My interview with former Spurs man Eddie Gormley:
Eddie Gormley came across the water as a teenager to sign for Spurs in 1988, the young Dubliner had been scouted by a certain David Pleat but following Pleat’s dismissal during the 87-88 season, Gormley was officially signed by new boss Terry Venables. Unable to make the breakthrough to the first team, the Ireland under 21 international spent his three years at the lilywhites playing for the reserve team. A tricky winger, Gormley subsequently went onto play for the likes of Doncaster Rovers, Chesterfield and a plethora of Irish clubs. Gormley went onto forge a hugely successful playing career back in his native country. Since retiring from the game in 2005 Gormley has since turned his hand to coaching. First taking charge of Irish premier division side Bray Wanderers, Gormley then went onto coach Cabinteely in the second tier of Irish football, where he remains in charge today. Eddie kindly spoke to me about his time at Spurs and subsequent career in the game.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Eddie: I was playing league of Ireland here, obviously Spurs came to watch me in a game against Dundalk and a week later they signed me. My earliest memories was I think my first game, I was only at the club maybe three days and we were playing Gillingham away in a reserve game. And I was taken off at halftime and it was an absolute disaster. You know I found it difficult to get with the pace of the game you know, obviously playing with players in the reserve team that would have played in the first team. So coming from the league of Ireland it took me a while to adjust to it. I got a bad ankle injury when I chipped my bone, so I was out for about eight weeks with that. So that was sort of the first year I was there.
What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?
Eddie: I really enjoyed it, obviously it was difficult to get into the first team at that time. You had Lineker playing and the likes of Paul Gascoigne but I really enjoyed it. Going training I really knuckled down and took on board the coaching I was getting, and just really tried to improve myself as a player and see where that took me, you know. I had three good years there, the final year was probably my best year where I played most of the reserve games. I scored a good few goals playing wide left, as a whole I really enjoyed the experience and when your with a club like Spurs If you don’t enjoy it then there’s something wrong with you!
Who was your footballing inspiration/hero?
Eddie: I was a wide player so my first thoughts would be the 70’s, the likes of Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill, those sorts of players. They were wide players, they were quick and they were great crossers of the ball. And obviously I was a Man United supporter, but I also remember the 1981 cup final I think it was between Spurs and Man City. And Ricky Villa scored that incredible goal, obviously he’d gone when I got there, and Ardilles. But I can remember Ardilles playing in the 78 World Cup final, and obviously when I arrived I was a little bit in awe of him you know.
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Eddie: Obviously Doug Livermore the coach when I got there and obviously Ray Clemence came on board then. So they were obviously a big influence on me. But I have to say now, who impressed me the most was probably Terry Venables, just the way he spoke to everybody the same, he treated everybody the same you know. He was the type of manager that you’d run through walls for, you know. Unfortunately I never played for the first team but given the opportunity I certainty would of, he was a gentleman. So they were my biggest influences.
Being a winger were there any other players at the club or outside who you’d would model your game around?
Eddie: Not really, I just really focused on myself and just trying to do the best I could. So not really, I wouldn’t say I moulded myself on anybody I would have just really got on and tried to be my own type of player.
Coming across the water to England as a teenager in the late 80’s would have been a big step for you to make. What was the toughest thing about being a professional at Spurs and what were your biggest challenges that you faced?
Eddie: It was very difficult, coming from Dublin and being dropped at London. I mean it’s like chalk and cheese, obviously the home sickness was a difficult thing. But you’d just tell yourself no listen you’ve just got to get through it, but it did take me a little while to settle down but luckily enough I was put in with an Irish family, the Moores. So that helped me really adjust, but it is difficult and being away from your own family and going out to a top club trying to produce. It gets less difficult but you just take your time. A lot of players go home with home sickness but I looked at it very simply. That I’d been given this three years and to see where it takes me, If I end up getting a career over in England or in worst case scenario I come back to Bray after three years.
How did your time as a professional at Spurs prepare you for your subsequent career in the game?
Eddie: It was a huge help, I mean when you go into an environment like Spurs you have to be very professional adjusting. I was lucky enough that there were some very good players there that looked after me you know. Like Gary Stevens, Garry Mabbutt and Tony Parkes. These types of players you know they were top, top pros and they always had a word with you and had time for you. So it just makes you more professional, It makes you realise how difficult it is to get to the top and what it takes. The dedication it takes to succeed you know.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout within your memory?
Eddie: I suppose the last season, we won the reserve league and I think I scored something like seven or eight goals in the last ten games, I just remember scoring a lot of goals towards the end. And obviously one of my last games was playing in Danny Blanchflower’s testimonial against Northern Ireland. I played some of that game, I have to say now I really enjoyed playing in front of a nearly full stadium you know. It was enjoyable to get a run in the first team against an international side.
After departing the lilywhites you went on to play for the likes of Doncaster, St Patrick’s and Bray Could you talk me through your career post Spurs?
