My interview with former Spurs player Andy Bish:
A fullback for Spurs during the 1960’s, east Londoner Andy Bish joined Spurs as a schoolboy before progressing right up to professional level for Spurs where he is pictured above, back in 1967 (third to the right of a certain Pat Jennings!). Bish never got a chance to play for the Tottenham senior side and eventually moved out to Gloucestershire, where he would combine teaching with playing for local sides Cheltenham Town and Forest Green. Bish has achieved some remarkable things throughout his career both as a footballer and as a teacher. He played over 1000 games of football and played a key role in helping Forest Green climb their way up the footballing ladder. But besides his achievements in the game, Andy has also made an outstanding contribution to teaching. Andy has taught in schools for over 40 years, a role in which he continues to do to this very day, aged 69. Mr Bish has taught both in mainstream schools and in special needs schools and PRU’s. Andy’s tales from his time at Spurs are both fascinating and intriguing, and it was both a pleasure and a privilege to have interviewed the former Spurs man about his time at the club. What he has achieved throughout his career is nothing short of extraordinary, and as a massive Spurs fan I am immensely proud to call him one of our own. Wouldn’t it be nice if Andy could be Paul Coyte’s halftime guest of honour at some point next season, in our brand new stadium!
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Andy: Thank you for the opportunity to share my memories and experiences from my time at Spurs. I am 70 next birthday so the 60’s when I played are in the distant past but the questions have re-ignited memories of a wonderful time with memorable personalities. My earliest memory must be Sunday 26 April 1964 when I reported to White Hart Lane then to be taken by Henry’s Coaches to the Cheshunt Training Ground for a schoolboy trial game. My invite came after a school district Cup Final for West Ham Boys played at Upton Park where my claim to fame was to make a clearance out of the ground over the “ Chicken Run “ where the steward expected me to go and retrieve the ball. Thankfully the referee would not let me leave the field of play. Anyway after the game a Spurs scout Norman Corbett came to my house and invited me to the trial. I must have done well because I was invited to sign on as an Associate Schoolboy.
What was your time at the lilywhites like on the whole?
Andy: I had a 5 year connection with the club as a schoolboy, youth player and a Full Professional. I joined as a very impressionable 15 year old and being part of such a great club was very difficult at the time to comprehend and appreciate. One co-incidence is that in Gloucestershire where I now reside the football club I last played for is also nicknamed the Lilywhites !
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspiration and if so who were they?
Andy: As a kid I ‘ supported ‘ Manchester United as so many people did and vividly remember when my favourite footballer Duncan Edwards died in the Munich Air Disaster but it was not long before I began a more local football allegiance. I was born and bred in East London. In the West Ham maternity hospital on the day I was born a Mrs Brooking was giving birth to her son Trevor followed a few days later by Mrs Lampard producing son Frank. So we grew up as schoolboy contemporaries amongst so many other famous names in the area. West Ham was the local team to support where at the end of games you could go on the pitch and meet the likes of Malcolm Allison and Bobby Moore who to a young boy were towering influences. In the Spurs Double Year of 60-61 I was behind the goal when Dave Mackay smashed the winner against West Ham and we all ducked in case he broke the net!
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Andy: After my schoolboy trial at Cheshunt and signing as a schoolboy the doors into White Hart Lane opened and I became part of the club. Dick Walker was our youth contact who was the most charming and charamistic person to liaise with Mums and Dads and care for our welfare. On evening games he would bring Mrs Bick the ‘ Blonde Bombshell ‘ from the office to a night out only for her to find she was having to write up a report about the game at Ipswich or Cambridge. The coach and manager I first came into contact with was an ex player Sid Tickridge who I came to admire and really appreciated. He had been a fullback himself at the club and I am sure his reports of my games influenced my progress. As I progressed through the ranks I then came more into contact with Johnny Wallis and Eddie Baily and of course Bill Nicholson who always had a lot of time for me after I came into contact and I recounted to him that he was a one capped England player versus Portugal who scored on his debut and held the record for the fastest goal scored in 19 seconds! He shared with me how on a Tuesday he was not to be disturbed in his office as he read scouting reports on players of every position in case he had an injury and had to buy a replacement. He really laughed one time when his reports included Keith Weller and Derek Possee who he had sold to Millwall but had matured into 1st Division material. On another occasion I was in his office on a Friday morning when he and Eddie Baily selected the Saturday teams. Every player had a named disc that could be put on hooks on a stand for each of the 3 Professional teams. That way he accounted for all players. I recall he had asked my advice about some injuries that might affect selection. Another big influence for me was when Pat Welton became a youth coach as in the evenings I would attend the club to assist him with youth training. He became a role model and mentor for me as I took my coaching badges. Eventually he became the full time youth manager and transformed the set up to win the F.A. Youth Cup.
