My interview with former Spurs youngster Claude Stepháne Seanla:
Ivorian centre forward Claude Seanla spent four years in the Tottenham youth set up during the mid 2000’s. A Powerful and versatile forward, Seanla went onto feature on multiple occasions for the old reserve side and the younger age groups during his stint at the club. Unfortunately Claude didn’t make the grade at Spurs and he was released by the club back in 2006. Spells at Watford and Barnet followed before the young striker began to make his mark on the non league scene, playing for a plethora of clubs right up until 2017. Making his name as a bit of a journeyman. No longer involved in the game, the 30 year old kindly agreed to doing an interview with me about his time at Spurs. It was an absolute pleasure speaking to him as he shared his footballing memories with me.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Claude: Earliest memory was when Nick was the manager of the youth team, I think I was 16. I remember when I went up for a trial, my first day at Spurs we had a little game and I think that game I scored in. He came up to me and he said do you want to play for Spurs, like he was giving me a little hint that he liked me and that he wanted me to sign. So obviously without knowing I said yes, he just laughed. It was Thursday that we trained then on Sunday we played against West Ham at home and even though we lost, obviously the way I played that game gave him that final decision/moment that he needed for me to sign. I think that would have been my first memory and my happiest memory.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Claude: It was brilliant when you are young and you’re playing for a club like Spurs you couldn’t be more happier. Playing for Spurs from the age of 16 to 20 was the best thing ever and to be honest I’ve missed it. If I could rewrite the time that I had I probably would have done things differently, and probably still playing for Spurs. It was the best time to play for Spurs.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Claude: My inspiration was Ronaldo (the first one) just the way he was and how he used to score goals and dribble. He was so powerful, he was the main number nine. I just wanted to be like him.
Who were your greatest influences at the club?
Claude: My colleagues because I worked with them, we played together and I could see that they were doing well. We’d known each other since such a young age, some of them were friends already outside football. So I would say Jacques Maghoma and Nathan Peprah I was very close to them. They really really influenced me quite a lot, obviously there’s other names like Simon Dawkins and Chris Riley and so on.
Being a centre forward were there any other players at the club or outside who you’d model your game around?
Claude: I remember Pat Holland used to tell me to watch Simon because me and Simon had different styles of play. I was more like a centre forward and he was more like a number ten, where he was coming in getting the ball and giving it back, like one touch. I was more like receiving it, if I could turn I’d turn, if I could just run with it and dribble and score with it, I would do it. He used to tell me as a number nine you need to always make sure when you’re back is facing the other position when you receive it, bring the midfield players in and get yourself in the box. He used to tell me to watch Simon Dawkins he used to do that a lot, his first touch was really really good. I needed to get my game at the level he was at if that makes sense. If Pat Holland had to pick one striker to play he’d have picked him and it’s because he had those attributes, where he could bring everybody in. We were very, very powerful strikers but we had different styles and Pat Holland wanted someone to come in, come short and pass it back. Obviously I was different to that.
What was the toughest thing about being a youth player at Spurs and what were your biggest challenges that you faced?
Claude: When it came to the FA youth cup where he didn’t pick me because as I mentioned in the last question, I needed to improve my game. My biggest challenge was to make sure my game could get to that level where they wanted my game to be at. They knew I had all the attributes a striker could have. I was very strong I could play with both feet, I was good in the air. They just wanted me to have that little bit extra towards my game and I think this is what limited my chances a little bit, to progress to the reserves and so on. I wasn’t really thinking much ahead the first team, I was thinking one thing at a time. At the time they had 16’s, 17’s, 18’s and then the reserves. So my focus was how can I do it next level up and that was the biggest challenge because all my friends, like Jacques Maghoma and Simon Dawkins they were all playing a level above me. Like I was playing catch-up so that was my biggest challenge, but I got there.
How has your time at Spurs prepared you for your subsequent career in the game?
Claude: Mentally and physically it did prepare me because when I left Spurs and I went elsewhere I was fully confident, because I knew I worked on my game. First of all I went to Derby but due to sickness I couldn’t perform on the second game, that’s why I went to Watford. When I went to Watford everything I learned at Spurs helped me to sort of replicate that at Watford. They moved me from striker to left mid, because at Spurs I was playing pretty much everywhere. On the left wing, right wing and as a striker, I think that when Pat Holland was manager he picked me to play on the left because I could dribble across. So that helped me more in the next stage of my career where I could play different positions. When I went to Watford there was a game where I even played left back, everything I learned from my time at Spurs I could remember it and I knew how to play the game. Before I didn’t know how to play the game, I was more as if I was playing Sunday league. But now when I play the game I know how to drop short, receive passes and how to get myself inside the box and to turn if I have space, so it did prepare me.
