Born in Lewisham, south London to Irish parents from County Kerry but brought up in Catford, strong central defender Paul O’Donoghue had previously played for Welling United before signing for Spurs as a 16 year old trainee in the summer of 2000. O’Donoghue would go onto represent the Republic of Ireland at under 19 and under 20 level while at Spurs and he also progressed up the ladder at club, first moving up from the under 17 side as a 17 year old into the under 19’s. The tenacious defender who was dominant in the air was also a regular for our old reserve side and he would also go onto play for our first team on six separate occasions in pre-season friendlies. O’Donoghue was loaned out to non league side Hornchurch in 2004 and during the following year he was loaned out to Heybridge Swifts who were managed by former Spurs man Brian Statham. The defender ended up signing for Heybridge Swifts on a permanent basis after being released at the end of that 2004/05 season. However, after not spending long with the non league side O’Donoghue had a brief spell with Beckenham Town before dropping out of the game all together. Also a talented Gaelic footballer the young O’Donoghue played for a number of Gaelic football clubs, of which included John Mitchels, Austin Stacks and the prestigious County Kerry side. I recently caught up with Paul O’Donoghue who is now a secondary school teacher and head of year to discuss his highly interesting career and time at Spurs. And can I just say that Paul is a thoroughly nice and motivational man who was an absolute pleasure to interview.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Paul: They would probably just be getting taken to the park with my dad and playing around, and I don’t know if I can admit this but I was a Liverpool fan. And so we used to get the Liverpool kit and go to the park and pretend to be Steve McManaman or whoever when I was running with the ball, and we’d use a couple of trees for goals and you’d look for a few lads in the park. Everyone had their own team and you’d play a game called FA knockouts but you couldn’t both be the same team, so one would be Arsenal and one would be Liverpool or Man United. So we’d do that every Saturday and when you got a chance after school you’d go up but with Irish parents that would never leave you out of the house you had to wait for the weekend, and that would kind of be it.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Paul: So I came in from a non league club called Welling and John Moncur brought me down via a lad called Robbie Stepney. I was actually about to sign for Welling and I can remember the youth manager at the time was saying look Paul I know a guy down at Tottenham called John Moncur and he’s had a look at you, so will you come down for a trial. So I went and I hoped for the best and you think give a good account of yourself and see what happens, and in the end I ended joining the club after being on trial. Joining the club was just unbelievable as it was such a big deal, Tottenham had such a huge reputation and even going down there on trial I think the first time that I went down that my dad came with me. I saw David Ginola come out with a cowboy hat on and you’d just think what! As a 16 year old boy before doing my GCSE’s it was just so surreal and the journey down there would see you get off at Chigwell but the name of it and the fact that you were heading into Tottenham, Tottenham Hotspur football club, Premier League. And no disrespect to someone like Crystal Palace or Charlton but the only step up for me after Spurs at that time would be going on trial to somebody like Manchester United. So going down to Tottenham would make you very nervous because of the prestige of the club, you’d go in and see Ginola on the way in and I think Stefan Iversen who had an unbelievable Mercedes, and he was just speeding down that little road when you were going down to Spurs lodge. My dad and I would walk down there and we’d see the cars going down and it was kind of like the Green Mile, and you were thinking will this be a good day or will it not be a good day however, it was good enough.
However, just going into Spurs you just get a feel of how serious the club is and even the grass was cut pristine and everything was just done well. The club were very welcoming when I came down and I think that there was three of us on trial that day, and I actually remember the name of another guy who I think was at Crystal Palace at the time and I think that Tottenham just brought him down to have a look at him. And this was Ricky Dobson’s (former Spurs youth player) cousin Craig Dobson and I think that he was like a Nike freestyler, and I can remember thinking when all three of us trialists were doing kick ups when this guys doing flicks and keeping the ball up on his neck. So I was that’s not me as I can’t do that and if that’s the standard that this club is at then that is not my game at all, as I was more of a robust defender who kept things organised and did my job and that was kind of it. Anyway when we were going into the games I felt that I could deal with this, and I was playing alongside a guy called Ronnie Henry we he just seemed to gel well with each other and the coaches saw that. However, it was the feel of the club such as putting on the training kit with the badge and knowing that it represented something huge and also knowing the history, so you were just trying to process that in your mind as a young man. However, you were trying to put that to the back of your head as it was just football so you should just get on with it and show them what you can do. However, going back to John Moncur he was genuinely a great guy who gave me a lot of guidance and a lot of advice, although I was kind of a bit scared of him when I was a bit young.
John Moncur seemed like a guy who had so much power at the club and over the youth team along with David Pleat, and also George Graham as well was fearful. I only have a couple of memories of him but John Moncur was very good, he would bring me in after every day training knowing that I had far to go from training from Catford to Chigwell. So they used to ask how was it today, also John Moncur knew that my parents were Irish and he used to joke around by saying that he couldn’t understand a word that my dad was saying. So he just settled me down because he knew the magnitude of the possibility of joining the club, and I think that he could kind of see that I was ok and doing well, so he would just guide me. I remember one day that I was going to be on the bench for Welling in a pre-season friendly against Millwall. The Welling manager Kevin Hale was aware that I was on trial at Tottenham and so he said look Paul we need you on the bench, and so it was a difficult decision for me and I can remember just going to John Moncur in the morning and saying look this is the situation. He said to me that I’ve got a real big chance here, and I think from that I thought I can’t blow this and I could read between the lines that they wanted me. So he was brilliant with me and then when I did sign again it was the same thing as he would ask me how I was getting on, and he’d tell me that we’ll get you in digs down here with a lovely lady who will take you in, as you’re travelling a bit far away. So John Moncur was a big influence and a good presence to have, plus when I heard other lads saying oh Paul Johnny Moncur’s talking to you he must like you. He did seem to take a bit of extra time for me, I don’t know if that’s because I came very late to Tottenham because I wasn’t that aware of the professional game, it was more go out with my friends kick a ball around, so I think that he could see that I had a bit of talent.
