Southwest London born Danny Bolt was scouted and signed by Spurs at a young age and he would go onto play for the Lilywhites until the age of 16 when he was unfortunately not offered YTS (He did go onto play in one South East Counties game for Spurs). Bolt played as a centre forward at Spurs during his youth days but after leaving the club he would play out on the left wing and as an attacking midfielder, which was his preferred position. Upon leaving Spurs Danny joined then Second Division Fulham as a trainee in 1994, and he would go onto progress up the ranks at the London club to make over 15 competitive appearances for them, scoring two goals. After leaving Fulham Bolt went into the non league where he played for a whole host of clubs of which included Slough, Woking, Dover, Sutton United and Canvey Island. I recently had the great pleasure of chatting with Danny about his time at Spurs as a youth player.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Danny: As a kid I was really hyperactive and as soon as I found football when I was probably about five or six years old my dad bought me a Spurs kit which was the 1983 kit, so that is probably my earliest football memory. Being hyperactive as a kid football was somewhere where I could release my energy and I was literally addicted to football, honestly I played every single day and all I wore up until I was 15 years old was football kits. So my earliest memory would be getting my first football kit.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Danny: I lived in Tooting as a kid and then me and my mum moved over to Epsom in Surrey, and I then joined a local team in Stoneleigh called Stoneleigh Boys. I was playing for them but I was playing a year over my age group because I had just joined that team so I was playing in a team that was a year older than me. And the next year the manager pulled me in and said look you can stay in your own age group and play under 8’s. However, I then felt that I was better than everybody else in my age group if that makes sense, as there was a big difference. Anyway I was playing in Epsom for Stoneleigh and there was a manager floating around who wanted to make his own team, but really what he did was he nicked all the best players to form his own team. However, we didn’t know that at the time and I got asked to go for a trial with this new representative team and I was the first one picked. So they formed a new team and within about two months I was playing for him and there was a scout who came down to watch all of our games, and he was called Ted Powell, and he actually ended up being England under 18 manager with Sol Campbell. And so he scouted me and came up to my dad and introduced himself and said that he was a Tottenham Hotspur scout, my dad either laughed or burst into tears as he was a massive Spurs fan. And anyway my dad called me over at the end of the game and introduced me to Ted and said that he wants to ask you something, he is a scout (he didn’t tell me the team) and he said that he was a scout from Tottenham which I couldn’t believe because that’s my team. So my earliest memory would be at a place called Sylvans School as we used to train down in Crystal Palace every Monday night. Obviously we played football on a Saturday and Sundays for your teams and then you would go down there on a Monday, and it would be training inside a gymnasium with two age groups, one was five to six and the other was six to seven.
So some of them were there but actually weren’t with Spurs such as Ben Thatcher who was there but he ended up going back to Spurs later. So we had quite a few players from that centre that made it but actually didn’t play for Spurs however, my best memory was at the age of 12 when Gazza came down to train with us. So that was like just the best thing ever. However, from a football point of view everything at Spurs was very technical, like everything was to do with technique and skill. Ted Powell was a brilliant coach but he whispered so you couldn’t hardly hear him, so you had to really listen to what he said, but football wise he was a very intelligent coach.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Danny: It was unbelievable as it was my dream to play for Spurs and I played one South East Counties game as a schoolboy for the Division Two team, and that was like the only time that I played in a competitive game at that level however, just to put the kit on was just a dream. So we trained at Sylvans in Crystal Palace until we were about 14 and so then what they did was they took the best players from the south of London which was the Crystal Palace set up and also the ones that trained at the ground, so they mixed them together at 14 to 16. So at 14 I went up to the ground to train every Monday and Thursday, we trained downstairs in the gym and then we trained up at the Astro pitch which was behind the old west stand. My dream was to be a professional footballer and play for Tottenham but I never made it at the top level but I did put the kit on, so to me I lived the dream.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Danny: Glen Hoddle was my very first ever player that I actually loved so he was my absolute idol, and then on the world stage it was Maradona as he was left footed and he was just a class above the rest. Then growing up as a teenager and from the minute Gazza joined our club and to now he is my favourite player of all time.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Danny: When I was at Spurs I played as a centre forward but when I left Spurs I went to Fulham and I ended up playing as a left winger. Then as I faded out of the pro game and went into the Conference and non league I sort of played as a number ten, so I would say that I was someone who liked to play in the hole as a number ten. However, I also liked to drift wide and put crosses in. I was skilful but I had deceptive pace not blistering pace, and at the time I was probably a typical Spurs player as I didn’t like tackling too much.