Could you talk me through some of your memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout within your memory?
Claude: I’d say when we played in the Youth cup I can’t remember what team we played against. I came off in the last 10-15 minutes where I had about two chances, where I could have easily scored. Instead of side footing the ball it went between my legs. I had two chances like that when I could have changed the game.
After departing the Lilywhites you went onto play for a plethora of lower league sides such as Watford, Barnet and Boreham Wood, could you talk me through your career post Spurs?
Claude: From Spurs I went to Derby, Derby-Watford. I was there for a year plus when Aidy Boothroyd was the manager but I never got on with him. Being the person I am I had a different personality which Aidy Boothroyd didn’t like. I wasn’t noisy, I wasn’t loud I was just me. So whenever I had a bad game I used to think over and over again, and that sort of changed my attitude towards the training ground. At one point Aidy was asking what was wrong with me, he got my dad to come to the training ground asking my dad what’s wrong with your son, because he doesn’t smile. I was more focused on every time I had a bad game or when I do have a bad game, it plays on my mind quite a lot because I’m the sort of player that hates to have a bad game. I had a really good relationship with Aidy at the time when I first started at Watford, but then our relationship just sort of faded out. So from there I went to Barnet I also had a good relationship with Paul Fairclough, but again the relationship was too good. I didn’t know when to be a son to him because he saw me as a young man trying to come through. I was like a friend to him more than a player. From Barnet I went on loan to different places, I can’t remember the name of the clubs I went to. So from there it’s just like from one level to another, I believe that somewhere down the line it’s something to do with luck. It’s not like I didn’t have the talent, I had the talent. I worked on that, but sometimes it’s just having the best luck as well.
Who was the toughest defender that you ever came up against?
Claude: To be fair I didn’t really come up against that type of defender, because every opponent I faced I just got the best of them. So I cannot think of any. Any type of opposition, any type of defender I always found a way to make it difficult for them to play against me. I don’t remember when I went home and I thought, wow that defender was tough. I can’t think of one honestly.
What has been the pinnacle of your career thus far?
Claude: I would probably say when I was at Watford when things were good. Before they gave me a pro contract I played against one of the best right backs at Chelsea, a young guy (I forget his name) but they used to rate him quite a lot. That game it was either he get the best of me or I get the best of him, and that game I had the best of him. That game I destroyed him, I went past him a few times and I made it difficult for him to play against me. So I would say that was the best game because that led for me to get a pro contract at Watford.
Who has been the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Claude: I think I’m going to say Jacques Maghoma. He was unbelievable, his heart is like an engine, he never stops. I’ve never really seen him play a game where he was tired, he’s just constantly running. He was the best midfield player for his age group, it was nice to share the pitch with him. I always knew that every time I played with him he would give 110%.
What was it like making the step up from the under 18’s to the reserves and how tough was that change for you as a centre forward?
Claude: I don’t think it was tough like I said no matter any opponent, how old, how big, how strong or small they are. I’ve always found a way to outplay them, it’s just a shame that it was never on the reserve side, I was never given a chance to prove myself, because if I can move from U18’s to be on the bench for the reserves continuously at the time. When things were working out for me, I was scoring goals, I was always given the opportunity to be near the reserves. If I was given a chance and the same belief that people like Pat Holland had in me and the same belief I had in myself. If I had that when I was in the reserve side with Clive Allen, at the time I believe I would have done well. So I don’t think that there was any obstacles stopping me, it was just because I was never given a chance. So I can’t say it was a tough transition.
Are you still involved in the game in any capacity and if so do you have any future ambitions?
Claude: I’m not involved in the game anymore I’m 30 now, I’ve got a lot of things outside football that I’ve got to focus on. My job and other things I’m doing on the side which interfered with football. If I want to play semi-pro at this stage of my life I don’t think it would be the right thing to do. Unless tomorrow I do everything I want to do or everything I planned to do, then I’ve got spare time on my hands, so why not? For football it only takes one season where you bang in 30 goals, take another season and things can happen you just click your finger and you do well, and you’re back there again.
Some of your peers included the likes of Jacques Maghoma and Charlie Daniels. Do you still follow the progress of your old Tottenham teammates?
Claude: Yeah I still do, I see Jacques Maghoma on match of the day and Simon Dawkins is doing well as well. Pretty much all my friends that I used to play with at the time when I was in football, I used to follow them quite a lot. But now I’ve got better things to do then to follow them. If I’m sitting in front of a TV and they come across it then I’ll watch them, but to be following them everyday is not something I do anymore.