My interview with former Spurs youth player Peter McGillicuddy:
“ I had a load of ability but I lacked in confidence. “ (Peter McGillicuddy)
I had the great pleasure of interviewing former Spurs youth player Peter McGillicuddy on Friday afternoon to talk about his time as a youth player at Spurs during the late 1960’s. The Irish Londoner played for Spurs for three years from 1967 to 1970 during a time when the club had one of its most talented ever youth sides. McGillicuddy primarily played out on the left wing and the former Arsenal schoolboy who would later go onto play for both Chelsea and Millwall following his release from Spurs in 1970, would go onto form a successful career in the non league. Where amongst a host of other clubs Peter played for Leatherhead and Enfield Town, and it was at Leatherhead where McGillicuddy had one of his best footballing memories, scoring against Leicester City in the fourth round of the FA cup. I met Peter in a pub in North London to discuss his time at Spurs during the late 1960’s, from his falling out with coach Eddie Baily to his admiration of Graeme Souness and playing with Harry Kane’s grandfather Eric Hogg, McGillicuddy was fascinating to listen to and to interview.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Peter: My earliest memory that I remember was kicking the ball up against the wall outside my mum and dads house when this big black car turned up. A fellow called Mr.Clarke (Ray Clarke’s dad) picked me up and took me to Highbury and then I walked up into the changing rooms. I then went out the back and started to train with Arsenal as an 11 year old. That was my earliest memory but another was when I played for the England Catholic schoolboys team for four years from age 11 to 15.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Peter: Arsenal released me and after that I used to play on Regent’s Park and then one Sunday morning a Tottenham scout came over to me and took me to Tottenham, and I had three nice years there. Spurs were better to me than Arsenal were but I’m a loyal Arsenal fan I’m sorry to say. My earliest memory from my time at Spurs would have been fighting my way into the youth sides, where I played with some good players such as Steve Perryman, Graeme Souness and Jimmy Neighbour. I thought that Jimmy was a superb player and he was a better player than me but then again I didn’t think that Perryman was a better player than me but records show that he was. But if I had gotten the same attention that Perryman got then I probably would have made it as well, but sometimes it’s just a bit of luck in life. They built Perryman up to be something but I thought he was fortunate to get what he got and he proved it in the end when he only got half a cap for England. Yet he was the captain of England schoolboys and I was the captain of England Catholic schoolboys, and I didn’t get a look in. We were both decent players and there wasn’t much between us but he picked up the FA cup and I didn’t.
What was Graeme Souness like?
Peter: He was class, the best player that I’d ever played with and he was nice to me and all. People might think that he’s a bully but he gave me more time than Perryman ever did.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Peter: Enjoyable, but one person who I never got on with was Eddie Baily. I remember Joe Nixon (former teammate) was a good player and he (Baily) used to slaughter him, and if he ever came to me then I used to go round the other side. On this particular day we played Ipswich after I had just been promoted to the SECL division one, and it was my third or fourth game for them. I scored the winner against Ipswich on that day and after I came off Eddie Baily slaughtered me, so I had a go back at him and I never played again after that, simple as that. He never thought I was that good anyway but I never liked him to be truthful and there’s not many people I can say that about. Oh and Theo Foley who I disliked and all, he stopped me from being a pro as far as I’m concerned. I’m still a bit bitter after all these years but I do have to blame myself a little bit.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Peter: My favourite player of all time was an Arsenal player called George Eastham. George was in the 1966 World Cup winning English squad and he was a marvellous footballer, and how he did what he did do with his little skinny legs is beyond me. Another player who I liked to watch was Cliff Jones, he was an extremely good player who was very fast and brilliant in the air for such a little man, he also had that winning mentality. I remember playing against him at Cheshunt and he tackled me like a tiger even though he was only little. I also used to enjoy watching Jimmy Greaves and after we would play our morning matches on a Saturday we used to go to White Hart Lane and sit around the pitch on stools to watch the first team play. I can remember him scoring a goal against Man United where he must have went past 22 people including himself three times! He was an absolutely marvellous player.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you used to played in, in the Spurs youth team?
