My interview with former Spurs man Aled Owen:
Welshman Aled Watcyn Owen formerly of Bangor City joined Tottenham Hotspur as a professional in 1953. The Anglesey born outside left would go onto spend five years at the ‘ Lilywhites ‘ before going onto join Alf Ramsey’s Ipswich Town in 1958. Signed by the legendary Arthur Rowe, Owen would spend the majority of his time at Spurs in the old A team although he would go onto make one solitary competitive appearance for the Spurs first team. That came in a 6-2 league defeat to Preston North End in the April of 1954. The outside left played for Spurs during one of the most fascinating periods in the clubs history, and in many ways he played in a bygone era, and he is one of very few Spurs players remaining from the mid 1950’s along with his brother in law and former Spurs wing half Ernie Walley. I traveled up to Bangor to interview Aled about his fascinating time at the club during the 1950’s. From his arrival in London as a young man to his departure from Spurs as an experienced footballer, we had a fascinating chat and I was thoroughly appreciative for the time in which Aled gave me.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Aled: I played for the local team in my village in the beginning when I was very young, then I went to work in a factory, Saunders Row it was called and that’s where I started as an apprentice. During dinner time we got to play football for about 20 minutes a day. I went from doing that to becoming a full time professional with Bangor City after going on a trial which I must have done well at because I was signed as a part time professional, so that’s the way it started for me in football. I was with Bangor roughly for about two and a half years as an amateur. At the beginning of a particular season we had a blues versus reds match and on that day there happened to be a scout from Tottenham called Muldwin Roberts who was in the stands. During the game he asked the people in the stands if they knew who I was (most of the people in the stands were my work mates) and they told me the news on the following Monday morning and I was informed to go and see Roberts in Caernarfon if I wanted to go for a trial with Tottenham. Hearing that as a 17 year old I was over the moon! My father took me in his lorry to Caernarfon to see the man and he then arranged for me to come to Tottenham for ten days when Arthur Rowe was the manager. The first game I had at Spurs I didn’t know where an earth I was because I’d never been anywhere before! I played on the Saturday and it happened to be against Arsenal reserves in Tottenham, and obviously I had never played at that level before. I thought I didn’t do too bad although they didn’t say too much to me after the game. A few days later I had another game at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea reserves, I played the whole game and I scored the winning goal so I enjoyed it very much to say the least. The day after the manager called me in and said well we’re quite pleased with what we’ve seen from your two games and we’d like to sign you. It was a big decision for me to make! What happened then was Jimmy Anderson came all the way from London like you did today to see my mother and father in Brynteg, Anglesey to have a chat with them but they didn’t have a clue about football and they just went with what I wanted to do.
I signed professional forms and I was offered if I remember right 13 pounds a week so I went from earning three pound a week to 13, which was a lot of money for a 17 year old. The first day I went to London I met Ernie Walley at Euston station and he was able to get me to stay with him and help me settle in.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Aled: I played my first season mainly in the reserves where we won the London combination league during that first season. I also remember playing a game for the first team against Racing Club De Paris in a floodlit match, and I also remember playing against England amateurs. They are my earliest memories more a less.
What was it like being a young man from Bangor coming to a big city like London to play for one of the biggest clubs in European football at the time?
Aled: It was a completely different world and I was very nervous at the time. I remember shortly after I signed I was asked to go up to Edinburgh to play in a friendly against Hibernian and I didn’t even know where Edinburgh was! But I managed to get there and play my first game with the first team lads.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Aled: I was there for about four or five years and I enjoyed it very much, the Spurs lads were good. We had a great side with Alf Ramsay at fullback (who I would later go onto play under) and Charlie Withers, as well as Harry Clarke. It was also good because I met my wife in London, she was following the Tottenham first team and reserves all over, so that’s how we met.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Aled: The funny thing was when I was at home I used to pretend I was Tom Finney and my one competitive game for Spurs was against Preston. Johnny Brookes was playing inside me that day but he never gave me the ball and the Preston fullback who was marking me said to Johnny that he should have given me the ball! Sadly Tom Finney didn’t play that game for Preston which was a shame for me because he was one of my heroes.
You made your one and only competitive first team appearance for Spurs in a 6-2 league defeat to Preston North End in 1954. What are your memories of that day and how it came about?
Aled: I gave my best but the team wasn’t very good at the time and they weren’t on their best that day which was a big handicap for me, and we lost 6-2 which was a shame.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in for Spurs during your time there?
Aled: I played a lot on the right wing especially for Ipswich. The players today are very fast and I felt that I had the speed and was very quick off the mark
What was it like to play with legendary Spurs players such as Sonny Walters, Len Duquemin and Bill Nicholson ?
Aled: They were very good and we played with each other in training. They were lovely lads like Harry Clarke and Sonny Walters.
What was Bill Nicholson like as a player?
Aled: He was a tough tackler and he was very committed and strong when he was in the game. However, I’m not too sure whether or not he would have been able to play in today’s game because the players are so much fitter now.
What was the great Arthur Rowe like as a manager?
Aled: He fell ill soon after I came and to be honest with you I didn’t have a lot of contact with him. I had more contact with Jimmy Anderson who took over after Rowe.
What was Jimmy Anderson like as a manager?
Aled: Greatest respects to him but he didn’t know the game very well because he was a trainer not a coach. When you listen to coaches too much you can lose you’re confidence and ability as a young player.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Aled: To be honest I don’t think anybody influenced me even though there were so many different types of players at Spurs, at that time.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Aled: No I don’t think so. When I was young I used to watch Tom Finney on television now and again and I used to like to watch those types of players but nothing else really.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout within your memory?
Aled: There’s not a lot really. The only ones that really standout are the friendly against Racing Club De Paris and the match against Preston. My career was disrupted because I had to go into the forces for national service so that spoilt my time at Tottenham. Although I ended up in a good sports camp in the army which included the boxer Henry Cooper. I was allowed to come back to spurs to play games on a Saturday by my commander.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Aled: My greatest time was when we paraded the champions cup outside the big town hall in Ipswich. That’s the greatest time, it really was wonderful.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Aled: It’s because I wasn’t needed there at the time so I thought to myself what’s the point of me waiting around. I knew I had the chance to go and it just happened that Alf Ramsey came onto me a couple of weeks after and that turned out to be very satisfactory for me.
Who was the toughest fullback that you ever came up against?
Aled: I can’t really remember any single player because they were all the same back then.
After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?
Aled: Yes and I am very excited about us beating Liverpool in the European cup final! And I’ll definitely be supporting Tottenham because I have fond memories there.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to during your time there?
Aled: Of course I was close to Ernie Walley, but I was also close to a player called Johnny Lovell who was from Weston Super Mare. After training I used to play snooker with him.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to make it in the game?
Aled: I would say that number one looking back on what I was doing I shouldn’t have forgotten about my own ability. I know back then at Tottenham they had one style of play but I felt that I had something and I started to lose my own ability because the trainers would drum things into me. Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha who every club is after at the moment because of his exceptional ability, but what would he be like if somebody tried to take that out of him? So I’d say to the young players of today to use your ability within the teamwork.