A technically gifted and highly skilled creative midfield player, Sunderland born Michael Hazard had his footballing talents spotted by a Tottenham Hotspur scout as a 14 year scout during the 1970’s, and the former St Aidan’s School pupil eventually joined Spurs as an apprentice, at 16 years of age. With great vision, a superb footballing brain and quick and tricky feet, Hazard created many a fine chance for the Spurs forwards during his two spells at the club thanks also to his fine passing range, and he also scored some really taken and important goals. After rising through the youth and reserve team ranks at Spurs, Micky would go on to make his competitive debut for the club in a First Division game against Everton at White Hart Lane in the April of 1980. Going on to make a further 169 competitive appearances for Spurs during his time at the club (scoring 25 goals), Hazard’s successful first spell saw him play his part in helping us to win the 1982 FA Cup and 1984 UEFA Cup, as well as being a part of the side that finished as runners up to Liverpool in the 1982 Football League Cup final. Hazard’s first spell at Spurs came to an end in the September of 1985 when he made the move across London to Chelsea. A shining light at the Blues during their time in the Second Division, Micky Hazard also helped them to get back to the First Division, by winning the 1989/90 Division Two league title, and also the Full Members Cup in 1986. A spell at Portsmouth and later Swindon Town (under Ossie Ardiles) followed for Hazard, and he helped Swindon to win the Division One Play-off final in 1993. However, towards the end of his career he joined Spurs for a second time, and it was at his first professional club where he ended his time in the professional game in 1995, before entering the non-League, where he played for Hertfordshire based club Hitchin Town for a time.
Hazard did return to Spurs once again though, when he joined them as an academy coach, spending a good number of years coaching Spurs’ talented young players, players that to this day still speak about with him such high regard. He would also go on to become an academy coach at Crystal Palace before holding a number of positions in non-League football. Now working in hospitality on match days at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Hazard is rightly regarded by Spurs supporters as a club legend, and is much loved by them, and he is without doubt one of the nicest former professional footballers that you’re ever likely to have the pleasure of meeting. I recently had the great pleasure of talking to Micky at length about his time at his beloved Spurs, a club that he still holds very close to his heart to this very day.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Micky: My earliest football memories was playing for my junior school and we was a top top footballing school, and there were lots of players that sort of came through that school, such as Kevin Dillon and Micky Harford, who were all in my teams and they went on and became professionals at the highest level. So that was my earliest memory, but in particular there are certain things, like we used to win cups such as the County Cup which was called the Bishop’s Cup, which was like the biggest cup for schools in the area. I can remember scoring a wonder goal in the final (it was a two legged final) and we went away to a team with the same school name as us – St Cuthbert’s, and mine was St Cuthbert’s. We drew one-one away and I scored a wonder goal, and then in the home leg we won one-nil, so we won the Bishop’s Cup and so my name or my school was written on the Bishop’s Cup, so I’ll always be a winner of the famous Bishop’s Cup. So that’s my earliest memory really.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Micky: Well obviously Spurs had an assistant manager in the day called Wilf Dixon who was born and bred in Sunderland, and he had set up a little small scouting network up there, basically a one man, and the one man came and befriended my dad. He came and watched me every week and got friendly with my dad and invited us for dinner, took me for extra training etc, etc, etc, and when it came to decision day at the age of 14 which in those days you couldn’t sign outside of an hours journey for anyone, so I had to wait until I was 14. So when the decision had to be made he won my dad’s heart and my mum’s heart and that was it, it was done. I’ll always remember coming down as a schoolboy and getting a train with the first team as they thought highly of me, and getting a train with the likes of Steve Perryman and Glenn Hoddle at the age of 14/15. I don’t remember too much about the playing as such in those days because you just got in little friendlies, but when I got to 16 I became full time and I remember this one game in particular when I scored a goal. If we had a video of it, it would probably go down as the best goal that I’ve ever scored and one of the all time great goals. We were playing Arsenal as well and we beat them five-nil and I scored this goal, and it was described in the programme (that’s probably how I remember it so much) as a copybook goal. I picked the ball up just inside Arsenal’s half and I played four one-two’s to the edge of the box, and the final one-two got me in behind the defence and I slotted it away. That is unheard of to have so many one-two’s and certainly at the young age of 16, it was an incredible goal, and because it was against them as well it sort of made it much more satisfying as well, and it’s something that’s probably stuck with me forever. That is probably my earliest memory of one of my first ever games for Spurs.