My interview with Spurs academy graduate and FA youth cup winner Anthony Potts:
In the latest of my series of interviews with former THFC academy graduates, I caught up with striker Anthony Potts. To discuss his time at Spurs, later career in the game and that famous FA youth cup campaign of 1989/90.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Anthony: My first memory is playing my first game at Mill Hill (the training ground at the time) I remember it as I felt in awe but at home at the same time. The way Spurs played suited me down to the ground. I also remember it as I was supposed to meet Alan Curbishley the Thursday before to sign for Charlton but hadn’t turned up once I realised Spurs were interested. So it was very awkward lining up against them in my trial game! The club offered me a contract pretty much straight after the game. My memory of the club at the time was how professional everything was and the quality of the players being higher than I had experienced before.
What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?
Anthony: It was the best time of my life- and in a way the worst. From the minute I joined the club I could do no wrong and everything seemed to progress like a dream. We won everything and the footballing education I got from people like Ray Clemence, Pat Holland, Keith Ealdrem and Terry Venables was second to none. Also the players in the first team at the time were amazing and some of the most talented in the country. People like Gascoigne, Waddle, Lineker, Nayim and the like. It was the worst due to the injury I received in my first year as a pro that effectively ended my career.
Who was your footballing inspiration/hero?
Anthony: My footballing hero was Pele and I loved the Brazilian teams growing up. The 1982 team in particular. The player who I tried to base my game on was Kenny Dalglish. And being at Spurs when I was, I am the same as every player at that time and loved watching Gazza.
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Anthony: Greatest influences is tough- there were some great coaches. Ray Clemence was really good to play for but Venables was on a different level. He was so knowledgeable and everything he did was spot on. I remember when we used to practice on a Friday before the game on the Saturday, and he would be working on the first team shape and set pieces etc but would still spot things about what you were doing even though you were just there to take the place of the opposition.
Were there any other players at the club or outside, who you’d model your game around?
Anthony: Like I said I was a big fan of Dalglish but the Spurs squad at the time was massively talented so you would try and pick things up from everyone.
What was the toughest thing about being a young up and coming player during that time and what were the training facilities like in those days?
Anthony: Training facilities were decent but the sports science was primitive so it was all based on getting out on the training ground and working. The tough thing was there were about 50 professionals fighting for 22 places on a Saturday so if you got injured or had a bad game you didn’t know when you would get another opportunity.
What was your greatest memory from your time at the lilywhites?
Anthony: I had loads of great memories from my time at Spurs but I guess the obvious one would be winning the FA youth cup final at White Hart Lane. As a forward scoring in the first leg was also a great memory.
Could you talk me through your career after you left Spurs?
Anthony: After I left I went to Dagenham and Redbridge in the Conference as they were favourites for promotion but I kept getting injured- from the injury to my knee I ended up with a bad back and weak ankles. I don’t think I ever played a full injury free season after leaving Spurs. I played for lots of non league sides but never for long and I also travelled to New Zealand with another ex Spurs player Greg Howell but again I could never seem to shake the injuries, so in the end at about 25 I gave up trying to get back into football and trained to be a teacher.
What was the pinnacle of your footballing career?
Anthony: Thats a tough one, Gazza was unbelievable but I never played a competitive game with him. Him, Samways and John Moncur were all very gifted but Jamie Redknapp was probably the one.
What would your advice be to the current Spurs academy players, as they look to make their way up the footballing pyramid?
Anthony: Remember you are very close and the only thing that can stop you now is you. So start training early be the last one to leave, go to the gym – make yourself the fittest strongest version of you that you can be, as when I look back it wasn’t the most talented who made it but the hardest working and most focused. Also mentally don’t get carried away by success and don’t get too down at failure just treat it all as a learning curve. Make sure you can never look back and say “If only” I was always very focused and the injury was my main issue but I still look back and wish I had done even more.
Could you talk me through that triumphant FA youth cup campaign of 1989/90?
Anthony: I can’t remember the early rounds but I think we might have played Wolves in one of the games. The hardest two matches were the quarter and semi final. In the quarters we were drawn away to a very strong Man City side – on a personal front although I didn’t score it was probably my best game for the club and we won 2-0. In the semi it was a really strong Man United side complete with Giggs. There was only one goal in it which we got at Old Trafford. I was lucky enough to set it up with a cross/shot inside the last few minutes and we were through! I remember the game as a huge occasion and all the club’s big names were there watching and seemed genuinely thrilled at the occasion. The final itself was won at Middlesborough when we won 2-0 We played really well and myself and Scott Houghton got the goals. The ground was packed and they had to delay kick off and I can remember everyone getting very nervous sitting around waiting to go out. We dominated the game though and it meant the second was quite comfortable especially when Ollie Moran headed home from my cross. Although it finished one all we were in control throughout. It was brilliant lifting the trophy in front of our own fans at White Hart Lane.