Former footballer and half-back Frederick Charles Sharpe from Brockley in south London was a talented player who joined Spurs as a junior in 1954. Sharpe would go onto represent Spurs at A team, reserve and first team level during his nine years with the club. An important member of the Spurs side that won the 1960/61 Eastern Counties League, Sharpe was also a regular for the reserves during his time in north London. He also made two competitive appearances for Spurs’ first team with both coming in the First Division. Sharpe’s debut was a memorable one as he scored the winning goal of our 1958 league game against Nottingham Forest at White Hart Lane. Later going onto play for Norwich City after departing Spurs in 1963, Freddie Sharpe would make over 100 competitive appearances for the ‘ Canaries ‘ before finishing his playing career with Reading. He would later coach football in various schools whilst also working as a salesman as well as running a car valeting business. A popular person on the playing staff during his time at Spurs, Sharpe’s love for the club is still as strong now as it ever was. I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with Freddie to look back on his time with the Lilywhites during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Freddie: That would be when I played for London School boys against Germany when they were travelling all over England playing games. And in that game Tottenham had seen me play and so they asked me to go along for a trial, and afterwards they took me on the ground staff and while I was on the ground staff you used to have to put the kit out everyday as well as train with the club at the younger age group. So it was all very competitive, and when the reserves used to play the first team you would think that it was two different clubs who were playing against each other because as I say it was very competitive. Even when we used to play games such as table tennis against each other it was very competitive and the environment was also very strong. That competitiveness and that strong environment went a long way to getting them the success that they had at that time along with also the good manager that they had in Bill Nicholson.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Freddie: My time at Spurs was first class and I had some great memories such as my debut against Nottingham Forest which was one. I enjoyed the competition that there was at Spurs, not just on a Saturday but also in training as well, everything at the club however, was genuine and there was no ifs and buts. During my time at Spurs I also went into the army at 17 which you had to do in that era, and so I went to Aldershot but had already signed for Spurs at 17 before I went into the army. I did the eight weeks at Aldershot which they used to call square bashing, and while I was in the army I also represented the army side which had first class players from all different clubs all over England such as Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. When I was in the army it didn’t matter where you were stationed as we had a contract which meant that we were to be their from Monday to Friday, but then on a Saturday you could go back to your clubs to play for them. Then back on a Monday and during the week you would play for the army side and I went all over the world representing the army. So basically it was a good life basically playing with top class players.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Freddie: They were Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay as they were two of the best players in their position that you could ever have.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Freddie: Well I was a defender who could play as a four and as a six, also fortunately I could kick with two feet which was very rare in those days. I wasn’t frightened to go into tackles or anything like that and so I always had a few cut eyes here and there, and I only ever had one bad injury but other than that that was what it was like.
Could you describe to me what it was like to make your first team debut for Spurs against Nottingham Forest on the 17th of September 1958?
Freddie: It was great that I was playing for this great club and I was also very excited as well. The goal that I scored in that game I can remember right up until now, and I was not an attacker but a defender however, for some reason or another I got into the other part of the field and after it had been passed around I eventually ended up finishing up and putting it in the back of the net. So it was a joy for me even though I wasn’t in the position that I should have been in, but it happened.
How difficult was it for a young Spurs player like yourself to break into the first team back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s?
