West Londoner Danny Hutchins was a tidy, skilful, determined and highly rated fullback/midfielder who was part of a very talented Spurs youth team during the late 2000’s, of which included the likes of Danny Rose and Yuri Berchiche. The former Northolt High School pupil who was a member of the Spurs under 18 side which won the Premier Academy League title during the 2008/09 season, Hutchins was at Spurs from a young age. He would work his way up the various and many youth ranks at the club before moving into the reserve side and then being loaned out to then Football League club Yeovil Town in 2009. Hutchins would leave Spurs and sign permanently for Yeovil during the same year before later venturing into the non league where he played for the likes of Dunstable Town, Kings Langley and Hayes & Yeading United, before being forced to retire from the game at a relatively early age due to injury. However, the former Spurs man is still involved in football and he is currently a scout for Premier League side Crystal Palace. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Danny earlier in the week to chat about his eventful and interesting time at the Lilywhites.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Danny: My earliest football memories are probably going to watch QPR as a kid because I grew up around the west London area and QPR was probably the nearest team to me. It’s weird because I grew up a Chelsea fan but I went to watch QPR quite a bit because of family, but then once I got into Tottenham at the age of seven I was just at the club every week and I started going to White Hart Lane and became a Tottenham fan.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Danny: I was playing Sunday league as you do as a kid and I got offered to go to a soccer school which was a Steve Grenfell soccer school in Enfield. I was at the school for a few weeks and then I got offered to go to Tottenham which I think was the Centre of Excellence at the time, which was under 7’s or under 8’s. I went there and I signed for Tottenham and each year at the end of the year you get told if your getting kept on or not, and each year I just kept being told that I was being kept on. So I grew up with a lot of managers and I had a different manager every year, but I had the best time as a kid growing up playing for Tottenham. It’s every boys dream.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Danny: It was very good and it was probably the best time of my life to be honest as I was at club for nearly 12 years, as I was there from the age of seven right up until 19. So yeah I had the best time travelling to training every week from west London and eventually when I went full time at the academy I moved into digs. I made a lot of good friends and my best friend now is somebody who I met through football, so it was the best time of my life as it was an amazing experience, and any kid who is at the club now is very very lucky. It’s a lot different now as you get a lot more perks and they get treated differently especially with the new training ground and all that, it must be amazing going there every week now. I used to go to White Hart Lane and there was a ball court outside White Hart Lane where we used to train and just as I left the club the new training ground was being built. However, as I say it was an amazing time and I’m very very proud of spending that long at the club. It was eventually hard leaving the club but I had no choice as my contract wasn’t getting renewed by Harry Redknapp at the time however, I went onto play in the Football League which stood me in good stead.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Danny: Growing up I used to be compared with Dennis Wise although I was nothing like him the older that I got. When I was a Chelsea fan I always had the shirts with Wise on the back, and then as I got older my hero was Joe Cole. I loved watching Joe Cole as he was just brilliant to watch especially when he was a bit younger and in his early days at Chelsea, and he was just a brilliant player. And he sort of came through the same way that I did as well, growing up at West Ham as a kid and making it all the way through, but I used to love watching him. Dennis Wise and Joe Cole were my two footballing heroes.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Danny: So at the start I was a central midfielder all the way up til 16 I think and then I played one game which I think was a friendly at the training ground. I remember that one of the fullbacks must have been injured and I played fullback and I honestly had the best game of my life. And then ever since then and all the way through my youth team days I was a fullback and then when I moved into the reserve team I got moved back into central midfield. I did really well for the reserves under Clive Allen and obviously playing with the reserves down at Leyton Orient a lot of us were coming to the end of our time at Tottenham, so you would get a lot of scouts at the ground, and that’s where I got spotted by Yeovil as a central midfielder. However, I went to Yeovil and played fullback so I was sort of central midfielder, fullback, central midfielder and then a fullback, but I class myself as a fullback now as I played all of my professional games in League One as a fullback. I was naturally both footed so I could play both right and left back but I preferred left back, but I wasn’t a quick player I was quicker more in my mind, but I was very technically gifted but I wasn’t physically gifted and that sort of let me down a little bit. If I had a bit more strength, power and pace I reckon and I’m going out on a limit that I would have made it a lot further than I did.