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Danny: Ted Powell was one and also my last coach at Spurs was Pat Holland who was also a very good coach, but I only had a year with him.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Danny: When I was at Spurs the year older than me was very strong and so we went to train at White Hart Lane and the year above us was a very strong team. A lot of the players (5) went to Lilleshall and there was a player who was the year above me called Danny Hill who I thought was unbelievable. He played in the first team for Spurs but Sol Campbell was the same age as Danny Hill, and if you had to say at that age who was going to make it then you would have said Danny Hill as he was unbelievable. I also remember that I did my work experience with Tottenham so when you’re at school everyones asked to do work experience, and everyone’s getting sent off to the garage or wherever. And I spoke to Spurs and said could I do my work experience at the club with the first team, and so they said yeah. And so I went in and one day after training they were doing shooting practice with the young apprentices and me, and Danny Hill hit this shot and I’ve never seen a ball being hit like that at that time in my life. However, if you were to ask anyone my age or above who was at Spurs then they would all probably say that they would watch Danny Hill.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Danny: So I got to 16 and it was like whether you were going to get taken on or not and so there were three other forwards called Junior Haynes, Steve Slade and another whose name I forget. They were only taking three on and so Pat Holland called me in and he was ultra nice about it even though I was devastated about it at the time, he just said that we don’t think that you’re at that level that we think that we need you to be at. He said that I wasn’t far from it but he thought that there were other players in front of me, and probably at that time when I look back on it now he was probably right. I think that if I’d have stayed at Spurs because I was quite shy and I used to question myself and my ability all of the time, then I think if I’d have got taken on by Spurs then I think that I would have got swallowed up a little bit. I dropped down the leagues and obviously went to Fulham who were in Division Two at the time, and without being big-headed I was the best player in my age group ability wise and player wise. Because coming from Tottenham I had been educated and taught much better than they the Fulham players had been taught, so it benefited me more being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. However, I think if I had stayed at Spurs then I don’t think that I would have got a look in, and I think that the more powerful characters around would have swallowed me up. So after doing a two year apprenticeship at Fulham and a two year professional I played handful of games (I think that I started 13 and was a substitute for about six) and I eventually then got let go by Micky Adams, and eventually I dropped into the non league. I played at a team called Slough who were in the Conference and Brian McDermott was the manager, and then a bit of a sad story but I’ll tell you it, and so I played at Slough and had a really good year and there were clubs looking at me. And then the club got folded up at the end of the year because the chairman had a heart attack.
So I found myself down to Woking who were the top team in the Conference at the time, so I signed for them and then sadly a couple of months later a personal family tragedy happened. So I then didn’t play football for six months and so obviously from there I never recovered in terms of getting back in the pro game and I ended up drifting, so I went down another league and played for Sutton United and was a local player who had done well, and my mates used to come down and watch me play. So at that time in my life I was like 23 or 24 and I suppose i was going out on a Saturday night as I knew that I wasn’t going to be a professional anymore. So that was the next best thing.
How difficult was it to find out that you weren’t being taken on by Spurs full time as a youth player?
Danny: I was absolutely devastated but at the same time Pat Holland when he told me that I wasn’t quite good enough for Spurs, did tell me that he thought that I was going to get an apprenticeship somewhere. He gave me a list of clubs that were interested in me and he said I know that I could go to Leyton Orient and he would get me a YTS now because he had connections at that club. He set me up trials at Ipswich and Norwich and Charlton, but at Fulham they literally trained around where I lived, and the youth team manager at Fulham had watched me play since I was about 11 years old. He came to watch a game once and I was playing on the left wing and as I have ginger hair and he went up to the manager and introduced himself and then asked about me. However, the manager said that he had no chance as I was at Tottenham and will never leave them so don’t even bother introducing yourself type of thing. However, I was devastated at being let go by Tottenham but ultimately I just wanted to be a professional footballer and so at that age you obviously think that I’ve been let go from Tottenham, but at Fulham I’m going to get in the first team and then Tottenham will buy me back. However, that never quite happened.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Danny: It was to make my first team debut for Fulham so that was probably my greatest moment. I’ve got a son now who’s 17 and I sometimes I go over to the park and watch games and you see every kid, and every kid wants to be a professional footballer. And to just play one game I think is an absolute unbelievable achievement, when you think that every team that you’ve ever seen play and you look at all the age groups, it’s got to be like millions of kids playing at one age group. And on the back of that teams take on about ten apprentices a year, so that’s 900 kids who get taken on a year, and out of those 900 probably about 200 play professional. And out of them 200 probably 150 play one first team game, and so now I’m older looking back at it I appreciate that more than I did at the time if you understand what I mean. So then you take it like I’ve just played a first team game, but now I appreciate it a lot more.