Peter: Modesty forbids me to tell you how good I was, I was a left footer who had a sweet left foot. I was quick but I wasn’t one of the bravest people in the world, but I did stand up for myself. I was never taught anything at Spurs they just used to play me out wide on the left and that was how I took over that position as a left sided midfield player. However, I preferred to play in central midfield as everybody does. I used to work hard up and down the left wing but I never matured until it was a bit too late for me to turn professional at Spurs I think. However, looking back I think I did a lot more than any of the other boys that were at Tottenham at that time.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Peter: Graeme Souness was one and another was Jimmy Neighbour, but Steve Perryman was never helpful. He was a nice fellow but I can’t remember him ever saying well done to me or anything like that, we just got on with it. He was a serious type of player. Both Jimmy Neighbour and Barry Daines were quite nice fellows and so was Terry Lee who sadly passed away. Other than that our youth team manager Pat Welton was a nice man who was also encouraging.
During your time in the youth set up at Spurs you would have played regularly with the likes of future first team players such as Barry Daines and Jimmy Neighbour. What was that youth team that we had during the late 1960’s like to play in?
Peter: They were unbeatable, I know I was in the second side when they won the South Eastern Counties League but it was special to be a part of and it was an honour to play with those players. The sad thing is that I never made it and that still bites me a bit now but there’s nothing I can do about it. If I’d have had a bit more inner strength in them days and a bit of help then things could have been different.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout within your memory?
Peter: Winning the SECL was a fond memory as was being promoted into the division one side with the likes of Souness, Perryman, Daines, Terry Lee, Ray Clarke and Les Charker. Also training with the first team when I was in the reserves and training with the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Alan Gilzean.
What if you could only pick one memory?
Peter: Probably winning the South Eastern counties league but another highlight was playing with Graeme Souness.
What was the coaching like for the Spurs youth players in your days?
Peter: It was very simple to be truthful it was nothing elaborate, they just used to let you get on with it. You used to have a game and then do some short and sharp drills to keep your fitness levels up. There was never anything really technical and that was the case for every club that I was at, I taught myself everything. I played for Spurs and it was an honour to do so and we were looked after as well. Bill Nicholson was a nice fellow and it was a privilege to meet him on a couple of occasions but he was a very quiet man.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Peter: There were two things, first the tour of Japan and South Korea as a 22 year old playing for a Great Britain select side in front of massive crowds. However, the highlight was playing in the FA cup fourth round for Leatherhead against Leicester City. We were 2-0 up against Leicester with 20 minutes to go but we lost 3-2 because we’d ran out of steam, but it was a great honour because not many people get to play in the fourth round of the FA cup for a non league team.
What was it like to brush shoulders with the many great first team players that Spurs had at the time and what were they like to speak to and be around?
Peter: They were all very funny people, you had John Pratt who was a lovely man and then you had players who didn’t have much time for you. I remember playing in a game for the reserves against the first team and Joe Kinnear was marking me and it was impossible to get around him and that’s when it made me realise that these players make it look easy.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Peter: After Eddie Baily sacked me I ended up going to Chelsea but I never wanted to leave Spurs because they were good to me. After leaving Chelsea I played for the likes of Wycombe, Millwall, Leatherhead and Enfield.
You spent time at Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea at youth team and reserve level. Were there many differences between the three clubs in your opinion?
Peter: Well I think that Spurs did more for me then any of the other two clubs even though Chelsea had promised they were going to to sign me, but there were a lot of differences between the three clubs. I can remember playing for Chelsea and scoring a hat-trick against Spurs with Eddie Baily standing on the sidelines and I was very happy with myself.
Who was the toughest fullback that you ever came up against?
Peter: It was a bloke who I played football with at Enfield called Phil Fry, he’d give you a punch in the face if the referee wasn’t looking but when I used to play with him he used to look after me. Another one was Ray Evans who used to play at Spurs and he was a good fullback.
What style of football did the youth team coaches have Spurs playing during your time at the club?
Peter: Honestly Lennon I can’t remember anything except that everybody used to play 4-4-2!
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Peter: I always thought that I got on well with Jimmy Neighbour, he was a pleasant man who was easy to talk to and he always had a smile on his face. Graeme Souness was also nice to me along with Ray Evans.
After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and do you ever wish you’d have done anything differently?
Peter: I wish I’d have been more professional and worked harder and kept my gob shut, I might have made it then. I needed to have more inner strength but at the end of the day I enjoyed myself at Spurs and I thank them for giving me the opportunity.
Who was the greatest player that you ever had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Peter: It has to be Graeme Souness.
Finally are there any words you’d like to say about your former teammate Roy Woollcott who sadly passed away recently?
Peter: He was a lovely bloke who I remember working with outside of football and making his first team debut for Spurs against Ipswich.