He knew that he could help my talent and finesse it by talking to me and reassuring me here and there and also taking an interest. And looking back now as a teacher and head of year at a school I would try and do the same thing every now and then if I could see that a kid needs it, and it doesn’t have to be shouting at them it’s more is everything ok. And John Moncur done that for me when I was injured a couple of times and he used to say look Paul don’t worry we know what you can do and you’ll be fine, he also used to ask me if everything was ok in digs and so it was good to know that there he was fighting in your corner for you. That calmed me down a bit because I came into it late I could really tell that the boys at Spurs were so on edge about getting a contract, because they were probably used to that from under 11 when they were thinking am I going to get a contract. Am I going to get a contract for under 12 and under 13, and am I going to get YTS. So because I missed that I think that John Moncur was letting me know look Paul at the end of these 18 months we’re going to be letting everyone know, so you need to hit the ground running. However, yeah he was very good for me and I was very thankful for it and if I ever saw him I’d just like to say that you were brilliant for me, because when you are that young you don’t think to ever say thank you.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Paul: Honestly It was honestly brilliant and going there at 16 was absolutely incredible as a naive and very innocent person who just loved football, you just wanted to test yourself. And you do and then I suppose you can say I can do this and I can play at this youth level, and so I can break it down a bit for you. So the first year I done very well and I got into the youth cup team and there was a guy called Clayton Fortune who was the year above me who they kind of highly rated. I can remember doing well as an under 17 and Jimmy Neighbour was constantly praising me, and you can just get a feel so when I was in there people would say look Paul you’re the golden boy now blah, blah, blah. And I was playing really well and doing very well and I can remember that at 16 I was with the under 17’s and Pat Holland was over the under 19’s, and every now and then we would play against the under 19’s every week and the under 17’s had a good team, and every now and and then we would win. Chris Hughton the reserve manager at the time used to come over every now and then and borrow a couple of the under 19’s, and I remember that he came over he just bypassed the under 19’s and he said Paul you’re with us. And I can remember thinking that I didn’t even know that Chris Hughton knew my name, and then the under 17’s were just looking at me and when I was walking past the under 19’s I could kind of get the feel that in a really harsh way it was a little message to them that you’re contracts are coming up soon centre backs, and an under 17 is getting called up to the reserves before you. I can remember training and I was on a lad called Dave McEwen, and Chris Hughton and Theo Foley was there and they called me afterwards and they said look Paul you’ve done really well in fact you’ve done very well. And I remember then David Pleat when I was having breakfast the next day saying Paul I hear that you’re doing very well, and so then I knew that Chris Hughton, Theo Foley and David Pleat wouldn’t really be talking to all youth team players like that, I just got that kind of feel.
So things were progressing very well and I done well in the youth cup and then Peter Suddaby called me into his office to let me know that Ireland now wanted to bring you into their international fold. Also England are enquiring about you so you’re going to have to make a decision and I was just still in shock genuinely, because six months before that I was playing against Thamesmead Town and Beckenham Town knowing that I was ok however, my plan was to get into Welling’s first team at 16, I’d like to be established at 17 and then I’d like to get a move when I’m 18 into professional football. However, then when you’re hearing the England and Ireland youth teams want you, then you start thinking what’s going on, this is a bit more serious than I thought. So things were brilliant in the first year and obviously I declared for Ireland as I couldn’t go for England or I’d have been kicked out of the house, as it was staunch Ireland in our house. Although I can remember speaking about it with mum and dad and they were quite relaxed about it but for me I thought that I’d love to play for Ireland and so I played for them. Then in the second year about three months in, and I think at this time that George Graham had gone and I can remember walking in in the morning and seeing Chris Hughton talking to Glenn Hoddle. And I had heard that Glenn Hoddle was coming in and I could just see Chris Hughton talking to him and Glenn Hoddle was sizing me up as Chris was telling him that I’ve got a good chance, so I could just get a good feel for that. And then one month in I got called after training by Penny who was a great woman who was a receptionist at Tottenham, and she looked out a lot for the youth team players. And she said Paul I’ve got a message for you, can you go to David Pleat’s office.
And then I was thinking that somethings wrong genuinely because I had lashed out at an Ipswich player the week before and it just got a bit physical, so I just thought that this could be something to do with that. However, the boys in the changing room were saying that’s it your pro, and I would have been the first person in that team to get it and that was quite early. I went in and sat down with David Pleat and honestly when I flashback to it it feels as if you’re sitting in front of the president of America. You’re just thinking what’s going on, but he just explained to me that if we look at the first team we think that we can see you in the first team in a year. We can imagine that it will be you and Ledley at the back and that’s no lie, that’s exactly what he said to me. So I was just thinking right ok and so he was asking me do you have an agent and I said no and so he then said that I was very wise. However, it’s only now when I look back on things and think that maybe I wasn’t wise but you’re naive to it and you want to play for Tottenham and you know that you’re being offered a professional deal, and you think get me a pen now and I’m going to sign that. He said also said that you’ve got an option to sign for two and a half years or three and a half years, and so I signed for three and a half years. So I signed a contract to take me to my 18th birthday and then the three year contract would start when I was 18, but there was then a dip in my performance. And when I look back at it now retrospectively I can really see that, and even though I would be a very hard worker I took my eye off the ball when I signed that pro contract there’s no doubt in my mind when I reflect on things. I was 17 and three months before my 18th birthday and I thought that’s it as David Pleat had told me that I’m going to be in the first team I’m a year, so I’m going to be there in a year.
I think that made me take my eye off the ball a little bit and I think now that I lost my game a little bit, I lost a little bit of that fight, that edge and that want to show that I’ve come from non league but I’m just as good as you. It kind of felt as like yeah ok now I’m there, and it wasn’t arrogance it was naivety, and at this point I really notice my own sole responsibility. However, it would have been great for someone to realign me and say no Paul it’s nothing, you now need to come out and work even harder, and maybe I should have known that myself but I didn’t know it fully. I was still applying myself as well as I could but in the back of my mind I think that I lost an edge from that. So from then the January to the end of the year I got to the youth cup semifinal, and so at the end of my first year I was playing for the reserves which was pretty big and then into my second year I was still playing for the reserves. Colin Calderwood came in and I signed a pro contract but by about March/April I was kind of feeling as if somethings not right. I was pushed up to train full time with the reserves and I was like the only under 18 up at the reserves the whole time so it was like Paul forget the under 18’s you’re now up with the reserves. Pat Holland said that we don’t want to see you down here anymore so forget training with us as you’re now going to be with the reserves after you’ve signed professional. I wasn’t ready to do that looking back as I didn’t understand the game properly as a defender and I was very raw, anyway I went up to play and train with the reserves full time in my second year and was then told that I’m now a pro, so then by March I was thinking somethings not right here. And now when I go back and look at it, it is because I didn’t understand the game as a defender, I didn’t know when to press properly, I didn’t know when to drop off as it was just on instinct. At under 18 level you can get away with that because you don’t get punished as heavily for a moments lapse in positioning.