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Micky: I did, my favourite all time player was Johan Cruyff and I thought he was incredible, graceful, elegant and stylish. He played the game in the way that I believe it should be played, the way that growing up my dad would preach to me. Also I loved Alan Ball and he was an absolutely wonderful footballer and the first to wear white boots, and the first to win the World Cup, so he was one of my heroes. But I loved the great Leeds team of the 70’s, and they were absolutely brilliant to watch and I thought that they were as hard as nails, but they played football the way that it should be played in terms of the passing game, and they were brilliant. It was only really when I joined Spurs at the age of 14 that they became my favourite team over Leeds, and obviously I’d been spotted by Spurs at 11 so I knew that I was going to go to Spurs one day, so they were there. But watching Leeds was brilliant, absolutely brilliant to watch, Johnny Giles, Billy Bremner, Allan Clarke were super super footballers. Norman Hunter, Bobby Charlton, Terry Cooper, I could name the team, but then obviously once I joined Spurs there is something about when you join a club, there is something about finding your home and a chemistry and something that just seems to fit. That didn’t happen immediately as obviously it takes time but once you settle and you get rid of the homesickness etc, I use the words chemistry and where the heart is, but you sort of just fall into it and then it’s like nowhere else you’ve ever been. It happens without you actually realising it as well, you don’t know how much you love the club until later down the line. My motto on how the game should be played, is be creative, play with flair and excite people. Me and Tottenham sort of fit like a hand to a glove in many ways, so that was the way I sort of fell in love with Tottenham really.
How would you describe yourself as a player during your time at Spurs?
Micky: I think I was very gifted and very talented, and without being big-headed I would say that there was only one player that I felt had more natural talent than me and that doesn’t mean that I was the best player. It means that in terms of natural ability that I think that me and Glenn Hoddle were very much from the same book, and so in terms of talent I didn’t fear anyone, I had no fear of any other player. Maybe at times I was a little bit in awe of Glenn with how good he was, but in terms of every other player I never felt in awe of any one, I always felt well I’m very gifted and I can hold my own with anyone. I had a great range of pass, short pass and long pass, either foot, outside or inside. Technically I was very good as well and also very skilful, I had very quick feet and I was nimble and I could jump in and out of tackles as I was very aware of where the tackles were coming from. I could also see the pass too, so I would say that if you would sort of value me in today’s market then you would probably value me around about £4 billion or something like that!
Could you talk me through your time playing in the Tottenham youth team and reserves, and could you share some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in those sides?
Micky: Well that goal that I scored against the Arsenal youth team obviously, and obviously we had a great cup run in my second year at Spurs (when I was 17), and we reached the FA Youth Cup semi-final, where we played the great Crystal Palace team of Kenny Sansom, Jerry Murphy and Vincent Hilaire. They had an incredible team and we played them away in a two-legged semi-final and we’d been brilliant up until this semi-final. We’d been absolutely superb and then we played Crystal Palace away and it was two-legged, and we actually played really really well on the night, and I played really well as well against a very very powerful team. They were a lot more experienced than we were as most of them were playing in the first team, and then of course we’d got them back to White Hart Lane (we’d lost two-one I think in the first leg), and we’d got them back to White Hart Lane and we were incredibly confident, I mean incredibly confident. After two minutes Paul Miller got sent off, so not only were we playing the best youth team around at that time, we were now doing it with ten men and eventually we lost six-nil. So it was very difficult for inexperienced youngsters at that age to play against a top youth team, and of course when one goes in, and two goes in it becomes a very big ask, but it was a wonderful run and a wonderful time, and something that I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed. I must be honest it built my taste for success up, because the following season I was desperate to win the FA Youth Cup and I thought that we had the team to win it. I thought that we played absolutely brilliantly and I can’t remember which round we went out in (I think we won two games) but we were brilliant. I think that we played Liverpool with Sammy Lee and we lost two-one and got knocked out although my memory sort of fails me a little bit, but so again it was disappointing because I thought having had the experience of playing with a very very young youth team from the previous year, we were now all experienced youth players, as we were in our third year.
