My interview with former Spurs player Peter Corder:
Former Spurs player Peter Corder operated as a goalkeeper during his time at the Lilywhites in the early and mid 1980’s. The goalkeeper from County Essex spent a number of years at Spurs, and after progressing through the youth team set up that we had at the time he went onto play for our talented reserve team. I recently caught up with Peter to discuss his time at the Lilywhites who after leaving Spurs went onto play for Peterborough United and Nuneaton Borough. It was both a pleasure and a privilege to interview Peter and I’d like to thank him for his time.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Peter: My earliest ever footballing memory is probably watching the 1975 FA Cup final between West Ham and Fulham for some reason, as it just sticks in my mind. So I remember watching that and then on the 15th of November that year (this is probably what made me want to play in goal) in 1975 I went along to see Tottenham play Stoke City in the old first division. I went with my dad, three brothers, cousin Paul and his dad my uncle Brian. You had in goal one end Peter Shilton and you had in goal the other end Pat Jennings, so I was watching two of the best goalkeepers to have ever played the game, in that my first ever league game that I ever watched, and from that moment onwards I was obsessed with goalkeeping. So they were probably my earliest footballing memories.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Peter: I actually played in a game for Basildon schools against Harlow schools and in the Harlow schools team was John Moncur junior and Carl Hoddle, and I just had one of those games as a goalkeeper where I think the game finished two each and they battered us to be fair. However, I’d just played really well and John Moncur juniors father who was John Moncur Senior was chief scout at Tottenham at the time. Then funnily enough two weeks later we played John Moncur’s school and I just happened to have a really good game, and from that I got invited to trials at Cheshunt. So on either the 22nd of December 1980 or 1981 was my first experience of being at Spurs and what makes it so vivid was that during the trial there were three pitches at Cheshunt. There was a trial on the middle pitch which I was playing on and I also think that there was also a trial on the top pitch that the first team used to train on, and it was hailing a blizzard. There was a snow storm going on during these games which makes it just so vivid, so that’s my first memory of being at Tottenham. Then from that I eventually signed schoolboy forms and then played games on a Sunday initially and then when I was 15 I started playing games for the under 16’s in the Southeast Counties League. However, my first real memory was that trial at Cheshunt in the snowstorm.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Peter: I loved it as I was a Spurs supporter and my whole family are Spurs supporters. I was actually lucky enough to have a choice of clubs that I was asked to go on trial at or sign schoolboy forms, one of them was Arsenal which was never going to happen in a million years however, I loved being at Spurs from the time I was there as a schoolboy to the time that I left, I was there in the crowd watching the 1984 UEFA Cup final and yeah it was just fantastic. Ray Clemence was first team goalkeeper and an absolute legend anyway, and in my opinion a far better keeper than Peter Shilton was. Tony Parks was the reserve team goalkeeper and then there was myself, so to have those two in front of me and to learn off them was a fantastic experience. Being at Spurs was just brilliant all round and I just thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I was devastated when I left, but these things happen in football.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Peter: Ray Clemence was one especially when he was at Liverpool, also there’s obviously Pat Jennings who is a legend at Spurs and my first memories of watching Spurs were with him in goal. Obviously then Pat moved up the road and so you had Barry Daines, Mark Kendall and Milija Aleksic and obviously my interests were goalkeeping so I always watched them. Other keepers that stood out for me at that time such as Jimmy Rimmer and Joe Corrigan who people looked up to. However, the two that I really looked up to were the ones who played for Tottenham, Pat Jennings and Ray Clemence.
Could you describe to me what type of goalkeeper you were at Spurs during your time there?
Peter: Obviously not the best one as I’d have probably made a career of it there however, I tried to model myself on Ray Clemence. I think that my strengths as a keeper were shot stopping and one on ones which were definitely my strengths, I’d also like to think that I trained hard. I’ve always found it difficult to talk about myself but I would say as a keeper was I confident? Probably not in my own ability and I never felt that I deserved to be at the club and so I probably spent three years wandering around the club thinking should I be here, why I am I here and am I good enough to be here. So that probably didn’t help my cause but if your looking for what type of keeper I was, I tried to model myself on Clemence but shot stopping and definitely one on ones were my strengths.
How difficult was it for a young Spurs player like yourself to break into the first team back in the 1980’s?
