Chris Landon was signed by Spurs at a young age and would play for the Lilywhites up until his late teens, working his way up the various youth ranks and into the reserves. A talented left back by trade who had a wicked left foot and who played in a very talented age group at Spurs of which included the likes of Sol Campbell and Danny Hill, Chris Landon unfortunately suffered from injury troubles which forced him to leave the Lilywhites when he was at reserve team level. I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with Chris to look back on his time at Spurs during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Chris: Well kicking a ball around in the playground was obviously one, I would also have a kick around with my uncles and my dad in the garden and all that type of stuff. In terms of playing for an actual team I think that I was about eight or nine and there was a local team called Alexandra United, and me and a mate from my primary school signed up for them and played a year out of our age group, so we played for the under 10’s. So that was the first real memory and I was hooked ever since then.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Chris: Well it would have been about the following year, so I think that I would have been ten, and we used to play against a local team called Stoneleigh. They had a few decent lads and one of their dads a fellow called Larry Pritchard used to come and watch, and I think that he used to play for Sutton United, and he might even be record cap holder for Sutton United or something like that. He was good pals with Ted Powell who at the time was running the School of Excellence south of the river for Tottenham. He didn’t live a million miles away from us but he lived a bit further out at Epsom Downs, and I think that Larry got in touch with Ted and said that there were a coup of lads in this local team that you might want to have a look at. And Ted had watched us a couple of times and then invited us for some trials, and my earliest memories at the club would have been when I was about ten. I think I went through about four or five stages of trials and there seemed to be a lot of kids, and then at every stage it got smaller and smaller and smaller, to the point where there was probably about 20 of us. And then you got asked to be a schoolboy at the Centre of Excellence which was over Crystal Palace way at Sylvan School I think it was.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Chris: It was really enjoyable it really was and I met some really good coaches and some cracking lads who were fantastic and funny.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Chris: So the earliest one would have been Glenn Hoddle and I’m 45 now and I still go and watch them home and away and abroad, and I get out there with Danny Bolt and go to Juventus, Barcelona and all over the place. However, Glenn Hoddle would have been obviously the earliest one with the 1981 and 1982 cup finals, and just the way he played, Glenn was just elegant. And beyond that and as time went on probably the best player that I’ve ever seen and am ever likely to see in a Spurs shirt is Gazza, and over a period of about ten years I don’t think that there was another player in the country who could get anywhere near him I don’t think
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Chris: In the early days I was quite lightweight and small so I used to play as the older number 11 as a left winger. However, then as I got a bit older and started filling out a little bit and actually went from schoolboys to different age groups, I think that I was in my last year as a schoolboy so I would have been 15 and then I got offered an apprenticeship straight from school, and that would have been as a left back. And from playing up front and left midfield I really enjoyed it, because it’s not often you receive the ball with your back to goal and a lot of the play is in front of you. So I really enjoyed it.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Chris: At Spurs I think probably the coaches, so the two people that stick out for me were Keith Waldon and Keith would have been when I first got into the youth set up from school, he would have been managing the Division One South East Counties side. He was fantastic for me and he probably had me playing football that I didn’t know I could play, so talk about over performing if you like I probably had my best year under Keith in that first year of apprenticeship football. He was a great guy who would give you lots of confidence and reprimand you if you needed it, but generally he was really helpful and a nice guy. And then there was Ray Clemence who I got on well with and again despite being a goalkeeper he just seemed to say the right thing at the right time, he just had great knowledge and he was just a great guy as well.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Chris: Yeah there was and in the early days when I used to sit in the stands I used to watch Pat Van Den Hauwe who I remember coming to Spurs. He wasn’t your typical Spurs player at the time, he had won trophies with Everton and he used to put his foot in at every opportunity, and yeah I looked at him and thought if there was one part of the game to be a successful defender, then you need to be a bit like that. So he was definitely one and just a couple of years above me there was Justin Edinburgh after Spurs had bought him, and so I used to watch Justin and aspire to be like him at that time to look to break into the first team.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Chris: So I did the first two years apprenticeship and then signed the pro forms in the spring/summer, and then picked up an injury in the pre-season down at Crawley in the first year of the pro year. I struggled to get back fit and it felt like for ever, I then ended up going to have a knee operation up at Harley Street with I think Doctor Browett who was the fellow that did Gazza’s knee the year before. Gary Mabbutt was actually in the bed next to me having the same operation done, and then coming back from injury it just seemed to take for ever to get back fit. And then being in the reserves and not playing I think truthfully during that time that part of me felt out of love with the game a little bit in that time. And then I asked to be released from my contract and I spoke to Steve Perryman and Ossie and they got it cancelled, and then I don’t think that I hardly played football again until about a year after that. It took a long time for my knee to get back to 100% right as well as having a bit of confidence to come back and play again. And I didn’t look to go into anything serious for about five years I think it was, but I enjoyed going back to playing with my mates and I found that passion again and loved it again. Then in that time as well I needed to get a job or a trade behind me, and so I did an apprenticeship as an electrician and from that I’ve gone onto become an electrical construction manager.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Chris: On a personal level it would have been in the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup final against Arsenal, and we’d lost the first leg at home to Arsenal, I think it was 2-1. Then we went and beat them at Highbury in the second leg of the final and I scored a header at the Clock End, and it felt like I had run around the stadium ten times celebrating. It was amazing and a great feeling to stick my head on the ball there at Highbury so I think that that is personally the one, and then my overall best football memory was when John Terry slipped in the Champions League and missed a penalty against Man United. So I think that that’s my favourite ever footballing memory.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Chris: That would be Gazza absolutely no question about it, I can’t think of anyone that would get near him although there was other good players who I was fortunate to train with at the time. Players such as Nayim who was class and Gary Lineker who was class and Gary Mabbutt who were all good pros along with Steve Sedgley and Neil Ruddock. However, I don’t think that any of them could get near Gazza.
