My interview with former Spurs player Andy Reid:
Skilful midfielder Andy Reid played for Spurs between the years 2005 to 2006. The Dublin born former player who won 29 caps for the Republic of Ireland over a ten year period, was a player who had a wand of a left foot and who was good at making key passes in games. After starting his career off at Cherry Orchard, Reid joined Nottingham Forest in 1998 where he spent seven years at before joining our beloved Spurs in the January of 2005. Reid made 26 league appearances for the Lilywhites before moving onto Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2006. He would also go onto play for the likes of Sunderland and Blackpool before returning to Nottingham Forest in 2011 who he finished off his career with. Now retired from playing, Reid coaches Nottingham Forest’s under 23 side as well as being the head coach of the Republic of Ireland’s under 18 side. I had the great pleasure of recently catching up with Andy to discuss his time at Spurs. Reid was a player who along with Robbie Keane was a player who I admired and looked up to greatly when I was a young child, and when they both played for Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Andy: There was always football in my house as a kid, my dad played semi-professional football for St Patrick’s Athletic over in Ireland so there was always football in the house. I suppose probably my earliest memories were probably going to watch him play. He used to play all over the country and we used to be there going to watch him, so I think probably going to watch my dad playing football would have been one of my earliest memories.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Andy: It had been in the pipeline for quite a while and they (Nottingham Forest and Spurs) had been trying to get the deal done for probably nearly a year before it actually got completed. It was kind of proving difficult to get over the line and Nottingham Forest were in a precarious situation in the league, but the chairman was holding out for what he wanted and what he felt was right, and obviously Daniel Levy wanted to get a good price, so it really dragged on. Then quite late on in the deal after it had been in the pipeline for about a year the club (Spurs) who really liked Michael Dawson who they had been keeping tabs on, so they decided that it might be easier to get us both in a deal rather than just getting me on my own. So it worked out really really well for everybody to get a double deal done. As for my earliest memories of my time at Spurs, I’ll always remember my debut which was really really good, we played against Portsmouth at home and I set up a goal for Robbie Keane. White Hart Lane had always been a ground that I had always seen and I’d been to watch a couple of games there but hadn’t actually played there before, so to walk out and make your debut at White Hart Lane was really really special. It still is really special in the new arena but the old one had a really special feel to it and was historic, and the pitch was always immaculate and the crowd were really close, and to cap my debut off with a win was really special.
As an Irishman were you aware of the rich history that Spurs have had with Irish players over the centuries before joining the club?
Andy: I was actually and probably part of the reason was because not long before I had signed for Tottenham Joe Kinnear had been my manager at Nottingham Forest. And he had known of the interest from Tottenham so he kind of spoke to me about it, so I was very aware of the more recent history and also having played with Robbie Keane, Stephen Carr and Stephen Kelly with Ireland all the way up so I knew that there was a big link there. Also Mark Yeates was there at the time as well and he was and still is a great lad who i still keep in touch with now. So I was fully aware of the history and the connection in the past and also the more recent connections as well.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Andy: I really enjoyed it I have to say even though I didn’t stay as long as I anticipated and maybe played as much as I would have liked. However, Spurs is and was a fantastic club and I was really honoured to play for the club and all of the people there were absolutely fantastic, and I’ve got nothing but fond memories of my time at the club. Sometimes in football things don’t go as well as you’d have hoped but I’ve only got to say nice things about Tottenham and during my time there I was looked after fantastically well. However, it just so happened that when it was my time to move on it was the right thing to do as I wasn’t getting as much playing time as I would have liked. I was at an age where I just wanted to play football and it was no reflection on the people at Spurs or the fans, or the club as a whole as I was really proud to have played for Tottenham as it’s such a fantastic club. I’m really, really pleased to see where Spurs have ended up and the scale of the club and how it has really grown and flourished over the last 15 years.
Could you talk me through your competitive debut for Spurs against Portsmouth on the fifth of February 2005?
