My interview with former Spurs player Glen Alzapiedi:
In the latest in my series of interviews with former Spurs youth team players from the 1980’s I caught up with tough tackling midfielder Glen Alzapiedi, to talk about his time as a youth player at Spurs during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Alzapiedi who is now the assistant manager at St Albans, played in a richly talented Spurs youth team before going onto depart for Birmingham City and later Stevenage amongst other clubs, after doing the knowledge and becoming a London black taxi driver. Alzapieidi would also turn his hand to coaching where he coached the likes of Ware Town and Concord Rangers. I had the great pleasure of talking to Glen about his time at the ‘ Lilywhites ‘ more than 40 years ago. Glen (pictured in the centre above) might just be the only ever Spurs player to wear an Arsenal shirt to training!
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?
Glen: The earliest memories I’ve got are getting an invite to go up to Tottenham to train. I’d been playing for Abbey youth under 12’s and Mike Varney (the Spurs physio) did a presentation evening for us and I suppose I got recommended to him, and that set the wheels in motion. So that’s how I got to train at Tottenham.
How did you come about joining the club?
Glen: Well the previous answer sort of tells that. I got the invite to go and train at Spurs and I must of impressed during the training and in the games that I played, so I got invited to train there every Tuesday and Thursday I think it was.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Glen: The first couple of seasons I was there I think I did quite well although I did spend practically a whole season out injured around the age of 14 going onto 15. Then the last season I was there I played a lot of football but ultimately I got released, so most of the time there was good.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Glen: My favourite player was Liam Brady who was at Arsenal so there weren’t any Tottenham players I’m afraid!
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in for Spurs during your time there?
Glen: I was a central midfield player who was very tenacious and an aggressive tackler and in all honesty that was my main strength. I was reasonably good at everything else but my outstanding strength was obviously my tackling.
What was it like to brush shoulders with some of the legendary players that were around at Spurs at the time?
Glen: I only ever had contact with first team players at Tottenham once and that was in pre-season just before I turned 16 in 1980. I went in for two or three weeks during the summer holidays and trained and I remember the warm up was with the first team players. I can remember Glen Hoddle and I can also remember Terry Naylor as well as Chris Hughton and Graham Roberts. I had contact with Roberts once or twice because I had an injury playing for my school and I was treated by Mike Varney, and Graham was getting treated at the same time as me. I can also remember Terry Yorath saying to me who are you and I replied with my name and then he said again who are you, rather flippantly for a 15 year old boy. But like I said I was an Arsenal fan so I wasn’t star struck by Tottenham players.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Glen: Well to be honest with you I thought that I was really treated well at Tottenham by the coaches there such as Robbie Stepney and Peter Shreeves. And in particular by a coach called Dave Lister who was very supportive of me during a difficult time for me, because I had real problems off the field in my personal life. However, I can’t complain about how I was treated by Tottenham.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Glen: Only youth team players really and the players who played in the same position as me who I had contact with were Allan Cockram and Ian Crook. And I can remember Ian Crook used to play a lot of one touch football which impressed me and I tried to improve my game in that way, but they were both very technical players whereas I was a rat who got around the pitch and kicked people. I suppose in terms of who I tried to aspire to be it would have been someone who was an out and out defensive midfield player. There was no one I ever tried to model my game on, I just tried to improve my game and with all the things that were going wrong for me at the time it was difficult.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time at Spurs or ones which particularly standout within your memory?
