My interview with former Spurs youth player Aron Sharpe:
Aron Sharpe (pictured above on the far left) was a flashy midfielder who although he would never make the grade at the Lilywhites, would go onto enjoy a fine career in the game. The current chairman of non league club Wingate and Finchley who spent six months as a youth player at Spurs in the early 1980’s kindly agreed to doing an interview with me about his time at the club.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Aron: My earliest footballing memory was my first competitive game playing for the cub scouts on a pitch which is now Finchley power league on the north circular. And then playing in the Regent’s Park league where I can distinctly remember playing against John Barnes.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Aron: I was invited for trials in Derby by a guy called Jimmy Burton who was Dave Mackay’s partner, and I didn’t even know where Derby was so I told them I wasn’t interested in going up there, but because of his connections with Mackay at Tottenham he invited me to go there. My first recollection there was going inside the ground (White Hart Lane) and feeling very apprehensive and nervous and if I can remember correctly there were two floors of football pitches and I can remember walking in and thinking bloody hell there all massive and I asked the question to Ron Henry who was one of the youth coaches whether this was my age group and he said yes. My other memories of that particular night are Keith Burkinshaw coming in and pointing at me, asking if I’ve got any ability, Peter Shreeves taking a session, and the other thing I remember was my first game which I think was against Hornchurch in a friendly.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Aron: My biggest memory was how difficult it was particularly the fitness levels, I can remember my father picking me up and I was just so exhausted that I wasn’t able to walk for a couple of days after. My biggest memory of it which I don’t know if it’s pleasant or unpleasant was doing shuttle runs where you jogged across the pitch and then had to sprint down the side of the pitch at White Hart Lane. However, it was the first professional football club that I went into and it was a huge honour as somebody who supports the club. Another memory is traveling home and meeting two of my friends in Wood Green who were British schoolboy boxing champions. Overall it was a happy time and a fantastic time but I just wasn’t at that level and that’s the reality but it was an interesting time. I had a lot of technical ability but I hated training!
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Aron: All Spurs players. I actually started as a goalkeeper so my superhero was Pat Jennings, always was and always will be. Then there was three or four midfield players as I was a flashy, creative midfield player. Alfie Conn and Neil McNab I loved in the early 1970’s, while Micky Hazard and Glen Hoddle were on another planet. Those players never got the recognition that they needed. I always liked that creative midfielder who was capable of changing a game with a pass.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in for Spurs during your time there?
Aron: I was a central midfield player who usually got pushed out to the right because I had a lot of technical ability and vision however, I was a slight player so the physical side of my game was practically non existent if I’m honest with you. The biggest criticism of me while I was at Spurs and when I went to Luton was stamina however, I was lazy at recovering and two things I learnt as I got older as I went into the retail sector are that work rate and endeavour are two of the most important principles of being a football player and I lacked them in abundance.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Aron: That’s a tricky question. I went to one of the top grammar schools in the country and it was very difficult for me because my PE teacher was a funny guy who wasn’t supportive of what I was doing, nor were the school. So I had to play for the school rather than the football club. I actually sit on the Football Association and I’m quite heavily involved in youth development and so since the academy system came in school couldn’t really interfere with you. So for me the biggest influence on my football career was a guy called Roy Dunn who was a chief scout for Watford, he found Lloyd Doyley and other players like that. But this was just after Spurs really and at Spurs it was a little bit stand offish and you had to work your way into the circle so there was no one who really influenced me there which is the truth.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Aron: I remember playing with one of the best players I’d ever seen and Johnny Moncur although he was two or three years younger than me was on a different level because he was just naturally brilliant and I expected him to be an England international football player.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Aron: My honest opinion as a Tottenham fan it was walking into the ground to train for the first time and possibly also my first appearance for them. It was a surreal experience to put the Spurs shirt on.
Who was the greatest player that you had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Aron: Neil Webb, Gary McAllister and Graham Roberts are all names which come into my head but the most talented one of all was Gary McAllister.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the Tottenham youth team?
Aron: What I do remember about them (the matches) was the sheer difference from stepping up from one level to another, and the pace and the physicality of game. It was fantastic pulling on the shirt but the reality for me was the purpose, was I good enough to play at that level? For the games that I did play for Spurs I was trying to get used to the pace so there wasn’t an awful lot of time to enjoy it.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Aron: I wasn’t getting picked and I wasn’t playing so I sort of just fell away even though Spurs didn’t release me. I was offered the opportunity to go to Luton Town and I sort of just jumped ship for want of a better word because I wasn’t getting a look in. I didn’t realise what opportunity I had at Spurs and I’m not sure that I took it that seriously. I just wasn’t as determined or as fit as the other boys who were there.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Aron: I didn’t play against him but Glen Alzapiedi was a really really tough boy however, the toughest boy was a boy from our age called Dougie McClure who ended up being the England schoolboys captain, and he was like playing against a man.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Aron: No not really, you lose contact with most of them and in those days the majority of the boys were from a little group called Enfield Rangers who were the top club at the time, I came from Finchley so all of my pals were at QPR. And I wasn’t there long enough to get involved in a camaraderie situation.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Aron: Attitude and understanding it. I tell all of my youngsters and the boys that I’ve coached over the years that it took me until I was 35-40 years of age until I understood what attitude was. So you need to understand what attitude is and you need to make sure that all facets of your game are in place. If you’re abilities there and you happen to have all of those other facets then there is no reason why you can’t break through. When the opportunities there make sure that you grasp it.
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?
Aron: Listen I’ve supported Spurs since I was a young man, I used to walk there on my own at seven years of age and watch the games. The interesting thing was watching last seasons Champions league final when I’m telling my kid to turn the television off because we’ve got no chance of winning so there you go! I’ve seen all ends of it but retrospectively I made a lot of stupid mistakes as a youngster and I was possibly too immature to understand the opportunity that I had there at Spurs to really get my head down and show some determination and there are huge regrets.