Andy: I didn’t really expect to play even though I was fully match fit having played a lot of games for Nottingham Forest, but I was also aware that there was a lot of quality at Spurs. I think that I signed for the club on the Thursday before the game on the Saturday, so I think that I only trained one or maybe two days and I don’t think that I was expecting to play to be honest with you. However, on the Saturday when the team used to meet up for their pre-match meal at the stadium, after that we had a little meeting and Martin Jol told me that I was starting so it was brilliant, and it was a really nice way to start off and get going. However, the most important thing was that the team got the win and that’s what we managed to do.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Andy: I always loved watching football when I was really young and one of my real heroes was Maradona growing up. Watching him and watching what he was able to do and seeing what he achieved with Argentina and Napoli and just watching him play, and seeing how technically gifted he was, was brilliant. Ok he has character flaws but everybody does and I think that it makes him more human at times. So Maradona was the real kind of icon for me and the fact that he was left footed sort of led to me admiring him. Also that goal against England that he scored helped him go up in my estimations!
What was it like playing under Spurs manager Martin Jol?
Andy: I had a reasonable relationship with Martin and I thought that he was decent and done a really good job at Spurs, and was probably unlucky to lose his job when he did. I think that when I arrived at Spurs first Frank Arnesen was director of football and he did a lot of work in trying to help sign me, so I was actually quite disappointed when Frank left and went to Chelsea. Obviously it was a fantastic opportunity for him and I understand that, but for me I was quite disappointed. When he left Martin assumed a bit more control and became the manager however, a big part in helping me to come to Spurs as well was Chris Hughton obviously working with him at Ireland and having a really good relationship with him. I respected him and enjoyed working with him, so he was a big factor in me wanting to join Spurs.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Andy: Well there was a lot of players there that I looked up to and sort of kind of learned from. Ledley King was a massive influence and he is a fantastic guy and what a player he was considering the injuries that he had and how he was able to perform at the highest level every time he ran out onto the pitch. Also Michael Carrick was a fantastic player who you could look to and learn from, and also Robbie Keane who I had obviously played with for Ireland, so he was a big character. So they were probably the players who I was most impressed with and would have wanted to have played with more on the pitch. There was a lot of strikers competing for a place on the pitch at that time at Spurs, but Freddie Kanoute was fantastic and he was a great player who Spurs fans probably didn’t get to see enough of how good he was.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Andy: I don’t think you kind of sit back and watch any particular player when you’re training, but you’re always trying to pick peoples brains during conversations and asking questions and trying to learn, so it was a good environment for that as there were a lot of top players there. I definitely left Tottenham a better player than when I arrived that’s for sure.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Andy: There were a good few signings made by Spurs during the summer and so I had a chat with Martin Jol and he said that it might be difficult for me to get some game time. Ian Dowie who was manager of Charlton at the time contacted me to say that he was rebuilding kings of Charlton, and he asked me if I would be interested in having a bit more of a chat with him about it. So I said yes as long as everything could get agreed with Tottenham and if they were prepared to let me go then I would definitely be prepared to come and talk with him about it. So they managed to get a deal agreed and so I went over to speak with him, I think that when a club accepts a bid for you the writing is on the wall. As I said with you earlier all that I wanted to do at that time was play football, so to be offered the opportunity to play at Charlton was great. I really enjoyed my time at Charlton who were a family club, and I had some good times during my two years there. I then moved to Sunderland where I spent three years and I think that it was decent there and I really really enjoyed it. From there I went to Blackpool for six months when they were in the Premier League before then moving back to Nottingham Forest which was really nice, and I probably played some of my best football of my career during the second time around there, as I was more experienced and more mature, and also really enjoying my football with the club that I started off with and came through the ranks at. So it was really good to finish off my career at a club who I have a great affinity for and I look back on my career with a lot of pride.
Could you describe to me what it was like to score your fantastic long range goal for Spurs at the Lane in a 5-1 victory over Aston Villa?
Andy: It was probably the highlight of my time at Spurs and I can remember the game being early on a Sunday and it was a really nice day, and I just got a really good feeling. We played particularly well that day and I can always remember Simon Davies being excellent along with Freddie Kanoute, also Stephen Kelly got a goal at the end. And I also managed to get my only goal for Spurs, which if you’re only going to score one goal it wasn’t a bad one to score! I can remember picking up the ball in Aston Villa’s half and driving forward and nobody came to close me down and so I just remember having a go and connecting really sweetly with it and it hit the crossbar and went in. So that’s something that I’m really proud of.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Andy: I think that some of the highlights were making your debut for your club and your country which are always really really special. I can remember making my competitive debut for Ireland in a World Cup qualifier against Cyprus at the old Lansdowne Road in Dublin, and I managed to score a really good goal after cutting inside from the right and hitting it with my left foot into the far corner of the goal, so that was a decent goal. So I can always remember that day being really special and something that you think that your really proud of.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Andy: I was very very fortunate to play with and against a lot of top players, I played against Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo so there were a hell of a lot of top players. However, I think the one that really stands out and who was really really special was Zinedine Zidane and the way that he used to glide around the pitch, and was really strong technically was brilliant. So it is really difficult to top him even though I’ve played with and against a lot of top players, but I think that Zidane is the one that takes it.