I didn’t learn quick enough and I couldn’t learn quick enough so I didn’t understand the game and that was probably because I didn’t watch football enough, and particularly players in my own position. I wasn’t good enough to know the game intuitively and to suppose I probably needed to be sat down and given video analysis, and shown what I needed to do and that’s what I needed to do, and plus I probably wasn’t seeking that myself because I was just so naive. I didn’t know that that’s what I needed to do, and probably I didn’t think hard enough about it as if this is not working out I’m not sure why as up until this point I’ve kind of been able to work things out for myself at football. However, I was very raw and going up to training with the reserves you’d be on people like Matthew Etherington, Simon Davies and Christian Ziege who was thrown down there a couple of times, and also Ben Thatcher who was actually there for a long period. These players didn’t care how you old you are, they just knew that you were in there and didn’t see that you’re 17 or just turned 18, so you’re expected just to know, and do and perform. So I think that I missed out in my own development, also the lads in my under 18 team were probably better defenders at the time because they understood the game and got it. However, I suppose I had the rawness of defending as well as the physicality but they understood the positioning more so than me, and they also understood the nuances of defending. Whereas I’d be a bit more robust which I think is the best way to describe it however, I could defend very well but it was more reactive than preventive. The higher level you were to go you can’t just be reactive, you have to be that the strikers looking to move here and that the player on the ball is making that movement because he’s looking to do this. When you’re in the back four or back three which we played with Hoddle at that time you need to be in this part of the field and you need to have this type of support around you.
I really felt that I was sinking fast and I don’t understand why because I think I’m ok and people are telling me I’m a good player, but that’s not happening on the pitch, and that really affected my performance. It also affected my own outlook on how good I was as a player which was feeding into how I was performing as a player, and I didn’t seek the support that I needed. And that was foolish because I could of easily gone to Colin Calderwood who was again a great man and a great coach, but I couldn’t access the coaching because I didn’t know enough of I suppose the fine arts of defending, and to be able to tap into what he was doing. I could of easily gone to him and said Colin I’m at such a loss here as I don’t have a clue, and none of my mates are with me as they’re in the under 18’s so I’m around serious defenders like Alton Thelwell and Anthony Gardner, and I’m lost. I really should have said that and if I had my time again I suppose I would, and I’d be craving some video footage to say where do I need to be here and why, and I wasn’t confident in that environment. That is my own fault to not ask questions to Colin like I don’t get that, or what kind of training should I be doing and do I l now need to go to the gym and do some weights. Who should I ask what kind of strength exercise I should go on, nutritionist what do I need to be eating as I’ve noticed that the defenders here are all stronger than me which I wasn’t used to because I was generally one of the strongest in my youth team. So you’re kind of feeling that your advantages have now been neutralised and what can you do now to compensate for that, so I should have asked all of those questions and I should have demanded to know what I needed to eat, what gym sessions do I need to be doing and what extra stuff do I need to be doing. Plus perhaps I could have done that myself and gone off privately and done that but I didn’t, so I’ve got to take my own responsibility for that. However, just to be in that environment and not take advantage of that high level coaching I look back on it and think that that is so naive.
Now all I’m doing is looking for people in high level positions and thinking what can I take from them to add to my own profession. However, there I was as an 18 year old with world class coaching available and yet enough I was not smart enough to open my mouth to ask. So at the end of the second year I went into third year and that was a very bad year for me as I had some terrible injuries but I had been doing quite well, so I had been called into Ireland. However, even though I said that second year wasn’t great it was still ok but my first year was great and my second year was good, but it was the first time that I thought ok I’m up against it and this is what it means to be a professional footballer. I didn’t know the questions I needed to ask ask to move forwards, but in the third year I broke my jaw badly against Charlton and I was out for three months. The keeper Gavin Kelly was rushing out for a ball and talk about the nuances of defending I’m still being very naive running back, and then diving in with my head to make sure that the striker can’t get there. His knee then wrapped around my jaw and I was spitting out teeth at the back and that wasn’t good, so I was out for three months and then came back. I was back for about two or three weeks when my cartilage flipped upside down in my right knee and I felt something go, so I was carried in from training and was out then for seven months after that. So that was my whole third year gone which was tough to take, and in that third year to be honest when I was injured I was going out an awful lot in London. I had easy money and I just didn’t respect the fact that I was a professional footballer and I didn’t respect my body totally, and still the words of David Pleat were ringing in my ears that I’d be in the first team in a year.
I also wasn’t doing the right thing and though I was doing the rehab probably I was then enjoying the night life in London, and just doing things with my friends who were other 18 year olds that worked in an office and were then blowing off some steam. At that time I didn’t realise that no Paul yes I’m 18 but they’ve got a different outlook as your body is actually your instrument that you need to refine and use and respect, because they are in an industry that doesn’t need that whereas you do need yours properly. So that was the end of third year and then I came back in my fourth year and at this point I’m 19/20 and I can feel now that David Pleat, John Moncur and Peter Suddaby are now thinking Paul what are you doing and are you giving everything that you can to being a professional footballer or are you now just expecting to be put in the first team because you’re a professional, because it doesn’t work like that. In my own mind I know it sounds crazy but I kind of did, because I thought that I’m doing ok in training and I’m feeling like I’m competing quite well. From next to Anthony Gardner and Alton Thelwell I think that I’m doing quite well comparatively but I’m not going above and beyond, and in my mind it’s so crazy to say but I didn’t know that you had to go above and beyond. That must sound ridiculous but I genuinely didn’t know that as I thought that you just had to get your training sessions done and show that this is what I can do. I remember Pete Suddaby really nailed it home to me one day because I was nothing to do with the youth team as I was beyond under 19 and I’m now playing for the reserves and doing ok, and captaining them here and there. However, Pete Suddaby really put a shot across my bow and said Paul what are you doing, I went to see you play for the reserves the other day and you weren’t good. And I was just thinking what do you mean I wasn’t good, as I thought that I’d done ok, but I suppose I was just in a pure comfort zone playing for the reserves and a prestigious club like Tottenham.
