Vinny Samways was born and grew up in London’s east end in the late 1960’s before later moving to Cheshunt, Hertfordshire which was near where Spurs’ old Cheshunt training ground was. The one time London Schools player who had been at Spurs since a young age was signed as an apprentice in the April of 1985. A gifted and skilful central midfielder who could do the under appreciated sides of the game to great effect in regards to his passing, as well as being able to create good chances for teammates who were further forward with his fine range of passing. A ball playing midfielder, Samways was a player of slight frame however, he was a specialist in his own style of midfield play. A technically gifted player, Vinny Samways made well over 200 appearances for the Lilywhites and he put in some important performances in big games for them. Samways played a big part in helping Tottenham to avoid relegation during that 1993/94 season when we were battling to stay up, the midfielder also put in an excellent shift during the 1991 FA Cup when Spurs defeated Nottingham Forest, and in many ways he was a player ahead of his time. Vinny would leave Spurs in 1994 after spending several memorable and eventful years with the club during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He departed the club to join fellow English side Everton before later playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Spanish side Las Palmas, Sevilla, Córdoba and Algeciras, as well as returning to England to play for Walsall during that time. The former footballer also turned his hand to management and coaching before becoming a football agent, a job which he still does to this very day in the south of Spain where he resides. I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with the former Spurs star to chat about his long and eventful time with the Lilywhites.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Vinny: Obviously for me it was probably when I got the chance to go and train with Spurs and like yourself my family and even my wife’s family have always been big Spurs supporters. So to have the chance to go to the club that you support to train was always a dream really, and whether you succeed after that is another thing but fortunately enough and luckily enough I was able to have had that opportunity.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Vinny: Well obviously I was playing for our local team in east London and obviously the district and also the county, and I then got scouted when I was playing for east London. And at the time I was actually training with Crystal Palace and then Tottenham asked me if I would like to go there a couple of times a week to train. So obviously that was really good and so that was were it sort of started for me. My earliest memories of my time at Spurs were obviously that it was a massive club but it was also a very friendly club, and the coaching staff and everybody were top professionals in what they did, which you could only imagine for a club that size.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Vinny: It was fantastic and I’ve only great memories of my time there and it was actually my own choice to ask to leave, so I can only talk of having fond memories from the minute that I started at Spurs to the minute that I left.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Vinny: Obviously once I started training at Tottenham I always looked at the likes of Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle and them kind of players. So for me they were ones that I would benchmark if you could get anywhere near them, as they were absolutely phenomenal players.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Vinny: Well when I first sort of started out at Spurs I was sort of a left midfielder and most teams in them days played a 4-4-2, so I would have been left of the four in midfield. Then gradually over the years I played more inside as a central midfield player which I preferred and I would have said that I was more of a ball player, or organiser or that kind of title but I would call myself a ball playing midfielder.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Vinny: I would say that the one that really not only as a player but obviously I had the pleasure to play for and that was Ossie Ardiles. He was a guy that came over to England to play when it was super difficult for foreigners to come over, and he was a sensational player and a fantastic manager and person as well.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Vinny: The likes of Ossie and people like that because for me the way he played and the way he wanted to play was obviously the way that I had been brought up. So obviously he would be one that I would try and look at and set a benchmark to, but that was obviously difficult because the guy was sensational.
Could you talk me through your memories of your competitive first team debut for Spurs against Nottingham Forest on the second of May 1987 and how it came about?
Vinny: Well obviously at the time I think that it was David Pleat as manager and for a couple of weeks before hand he was bringing me from the reserve team to train with the first team. That was obviously a great experience for me and then if I’m correct they had an FA Cup game or a very important game the following week, and David Pleat put me in the squad as a sub. So for me just being in and around the first team was fantastic but it was a surprise being so young, but I appreciated him having the trust in me.
Could you talk me through some of your memories of that 1991 triumphant FA Cup run and what it felt like to win the FA Cup with Spurs?
Vinny: Well I think every kid grew up watching the FA Cup and as a kid I always remember thinking one day I’d love to play in an FA Cup final. However, it didn’t used to matter what team was playing in it I used to religiously watch it from when it started and they used to have the cameras in the team hotels, and obviously it was always a dream to play in an FA Cup final but to play at Wembley. So to play for the team that you support and win it was like a dream come true, it was just an amazing experience. I think that we had a very good team during that campaign and I was fortunate to play with some exceptional players in that side such as Gazza and Lineker, so they are the two that stand out possibly the most however, we obviously had a very good team. We believed on our day that we were as good as any team but maybe over a period of five months and being consistent to challenge for the league wasn’t sort of in our make up. However, on our day in a cup competition we always thought that we could play against anybody, so it was an incredible journey.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Vinny: I’d been training down at Tottenham since I was like 13/14 years old and I got to a stage where I just thought that I needed a change and I’d only just signed a new contract, and obviously I played one season under Ossie Ardiles who had put a lot of trust and faith in me. However, it was a decision that I felt was just right for me at that time and then obviously I left there and went to Everton which didn’t work out as I would have liked it to. However, they are another fantastic club but for whatever reasons which happens to many many players when they go to another club and it doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Obviously I then left Everton and I went to Las Palmas in Spain and I was their for I think six and a half seasons and I thoroughly enjoyed it because I think that the football in Spain possibly suited me more at that time. So I have very fond memories of playing in Spain and also at Sevilla which was a fantastic club, and to have the chance to play against some of the best players in the world in La Liga was a marvellous challenge.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Vinny: I would possibly say winning the FA Cup with Spurs which obviously was an amazing experience so that would possibly go down as the highlight.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Vinny: I would say that the best player I’ve ever played with was Paul Gascoigne as he was phenomenal. However, the best player that I’ve played against and I’ve been fortunate enough here in Spain so there are a couple that stand out such as Zidane, the Brazilian Ronaldo and Raúl. So that’s obviously why my experience in Spain was incredible because I played against some absolute world class players.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Vinny: Obviously coming through the youth team at the time you had two teams, so you had like the South East Counties one and two league. So I remember that I always started in the second team and then worked my way up from the A team, and then from the A team the next step would have been the reserves. So I sort of went quite quickly through the South East Counties team to the reserves and they were a really good side, because in the reserves a lot of the players that weren’t playing for the first team or were injured coming back used to be put in those teams to get match fitness. So you were playing with and against a lot of first team players, so that was a real good experience.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Vinny: That’s a difficult one but I would probably say the Liverpool midfield which back then had the likes of Souness and Steve McMahon and those kind of players in a great team. So they were super difficult to play against.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Vinny: I was very close to Mitchell Thomas and Justin Edinburgh who unfortunately passed away last year. I was also close to Andy Gray, so these were people that I was close to and I had very good relationships with them.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Vinny: My advice is to just try and work as hard as you can day in day out, and obviously when you go to training training it’s obviously not just going through the motions, you’ve got to treat it as a match day because you can’t just switch on when it comes to games. So you need to work as hard as you can and be dedicated.
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?
Vinny: Spurs is the first result that I look for when there’s matches and I’ll always be a Spurs supporter and like I’ve said I’ve only got fond memories of my time at Spurs. You can see now that the club is on the move and they have built an absolute incredible stadium which is as good as any that is around at the moment. So let’s hope that they keep on improving and with a very good experienced manager let’s hope that they can get back to challenging for the top four at least and also get a good run in the cups. Because that is what everybody wants to see.