Freddie: The thing was that there were great players ahead of you although they all got on well with one another all the way to the staff in the office. That was Spurs’ policy that nobody was to rule type of thing which didn’t happen at every club then and even now I should think. The Spurs players at that time were stars but they didn’t behave like stars as they were genuine people away from the club who you wouldn’t even think were stars. That was the way that their life was and they were successful and they enjoyed their football, and that was what the club was bred on really because that was the attitude from the directors down to Bill Nicholson and the young players coming into the club, or those who had been signed on from other clubs. And Bill Nicholson was very fair, there was no doubt about that and you couldn’t get over him that type of thing because that’s the way it was and it worked. Whether or not that still goes on now I think that one or two might overstep the mark and think that they are too great, but that is life. However, that is in life in general, not just in football.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Freddie: Again that would have to be Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay who were two different types of players and the ability and the style that they had was top class. However, everyone at Spurs was treated the same by the likes of Blanchflower and Mackay, even down to Bobby Smith and on and so on. For example Maurice Norman is my daughters godfather and the reason I came to Norwich was because he was a Norfolk boy and he came from Norwich to Tottenham. I never thought that I was going to get another chance to play in the Tottenham first team due to the successful types of players that they had, but anyway Maurice told me about Norwich and so I went to the club and fortunately it was the best thing I ever did as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have stayed in football much longer. I had five years at Norwich and the club was great but that’s nothing to do with Tottenham but it gave me the same feeling of what I had at Tottenham. So it was great to know that I had been at that club and had the same excitement and enjoyment that everybody else did which went right through to the supporters. The competition at that time made people want to be part of the club.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Freddie: I would say that the two players that I spoke about earlier on Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower who were both different than each other. Dave had good ability but he also had strength as well, while Danny was a stylish player, and those were the two players that I looked up to as a defender myself. However, I still looked up to and appreciated the attackers but the two that I looked closet at was Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower, who were right the opposite from one another but were still great and efficient. However, the two of them as well as everybody else at the club was not bigger then anybody else as we were all on the same level and appreciated, there were certainly no primma donna’s in those days but again that was in life in general. Even when we as players used to have a day off or whatever we still used to come in and train and that shows you what life in general was like then.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Freddie: I left Spurs basically because I wasn’t going to get in the side on a regular basis even though I was a regular in the reserves which was as far as I could get. Anyhow Norwich made an offer to Spurs for me after scouts had watched me and Maurice Norman came to know about it and so the first thing I asked him was what was the club like. Bill Nicholson had told me that my contract was alright for next year but that another club had come after me which was Norwich, so I thought that if I wanted to improve and get a bit higher as well as being a regular player then I thought that I should sign a contract with Norwich as I was never going to get ahead of the Dave Mackay’s and Danny Blanchflower’s on a regular basis. So that’s why I took the decision to join Norwich really which fortunately really worked out for me even though Tottenham was my life basically. After my time at Norwich had come to an end I went to play for Reading where I was captain of the club for two years, and then at the age of 32 and after 14 years as a professional I ended my career as a footballer. After that I went to colleges and schools to teach sport however, Tottenham as far as I’m concerned was the number one thing and there is no doubts about that as everything to do with the club was first class. I actually still go and see some of my old Tottenham teammates such as Maurice Norman.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Freddie: The greatest moment of my footballing career was the first game that I played for Tottenham. At that time I didn’t see it coming and also at that time the results for Spurs weren’t going too good however, that game against Nottingham Forest was the best moment of my career. However, I did have a good career and I enjoyed it, and I couldn’t have met a nicer crowd than the Tottenham supporters.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Freddie: The greatest one in my opinion was Dave Mackay because he had everything but also to a certain degree I also thought that Jimmy Greaves was.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the Tottenham A team team and reserves?
Freddie: Well when I was playing in the reserves towards the end of my time at Spurs I became captain of the side and that was a great honour for me. However, the greatest honour was being at Tottenham and also playing for them as well as scoring that goal against Nottingham Forest. The first club that I look at when football is on now is Tottenham and that will never change.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Freddie: I would say that the toughest player that I’ve ever played against was Peter Osgood funnily enough as he had that difficult style of play as well as being bigger than me. Although I wasn’t as big as him I had extra training at the club where they had the ball up on a rope and I had to go up and head the ball and the ball would end up getting higher and higher. With me not being six foot I used to then be able to get above the bigger players and head the ball even though I used to get a few cuts which I excepted. The training at Tottenham was first class there was no doubt about it.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Freddie: Maurice Norman from when he joined Spurs from Norwich, and we still go up and visit him in Norwich as he is my daughters godfather. I also still correspond with Jimmy Greaves and last year I spoke with Jimmy and we remembered the good times at Spurs.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Freddie: Enjoy making a career for yourself in the game and listen to advice, and don’t give up. It’s you who has got to make it enjoyable and it works two ways both with you and with the club, and you’ve got to give everything and you must be dedicated. You get for what you put in.
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?
Freddie: I love the club itself full stop and I loved every minute of it, and Tottenham will never leave me. I will love them until the end of my days.