I was thinking I’m going to get another contract soon anyway and I’ll be here until 24, and I’m on the verge of the first team and I suppose I was just living in la la land, I was genuinely not pushing myself and again not asking the big questions or knocking on Glenn Hoddle’s door and saying what’s going on. I’m doing ok in the reserves why I am I not getting a chance for the first team and what’s happening, so again I didn’t ask the right questions and when Pete Suddaby said that to me I thought Paul there’s a serious issue. Those little minor red flags in your head are now getting larger and you’re thinking hang on you’re 19/20 and there’s younger than you playing for Premier League clubs, maybe not as defenders but you are getting to a point now where maybe things aren’t going to work out. So you start thinking well hold on I need to do something and so fourth year was a very average year and I think that it was the first year where I thought I’m now doing something totally wrong. It’s not naivety I’m actively selecting to not do my job properly and why is that, and I need to do something about that. At that point I thought that I’m failing, and it’s not just now that things aren’t going to plan, I’m actively choosing to not do the right things, so I’m choosing to not go to the gym and how come and what’s the reason behind that. In fact Paul why have you been choosing not to go to the gym for the last two years, are you just expecting what you are doing on the pitch as being enough. Then fifth year came and Clive Allen was now our coach and Jacques Santini was in first and then Martin Jol came in, and then I just knew straight away that Martin Jol was just not fancying me at all. I played a few pre-season friendlies but he pulled me to a side and he was saying look Paul you’ve got very good distribution but you’re a long way off is essentially what he said to me. I kind of took from that that things weren’t working out here for you, Frank Arnesen then was saying Paul look you are a typical English defender and you’ve got the physical attributes but technically you’re not what we’re looking for.
I just thought hold on, in my mind I’m still coming back to that point that David Pleat said I’m going to be in the first team in a year and that was now three years ago and I’d done absolutely nothing aside from just doing as well as I could on the pitch, I’ve done nothing and no extra work really to demonstrate that I’m going to make this happen. Looking back at it this is unforgivable it really is and it’s something that I’ve had to square my own head to be well Paul you didn’t do that then and you can’t dwell on that, you now need to make sure that you do everything as good as you can the whole time and then more, because it’s not enough to just do the acceptable amount. However, to get to an acceptable level you need to go beyond and just keep pushing, pushing, pushing. David Brailsford the UK cycling coach talks about marginal gains which is a real buzz topic and that’s something that I didn’t seek, like I didn’t go out and watch the first team and maybe players like Ledley King when he trained, to see his own positioning. Even before that I didn’t stay back and watch Chris Perry and Sol Campbell although you can obviously watch them in a game, but watching their application in training and what it was that they were doing is something that I need to be doing, so why am I not doing that. If he’s doing that and he’s playing in the first team then I need to be doing what he’s doing at a minimum and more, and I wasn’t showing that. I cannot believe that when I look back that I didn’t and that would be a bit of a regret but the fifth year came and I was captaining the reserves here and there next to Davenport, Dawson, Defendi and Naybet. However, they were not players that I would overly rate although Dawson in fairness was good, but I thought they are in and my time here is coming to an end and then it did and that was it, but definitely learning experiences all the way through Tottenham.
There were great people down at Tottenham and it was my own fault for not using those resources properly, and now when I’ve got the chances to get access to someone who is a field leader or a trailblazer in their own industry you’re really tapping into them because I know that that opportunity doesn’t come around a lot. So it took failing to recognise that however, overall Tottenham is an amazing club with great people.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Paul: Definitely Paul McGrath and I can remember watching the World Cup and I was just thinking that this guy he just seems to be doing this effortlessly, but he generally did and he seemed like he could do this at his own leisure. I think just Paul McGrath was my footballing hero as he was big and growing up you wanted to be him. Then coming to Tottenham you hear about Ledley King and you just think that I should have been watching him the whole time, but again when you talk about effortless it was the same with Ledley. It just seemed like he could defend as if it was not meaningless but he could defend effortlessly and that came from positioning, as he had the physicality and the understanding of the game to just be in a position to prevent something from happening before it escalates to being a goal threat. So Ledley would be someone as well along with of course Sol Campbell who was such a dominant, dominant figure and he’d be someone when I was 14/15 you’d see him and a player like Jaap Stam and be thinking that they were giants of men. They were also natural leaders who imposed their personality on the game and you would try and take a bit from that yourself, but they would be two very different characters to Ledley and Paul McGrath but again I’m just showing the different types of defender that there were and you’d try and take a bit from all of them. So when I was young it was Paul McGrath, then it was Sol Campbell and Jaap Stam when you’re about 14/15 and you are thinking that you are a bit of a tough guy defender who needs to be doing the same thing as these guys, not realising how tough that they really were. Then when you get to Tottenham you hear about Ledley and then you see him and you see that he plays with the grace of a midfielder but as a centre back, and I suppose that that was an evolution to a different kind of centre back with the Rio Ferdinand and Woodgate’s.
What was it like to represent the Republic of Ireland at youth level?
Paul: That was incredible I remember getting dropped off at the airport by my dad and checking into Dublin airport however, before that I had been called up a few times but I couldn’t go with injury. You’re always worried incase they wonder that they think that I’m not declaring for Ireland because I’m going to jump into the next England squad and Brian Kerr rung me and I remember saying look Brian genuinely but he said Paul look we know that you are genuinely injured as we’ve been talking to the youth team lead coach Pete Suddaby. So we know that you’re injured so don’t worry you are always in our thoughts, so then when I did go over and I met Brian I was waiting at the airport for like five minutes and he said Paul have you been waiting long, and I said no, no not at all just about five minutes. And I can remember him saying to me that that was five minutes too long! You just remember things like that and it really relaxed me, but as a teacher now if I was late to see a parent then I would say the same thing. I was sharing a room with Damien Delaney who was again a very decent person but I can remember playing for Ireland and my family were at the game and it was a fantastic experience. I’ve still got the jersey’s and the caps for when I played for Ireland however, it was an amazing feeling knowing what’s going on and I think that you know that you’re doing it for you but I think the feeling that it gives your family and the sense of pride is a big deal.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Paul: So I was definitely a centre back although I did play right back a couple of times and by a couple I mean twice and I definitely didn’t like it all. So I was definitely just a centre back and I was a physical player who was good in the air, my distribution over a long distance was good although sometimes my pass selection from the back going into midfield was average. So I think that physical would be the best way to describe me as I enjoyed the physical side of the game and I was also very raw and competitive, and I was also a player who wouldn’t give you something for free. So I think that I was very much of the school of the ball can go past me and you can go past me but you and the ball aren’t going past me. That would be quite an old school defensive mindset where I wouldn’t allow that to happen, and I think that the coaches kind of like that, and the players around me also like that as they knew that I was kind of dependable to the point where I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. So there wasn’t a prayer or a hope that anybody was going to get an easy chance but when it came to the fine arts of defending I needed a lot more, and I needed to invest a lot more of my own time in working out what to do at this stage of the defensive phase. So if you didn’t have the ball, the organisational things and what to do then, and if we’re under a counter attack then not desperately trying to win the ball immediately but just getting yourself into a position to delay an attack. I didn’t have that type of defensive brain at that point although I would now, but definitely not the physicality because now you watch football and you understand it a lot more, whereas then it was a lot more defending on instinct. So I was an instinctive defender but not a considered defender nor a deeply thoughtful one either.