You had three years in the youth team and we were in our third year and we were all coming up to our 18th birthdays and somehow we didn’t make the most of it, which was very disappointing. When I say it was disappointing more or less the similar group of players in the reserve league which was called the Football Combination in those days, we won it three years running. So we went from a youth team into a reserve team and managed to win the Football Combination three years running, and I don’t know if that’s ever been done before but we did it. So it’s strange because having been at school and won trophies every year for my school team whichever school I was in, it felt like the norm, so to win three Football Combination’s just felt like the norm because we used to win the league every year at school. So it just felt like eventually the natural progression would happen, and we’d win the league and the FA Cup every year, but it took me a little while to realise that it actually doesn’t happen like that, sadly. But winning the Football Combination is an incredible achievement as is winning the league three times in a a row, but especially as youngsters. What you have to remember about the Football Combination is that it was used as a stepping stone for good youngsters in the first team, but also as a place for experienced players to keep fit when they weren’t in the first team, or coming back from injury. So I played against the England captain (Gerry Francis) when I was 17/18 in the reserves you know, so that was the great thing and that is what I think is wrong about today’s football. I think that there should be a reserve team because of the experience it gives you of playing with great players. I played in the reserves with Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa and Steve Archibald, because they were coming back from injuries so you got the experience of playing with great players and playing against great players.
Today youngsters spend their time up to the age of 23 more or less playing in their own age bracket, which incredibly will stifle development because the better the player you play with and against the more you learn and the more you learn to cope with it. And the more you learn to actually become a better footballer, if you don’t learn it tells the story that you weren’t good enough to get there anyway.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Micky: I would say Keith Burkinshaw and Peter Shreeves, obviously they were my coaches but also Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles. Glenn Hoddle was someone I looked up to and admired and watched a lot, and would often try and learn from, from the things that he did. Ossie Ardiles was probably the single biggest individual influence on my career and he loved me as a player, and wanted to educate me in other areas of the game such as the little tricks. And the fact that I was up against Ossie from a positional sense, and the fact that he was prepared to help and advice me all along the way says a lot for his character. Steve Perryman was another one who would spend lots of time talking to me and advising me, so yeah there were quite a few big influences, but if I had to choose one I would say Ossie Ardiles.
What are your memories of your competitive debut for the Spurs first team against Everton in the First Division, in the April of 1980. And how did it come about?
Micky: Well I was supposed to make my debut the previous week against Man United at Old Trafford, and we trained on the Thursday and I developed a blister on my big toe. That night I burst it myself at home, and when I woke up the next morning on the Friday it had got badly infected, and so I couldn’t walk and i couldn’t train and so I obviously didn’t play in the game. It’s an interesting fact that if Spurs had won four-nil then I might never have made my debut, but we lost four-nil at Old Trafford, so he was going to make changes the following week. I was fit and ready and I sort of had an idea all week because when we were playing first team versus reserves I was often in the first team, and then on the Friday they confirmed it that I was playing. I don’t remember too much about the game except that I got man of the match, I wasn’t because there were better players but I got the sympathy award because I was a youngster coming through the system and playing with all of these great players. I remember sitting in the dressing room and on one side I had Glenn Hoddle and on the other side I had Ossie Ardiles, and I was thinking to myself what the heck to do they need me for if they’ve got these two. So yeah, it was an incredible experience and another was John Pratt whose place I’d taken, had come up to me before the game and said listen Mick show the fans how good you are and they’ll absolutely love you, and your skill and your flair, express yourself and they’ll love you. That I thought was an incredible thing and after the game he came in to me while I was lying in the bath and said Micky absolutely superb today, pleasure to watch you. I thought that was wonderful and I hold him in such high esteem because of that.
