Spurs and Ireland a short history:
Few countries have had more of an impact on the history of Tottenham Hotspur then the island of Ireland. Apart from having a huge fan base in Ireland which consists of many supporters clubs little has been written on the importance the country has had on our football club from first generation to second and third generation players, many have put on the lilywhite shirt from first team level to youth level and right up until the present day. As an Irishman myself I thought I’d write a short history about Spurs and Ireland and the role it has played, and whilst I have tried my best researching the lists of players from season to season, I may well have missed out a few players with Irish connections and I would welcome any corrections from supporters of our club.
The early years: To my knowledge the first Irishman to represent Spurs was Jack Kirwan. An outside left who joined the lilywhites in 1899 from Everton the county Wicklow man played for Spurs for six years and was involved in their most early success, FA cup glory as a non league team in 1901. Kirwan was an accomplished Gaelic footballer and after a brief spell at the toffees it didn’t take the wide man long to adapt to the English game. An integral part of John Cameron’s cup winning side, Kirwan was the last surviving member of that side up until his death in 1959. He kept both the match ball and medal right up until his passing. After a successful spell with Spurs which saw Kirwan become the first Tottenham player to represent his country, Kirwan subsequently went on to play for Chelsea, Clyde and Leyton Orient. And his footballing career didn’t stop there in fact it took an even more fascinating turn. After he entered the world of coaching, becoming the manager of a certain AJAX Amsterdam in 1910. Kirwan would go on to become the first person to guide the Dutch club into the first division. The former Spurs man had later spells as manager of both Bohemians and Livorno. A fascinating career, Kirwan is certainly worth a google.
The next Irishman to play for Spurs was Donegal man Charles O’Hagan who joined the club in 1904. The inside left spent two seasons in north London before joining Middlesbrough in 1906. But the fascinating part of his career came as a coach when he managed Spanish side Sevilla in the early 1920’s! After O’Hagan left Spurs there seems to be quite a gap before the next Irishman donned on the Tottenham jersey. However, in the meantime there was a Welshman by the name of Taffy O’Callaghan who would go on to become a legend at the club during the late 1920’s and early 30’s. The forward played over 250 times for Spurs and made such a positive impact that he would later be named on the clubs hall of fame list. Why an earth am I mentioning a man from the Ebbw Vale, well he was the son of Irish parents. Next to fly the flag for Ireland was Enniskillen man Richard Rowley, who spent a solemn campaign at the lilywhites during the 1930-31 season. Once again there appears to be a big gap before the next Irishman would appear at White Hart Lane, in fact you have to wait until 1954. When Limerick man Johnny Gavin joined the lilywhites. The winger only played for Spurs for one season yet he made a big impact on the side scoring an impressive 15 goals from 32 appearances. Gavin enjoyed the greatest spell of his career at his next club Norwich City who have him listed on the clubs hall of fame. Gavin passed away in 2007.
Captain fantastic and beyond: The next player I’m going to mention is without a doubt (in my eyes) the most influential player in the clubs history. A personal hero of mine, Danny Blanchflower. A man who needs no introduction, the legendary Ulster man became a legend for the club over a 10 year spell between 1954 and 1964. Initially signed by Arthur Rowe from Aston Villa, Blanchflower spent a tumultuous spell under next manager Jimmy Anderson where he was made to play in the reserves for a period. But the right half’s fortunes changed significantly following the arrival of Bill Nicholson as club manager in 1958. It was during his later years that the visionary (a man long before his time) would flourish in north London. A club who he always wanted to play for ever since hearing the name as a young child in the streets of Belfast. Blanchflower was the on the pitch brains behind the historic double winning side of 1960-61, captain fantastic as he became known would further captain Spurs to more cup glory. With the 1961-62 FA cup final success preceding the following season, Blanchflowers final game for Spurs came against Atletico Madrid in the final of the 1963 European cup winners cup. Where he captained the side to a historic 5-1 victory over the Spanish club in Rotterdam. It was the perfect ending for Blanchflower who would later go onto become manager of both Chelsea and Northern Ireland only missing out on the Tottenham job because of the Tottenham chairman’s instance on appointing Terry Neil despite Nicholson’s advice. If your interested in finding out more about Blanchflower, then Ken Ferris’s book ‘The Double: The inside story Spurs’ triumphant 1960-61 season’ is essential reading.