How difficult was it for a young Spurs player like yourself to break into the first team during the 2000’s?
Paul: Well if I look at our youth team you had Stephen Kelly at right back, you had Ronnie Henry and I at centre back, and then Marcel McKie and Chris Herron vying left back. You then had Mark Hughes and Dean Marney in midfield with another lad called Walter Thomas, you then had at left midfield David Galbraith and Nicky Wettner here and there, then at right midfield you had Mario Noto who was kind of in there and sometimes also Lee Barnard, you also had John Sutton and Jamie Slabber up front. So Stephen Kelly’s gone onto forge a good career in the game and he was a good player so there were opportunities definitely at Tottenham if you were good enough. Dean Marney was given an opportunity, Lee Barnard was given an opportunity and Burchy in goal was on the bench a few times, also Jamie Slabber was given an opportunity before Lee Barnard and also Mark Yeates and Johnnie Jackson who was a very very good player (you could talk to him too as he was very down to earth) were given opportunities too. So definitely there were opportunities there 100%, and if you looked at it Anthony Gardner who was brought in from Port Vale and was thrown into Tottenham’s first team and then you had Alton Thelwell at 19 being thrown into the first team. Also you had Gary Doherty when he was 20/21 when he came from Luton, so you’re looking at Alton, Anthony and Gary Doherty who are three of your back five with Stephen Carr and Ben Thatcher and they are under 21. Also Simon Davies and Matthew Etherington were brought in, so there was definite opportunities for young lads particularly at Tottenham, as I suppose they weren’t challenging for the league so they needed to invest in youth and bring players through. That I think would have been David Pleat’s kind of overarching philosophy to develop the young from within, because it makes financial sense if you can find someone around the localities there to bring up to the first team. However, it didn’t happen for all of us but it did happen for enough to evidence that if you had the talent then you’re going to be given an opportunity.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Paul: Definitely the coaches that I had such as Jimmy Neighbour, Pat Holland, Peter Suddaby, Johnny Moncur, David Pleat and Colin Calderwood. They were all just serious and strong people who were strong minded, so Pat Holland was very no nonsense and if you made a mistake he’d let you know immediately. And it’s amazing how much of there personality rubs off on you, because now if I see a child at school as I’m a head of a year group and I’ve got over 240 kids in there. So I kind of use a bit of Pat Holland and a bit of fire when you need to, then you kind of soften up with a bit of Jimmy Neighbour if you need to and then you’ve got the sharp eye of John Moncur and looking and thinking. For observation Pete Suddaby was the one as he used to be a maths teacher and I now also teach maths, but he was strict as well, also you had Colin Calderwood who was a bit of an uncle when we were 18/19. So we didn’t need the crazy shouting although he could do that too, but he was quite funny and also a serious coach as well. So they would kind of be the biggest influences.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Paul: I should have and I didn’t and that was a huge mistake as I should have and I think that Sol Campbell and Ledley King would be two, but how can you not do that. If it’s like being a young mathematician and you’ve got a maths genius next door, how can you not work with him and and find out why he’s processing information like that, so it is the exact same thing. I can’t work out why I didn’t take up that opportunity, I can only put it down to naivety and not making the most of it, and we were told about going out there and having a look at Sol Campbell and Chris Perry, and to a lesser extent go out there and have a look at Ramon Vega. However, someone Like Ledley, Anthony Gardner and Alton Thelwell were all guys who I could have easily spoken to, to improve and for whatever reason maybe not having enough confidence to do it or not having enough will power to do it I just didn’t take that opportunity. However that was a fundamental mistake because when you’re not asking questions you’re not developing, and you are just going to develop at the speed of what you’re learning naturally as oppose to going in and doing the extra work to find out what more do I need to do. I would always come back as a teacher and do the homework and do the class work passively and the drills, but it’s the people who are going on the internet and finding new ways of doing things. So that’s the same as being a player and finding out what other players are doing and finding out how you can do that, so in this part of the game Ledley’s standing here and Sol is standing there and they are talking and making sure that people aren’t switching off. They are pulling people in, the other team are playing with this kind of formation and leaving one up. For example when we played against Arsenal and Bergkamp was playing he just played in a way that I couldn’t work out on the fly how to deal with, because I’ve never come across someone like that. He was dropping into an area in between midfield and attack, and it was what do you do, do you push him and then leave the space for a runner to go forwards. If I leave Ronnie Henry one on one at the back with Jérémie Aliadiére I think it was, I think that Ronnie’s going to get caught for pace.
