Islington born Brian Woozley was an attack minded midfielder who played for Spurs at youth team level during the mid 1960’s. Playing for Tottenham in the South East Counties League senior section and junior section, Brian’s brother David also played for Spurs during the same decade, while his nephew who is also called David, played for clubs such as Crystal Palace and Torquay United. Brian Woozley was an amateur with Spurs during his time there, and after leaving them he would go on to play for the likes of Croydon who he enjoyed a very good spell with, Hendon and Wembley. I recently had the great pleasure of speaking to Brian about his memories of his time at Spurs during the 1960’s.
What are your earliest footballing memories and how did you come about joining Spurs?
Brian: It would be going back to 1959 when I was playing for Islington Boys under 11 team, and their first game surprisingly enough was against Tottenham Boys at White Hart Lane, so that was a good start. Then after that and going to 1963, basically playing for Islington Schoolboys at under 15’s we used to train at Highbury the Arsenal ground once a week. And the one thing that I really remember about that was the underfloor heating at Highbury and it was magical, when you finished your game and you came into the dressing room you had underfloor heating, so in them days that was magical as you can imagine. Then basically after that a friends dad said to me would you like to get a trial for Spurs? And I said well yeah, I don’t mind. Anyway later on that year I got a letter signed by Bill Nicholson inviting me to take part in a junior trial match over at the Cheshunt ground, and that was at the end of July, so that’s how it all started.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?
Brian: It was getting the 259 bus from Caledonian Road sort of twice a week to go training, and training was taken by Sid Tickridge, and one of the nice men there at Spurs was called Jimmy Joyce who was in the admin, and he was a lovely man who was really nice and very friendly. And so anyway I left school at 14 and took part in the trial which unfortunately I didn’t quite make the grade for an apprentice, but they offered to sign me on amateur forms, like a lot of the youngsters, and I think that even John Pratt signed amateur forms first of all. So at 15 I didn’t quite get up to the standard but they signed me on amateur forms and then two weeks later I got a job as a messenger with the Evening News, earning £3 a week, which was really expensive stuff! I was issued as an amateur player with a pass to go into the games (at Whiter Hart Lane) if I wanted to go in to watch the first team, and that was good. Anyway after that I played for the junior section of the South East Counties League, and my brother David also made the senior section of the South East Counties, and he played about 13 games for them, and he then went down a different road. I have two telegrams on me, one is dated 28/2/64 saying you’re playing tomorrow, meet at Spurs ground 1:30pm. The other one was, no training stop, meet at Spurs ground 1:15pm. And that’s how they used to communicate with you if you weren’t training that week. So in 1965 I signed the amateur forms and I was actually asked by the London FA to represent them in the FA Charity Youth Competition, which was mainly for amateur players like myself and John Pratt.
We played Kent in the first round and we won six-two, and Bill Nicholson was actually watching that match, and I was told that he was very impressed with my performance. And then shortly after and at one particular game John Pratt I think signed as an apprentice professional, and Ron Ashley took his place in the London side. After that I was made captain for London and then we went on to reach the final after playing five rounds, and we met Leicester who we beat in the final, after two legs. Notable players from Leicester at that was David Nish and he was playing for Leicester, and I think that he also went on to play for England. The other one was Rodney Fern who was quite famous, and as a result of playing for London I was issued with a cap which was beautiful. So that was my time and it was quite memorable really, it was three years that I actually played there and I think that I had one game in the Metropolitan League (it was five tiers as you had the first team, reserves, Metropolitan, under 18’s and under 16’s), so that was my time at Spurs. We had some good players in those times, lots of very good players.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Brian: I admired Dave Mackay and I just thought that he was an outstanding player, and obviously Jimmy Greaves you can’t take away from, and why he’s never been knighted I’ll never know. But they were two great players, and I didn’t even get to meet Bill Nicholson after all three years which is strange, although I know that he came to watch me but that’s about it I think.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Brian: Mainly midfield, sort of attacking midfield as I liked to go forward and have shots on goal, and I carried on doing that through my amateur career as well, I also played for London in midfield and it was just enjoyable really. Going back to the days of playing at Cheshunt, the pitches at Cheshunt were just fantastic compared to playing at Hackney Marshes on a Sunday or something. It was out of this world and they were just some of the greatest pitches that you could ever have I think in them days, although it is a lot better today. It was also a pleasure to put on one of these yellow shirts when I first had my trial at Cheshunt, and it was one of these silky shirts with the cockerel on it, although I never had a picture taken of me when I was at Spurs, which I do regret.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Brian: I suppose anybody was because they were such a good side in the 60’s and they went on to good things.