Eddie: I was offered another year by Terry Venables at Spurs but I just felt I wasn’t going to get an opportunity in the first team, so I decided to move on. So I had a good few calls from other clubs, so when I went home for the summer I just decided I’ll go and meet them. I literally got the boat back to Holyhead and drove from the north to the south, meeting all the clubs and the one that impressed me most was Billy Bremner with Doncaster. So I signed with them and had three very good years. I won the players player of the year and player of the year in the last two years that I was there. Then unfortunately I had a little fallout over the contract. My wife had just had her first child so she wanted to move back to Ireland so it was just coincidence with me falling out with them with my contract. I eventually went on loan first because Doncaster wouldn’t release me. They let me go out on loan with Drogheda, I played there on loan for about two months and then St Patricks Athletic with Brian Kerr who was later the Ireland manager, got me to sign for St Pats. So I never looked back after that, I had seven or eight good seasons at St Pats where I won three leagues and the Irish player of the year, I had a good innings let’s say with Pats. And then when I hit 30-31 I always said I’d finish with Bray because it was the club I started out with. So I even bumped into the Bray manager who was actually my adviser when I went to Spurs in the first place, he was the Bray manager when I left.
Pat asked me if I would be interested, they’d just been promoted back to the premier division and he asked me if I’d go back. So I’d go back and play for the last couple of years and I ended up playing till I was 36. Actually the first year I went back we should have won the league, we were unlucky we had a very strong squad. We actually lost to the weaker team which really cost us dearly we should have won the league that year, which would have been nice as they’d never won it before you know. I finished up playing really with them, when I was 36 I retired. Obviously they asked me to go on the coaching staff because I had my badges, so I done that and Pat Devlin moved onto work with Steve Staunton at the Ireland team. And they basically asked me to take over as their manager (at Bray). So I managed them for four years and then I resigned after four years, things weren’t going well and the budget here was pushing the boat a bit down south you know. I finished that up and ended staying out of football for a year, and my local team Cabinteely which my eldest son was football for at the time asked me the usual. Would I do a coaching session for the team and would I look after the age group, and would I be director of coaching for when they got national league football. They asked me would I manage the team. I done it on a short term basis for two years which was meant to be for two months. That’s it really, that’s it in a nut shell.
Who was the toughest fullback that you came ever came up against?
Eddie: Toughest fullback… probably a lad who played here called Willie Burke. He played for Shamrock rovers and ended up signing for St Pats actually after that. He wasn’t a big lad but he was aggressive, he was quick and he read the game really well. He really knew how to give you a tough game, he was probably the toughest fullback I played against.
What was the pinnacle of your career?
Eddie: Probably a couple, obviously getting my under 21 caps for Ireland, but obviously winning the league of Ireland three times, there’s so many but that would probably be the pinnacle of my career. Winning that and winning the LOI players player of the year, it was nice to get recognised by players that you played against you know.
Who was the greatest player that you had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Eddie: I’d have to say Gascoigne, when I played in that friendly game he was just unbelievable, unbelievable! He was a good lad as well, a gentleman you know but he was absolutely top drawer.
How quickly did you adapt to playing reserve team football for Spurs and how did it aid your development as a footballer?
Eddie: It took me a while to adapt if I was to be honest with you, probably it took me the best of six months really to adapt to it. So obviously there was an injury thrown in there as well, it’s difficult when you’re dealing with so many things and your a young Irish player going over. It’s just a totally different way of life to the life I was used to. Being laid back you know and you’re dropped into London England, and everything’s 100 miles an hour. You’re dealing with your family not being around, your’e dealing with the players, the tempo of the game. But you know it took me a good six months to adapt, it really did but I think it made me a better player obviously. The second year and then the third year I have to say now I thoroughly enjoyed it towards the third year you know.
Whilst at Doncaster Rovers you played under the legendary Billy Bremner, could you describe what it was like to be coached by such a legendary figure in the game?
Eddie: Just his knowledge of the game was just phenomenal you know. And I was lucky enough I was a central midfield player at that stage. The first season I arrived I played wide left so I think the first couple of months he just said you’re a central midfield player. There’s a good story I always tell, he used to train with us on a Friday. I remember a particular day he played for the second team, he told us the starting lineup for Saturday. He played a ball out to the right winger and he took off down the line, and I just took off to break into the box. And as the winger went to cross the ball I just remember waking up not being able to breath, he’d literally just dropped his shoulder and he’d ran right into me, and it just winded me. He said to me I’ll give you a bit of advice, always watch where you’re running! And fair enough he must have been 50 odd at that stage, being a fit lad he absolutely floored me you know. His knowledge of the game was just phenomenal.
Since retiring from the game you have since entered the world of management, first taking charge of Irish premier division club Bray and then Cabinteely who you are currently in charge of at the moment. How has that experience been for you so far and do you have any ambitions of coaching in England in the future or even back at Spurs in some capacity?
Eddie: I think my days as a coach in England now are gone, it’s just not a logical thing for me at the moment. My coaching ambitions, to be honest with you I enjoy coaching the underage sides an awful lot more and prefer to give back that way. The reason I ended up at Cabinteely for three years managing the first team was because they needed me in order to get their license. They needed someone that had a pro license, I agreed to step in on a temporary basis till they got somebody else in and that took two years. And then I resigned at the end of the two years as I just prefer being a coach then a manager. I enjoy the underage stuff an awful lot more then senior football, I’ll be totally honest with you.
Troy Parrott is a young Irishman who is touted for great things both at Spurs and on the international stage for Ireland. As somebody who was once in Parrott’s shoes what would your advice be to young Troy as he looks to work his way up the ranks at Spurs?
Eddie: To stay mentally strong and bounce back from your disappointments as you will have disappointments sometimes. You think you should get picked and you don’t, but just to basically stay mentally strong. If you can do that you’ll always have a good chance you know. I mean he has the ability but sometimes you need to have your head straight. Everybody gets disappointments in games but it’s how you bounce back from them you know. If you’re mentally strong you’ve got a great chance.