So going back to teaching references which is the easiest thing for me, so if you go into an exam and you’re unprepared it’s frightening. Because you need to work it out now, but with the pressure of an exam it can’t happen as you need to have your prep work done before hand and gone through any type of issue or problem, because when you’ve done that and you’ve trialed out your responses to it and you go into an exam or a massive game against Arsenal then you’re going to know what to do. Because you’ve done it 100 times already, but when you haven’t done it 100 times already that is through no fault of anyone but my own then it’s a difficult thing as you add making mistakes that are costly. You shouldn’t do that as a professional as you would have needed to have rehearsed time and time again that this is what happens in this situation, and that this is the natural response for that. If that happens then I need to do this and this is the measured response for that, and when you don’t have that in your defensive arsenal then it’s frightening when you’re up against the pedigree of players like that. It’s not like you’re playing in an under 18 game, this is a very serious game where there is a world class player up against you, and that’s it it’s curtains.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Paul: I suppose that there was no prompting there was just Paul that’s it, that’s time for you. I did have a few opportunities to go to a few places as Tottenham at the time had an association with Slavia Prague so they were saying for me to go over there, also Frank Arnesen had lined something up for me to go down to Millwall for a period, and also Charlton wanted me to go down there. However, I just totally thought that this isn’t for me and honestly when I say that now I know that it sounds crazy but I just thought that this is not for me. How can you say that you’re going to be in the first team or Tottenham were saying that they were going to give me another contract but it didn’t happen, and I was just thinking I’m 21 and can people genuinely do that. Can people say that they are going to do this and then not happen, so I’m going to have to take some responsibility here for my own life. What happens if I go to Charlton for a couple of years and I earn £1,500 a week, what am I going to do then at the end of those two years, that’s when I thought I need to find something and I need to do something where no one else has got control over my future. I need to have control over my future, plus I didn’t think that I was good enough to be a footballer at that level, I’d kind of seen that level and thought that I’m not good enough. On reflection now but Paul you didn’t give yourself a chance to work hard enough and get to that point, you were obviously thought of at that level to have been given that length of contract. People weren’t saying that I’m going to be in the first team without reason at this time, but looking back at it I just didn’t work hard enough to progress at the same level that was needed to get to that point. However, I didn’t know that at the time, when I got to 21 I thought well that hasn’t worked out, I’m not going to make it at that level where you’re going to earn enough money to have a guaranteed decent life. So then I started going back studying for A Levels and playing football in non league with a team called Heybridge Swifts under Brian Statham. I did have a couple of better offers however, going to Slavia Prague and going down to Millwall I just thought I’m going to be fighting it out my whole life to have a sustainable living. Then if I get to 33 or 34 what am I going to do.
So I done my A Levels and played football so I had some money coming into combine my studies but I didn’t enjoy it at all playing football in non league, that is ironic because at 16 I thought that that was the way into having a successful career. However, after about six or seven months at Heybridge I just thought that the players here are not interested at all and it’s so loose however, that’s through no fault of Brian. Brian was very articulate and a decent man who was highly intelligent, but it’s just the nature of the beast that these chaps who were obviously not playing professional football for a reason even though they were good decent guys as well. They don’t have either the physical capabilities or the mental attributes to be a professional, and it was just I thought I can’t be part of a dressing room that is just like this because they just don’t care. So I just drew a line through that and thought ok forget that, you’ve got enough to get through your A Levels and then your’e going to go to university and then that was it, just put football behind me. However, going back to Heybridge and Brian Statham, at that time I was a very hot headed young person who was feeling aggrieved about a lot of things, I’d been carted from Tottenham and not interested in too much to do with football and he was actually very good to me. Actually at the time he was really good to me and he used to say to me like Paul you’re going to be back playing in the professional game and you’ll be driving a car like me soon, and he had a Porsche. So Brian kind of gave me a glimmer of feeling good about football again but I was just totally lost to football at that point. No one could have brought me back to it, but he was a thoroughly decent man and I think that the way that I ended it with Brian was that I text Brian and said that I wasn’t coming to a game. However, he got me back involved, he said look Paul don’t worry he reached out to me and said come back when you can.
And I came back for the next training session, but then I did it again and for me I had to be fully committed to it and I wasn’t as it was solely just for money. The way I left it with Brian, if I could go back and rewind and say to him look Brian I should have given it a better go at the time and I think that he if anyone could have been somebody to have. Because he had a good mindset about him but my psychology was not really in, but I think that he could kind of see that Paul is talented and if I can just get him mentally in the right frame of mind then I think that he might do well and that we might be able to get him back playing. However, he said some very nice things to me at halftime in games and at end of games where he’d be saying it in front of the whole team that Paul you’re not going to be here for long. That’s why this lad is going to be playing at this high level before you know it so let’s make the most of him while he’s here, so he kind of made me feel good about myself at a time when I suppose I was quite down from thinking I was at Tottenham and now that’s gone. So he was very good like that and then if I did get the chance to say something to him I would like to say that he was very good for me and I hope that everything going on for him works for him, as he is genuinely a very good person and I mean that beyond a football coach. After leaving football I did go onto play Gaelic football even though I did play it throughout my time at Tottenham. If there was a final I’d get a call and they’d put me under pressure to play this however, I’ve been playing since I was 12 and being from Kerry it’s honestly what you’re based on as a man down there. How good are you at football and the GAA, so I’d be playing that the whole time and it was kind of like an aspiration to play for Kerry.
Even when I was playing for Tottenham you wanted to play in the Premier League but in the back of my mind there was always something to do with Gaelic football. In the back of my head I was planning to get my A Levels and go back to study in Ireland to put myself in the frame to play for Kerry. When I got my A Levels I applied to study in the Institute of Technology Tralee to study PE, I got in there and was playing well. So I got called into Kerry and played with Kerry a couple of times and it didn’t work out as I would have wanted with them but the key thing from that is that I learnt from Tottenham. I was doing everything that I could to play at the highest level I could over there, and playing for Kerry was very similar to playing for Ireland and Tottenham because it was a very proud moment for my family. Putting the jersey on and playing to a high level as you could was a great experience, and so I was playing football and doing my degree and done well in my degree and got a first. I then came back to London and even now I’m still playing a bit of Gaelic football for my own team, and just getting on with things.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Paul: I think playing for Ireland and signing professional for Tottenham has to be two of my greatest moments. I can remember a game and Glenn Hoddle came in and it was pre-season against QPR, and it was something like Stephen Carr right back, Christian Ziege left back and I was centre back with Chris Perry I think. Anyway it was a proper first team 11 plus me as a pro and I think that he had kind of done that to say look Paul what can you do. Chris Hughton told me that I was going to have a chance this year and so here it comes. Ten minutes in and it’s going good and I’m not feeling as if this is anything out of the norm as I’m playing with exceptional players who kind of make it easy for me. Then I remember a ball went up in the air and Kevin Gallen was the striker at QPR and he was good however, it was a ball that I could never have won but I think that you’re just dying to impress at that point as the Premier League was starting in four weeks. Here I am starting for the first team and it’s not as if we’re playing I don’t know Cirencester with a reserve 11, this is QPR and next week it’s Watford and we’re gearing up for the Premier League, so this was proper, proper things here so you need to show what you can do. I went up never won the ball as it was about five yards from me and flew in, and I took the head off Kevin Gallen along with my own head, and split my head open. Alasdair Beattie the physio comes running on and I just said Alasdair just tape it up but he’s looking at me like no Paul. I’m not saying that in a type of Braveheart way but I genuinely said to him just tape it up, because in your mind you’re thinking that this is a big opportunity and this is a huge opportunity with the Premier League starting in four weeks. You’ll probably be on the bench in a few weeks and then who knows what can happen and if there’s an injury then you are in. However, Alasdair was saying to me Paul just come off to the side of the pitch and we’ll bandage you up and see what happens. However, he just took me to the changing rooms and the doctor came down and stitched up my head and that was that. However, that was a huge moment and it was Watford after that and then an Italian side and that was Glenn Hoddle’s last friendly before the start of the season.