How difficult was it for a young Spurs player like yourself to break into the first team during the 2000’s?
Danny: It was difficult because I saw a lot of change in managers and I think that a lot of managers came in with their own ideas and I was growing up around the time when we would buy a lot of overseas players. The academy didn’t really get a look in and funnily enough the biggest chance that I had was when Juande Ramos was in charge and I was called up to the first team, and while he was at the club I was training with the first team but as we know he didn’t last very long. I think that when he left we were in the relegation zone and that’s when Harry Redknapp came in and I got put back down to the reserves and never got out of it really. So it was very hard especially with the bigger clubs with a lot of money buying all the best players from overseas. In our youth team we had a Spanish player, a French player and a Czech player so it was hard in that sense but if you were good enough at the time you could be overlooked. So I wasn’t that good enough to make the first team although I was close when Ramos was their but unfortunately for me he was sacked, and that’s where it all started going a bit down hill for me.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Danny: As a young kid Micky Hazard helped me a lot and I’m still in touch with him now and that was from the ages of seven to 12. Then once I started getting into the youth team the big influence on my time at Tottenham was John McDermott and Alex Inglethorpe who came in when I was 16 which was my first year at Tottenham. They helped me a lot and I’m still in touch with them now, and the good thing with them is once you leave you don’t really feel like you have left properly because you’re always welcome back and they are always on the end of the phone to help you progress in your career. Whether that is playing, coaching, scouting or whatever you want to do, so Alex Inglethorpe and John McDermott were probably the biggest influences while I was at Spurs.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Danny: At the time we had a lot of good players when I was coming through the youth team as you had the likes of Gareth Bale, Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon but I always personally although he is not in my position watched Jermain Defoe. He was always there to help the young kids and at lunchtime he would always sit with you and talk with you, and after training he was practicing his finishing after everyone had gone in. So it was good for the boys to look up to and learn from him, and the good thing with him is that he would sit and talk to you and try and help you improve in your game all while he is at the top of his game. Also players like Edgar Davids after training used to take five or six of us and become a coach and take us in a little session and try and help us to improve on our technical game.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Danny: It wasn’t really my choice to be honest as my contract was coming to an end and Harry Redknapp had just come in and he got rid of all the reserve players that were at the club before him bar one or two. We got told around Christmas time that our contracts weren’t getting renewed, so we had a bit of time to look for a new club, and that was when I got the call from Yeovil to go on loan, it was an emergency loan as one of their fullbacks had got injured. So I got a call on the Tuesday afternoon asking me whether I could play on the Tuesday night, so I had to rush down to Yeovil and after it being an initial one month loan where I played a few games in that month. So then it got extended until the end of the season (I joined them on March the 9th) I had impressed and done well at Yeovil, well enough to earn a two year contract as they knew that my contract at Spurs was coming to an end. That’s when I got my first taste of league football and it went from there and so for two years I was with Yeovil in League One. After leaving Yeovil that’s when I dropped out, so about a year and a half into my contract at Yeovil I had to terminate my contract due to a few issues, and when I left Yeovil I got a bad ankle injury and I had to have surgery which meant that I was out for about six months in a cast. I then went on trial with a few clubs but I just couldn’t get that same fitness back as something wasn’t right with my body, and later on down the line I found out that I had a bad hip so I’ll need a hip replacement. I then fell into non league after Yeovil and played for Hayes & Yeading and Hemel Hempstead, and I just floated around non league until about two years ago when I couldn’t physically play anymore so I had to officially hang up the boots. I went into coaching and now I’m scouting for Crystal Palace. So yeah after Yeovil I just fell into non league like a lot of players do unfortunately.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Danny: A couple spring to mind, I think that I was 14 at the time when I was offered a pre-contract by Tottenham and so I signed a contract that said that I will be signing a professional contract in three years time. I was thought highly of at the time and that sort of secured my career if you like at the time, and meant that I could go to school knowing what I was going to do. And the second biggest one was probably making my Football League debut which is something that you’re working towards coming up through the youth team and dreaming of playing for the first team. My debut for Yeovil was probably one of my proudest moments as a 19 year old who was playing men’s football after coming out of the academy and out of the reserves. All of a sudden I was playing in games where every point and every kick of the ball mattered, and you were playing in front of fans who cared about the club. So it was amazing and I had a great two years at Yeovil.