Glen: Well in terms of playing experiences I can remember playing at White Hart Lane in the league cup semi final against Swindon in the second leg. The stadium was empty but it did seem huge and I enjoyed playing there. I can also remember scoring a few goals for Tottenham such as scoring against West Ham that season in a 1-0 win, I think that George Parish was marking me on that day. Most of the time at Tottenham I enjoyed but I practically had a whole season where I was out when I needed to get treatment. And in the last season I had a strong start to the season and a poor second half to the season and ultimately I didn’t get an apprenticeship because of that. Basically what happened during my second last year of school my mum had died at the beginning of the year so by the time I got to my last year at school my life had unravelled. She had been the discipline in the family and held everything together and I subsequently became a bit of a loose cannon at school. I became ill disciplined and that carried over into my football because I became petulant and over aggressive, and although the coaches at Tottenham did their best to try and reign me in and help me, I didn’t listen to anyone at that time. And during the second half of the season things just went from week to week, worse to worse and my attitude was absolutely awful and it cost me an apprenticeship there. So it wasn’t a good time for me in my last year but I can’t blame Tottenham for any of that because they did their best for me. It was purely down to attitude and there have been better players than me who didn’t make it because of poor attitude. So it’s one of those things and I accept that, and it’s not something that I hold any grudges about.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Glen: As a coach the best moment I had was helping Concord Rangers get promoted to the National League South along with Danny Cowley (now of Lincoln), because they were such a small club. Another great moment was getting Ware Town to the first round proper of the FA Cup so that was really good as well. As a player I had a really bittersweet experience at Stevenage Borough where I helped the club get promoted to the national conference. However, I snapped my cruciate ligaments a couple of months before the end of the season and that was that really. I regret not getting the chance to play in the conference for Stevenage because by the time I’d got to my late 20’s my attitude had changed and I had become a much more effective and professional player than I had been throughout my younger years. For three years I didn’t really play because at the age of 19 when I didn’t get a contract anywhere I finished playing for three years and did the knowledge, and it was only friends dragging me back into semi professional football that got me involved and I’ve been involved ever since as a player, coach and as a manager.
Who was the greatest player that you had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Glen: When I was at Birmingham City as an apprentice I played in training games against the first team. And the first team then had Frankie Worthington and Archie Gemmill playing for them so I would have to say Archie Gemmill who I ended up cleaning his boots. He was an excellent player who really stands out as a star for me.
Did you play abroad at any youth tournaments for Spurs and if so what was that experience like for you?
Glen: No but I can remember playing against foreign teams for Spurs but I can’t remember going abroad with Tottenham.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Glen: In all honesty there’s two and there for totally different reasons. I played for Birmingham City’s youth team against Nottingham Forest’s youth team and their player manager at the time was a man called Liam O’Kane who was an Irish international. I was marking him and I never got a kick because he was playing one touch football all around me all day and I couldn’t get near him even though I was a 17 year old boy full of running and he was well in his 30’s. I also played against Paul Allen for Birmingham City when he was at West Ham and I had a bit of a running battle with him. But the hardest player I played against was in non league football and his name was Paul Hobbs and he played for Hemel Hempstead. He was as hard as nails and we just spent the whole game kicking lumps out of each other, but I respected him because he didn’t give me any verbal. So he was my toughest opponent.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Glen: Robert Brace was a friend of mine who stayed at Tottenham and got an apprenticeship for them. We were very close and I was also close with Gary Rudkin who joined us from Crystal Palace and he was my best mate but he sadly past away a long while ago, but they were the players who I was closest to.
As a coach what would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Glen: Work hard, listen to your coaches then go and work even harder!
Could you tell me about the time you wore an Arsenal shirt to training?
Glen: Well when we used to train on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the training ground behind the West stand. I can remember Ron Henry taking training once (the former left back in the double winning season) and I had an Arsenal away shirt on. Ron said to me what are you doing wearing that shirt and I said what do you mean. And he replied by saying you can’t wear this shirt here and I said I can wear it because I’m an Arsenal fan, anyway he said that I don’t think you should wear it here and I had a big smug grin on my face. However, I cannot remember Ron Henry speaking to me at all after that!
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?
Glen: Like I said I enjoyed most of my time at Tottenham and the fact that I failed to progress there was down to me not them. However, I cannot say that I hold them close to my heart because I am an Arsenal fan but I do have a healthy respect for the achievements of Tottenham and how the present coach is managing them. Any team that gets to the Champions league final is a good team coached by a good manager and I acknowledge that with gritted teeth.