is ‘never to high never to low’ as in football one day you can experience great highs scoring the winner in game or making your debut but the next game some serious lows, an injury or poor performance. Young players that do drop out of the systems my advice to go and play games at any level and continue to work hard as now more than ever the non league status of the game has so much exposure and you have the opportunity to make it at a higher level.
Are you still involved in the game?
Mario: As I said above I am still playing for Enfield Town in the Bostick Premier, in the middle of midfield . I have been lucky enough to have experienced the coaching side of the game and would one day like to try my hand in front of the dugout and see if I could help some young players progress