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Danny: If you remember Adel Taarabt he was the probably the most talented and gifted footballer I have played with but at the same time he was very very frustrating. He was amazing to watch but if you were playing on the same team as him it was very frustrating however, another one was probably somebody like Ryan Mason who was brilliant and he went onto obviously play in the Premier League. Also you had Andros Townsend and Danny Rose who I was close to growing up, but if we’re talking about technically gifted players then it was probably Adel Taarabt as he was just amazing to watch, and the things that he could do was just outrageous.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Danny: A lot of good memories come from the international tournaments that we had and for three years running we went over to Switzerland and competed in tournaments. I saw a lot of Europe growing up and I was lucky and very very fortunate to do that because we traveled all the way around Europe and playing in these tournaments in different countries. I’d say that at least half of these tournaments we won and they great memories, just being in other countries and playing against the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen and all the top international sides, so they were probably my best memories from Tottenham. Also making good friends for life and training day in day out and playing under so many top, top managers which I was lucky to do.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Danny: The best player that I’ve ever played against is Jason Puncheon when I was a young kid on loan at Yeovil. We were playing against MK Dons and Jason Puncheon just ran the game and to this day I’ve probably said that he is probably the best player that I have played against. However, I have played against a lot of good players but on that day Jason Puncheon I would say. I’ve also played against Lukaku as well when he was at Anderlecht and playing at one of the tournaments, and he was good and also so much bigger and stronger and powerful than everyone else even though he was only 16.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Danny: Yeah so my best mate who is still my best mate now and that’s David Hutton who is another one who fell out of football after being in League One and League Two. However, I lived with Danny Rose when he first got bought by Spurs from Leeds and we were close and also Ryan Mason is still a good friend now along with Cian Hughton. So we had a little group which included Ryan Mason and Danny Rose, but a lot of the other lads now have fallen out of football and are working normal jobs back in the real world.
You were part of a very talented Spurs youth side of which included players such as Athletic Bilbao’s Yuri Berchiche. What was it like to play with and be a part of that team?
Danny: Yuri was a good lad and he was one of the ones who I was talking about earlier who was one of the overseas players along with Tomas Pekhart. However, our youth team was good and there was a lot more players from our youth team that should of played longer and higher, I mean the only ones who have only really succeeded from our youth team were Ryan Mason, Jake Livermore, Danny Rose and Andros Townsend. Then you’ve got others like the Jon Obika’s who have made a living out of football but are just in the lower leagues. Another good friend of mine is Steven Caulker and we’re still in touch and he is playing abroad now, but we had a great youth team and at the time we were the best, and we would always finish top of our league. We would go to international tournaments and we’d win half of the tournaments that we went to, so yeah there was us, Aston Villa and Leicester who were probably the biggest and best youth teams at that time which was about ten or twelve years ago now.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Danny: Listen don’t think that you know it all as I fell victim to it as I had a bad attitude, but I would just say that you don’t know best at that age. Everyone of that age, the coaches and the players around you are trying to help you, and it’s too big an opportunity to mess up. Being a footballer is the best job in the world, every kid dreams of it so why would you even do anything to jeopardise it. Just keep your head screwed on and work hard everyday and listen, and even when you are at the top and you are England captain you’ve still got to listen to all of the advice given to you.
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?
Danny: I follow Tottenham religiously now as my missus would tell you. I’m always watching them and screaming at the telly and I’ve become a big fan, and that is due to just being at the club for all them years. I didn’t start off as a Tottenham fan but I love the club now and my greatest memories were growing up in that Tottenham setup for 11 years, and I’m proud of it as it’s a big part of my life. It’s something that I can look back on and tell the grandkids and all that stuff. I love them now, I watch them every week and I’ve just turned into a proper avid fan.