This followed another hugely important player in the clubs history in County Down man Pat Jennings. The legendary goalkeeper (one of the greatest of all time) played over 470 times for the club following his arrival from Watford in 1964. Ask any Spurs fan who remembers big Pat and they’ll tell you that he was the greatest keeper to play for Spurs. With his cat like reflexes and freakish ability to catch a ball with one hand (without gloves!) Jennings successful time at the club sees him considered as one of our all time greats. Jennings connection with the club continues to the present day where he coaches the academy goalkeepers at the clubs training ground. The Northern Ireland star also does hospitality work for the club on match days, and is a regular guest of honour during matches. Dubliner Joe Kinnear became the next Irishman to play for Spurs, the right back became an important player for Spurs over a ten year spell which started in 1965 following his arrival from St Albans. You then have the second Belfast man to play for Spurs in Chris McGrath who played for the lilywhites from 1972-75, the winger was a part of the side that was runners up in the 1974 UEFA cup final.
Then comes a name that most of you won’t have heard of in tricky winger Noel Brotherston. After coming through the youth ranks at the club the winger from Dundonald would go on to become a key player in the youth teams historic FA youth cup win in 1974. Brotherston did make one appearance for Spurs in a league cup game against Aston Villa in 1975. Brotherston left Spurs the following year and went on to enjoy a successful career at Blackburn Rovers where he made over 300 appearances. Brotherston returned to the town a couple of years later. Tragically the Northern Ireland international passed away at the age of just 38 in 1995. Continuing in chronological order, Jimmy Holmes was the next Irishman to play for the club, the defender who hails from Dublin represented Spurs over three seasons. At the same time Spurs had another lad from Belfast on their books by the name of Gerry Armstrong. The hero of the 82 World Cup for Northern Ireland, the forward spent five years at White Hart Lane scoring 10 goals from 84 appearances before moving to Watford in 1980, and then to Real Mallorca of Spain. A country that he knows well, Armstrong is a familiar voice on Sky Sports and regularly commentates on La Liga matches. Huddersfield born Tony Galvin was the next one to turn out for Spurs, qualifying for Ireland through the grandparent ruling. Galvin went on to enjoy a hugely successful career for both club and country. The winger was a part of one of the greatest Spurs teams of the 20th century and Galvin was a part of the team when they won two FA cups and the UEFA cup in 1974. Fluent in Russian, Galvin turned his hand to teaching following his retirement from the game in 1990.
The legend that is Chris Hughton was another Irishman to represent Spurs during this period. The right back who is now doing an excellent job as manager of Brighton, was one of the finest fullbacks in the clubs history. Over a 13 year spell and after many successes Hughton turned out over 290 times for the lilywhites. Still regarded as a legend by Spurs fans to this very day, Hughton always gets a rapturous reception whenever he returns to Spurs as a manager. Hughton won 53 caps for Ireland. Pimlico born Tim O’Shea who represented Ireland at youth level, was another to turn out for Spurs during this period in time. The defender who joined Spurs from Arsenal at youth level! Went on to appear three times for the club before joining Leyton Orient in 1998 after a loan spell with Newport County. Belfast man Phil Gray joined Spurs the following season, joining as an apprentice in 1986, Gray who operated as a striker made only 9 appearances over four years. Of which the majority of the time was spent out on loan with various clubs. Gray did go on to represent Northern Ireland and scored a total of six goals for his country. It would be a couple of years before Woolwich born Irishman Andy Turner became another to add to the ever growing list of Irish Spurs. From 1992-96 the midfielder made 21 appearances for the first team after making his way up the youth ranks. Turner became the premier leagues youngster scorer when he netted against Everton on 5 September 1992. Aged just 17 years and 166 days, Turner only ever went on to appear at u21 level for Ireland.
Next came Dubliner David McDonald the right back going on to appear three times for Spurs in the early 90’s before joining Peterborough in 1993. Like Turner, McDonald only ever appeared at youth level for his country. Wonderkid Gerry McMahon became hot property after being scouted extensively for local side Glenavon in the early part of the decade, eventually joining Spurs in March of 1992. The talented midfielder never really reached his full potential and after just 16 appearances for the north London side, he joined Stoke on a permanent deal in 1996. McMahon won 17 caps for Northern Ireland. Come the 1993-94 campaign a young Stephen Carr burst on to the scene beginning an 11 year spell with the club who he signed for at youth level. Carr would go onto become a star for both Spurs and Ireland, the consistent right back was one of the finest in the premier league and despite heavy interest from Manchester United. The Dubliner stayed at Spurs and went on to make 226 appearances for the lilywhites despite a number of injuries, before joining Newcastle in 2004. Carr (now retired) lives in Spain. Another player to appear during the 93-94 season was Lisburn born midfielder Stephen Robinson (now manager of Motherwell). Robinson made two appearances for the club before joining Bournemouth in 1994. There were a number of talented young Irish prodigies on Spurs’ book in the mid 90’s, some of whom never made it into the first team fold.