You were part of a very talented Spurs youth team of which included the likes of Sol Campbell and Danny Hill. What was it like to play in that team with those players?
Chris: That was a pleasure and at that the first year of my apprenticeship where I would have had expected to be playing in the South East Counties Division Two side. However, I hit the ground running in my first year and was playing a year up really and Nicky Barmby was also in that team and Jeff Minton and Lee Hodges and Darren Caskey and Sol. However, it was phenomenal and the one lad who I thought along with the club would go on and maybe be the next Gazza was Danny Hill, but I think that he ended up at Dagenham in the end. However, with Sol you could tell from an early age that he was great because every time he stepped up a level he just did it wish ease. We would have been 16/17 and he would go training with the reserves and he’d just be outplaying all of the reserve players. Or he’d go in with the first team and train with them and just his physical strength was phenomenal, back then he used to play central midfield or as a a striker. And even all the big centre halves and central midfielders who were big strong lads struggled to contain him as he was a strong lad.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Chris: I think that I played in most of the games leading up to the FA Youth Cup final, and we had a lad that played left back who was a year above me called Kevin Jordan. And we had drawn Man United and I had fully expected me to be playing and starting, but we got up there and I was sat in the changing room and told that I was just going to be part of the squad that day. I think that because it was the end of the year it was the shop window for a lot of players that weren’t going to be taken on on professional forms for the year above me. Anyway Kevin ended up starting but that was a real eye opener playing up at Old Trafford, and sitting in the stands watching that I think that were 18 or 20,000 people at the ground. That was really wow, and then the players came out to warm up you had the likes of Paul Scholes and you had Robbie Savage who I think might have played along with Gary Neville and Chris Casper. I don’t even think that David Beckham could even break into the side, but I remember that Ryan Giggs had broken into the first team at Man United and was playing and scoring. I’ll never forget that he came running out before the game with a ball towards the halfway line and just dropped kicked the ball past his own goalkeeper from the halfway line, and crashed it in off the bar. I remember sitting there and thinking just wow, I’d love to be out there but just watching it was a real pleasure. And he had a good battle all night, he was playing wide left against Neil Young who was a right back. And he was a no nonsense hard tackling fullback and I watched Giggs give him the run around for 90 minutes. I was also good friends with Billy Hudson whose uncle was Alan Hudson and I’m not sure what really happened to Billy, but he was one of those kids who would come in always with a big smile on his face. And he was always the life and soul and just a good lad, and back then we had a young trainee come over from South Africa called Quinton Fortune. He came over I’m not sure if it was for a year, but he came with a fellow who was like his minder and also a lady who used to look after him.
Quinton would probably have been two or three years younger than me so he was probably 14/15 playing with lads who have left school and were doing an apprenticeship. I remember thinking back then that he would have a good career whereever he ends up but what a great lad as well, always laughing and he was a real nice kid and a fantastic footballer.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Chris: I think that it was a player called Nicky Summerbee and although he went onto Man City and a few other clubs, but at the time I was playing at left back in a reserve game. And he would have been playing right wing for Swindon, and I think it was when Glenn Hoddle had gone there and he had set up them with a style of play and a way of playing. Summerbee was probably two or three years older than me and I was quite quick, but he was quick and he was only a skinny lad but he was hard as nails and it was just a tough tough game. You’d go up for a header and you’d have an elbow in your ear and if you faked to go long he would drop back short. And obviously his dad used to play for Man City for years and so growing up in his garden he must have learnt every trick in the book as he was a very tough lad to play against.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Chris: I was close to Billy Hudson but to be honest with you I was close with all of the lads as when you do spend two or three years in each other’s pockets you do end up being close to all of them. There was two Irish lads who lived in digs in Enfield and I would stay at theirs quite a bit. We would finish training and go and play snooker and then stay at their place rather than going back to Surrey, so they were Stephen Robinson and Darren Grogan and I used to get on well with them two. Then a couple of years before and for about five or six years I used to travel up to training with Danny Bolt, and then Dan got released at apprenticeship stage and went to Fulham and then his career moved on in a different direction from Fulham.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Chris: Try to enjoy it as much as you can because every time you go up to the next level the pressure goes up, and I think that too often you forget to enjoy it along the way. And just keep working hard and keep your head down and do the right things and eat well and sleep well. I think that it’s ingrained into these kids a lot more now, much more than when I was playing, when after you finishing training it was straight in the bookies, or the first team would be straight down TGI Fridays or in the pub, as it was different back then. That was the old egg and chips pre-match meal days you know.
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?
Chris: Without question, I’ve kept going ever since and I’ve always been a big Spurs man and we tend to get away to every game in Europe. So that will never change.