Peter: You just had to look at who was in the first team at the time, you had Hoddle and Ardiles, Micky Hazard and Ian Crook who went onto have a fantastic career at Norwich City. The midfield talent at the time was ridiculous and if your looking for proper footballers Tottenham would have been embarrassed with what they had there at the time. You just had so many gifted players at Spurs at that time and as a goalkeeper to have Ray Clemence to watch train and try and learn from was just incredible really, so it was tough. After I left the club a number of players did go onto do really well at Spurs such as David Howells and Vinny Samways who are the two that really stand out but it was really hard during my time as Spurs had a really strong squad which went from the first team right through to the reserves, so to try and break into that as a youth player was tough. I can actually remember playing in a reserve game at Cheshunt once and the two central midfielders were Ossie Ardiles and Glen Hoddle which was just ridiculous. My biggest memory from that game was only kicking the ball out of my hand twice as Glen Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles would just run up to me and say drop the ball, and I’d drop the ball and they’d be gone. In another reserve game that I played in you had Danny Thomas at right back, Chris Hughton at left back and Gary Mabbutt as one of the defenders, and then I think you had Garth Crooks and Alan Brazil up front so it was just lunacy.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Peter: Going back to Ray Clemence for goalkeeping, Robbie Stepney god rest his soul, his training sessions were legendary fitness wise and he was a big influence and he did make me believe in my own ability but he was there only for a year as he left with Keith Burkinshaw to go off to Bahrain I think it was. John Pratt then took over the youth team and then Keith Blunt who is another one who is no longer with us. So all of them had big influences on me during my time at Spurs but I think probably Robbie Stepney from the point of view that he was always very positive to me and Ray Clemence as well with the training, so probably those two stand out for me.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Peter: Being a keeper it’s really difficult because you are limited to who you can watch but yeah Ray Clemence in the first team and Tony Parks in the reserves because they were professional players, and you don’t play in the first team at Tottenham unless your good enough to play for the first team at Tottenham. So those two players were the ones that I would watch closely because there were only three keepers there at the time, whereas nowadays clubs have probably got what six keepers. So you were limited on who you could watch but for me at that time I couldn’t have had any better goalkeepers to watch and try and learn from.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Peter: After my apprenticeship I had a one year pro and then I got offered a second year pro which in those days you took. There were a few factors that may have worked against me towards the end of my time at Spurs, one of them I probably have to hold my hand up and say that I wasn’t good enough. However, my second year pro contract was signed on the basis that Tottenham had qualified for Europe again and I was going to share reserve team duties around UEFA Cup games with Tony Parks, so I would have got reserve games. However, the Heysel stadium disaster happened and we got kicked out of Europe, so suddenly those games that I was going to play in weren’t there and then another thing that happened was Pat Jennings came back to the game to prepare for the 1986 World Cup finals. So suddenly I fell down the pecking order again, so you had Ray Clemence, Tony Parks, Pat Jennings who during my time at the club to watch train even at the age of 39/40 was just a completely incredible experience, but him being there didn’t do me any favours. So I needed to play football so I requested to go on the transfer list so I had a couple of loan spells, I got loaned out at Colchester for a month but never played because I was understudy to Alec Chamberlain who obviously went onto have a decent career at Arsenal and Watford. So I went back to Spurs and I ended up coming up to Peterborough United on loan and played a couple of first team games again which ended up turning out to be traumatic. I played my first game in October 1985 and I played my first game against Cambridge United on the Saturday, completely oblivious that it was there local derby. I didn’t even know where Peterborough was!
So I played on the Saturday against Cambridge United in a local derby and it was coming up to November so near to fireworks night, and yet I couldn’t understand why Cambridge United supporters were throwing bangers at me on the pitch. We ended up getting beat 3-1 but I had a decent game and I was really pleased with my own performance, and then Tuesday night happened where we played Tranmere Rovers away. Tranmere Rovers had the legendary Frank Worthington managing them as player manager and so we’ve gone in at halftime 1-0 down, and to be fair we did ok. Anyway in the second half we got beat 7-0 and I had three own goals put past me, it was just absolute madness. So again that didn’t do my professional career any favours and so I went back to Spurs where I was still contracted at until the summer of 1986, but whilst I was at Peterborough the assistant manager was a chap called Jimmy Holmes who used to play for Spurs and he was a really nice guy. He’d left Peterborough and become manager of Nuneaton Borough and they used to be in the Gola League which is now the National League. So he contacted me saying do you want to sign for us as at least you’ll be playing, and so I did. So I went off to Nuneaton to play and I played the remainder of that season, and when I signed for them they were bottom but in the end we managed to finish fifth from bottom and stay up, I’m not saying it had anything to do with me but we did manage to turn the season around. Football is full of could of beens and two weeks after I signed for Nuneaton the Peterborough keeper broke his leg and Peterborough had gone back to Tottenham and wanted to sign me permanently, but I’d already gone to Nuneaton. So I left Tottenham to go to Nuneaton unaware that I could have signed for Peterborough as I only found out later, but that’s why I left Spurs.
If I’m not mistaken after you stopped playing you became a physiotherapist?