So it was QPR and if I start in that then I’ll be on the bench for the next two games and the Premier League, so that was unfortunate. However, playing for Ireland, signing professional for Tottenham and I suppose starting in an established first team 11 like that knowing that you’ve got a chance to show what you can do. So they were all big moments.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Paul: I think Bergkamp or Wayne Rooney, one of the two, they were very different players with Bergkamp being very indirect with his movements as he would get the better of you. He’d be getting the ball to feet and just slotting someone in and playing a ridiculous pass after controlling it ridiculously. Rooney on the other hand would take you on and beat you, and make it impossible for you to stop him as he was a very direct player. Those two were two world class players that were very very difficult to play against.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Paul: Winning with the under 17’s as we were a great team and the run to the youth cup semifinal felt like you just couldn’t be beaten. We knew that we were being watched by people in Tottenham’s hierarchy and we knew that they thought well of us so there was great synergy. Even the first team players knew the youth team but looking back on it I feel that we should have won the youth cup as we could have curtailed Rooney. We should have but he scored three over two legs against us but we could have curtailed him as I felt that we were the better team than Everton, and Aston Villa beat them in the final. Believe it or not a great memory from Tottenham wasn’t football but instead when we (the under 17’s) went on a team holiday to Spain and we had a great time with a lot of togetherness and great memories. On the pitch we were competing for contracts but off the pitch there was good spirit, other good moments in the youth team were I suppose seeing some people get called up to the first team as that was always good. When you went to a game and seen Rob Burch on the bench and seeing Stephen Kelly come back from QPR and then talking to Steo as we knew Stephen Kelly in the changing room, and finding out that he’d been called into the Irish senior squad and you’d just be thinking what! So an incredible thing like that was great whereas for the reserves I think it would be more when you got called up to the first team. Such as in pre-season friendlies as that would be a big moment and you’d be around top players, but for the reserves maybe captaining them was a good moment and shouting at people like Milenko Acimovic to track back his runner. Also shouting at Sean Davis and telling him that although this is the reserves that you need to do something. Another one was one day in training I shouted at Christian Ziege because he didn’t do something which he would have done in the first team so I said why are you not doing it here even though he’s a World Cup winner. I take moments like that and it’s just a basic standard and that is something that I would keep now.
It doesn’t matter who it would be at work there’s a level of accountability, so that would be a different type of favourite moment. So you’d think that you’d had the courage to hold people to account at that level but I just wish that I’d have held myself to account more by pushing myself. So to summarise any day that you go into Tottenham is a favourite moment as you are going into a world class institute so make the most of that. Everything we had there was top notch.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Paul: On the pitch it was Bergkamp and Rooney but in training Teddy Sheringham was so difficult. However, you know who was tough for different reasons was Frédéric Kanouté because he was so awkward and he was quick, and how can you stop him because he was six foot three and powerful, and I can remember when he done the worst step over I’ve ever seen before. However, I can’t risk going into tackle him because if he goes on a run I’m just going to have to foul him to stop him, so he had different attributes which made him very difficult to defend against. And I suppose that those type of strikers were difficult but Hélder Postiga was different as I never thought that he was going to have a chance to do much here. Even at the time I thought that he’s going to struggle to make it in the Premier League here. However, playing against someone like Sheringham, Bergkamp, Rooney and Darren Bent who was tough enough to play against was again quite awkward. Also playing against Defoe was a nightmare because he’d get a shot off when you would think that you had an angle covered. Also Les Ferdinand was a seriously strong player who was also a very good man as well actually, so yeah they would probably be the top players who would make it very tricky for you as they’d ask you different questions but they were all different types of players. However, they’d all keep you guessing and none of them would give you a moments peace, whether it’s there movement or there physicality or just closing you down. They’d just let you know that this was going to be a tough game and that gets into your head as a player because you know that they are a good player and that I’ve got to be at the top of my game here.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Paul: I wouldn’t say overly close to as I had a lot of friends growing up and I came in quite late to Spurs as a 16 year old. So we went on a team holiday together and when I say team holiday that was not with Tottenham but just us as lads going on holiday. Stephen Kelly would be someone who I would speak to with the Irish connection, also George Snee I kind of talked to a little bit but you talk to everyone but nobody that you’d really confide in. I suppose that I was in digs with Dave Galbraith and Ronnie Henry and we’d kind of be knocking around with each other and going to the David Lloyd leisure centre here and there and talking about nonsense. I had my good friends outside of football and I kind of kept to that because I was always conscious that it was very competitive although we all got on with one another. I used to text with Lee Barnard when I was at university and he was getting into the first team at Spurs. I saw Burchy propose to his wife on GMTV and I couldn’t even send a message of congratulations however, in my own mind I kind of needed to shut everything down and move on because I didn’t want to be someone who was just hanging onto that. When I got to the end of 21/22 I needed to put that all behind me and learn from it and move forwards, because I’ve seen quite a few people hang on and when I was in non league there was a few of them who were talking like they were professional footballers and I thought that that’s not me. So I move on and wish the best for everyone but take the learning from it and and progress and move forward.
What was it like to play for Spurs’ first team on six occasions?