Being a fullback, were there any other players at the club or outside who you’d would model your game around?
Andy: In the 60’s schoolboy and youth players could sit on benches alongside the pitch for home matches. This was really up close and personal ! When Cyril Knowles was signed from Middlesbrough I related to his style of play being so close and really admired him. At pre season training at Cheshunt he organised the lunchtime cricket matches and I never knew him without a smile on his face. Later in life I met him when he was manager of Torquay and his hair had turned white. He had tragedy in his life when a stone shattered his car windscreen and killed his son sitting on the back seat. He died of a brain tumour which was very sad. Dave Mackay was an absolute mountain of a person who influenced everyone around him. On his recoveries from broken leg he played practice games and in the ‘A’ team as a left half in front of me at left back. He would talk and commentate for the whole 90 minutes helping, encouraging and offering advice. He was a great loss when he left the club. At pre season in ‘68 I was asked to show a visitor to Cheshunt to meet Dave Mackay. I found myself in a car with a soft spoken Brian Clough who was going to persuade him to go to Derby and not Hearts!
What was the toughest thing about being an apprentice at Spurs during the mid 1960’s?
Andy: I did not follow the normal route into football. On leaving school at 15 a young player would become an apprentice professional for 2 years before if good enough be offered a 2 year full professional contract. I was at Grammar School so took exams at 16 then Advanced Level exams at 18 because I always wanted to be a PE teacher. Way back in 1967 the Head teacher of my school came striding through the school hall after my last exam telling me he had just had a phone call from a Mr Nicholson asking permission to sign me as a Professional Footballer and could I go to the ground to sign. Off I went and signed for the grand sum of £14 a week. I would also receive travel expenses and a win bonus of £2 if I was in a winning team. I remember Bill Nicholson warning that very few players made the grade from the youth set up as every year he made a big signing to strengthen the team. I was allocated a kit number of 31 so any footwear or training kit with that number was mine. I was so proud at signing as a professional that I did not take much in but remember on the bus home wanting to tell everyone but kept quiet.
How did your time as both an apprentice and professional at Spurs prepare you for your subsequent career in the game?
Andy: What stands out for me is how well I was treated and cared for. Perhaps it was down to my personality and respect from others. However I saw how difficult some players found others around them. Graeme Souness was a apprentice who was very quickly disliked through his arrogance and attitude of superiority and antagonised those around him. Very often he had a bar of soap rammed in his mouth to shut him up. On another occasion the apprentices became so fed up with him that a few got the boot polish and “ blackened his balls “ This led to him quite often going AWOL back to Scotland.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout in your memory?
Andy: It would be when I became a Full Professional and the transition from youth player. Attending pre season training for 4 weeks at Cheshunt was a real experience. All players were welcomed back before setting off on Bill Nicholson’s favourite activity, Power Walking through the lanes of Cheshunt. Then it would be communal lunch in the pavilion where Greaves and Gilzean would pick one of the young newcomers to take their order for wine to Eddie Baily who would go apoplectic and shake his fist! In the break Cyril Knowles organised teams for cricket before more power walking or jogging. Because Eddie Baily had bad knees he would ride a bike at the back of the group. He had to keep it locked up or the bike would be sabotaged with tyres let down and he even had a wheel go missing. Greaves and Gilzean were the jokers again because if a car wanted to pass they would jump on the back for a lift leaving Eddie Baily shaking his fist again. One afternoon was always a press photo shoot where we had to sit on benches whilst photographers moved along taking individual portraits before the big team photo. Once league fixtures started we trained at the ground with always one day often Wednesday at Cheshunt to play 1st team versus Reserves with track suited Bill Nicholson directing play and organising free kicks and moving players around into correct positions. Training at the ground would involve running laps around the perimeter of the pitch, exercises and weights with Bill Watson in the gym before small sided games in the indoor training area. Friday was very light with running spikes on to do sprints before team sheets were put up for the Saturday fixtures. Every home game we could buy 4 tickets which we took over to The White Hart pub to sell to Stan Flashman the ticket tout. At the start of the season we would be given 2 season tickets which most young players sold. Mine went to Frank Saul for his Canvey Island Spurs supporters. Other players had side lines. Terry Reardon would bring in clothing whilst Steve Perryman could get the Vinyl records which was how we listened to music at the time! Once the season was under way we had a day off a week plus every afternoon. So lots of spare time which I used to go back to the ground and help with the youth training. This I found an invaluable experience and made me realise how much I enjoyed working with young people.