Peter: Yes I did. After leaving Nuneaton after about 18 months I went on a trial at Coventry City who were then in the first division and I’d done really well and was sat in the managers contract having agreed a two year contract, when Nuneaton decided to increase the transfer fee ten fold because they’d gone into financial problems. And so the deal fell through but looking back on it they beat Spurs in the 1987 FA Cup final, so I would of been sat on he bench suited and booted. However, it didn’t happen but it was just one of those situations that might have happened. At school I either wanted to be a professional footballer or a physiotherapist so I always knew what I wanted to be but the first qualification that came was sports massage and so I gained that qualification and started working at Peterborough United with Paul Showler who is a friend of mine now, and they wanted some help. So they brought me in to do some sports massage and so I started doing match day sports massage, and then I gained the FA qualification in sports therapy, and then they took me on full time. So I worked at Peterborough United between 1999 and 2003 and in that time I was lucky enough to have been on the back room staff when Peterborough played Darlington at Wembley in the League Two play off final. Which we won 1-0 and got promoted so that was a really good experience, and then in 2003 Peterborough got taken over and I was doing the youth and reserves as a sports therapist, but the club ended up shutting down the whole youth policy.
So I ended up leaving the club because of that because I was no longer needed and so that was my incentive to go off and do my degree, so in 2007 part time while working in the NHS and working at Cambridge City as their sports therapist with a guy called Gary Roberts who used to play for Brentford and what a character he was, I did my degree. So I qualified in 2007 and worked in the NHS as a physio and then in 2010 I went back to Peterborough as first team physio up until 2012. Then after that I concentrated on my private clinic which I still run now in Peterborough, so that pretty much brings you up to date with where I am now.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Peter: As a player it would have to be playing in the Southeast Counties League Cup final in 1985 beating Arsenal over a two leg final 5-3. We won 3-2 at Arsenal and we then beat Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane, so it would have to be that. The Arsenal side then had Tony Adams, Michael Thomas, Merson and Niall Quinn so they were a decent side and the nicest part of winning the cup was winning the second game at White Hart Lane, so to raise the trophy there was something else. So professionally there was that, I also had England under 16 trials but that didn’t come to anything, but my biggest highlight was definitely winning the Southeast Counties League Cup final and beating Arsenal 5-3 over two games.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Peter: For outfield players I’ve got to throw in Glen Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and I once played a half a game against George Best, so I’d have to put those three in.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the Tottenham youth team and reserves?
Peter: Not all of them are positive actually, in the first season we were there I think that we finished third bottom in the Southeast Counties League Divison One, and then we got beat 10-1 and 9-2 by Arsenal but they stick in my mind because in the following season we completely turned it around and finished third and beat Arsenal both times, and beat Arsenal twice in the Southeast Counties League Cup final. I can also remember playing in the semifinal I think of the Southeast Counties Cup and we played at Fratton Park, and we drew 1-1 and I had a decent game but there was one save that I made where there was no way that I thought that I was going to get it. However, I just put my arm up at the last minute and managed to tip the ball over the bar, but if my memory serves me right I think that we had a player sent off and we then managed to hold on for a draw before then beating them at home, so that always sticks in my mind. There was another youth game when I was 15 and I played in the under 18’s game at London Colney where we played against Arsenal. And we had players playing then like Richard Cooke and Ian Culverhouse and we won 1-0 , so for me playing as a 15 year old keeper in that game and winning 1-0 against them up the road was something that sticks in mind as well. The games that stick in my mind for the reserves was making my debut in the reserves playing at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace when we won 7-1 and also a couple of other games which stick in my mind were one against Watford. Because the side we had out was ridiculous and it was just such a strong squad and we won that one 4-1, and then in another game at the Old Den we played Millwall and beat them 3-0 and I made two of my best saves against Teddy Sheringham, so they really stick in my mind as really good memories. Football is all about bad memories and good memories but combined they are probably the ones that stick in my mind.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Peter: That’s easy and that’s Niall Quinn because he was so tall and you’d be trying to take a cross and his boot be up around your ear or something like that. Kevin Russell of Portsmouth was another one because he absolutely smashed me in a game once and I’ll never forget that however, Niall Quinn was the probably the most difficult and awkward player to play against as a keeper.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to during your time there?
Peter: Although we all got on pretty well there wasn’t one really as I was always a private person and I like to keep myself to myself and I wouldn’t say that I made any great buddies or anything like that. I’m friends on Facebook with some of the guys that I used to play with, but yeah I didn’t fall out with anyone at Spurs or anything like that. So amongst the team I was probably the quietest player in the squad.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Peter: You’ve got to work hard and I know that it sounds ridiculous but you’ve got to work hard and stay focused on what you want to achieve. If your in the youth team at Spurs and not wanting to achieve first team football which unfortunately I never did at Tottenham then you shouldn’t be there. So your focus should be train hard and believe in yourself as well, but don’t be arrogant with it, but do believe in your own abilities because you wouldn’t be at a club like Tottenham Hotspur if you weren’t good enough. To represent a team of that stature in a youth team is something else and it is something that I am proud of, but for players today it’s very different and I know that it’s very different today because you’ve got players who don’t even make their debuts until they are 21/22. So football especially the Premiership is a completely different world these days however, my advice would be to train hard, believe in your own ability and be focused on what you want to achieve.
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?
Peter: Absolutely, whenever they are on the telly I watch them and I always will do. From that first game that I watched in 1975 to 1986 that is my era, but yeah I’m a big supporter.