What was it like to don on the green shirt of the Republic of Ireland and how did it feel to represent your country at the highest level?
Andy: I’m a very proud Irishman and it’s always special, people always love the country that they come from but I think (maybe I’m biased) that Irish people have that extra affinity with their country. I can remember making my debut against Canada and my family were in the stands, and I was lining up for the national anthem. Again it was a pretty busy Landsdowne Road, but it was such a proud moment not just for myself but also for my family as well, so it’s really special to represent your country. I’d come up all the way through the ranks from under 15’s all the way up, so to then make that step up to the senior international team was fantastic for me.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the Tottenham first team?
Andy: I think that they were some of the ones that I mentioned earlier on such as my debut and the game against Aston Villa which was really special. However, the season that we just missed out on the Champions League was a really good season but listen it’s a really really good club and it’s somewhere where I felt really comfortable. So just the whole experience of it was great and all that I’d experienced up until then having come through the ranks at Nottingham Forest was Nottingham Forest. So to experience a new club and to learn from the quality of the players that Spurs had at that time, as well as doing my bit was just fantastic for me overall. Do I wish that I could have played more games for them? Yeah of course I do but football doesn’t always work how you want and things don’t always work out how you expect them to.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Andy: Probably the toughest was Cafu when we played against Brazil in Dublin and Cafu who was a World Cup winning captain was fantastic. He was up and down the wing the whole night, I played left wing and Ian Harte played left back and we almost had two left backs really as I wasn’t doing too much attacking. Cafu was just playing as a second right winger, so he was definitely a tough one to mark, I also remember when we played against Italy and I played on the right and Zambrotta played as a left back, and he was a fantastic footballer who had a great engine and was really up and down the whole time. I think that in international football when you come up against players like that you come off the pitch mentally drained because you can’t switch off for a second, or these players will run off the back of you. So Cafu would be one and Zambrotta wouldn’t be too far behind.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Andy: Ones that I’ve kept in touch with are Robbie Keane, another one who I do keep in touch with quite often is Mark Yeates who was only a young lad when I was at Spurs and who was still trying to find his way. So I’d like to think that I helped him about a bit being a bit older than him. He’s another player who would have liked to have got more game time at Spurs and more of an opportunity which unfortunately he didn’t, but I think that he was a fantastic player who was really talented.
As a coach for Nottingham Forest’s under 23’s and for the Republic of Ireland’s under 18’s what would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Andy: I think that hard work is the key and I know that it might seem to be an easy thing to say but it really is because you can’t achieve anything in football now unless you have that real work ethic. You have to have a real energy about you, and I say to the players today what I’m looking for in players is energy and I want players who really have that will to go and do it and that desire, which is what you want to see from your players. You want them to get about the park and make tackles and win the ball back, as well as having the desire to get on the ball and be brave, and pass the ball as well as keep it under pressure. So I think that hard work and desire are important, also when everyone’s finished training be the one to stay out and do a little bit more. At times I wish that I had have done it more because your career is short and it goes really really quickly, so you’ve got to try and grab it with both hands.
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?
Andy: As I mentioned earlier I’m very proud of all of the clubs that I played for and I was treated fantastically well at Tottenham and met some great people, and I loved the feel of the old White Hart Lane. I haven’t managed to get down and see the new stadium yet but I’ve heard all about it, so I’m proud to have done my bit for Tottenham and as I say it’s a fantastic club, and I always have a smile on my face when I see them in the Champions League and especially seeing where they got to last season and how unlucky they were. Tottenham is a fantastic club that has such a proud history and tradition, and I love clubs like that. So to be able to pull on that shirt was a real proud time for me.