Paul: You’re just thinking what is going on and I can remember the first time it happened and me and Rohan Ricketts were warming up. We were playing Colchester United I think and so it was just after second year and I think that Glenn Hoddle fancied me as a player to give a chance to that year. And I had been on the bench at Bournemouth and these are proper first team friendlies and anyway me and Rohan Ricketts are talking and he is a bit of a live wire. It was about the 59th minute and I’m warming up and Rohan comes over to me and starts going on about some Arsenal youth team player who he used to play with that was unbelievable. In my own mind I’m thinking Rohan just be quiet as all I want to do is concentrate on what’s going on as there’s about 16,000 people here and we could be going on, so just be quiet. It’s only that I’ve studied psychology as it was part of my degree and I was actually then in my mental rehearsal stage and visualising what I needed to get done. So Rohan probably didn’t need to do that but I did, and then out of nowhere Chris Hughton’s just done his wolf whistle and said Paul you’re on. I’m thinking here it comes you’re on and you are just standing there and I think that Glenn Hoddle’s saying something but if I’m being very honest I’m not even listening, as I’m on the pitch here and whatever happens I’m going to make sure that I do as well as I can Glenn. I can remember that I done something and that felt very good and Glenn Hoddle was just shouting at me Paul well done! And so you’re thinking ok that’s not too bad and then I passed the ball to Darren Anderton and it was a good pass and he’s ended up doing something with it. However, he’s turned around and said Paul don’t ever do that again and I’m thinking what do you mean don’t ever do that again. Now I know that it’s because I played him a square ball and he needed to reposition his body quickly before he was going to be tackled, so it’s only when I’m older that you process why did he say that. However, coming on for that game and playing in subsequent friendlies was just unbelievable and just as good.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Paul: You’ve got to work and I was taken to work with my dad every summer holiday as he’s a builder. So every summer holiday and half term I’d be working, working, working, and I do it now I still work. I’m a maths and PE teacher at school but I’ve got a lot of responsibilities down there as I do a lot with discipline and behaviour too, and if you ask any teacher there or any member of staff they’ll joke that Paul sleeps in the building. As I am relentless with my work ethic absolutely relentless, and I say the same things to the kids that the minimum expectation is that you give your maximum effort, and I think that I have read that from Sean Dyche. That really is the mantra that needs to be kept for every single person that the minimum expectation is that you give your maximum and then you do what you can on top of that. That is something that I apply to all aspects of work whether if it’s in teaching or in the property business that I kind of run with my family, you have to do that, you absolutely must. If you’re not working hard then someone else is working hard and they are after your position. I’m earning good money with school and it’s that sustainable future that I always wanted as I have a family. It’s not like football where you can lose everything, I’ve got this with the money that I’ve got from professional football and I’ve invested it into some houses and I’m running this business with my brother and dad. That’s going well and we’ve got a portfolio of properties and the teaching is also going well, but I’m working all hours, and the reason why I am saying that is because it has to be the same as a youth team footballer. Because at that age you’re so naive and you are actually more smart as a ten year old because at ten you’re listening to adults for advice and you know that you need to learn, but at 16 you kind of think that you know but you don’t because you know nothing. So the way that I would say it is that you have to work at a minimum for what the coaches are saying for you to do, at a minimum. It can’t be just coming to training a minute before it starts and rushing to put your boots on, so you need to be there early.
You need to be getting to training like 45 minutes early and getting your pre training warm up in and knowing what you haven’t done in the game before, as well as knowing that your passing is a little bit of off for example. What would be great in the youth team is if they partnered kids up, I’m not sure if they do it but if they said look Paul you and Ronnie need to be here 45 minutes before training, with one of you serving the balls in and the other is chesting it and passing it out to a cone which is replicating the right position. Or Paul you, Ronnie and Burchy need to be coming in every Monday and Tuesday right through to Friday and you need to serve some balls into Ronnie and then he has to head that back to the keeper, and then Burchy you need to kick it out to Paul so he can head it back. To put it in a more concise way you need to identify what coaches should do as they should identify parts of your game that you need to work on and that you then take to work on an hour before training and an hour after training. And you would hope that the coaches are of an ability to identify what exactly it is you need to work on, so at 16 or any age you need a good coach. Particularly they need to say things like your distribution is off or your positioning is off, so rather than just going onto the pitch I will sit down for half an hour before training to show you the positioning of four of five top class centre backs, and not just like a clip that you’d see on Match Of The Day, instead a whole pitch view. Then look at it on the whiteboard and see where you need to be positioned and why, and then you don’t just sit there and take it in as if it’s Pythagoras’ theorem and you’re going to be at lunchtime shortly. They need to be taking all of that information in like it’s no ones business and that needs to be taking that information on and building on it and also applying that information throughout. However, it’s the work before and after training that will make them a success however, the coaching advice is key and seek out the information and ask the coaches questions and be brave to ask them.
It’s only by the age of 20 that as a defender you understand the fine arts of defending, it’s like a degree and you need to be taught it and you need take an example or a simulation of a scenario in your mind and replay it 100 times. You need to treat football as if it’s a degree and you need to go out and learn it and that you need to recognise that you’re not on the first row of the ladder as you are not even on the ladder. You need to get the coaches information and advice and strive to work and learn so you can start moving forwards and getting your way up that ladder because it’s not just going to happen for you. All of my kids in my PE class last year got and A or above in their exam results and that’s no lies. They got that because I was onto them everyday that we did PE, because on a Tuesday and Thursday we stayed for an hour extra after class.
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?
Paul: I look back on my time at Spurs as a hugely formative experience and also as a great experience, they are a world class institute and there’s not many 16 year olds that can say that they spent five years at an establishment that is a world leader. It’s such a respected academy and it was an amazing place to be, and looking back at it the characters in there have shaped me to such a point where I can borrow some of the advice that I learnt from them especially from a lifestyle point of view. The advice of some of the coaches and how they carried themselves and behaved, and represented the club and demanded that you also represented the club well such as turning up in a suit with a tie that was done properly and with your shirts tucked in, and that would be when it came to Pat Holland when it came to some big games. However, it was definitely a great experience which shaped me, and from what I failed doing at Tottenham to be able to reflect on that and think ok now put that into practice in the future and make sure that what goes on from here you put into the right way that you can learn from it and move forwards. So as much as I did fail at Spurs what can I learn from it and why did it not happen in the way that I wanted it to, so now put that into practice and you can learn from it. However, they are a great club and I would definitely look back on them and still look back on them even now and look and see that they were doing well under Pochettino. They are a great place and I only want the best for the club.