It’s easy as a player to wish someone who has taken your place not to do well, but not John Pratt as he was full of praise and full of compliments, and he was brilliant.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Micky: There was so many! Obviously you looked to players who have played in your position but there was lots to learn from other types of players as well. You’ve got Glenn and Ossie and Ricky who were very similar positions to me, and if you don’t learn of them then you are not going to be learning at all. Then you’ve got Steve Perryman who would teach me things about being a leader and talking, and helping to make your game easier by talking to your teammates around you. So there’s lots of ways around you to learn from, such as Ray Clemence who was a born winner and there was just lots of things to learn. You should never ever put a stop to your learning, because the minute that you think you’ve learned it all puts limitations on what you can learn, and so you shouldn’t do that because there’s always something to learn.
If possible could you share some of your memories of your time as a player at Spurs during the 1982 FA Cup winning campaign, the 1984 UEFA Cup winning campaign and the 1982 Football League Cup campaign when we finished as runners up?
Micky: It’s interesting the 1982 League Cup campaign, as right the way through to the final I played really really well. I scored three winning goals in the various rounds, and I got the winner in the semi-final, and we won one-nil in all three games and I scored all three goals. So I was very instrumental in us getting to the final, and I scored a very good goal in the semi-final for us to win one-nil against West Brom, and then in the final we were winning one-nil until I got taken off, as Keith had taken me off. I remember Jimmy Greaves in the paper after we had lost, saying (it’s easy to say this when you lose, by the way) it was the biggest mistake from a manager since someone (I can’t remember who it was) got taken off in the 1970 World Cup, so yeah I didn’t really deserve be taken off. But I got took off and I was sitting on the bench, and to compound my misery we were one-nil up and we lost three-one after extra time, so that was incredibly disappointing. But then in the FA Cup final a couple of months later we put it right, and we had all played 60 odd games that season so we were all exhausted. The final went to a replay and Wembley was amazing, my parents, my family and everyone was there. I remember walking out before the game and seeing them in the stadium and them seeing me, and imagining how they would feel looking down on me. One of their sons and their brother, who was walking out at Wembley stadium and about to be playing in an FA Cup final, it truly was an amazing experience. And we won it which made it even better, you know defeat is very difficult to take in a final but when you win a final it’s absolutely glorious. It glosses over every single bad thing that might have happened on the day and it clouds your judgement as time passes, and everything seems to have gone perfect and was wonderful. If we had lost everything sort of gets a bit darker, but no it was a wonderful memory.
Then in 1984 it was absolutely wonderful and for some reason I found my form and in the semi-final I remember that we had Hadjuk Split. I remember that I was outstanding away in Hadjuk Split and we came away with a two-one defeat, I don’t know how as we should have won by five. I of course then scored the winning goal when we got back to the Lane and again I was on top form, and then of course to get to the final in your own stadium in the second leg. We were in top form in both legs and away, and then obviously we lost our captain Steve Perryman and we had no Glenn Hoddle, and we had no Ossie Ardiles, and no Garth Crooks and no Ray Clemence. So a lot of the starting 11 were out, and a lot of the responsibility rested on my shoulders because I was the most creative player left and again I found my top form and we won it, and it crowned what was a wonderful week for me having been picked for the full England team. Three days after the UEFA Cup final I was sub for the full England team at Hampden Park against Scotland, so yeah wonderful memories which with age do get better. As I said everything clouds your judgement, I mean the goal that I scored in the quarter final of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge for instance I know exactly how I scored it, but 38 years later ironically I had just scored a 20 yard shot from the edge of the box that went in instead of beating seven men from the halfway line. In victory everything seems wonderful but when I look back at all the winning goals that I got in the cup runs, and I got three winning goals in the League Cup including the semi-final winner, and I got the winner in the semi-final of the UEFA Cup as well as the winning goal in the quarter final of the FA Cup, and I think wow! If someone had have told me when I was a young boy growing up dreaming of playing in these big cup games and these finals, that I was going to score so many winning goals along the route, and particularly along the semi-finals, then I would have paid money to do that!
What prompted you to leave Spurs for the first time and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites prior to rejoining them?