Could you talk me through what happened after you left Spurs?
Andy: In 1969 towards the end of my contract I applied for Teacher Training at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham. Bill Nicholson was very supportive as during the War years he was a Physical Training Instructor so he did not stand in my way. My last month at Spurs was hectic playing for the Reserves against Arsenal where I marked Charlie George, Walsall and Birmingham before my farewell game at Hatfield on Saturday 17 May 1969 for the ‘A’ team which we won 3-2. It was nostalgic and brought to a conclusion 5 happy and wonderful years as a Spurs player. But as one door shuts another opens.
What prompted your move to play football in Gloucestershire and how did you manage to combine training as a teacher with playing football?
Andy: Leaving London to live in Cheltenham was a real culture shock and I had to get used to a different pace of life in the rural Cotswolds. I would never have dreamed at the time that I would go on to spend the rest of my life in Gloucestershire. Teacher training was 3 years full time where I played for the college football team. However in the final year I played Southern League football for Cheltenham Town earning £5 a game plus expenses and a win bonus. On leaving college I entered teaching as a PE teacher and having been a professional footballer this fact was always picked up on my CV. It opened so many doors to me. As well as teaching I became team manager to District and County Football teams and became well respected in The English Schools Football Association. I also started a 10 year career with Forest Green Rovers who I helped progress through County, Hellenic and Southern Leagues. They are now in the Football League.
What was the pinnacle of your career?
Andy: Looking back there are so many highlights. From my time at Spurs I have always kept a record of games played. My last games as a spritely 50 something were in the Umbro Veterans Competition and in the Gloucestershire Senior League for a Stroud team called Brimscombe nicknamed ‘The Lilywhites’. The pinnacle came when I realised an ambition when my record of games showed I had reached 1000 games. I had a good write up in the local press and felt that I should now move aside for a younger generation. I carried on coaching for a while with the Gloucester Ladies Team which was a new experience. During one session someone had a quiet word about not coaching chest control!
Who was the greatest player that you had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Andy: Two players stand out. Dave Mackay who was a great role model and inspiration and whilst at Cheltenham we had Johnny Haynes ex Fulham and England as a guest player. He was always looking for the ball and seemed like a magnet in receiving the ball.
Are you still in contact with any of your former Spurs team mates?
Andy: The players at Spurs were team mates who you trained and played with did not really socialise with so I am not in contact. However I have come across ex players in later life. I played against David Jenkins in Bristol, Steve Pitt and Brian Parkinson who were playing for Stevenage and Cheltenham played Swindon who were managed by Dave Mackay and had Ray Bunkell as a player. In 1986 after the ‘hand of God’ World Cup Glenn Hoddle and myself had neighbouring holiday homes in Spain. Topics of conversation were about Spurs but he was about to leave for Monaco. Little did I know that by 1991 he was back in England as player manager of Swindon and I would be coaching at their Centre of Excellence and Manager of their Under 15 Youth Team which I combined with teaching. Dare I mention Arsenal! One of my managers at Forest Green was Peter Goring ex Arsenal from the 50’s. I had taken training for him one evening and in the clubhouse after he gave me a handful of loose change to buy myself a drink. Amongst the coins was a medal. When I returned it he said thank goodness, I wondered where that was. It was his F.A. Cup Final Winners Medal from 1950 when Arsenal beat Liverpool. Luckily I had not spent it! Whilst playing one Saturday afternoon an opponent told me he knew me from Spurs. It turned out to be Peter Storey who used to be an Arsenal player before being given a prison sentence for counterfeiting coins and running a brothel. He was in HMP Leyhill where on a Saturday he was allowed out to play local football. After the game I stood him his drinks while his escorting prison officer waited outside. Later in the evening he reluctantly left to go back to prison. Some months later I received a package with sovereigns inside. After some deliberation I posted them back ‘Return to Sender ‘ as I guessed they must be from him and maybe dodgy.
I couldn’t end the interview without talking about your subsequent career as a teacher something which I know that you are very proud about. Would you mind talking about that?
Andy: I have been a teacher for over 40 years and although past retirement age I still teach and mentor pupils excluded from school. I started as a PE teacher and found it one of the best jobs you could wish for because most children enjoy sport. As I got into my 40’s I started to teach in a Special Needs School for children with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties. I have always related to young people and although very difficult and challenging it is very worthwhile to make a difference in someone’s life.