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Brian: Well as I say I always admired Dave Mackay and I mean you couldn’t get any better that. He was outstanding going forward, defending, tackling and you name it he could do it you know, he was my idol really and I like to say that I based my game on him.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Brian: In them days for a young lad of 15 years of age to sort of represent Tottenham made you feel like you were on cloud nine really, and that’s how I felt. It was just great and I loved every minute, and you know it taught you everything really, and although my hope was to have signed professional it wasn’t to be and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Brian: I had quite a few times once I left Tottenham, playing for a club called Croydon FC we went the whole season which was 42 league games without being beaten, which is quite an achievement really, and I don’t think that any other club has really done that.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Brian: Well there was quite a few actually. One year when I was playing for Tottenham youth I played against Trevor Brooking and that was in 1965, and he was playing at centre forward, and I was playing right-half with John Pratt playing left-half as that’s how it used to be in them days. I also played against Steve Kember who used to play for Crystal Palace, and also Jimmy Pearce used to play for Tottenham and he played when I first played for Islington Schoolboys under 15’s. Also Keith Weller who played for Spurs, went to Barnsbury Boys School which was the same school as me.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Brian: Basically I played for Maidenhead in I think around 1972, and basically Brentford came along and asked if I would like to represent them in a game at the London Charity Cup. I said yeah and I jumped at the chance to play for Brentford just for the one game, and you’ll never guess who it was against, it was against Tottenham at Tottenham! So I jumped at the chance and that was the first time that I came up against Graeme Souness, and boy did I know that I’d been in a tackle, and he really did see to me. He was a lot fitter than I was anyway, and he was always quicker on the ball than me so he really did stand out, and I think that was really just the start of his career at Tottenham really, because it would have just been a reserve side. So he was one player that really stood out during my career.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Brian: Well I didn’t think that I was going to go any further to be quite honest, I sort of played that well for London and Bill Nicholson said it was very good, but there was no sort of movement there and I wanted to be a professional. So I heard that Hendon were interested in me and they were a top amateur side at that time so I thought that I’d give it a try. I could have stayed on at a Spurs as they didn’t sort of say that they didn’t want me anymore but there you go. My time at Hendon was great and quite a lot of the side were England amateur internationals, and basically when I had went there they had drawn in the first round of the FA Cup at home to Reading. I was twelfth man that day at the age of only 18 which was very unusual, and I went on for the last 20 minutes but we lost the game in the end. Also Hendon in another year got through to the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup, where they were drawn against Skelmersdale United, and that was played at Derby’s Baseball Ground. Unfortunately we got beat and that was the dream of playing at Wembley gone, and as you can imagine you’re in the semi-final of the FAAmateur Cup and it would have been lovely, but there you go. After Hendon I went to a club called Wembley, and a Scottish amateur international called George Taylor was building the side there. So I went there and it was quite good there, and then from there I went to Maidenhead and while there although I played for them on Saturday’s, I used to play on Sunday’s in Islington for a local team called Carlton United who I don’t think exist anymore. It was a very experienced side and we had Peter McGillicuddy playing for us as well.
At Carlton we got through to the All Sunday Cup final which took us all around the UK and we went to Liverpool, and then in the final we up to Durham, and we won the final there which was quite good. After Maidenhead I went to Tooting & Mitcham who were managed by Roy Dwight who used to play for Nottingham Forest, and he was the only player that scored in the FA Cup final and then got carried off with a broken leg, and he was also the uncle of Elton John. So I went to Tooting and stayed there for a couple of years and then I went to Croydon and as I say we had quite a good side at Croydon in the league, and then after that I went to Horsham and then I finished my career at Dorking and that’s when I joined the police, so I couldn’t sort of carry on anymore after that which was a shame. I then spent 33 years with Sussex police, so I’ve been all around the place as you can imagine.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Brian: Only Alan Hesling really, I don’t think that anyone used to live around my way, there was only one bloke who used to get the bus back with me and that was Alan Hesling. I think that he used to get on the 259 with me and he’d go his own way to south London and I’d go back to Islington. Also Ron Ashley was another good lad, and he represented Tottenham and London as well, after John Pratt turned professional.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Brian: Obviously the times of the 60’s are totally different to now with the fitness regimes that you’ve got today, and your eating and everything. So I’d say that you’ve just got to stick at your football.
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?
Brian: Oh yes without a doubt although I’m an Arsenal supporter because I was born and bred in Islington, but they still mean a lot to me. I support two teams in a funny sort of way, but I’ll always think of Tottenham without a doubt.