Micky: I didn’t really have a choice, we had played Newcastle at home on the Saturday and we had won five-one, and I had scored. I was in the players lounge celebrating and Peter Shreeves called me in and told me that the club had accepted an offer off Chelsea for me, as they had a few cash flow problems, and Chelsea had offered a then record fee for them, for me. So that’s how my move to Chelsea came about though I never wanted to leave Spurs obviously, and I was quite a shy boy then as well, as the only club that I’d ever known was Spurs, and the only manager and players that I’d ever known was at Spurs. So suddenly I had to take my shyness elsewhere and I knew the problems that that would create for me and so I basically ended up joining Chelsea. I was basically given an ultimatum that if I don’t go then I won’t be picked again, which tended to happen in those days. So I went and then I longed to come back to Spurs, which isn’t putting down Chelsea or any other club that I played for, it’s just that Spurs were my club and I longed to come back. I was absolutely worshipped by the Chelsea fans, and they loved me and they sang my name every week, they loved my kind of player but ultimately your heart is where your heart is. And then I had three fantastic years at Swindon with Glenn and Ossie, helping them to win promotion to the Premier League, so to get the opportunity to come back to my schoolboy club and my first love was absolutely incredible at the age of 33. So yeah I grabbed it with both hands and in fact I was so happy to return, that at the age of 35 and when Gerry Francis arrived and obviously wasn’t going to build his team around me as I was too old, so obviously I wasn’t going to be in the plans. I was offered contracts, Birmingham City offered me a contract for quite a lot of money but I thought no, I’m finishing at my club as this is where I started and this is where I’m finishing. I don’t want to be anywhere else and I don’t want to go anywhere else and so I’m just retiring.
Obviously I was having a few injury problems at the time so it made the decision easier, but to retire at the club that I started with was absolute ecstasy, and I’ve worked at the club ever since. I also did go to Hitchin after Spurs, I did but I didn’t as what happened was that the former Spurs player Paul Price was playing for Hitchin, and he wanted to get the managers job. So to get the managers job he asked me to do him a favour and to play in one or two games. So I went and played in a game and I played really well, and then they decided that they’d give me and Paul the joint managers job but I’d had no experience of managing or coaching or anything at the time. So I went into Hitchin because of Paul really not because of me, as it wasn’t really my ambition at that stage. So I sort of went in and helped Paul as player-manager, and I would sort of bring myself off as it gave me an excuse not to play, so I would go home with 20 minutes to play when it was all slowed down. That lasted a while and then years down the line I went and managed one or two non-League clubs but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and if I was living my life over I wouldn’t work at that level and I would stay at helping young players. I worked for Spurs for ten years in the academy and I would have stayed working there, because I was very successful. When I worked for Crystal Palace for instance I worked with Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne, Sean Scannell and Wilfried Zaha, and we got about 17 young players through into the first team over a three year period. So I enjoyed working at that level, one because it was part-time and it wasn’t 24/7 which management is, so if I was living it again I would stay working at academy level.
What was your second spell at Spurs like?
Micky: Even though I got a very bad tackle and injury and had two operations on it which I never really recovered from, I was playing but I was probably only 75% fit. And after the operations I never got back to 100% peak of fitness, and obviously with age the injuries take longer to heal, so by the age of 35 when Ossie left, he had involved me from the start from some games and then rested me as a sub in others. Then when Ossie left and Gerry came in I knew that that was curtains for my career, and that was fair enough because I’m not going to say to a manager build your team around me I’m 35, but yeah it was fantastic and I loved every minute of it. The club had changed from my earlier days, in fact it had become very different so there was a lot of friction around, and that was not what I’d sort of been used to at Spurs because the club was never in that place when I was there as a youngster, not that I would have noticed it. But obviously when I came back at 33 the club had changed in many respects or was going through a very different era.
Other than the various cup campaigns that you went on with Spurs could you share with me some of your other favourite memories of your time at the club, or ones which particularly stand out?