Donegal man Owen Coll was one of these, Coll went onto make three Intertoto cup appearances including that infamous 8-0 defeat to Koln, Coll is still an avid Spurs fan. Edmonton born Neale Fenn was another highly rated youngster, Fenn who played as a forward for Spurs only ever made 11 appearances for the club during a six year spell, before moving to Peterborough United in 2001. Fenn is now the manager of Irish first division side Longford Town. Another three young Irish players who were on our books at this time were Ross Darcy, a talented centre half whose career was plagued by injuries, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross a couple of months ago. In addition we had midfielders Peter Gain and Kevin Maher, neither of whom ever appeared for the senior team. There was also academy graduate and Belfast born midfielder Paul McVeigh who made three appearances for Spurs scoring one goal, during a four year spell. The later Norwich City man went on to appear 20 times for Northern Ireland. You also had youngster Ciaran Toner (Craigavon born) who for those who read the programme for the Rochdale game would have known played for both clubs. The now retired striker who won two caps for Northern Ireland never made a senior appearance for Spurs.
Another Donegal lad Gary Doherty (aka the ginger Pele) was the next Irishman to play for the senior team. The Tottenham cult hero who played as a defender/forward for Spurs between the years 2000-2004. Playing over 60 games and scoring four goals. Doherty won 34 caps for Ireland. At the same time there were a couple of Irishmen in the youth team at Spurs, their names were George Snee, Andrew Burke and Stephen Kelly a player who I’ll touch on shortly.
Robbie Keane – a new star, the years of absence and the beginning of a new dawn in Troy Parrot: The latest Irish super star to sign for Tottenham was a certain Robbie Keane who was signed to the club in 2002 by then manager Glenn Hoddle. Following his arrival from Leeds United, the skilful quick thinking striker or number 10 became a fan favourite in no time. With his almost maverick style and unpredictability, the Tallaght born Ireland international began what would become a hugely successful 8 year love affair with the club. Albeit coming via an ill fated big money move to Liverpool. The talented goal scorer whose panache and stylish cartwheel of a celebration still makes him a fan favourite to this day. Was one of the clubs most creative and prolific goal scorers, scoring over 100 goals for the lilywhites. ‘Keano’ as he is affectionately known by the Tottenham supporters is currently playing for Indian super league side ATK aged 37. Keane was a personal hero of mine. The last real star to play for Spurs we did still have a fair few Irish players in our side throughout the noughties. Such as highly rated right back Stephen Kelly (currently without a club) and young forward Mark Yeates who now plys his trade for Eastleigh in the national league. For those who followed the youth team during that time you will remember a certain Ulster man called Mark Hughes. Another Ireland international to play for the senior side during this time was midfielder Andy Reid who had a short spell at the club.
During the same period we also had second generation Irish man Jamie O’Hara in the academy set up. The midfielder who would later turn out for the senior side, never chose to represent his fathers country. Keen followers of the youth team will also remember a certain young striker Terry Dixon fondly. Tipped for stardom, Dixon who qualified for Ireland through his Cavan born mother was a star for the youth team, described by many as one of the most talented young strikers in the country. Dixon was even drafted into the Ireland squad by then manager Steve Staunton. But after suffering three serious knee injuries before turning 19, Dixon’s career failed to take off. And after spells at West Ham and Dover he was last seen playing for Aylesbury. Dixon also played in the same team as Chris Hughton’s son Cian, who was also eligible for Ireland. As was midfielder David Hutton. And future Spurs under 18 head coach Kieran McKenna. Since the days of Robbie Keane and Stephen Kelly no Irish man has played for Spurs, it’s been too long especially after having so many talented youth prospects at the club. But things are looking up and it may not be too long before a player is flying the Irish flag for Spurs again. Stylish Irish schoolboy Troy Parrot who plays as a striker for the u16’s, is the later Irish lad to come over the Irish sea. Described as a sensation by Irish reporters, the former Belvedere player will make the step up to the u18’s next season where I will be seeing him regularly. I have also noticed whilst reporting at u18 games that there is frequently a scout from the FAI in attendance and I know for certain that there are definitely eligible players in that side. Hopefully this has been informative and interesting for you Spurs fans and I’d like to end it if I may on a rarely mentioned note. That of our talisman Harry Kane, son of a Galway man who came so close to playing for Ireland, how different things could have been. COYS 🇮🇪
Other Spurs youngsters that were all eligible: Dominic Ball, Paul O’Donoghue (later GAA player), Ciaran Duffin, Baby bale also known as Kenny Mcevoy, Roman Michael-Percil, Derry lads Aaron McEneff and Tom McDermott both of whom now play for Derry, Darren Grogan and last but not least defender Tom Heffernan. A player who would later join Bournemouth, Heffernan’s party trick was heading cricket balls.
Senior players that were eligible: Aaron Lennon, Kyle Naughton and Harry Kane.
Rumoured eligibility: Paul Gascoigne.