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Danny: I played against Glenn Hoddle for Fulham reserves against Chelsea reserves when he was Chelsea manager. I also trained with Gazza twice and I also played against Ruud Gullit, so they would probably be the best three at friendly and reserve team level. However, at youth level Mark Kennedy at Millwall was very good when I played for the Fulham youth team.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Danny: I remember one game where we played against West Ham and I was having a bit of bad game to be fair and the goalkeeper got injured. And the manager got us in at halftime and said to all of us who wants to go in goal and of course no one stuck up their hands. I was having a shocker and I knew it, and so the manager looked at me and said do you want to go in goal? And so I said not really but he said I think that you should, so I ended up going in goal and kept a clean sheet and we won 3-2, so that was one memory. I also remember one goal that I scored against Wimbledon and at that time most of the kids who I knew that lived around me and played in the local leagues all played for Wimbledon. So that game which was 3-3 was probably the best game that I ever played in and I also scored a top corner goal at the old Chase Lodge training ground. Obviously also training with Gazza and just being among the first team was great, and I remember that we used to train at Cheshunt back in like the mid 1980’s, and I remember going there and getting all the players autographs. I remember that Steve Hodge who I liked at the time was there and I said can I have your autograph? And so he said yeah come over to my car as it was raining and here I was sitting in his car which was just great.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Danny: There was one bloke called Mark Beard who was at Millwall and he wasn’t the best defender but he was difficult, like Stephen Carr for example who I played against after I was let go from Spurs. I didn’t find him as difficult as Mark Beard because we (Fulham) won 2-0 and I made one of the goals. However, Mark Beard who played for Millwall and scored against Arsenal in the FA Cup was just really difficult to play against and he was all elbows and knees, and just awkward to play against. I actually know him personally as he is a friend of mine, and I always say that he was my hardest opponent. Also another hard opponent was Duncan Jupp who was a year older than me at Fulham and he went to play in the Premier League for Wimbledon, and he was an absolute beast. So I trained against him for two years and on a daily basis he was so, so hard to get past.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Danny: There was a lad who was a year older than me called Chris Landon who I’m still very good friends with now and he was a left back who was in the same year as Sol Campbell. He played for England but never played a first team game for Spurs however, funnily he got a pro contract and was playing in the reserves and then one day he went in there and said for me it’s not for me and he quit, and he never played pro or non league again. He’s actually a Spurs fan now and we go to Spurs games together but he was a good friend, another one was a lad who I used to get the train with to Spurs called Billy Hudson, who was hilarious at the time. I’m actually still in contact with a few of the boys such as Ijah Anderson who I’m friends with on Facebook and we still have a chat every now and again along with Danny Foot who was in my age group. Also there was a kid called Neil Le Bihan at Spurs who was a nice lad and I actually played with him for non league Dover before years earlier having played with him as a kid outside of Spurs.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Danny: I’m saying this as a 44 year old bloke who misses football badly, and it’s very hard because if someone had given me advice at that age I probably wouldn’t have listened to it if I’m being honest. Because you’re quite single mined and childish however, I would say enjoy every moment in football, that’s number one. Also work the absolute hardest you can and also listen. I would say for me personally that I sit here now at 44 and I’ve got regrets where I don’t think at certain times that I tried my hardest. I know that this is top level but someone like Frank Lampard got everything he absolutely could out of himself as a footballer and there are more gifted players than Frank Lampard who never made it such as Danny Hill. So I don’t think that I worked hard enough and I was quite moody so I used to get sulky about things quite a lot, so at them times I didn’t have the right attitude. So yeah attitude, listening and also asking questions of the more senior pros and ask why they hold that position or why do extra training. So I would seek advice from older players.
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: Like I said it was my dream to play for Tottenham at any level and I got to put a kit on and I played one South East Counties game where I was in a pro ground. And today I’m a season ticket holder and I go with my son, and I also went to the Champions League final. So I go every week and the club means so much to me and I’m emotionally involved in it, so it drives me mad that we don’t win trophies. However, as a kid I used to go to all the Tottenham games until about 1992 when I got let go by Tottenham and then I obviously went on my own career and played non league and pro. I then went back to Tottenham and took my son there when he was six and for the last ten years I’ve been going to every game.