Micky: The one at Liverpool stands out, when we hadn’t won at Anfield for 73 years and at some point, we must do, but 73 years is such a long time but I played a part in the goal that won the game. I was very unfortunate that I had hit an unbelievable volley into the top corner but somehow Bruce Grobbelaar had sprung and saved it, and as it dropped Garth Crooks had tapped it in. Then I remember the final celebration afterwards and it was just incredible to go 73 years without a win at a stadium against a certain opposition, and then you’re part of the team that breaks that spell or whatever it is and you’re part of the goal that did it, so that is just an incredible memory, and I absolutely loved it. There are so many wonderful memories that you have at Spurs, that you have in any football career and generally the best memories are not necessarily on the pitch, one of my favourite memories was rejoining them. I had a sponsored car when I played at Swindon and obviously when I left I didn’t have a car, but I would have walked the length of the M4 and the length of the M25 and A10 to get to Spurs. So that was one of the best moments of my career, but you can’t replace scoring big goals in semi-finals etc, but walking up the tunnel I don’t think that there is a greater feeling. And one of the sadnesses that I always feel about football is that the fans of a football club sort of unconditionally love a football club without any reason to. And when people say oh Micky you’re so in love with Spurs yes of course I am, but I do it from a point of being educated how great this club is, and I’ve done the things that every fan dreams of doing. I’ve walked down the tunnel and I’ve come onto the pitch in front of 40,000 fans to glory glory, and felt the goosebumps run through me as I’ve walked up onto the pitch, and it’s echoing round glory glory Tottenham Hotspur. I’ve felt these things and I’ve scored winning goals and felt the elation of the fans and felt the excitement and adulation of the fans, and them also singing my name one Micky Hazard when you’ve just scored a winning goal. So I’ve felt all of that and so my love for the club is born out by achievement within the club, and seeing from the inside just how incredible this football club is.
So my admiration for fans who have the same devotion to Spurs as I have is something that I admire so much, because they do it without doing the things that I did that make me love the football club, because I’ve seen and done it all there. So it’s easy for me to say yeah I love this football club because I’ve experienced the fans singing my name and I’ve experienced walking up the tunnel to glory glory, and I’ve experienced lots and lots of many good things off the football pitch. For instance one of the greatest memories that I’ve got and totally unexpected, is that on February of the fifth of this year which is my birthday, I went to White Hart Lane and I was working at the club as there was a game on that day. I got told to go down to the pitch at half-time for an interview which is what I do and have done on numerous occasions, so it was nothing unusual. And then when I walked out onto the pitch there’s a presentation made to me by the football club of a Spurs shirt with Hazard 60 on the back as it’s my 60th birthday, so I mean wow what football club does that? So I’ve been a player there for not how many years and then on my 60th birthday I get presented on the pitch and the fans inside the stadium are singing happy birthday. So memories that you’d pay millions for and that’s without the football memories, so these fans don’t get to experience being given a shirt on the football pitch for their birthday, not like I did. So there’s so many things that enables me to love the football club and these guys unconditionally love this football club you know, and that’s incredible, incredible! So yeah there’s so many wonderful things that I could sit and talk about all night long, and it’s wonderful.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Micky: On the whole it was the best time but there was bad times like when you’re not in the team, so it wasn’t all hunky dory, but ultimately it’s not anybody’s else’s fault but your own. And not more so than in my case because I was one of the most gifted players at the football club, so if I’m not in the team then that’s my fault, it’s not the managers fault, it’s my fault. So it’s up to me to perform to a level that makes sure that I don’t get out of the team, so when you’re not in the team or you’re injured or you’ve had an operation, they are for sure bad times. You can get a bit down about it, but I always used to cling to the fact that I’m very gifted and I’m very talented and one day the manager will want me again, because he won’t be able to do without me, and that’s how I used to hang in there when the going was tough. I just used to tell myself that he’ll want me soon, as I was that sort of very talented footballer, and more often than not sort of nine or ten games later he’d pick me. Operations and injuries were the worst ones and you’re sitting in the stadium and watching the team, and there’s nothing you can do to help them or be part of it, because if they win six-nil and everyone’s celebrating you never feel part of it when you celebrate, because you’re injured. So yeah there were times like that time at Tottenham but overall I would give my time at Tottenham a ten out of ten. I once read a comment and I thought that it was one of the most wonderful comments that I’ve ever heard and it said that somewhere, somehow and sometime I found myself in a place I’d never been before, I found myself somewhere that I didn’t know, I didn’t know where I was. And I found myself looking around me and thinking this is my home and I get emotional because I’ve spent 40 years of my life at Spurs, but as I looked around it felt like my home, and in the end it became my home. And I don’t think that I can sum it up in a better way, and even though I’ve sort of channeled the words to my way of thinking, they are not 100% my words.
That for me is now what I feel about Tottenham Hotspur football club, remembering that I’m from Sunderland and how did a young backstreet boy from Sunderland find himself in this place somewhere, somehow and sometime? And I did but was I lost? Yes I was lost and homesick, so that sums up my time at Spurs absolutely to perfection, and it’s still my home, and the Spurs family is my family.
You served Spurs as an academy coach for a number of years. What was that experience like for you?
Micky: I loved it and I worked with some of the most talented youngsters that I care to imagine, and I was very blessed and obviously I preached the Tottenham way because it was my way. So any youngster that worked with me they would tell you that if you wanted to put it in row Z then you weren’t on my team! I wanted you to put it on the floor, and I wanted fast flowing, creative flair football which was the Tottenham way. When the goalkeeper had got the ball I had banned my goalkeeper from kicking the ball out, and one of the best compliments that I ever got was when we were playing Southampton and he (their coach) said wow, just wow. You’re goalkeeper has not kicked the ball out once today and you’re team are playing unbelievable football. And that’s a big compliment because I always believe that if I go over to the Premier League for instance or if I go over to Hackney Marshes and Pep Guardiola’s team is playing there, I would be able to pick out Pep Guardiola’s team by his style of play and the way the team plays. I wanted people to say the same thing about me, and the director of the academy came to me one day and said why are you not allowing your goalkeeper to kick the ball out? Because he said that he needs practice at kicking the ball as well he said. So I explained to him that he can practice goal kicks and kicking it out of his hands everyday of the week, but match play is where you learn as an outfield player, so when the keeper kicks it out he bypasses all the education of all of my defenders, and he bypasses all the education of all of my midfielders. I want to teach them how to make an angle for the goalkeeper so that it can be spread, and I want to teach my centre backs how to receive the ball off the goalkeeper, but also to make an angle for when the fullbacks got in. I want my midfielders to be able to split between two defenders and get the ball threaded between them, so by allowing him to kick it out it restricts the amount of coaching that I give the youngsters. So that’s why I don’t allow him to kick it out, and he said you’ve just had an unbelievable compliment of the opposing teams manager, so I guessed what he would have said, because it was that particular day. However, I never ever allowed my goalkeeper, and you have to remember at the age of 13/14 the youngsters aren’t very powerful to throw the ball out.
So often they would throw the ball out and it would lead to a goal, and the one thing that you can’t do when you’re coaching a youngster and when you’re telling him not to kick a ball out, is when he throws it straight to the centre forward and give him a telling off, because it’s not his fault, it’s your fault. What you have to do in that instance is educate them and say listen don’t try and throw it where the defenders are. Work out where the best angle is and the one in the most space, so you’re coaching the goalkeeper within that and so I never apologise for not allowing him to kick it out, as I think that it was better for him and his education, and all of the outfield players’ education. I loved it!
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Micky: From a playing perspective it would have to be the UEFA Cup final and from a team perspective the UEFA Cup semi-final, and from an individual perspective it would be that my children and grandchildren are ardent Spurs fans. My sons’ go home and away and my grandchildren have all been to games, so that fills me with pride that the legacy that I’m going to leave behind is one the Spurs player I was and the Spurs coach I was and the amount of work that I did for the club. But I’m also going to leave a legacy that the Hazard family throughout the generations will be ardent Spurs fans who will follow and support their club through thick and thin. From a Tottenham Hotspur football club perspective I think that’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind and it’s something that I’m incredibly proud of. Sometimes I’ve seen my sons’ on the TV at a Spurs away game and I can see them in the crowd singing and that brings a tear to my eye, because that’s what I would have wanted and wished for, so that would be my greatest thrill I think.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Micky: Well I’ve shared it with Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle and so I couldn’t put anyone else above them two. I’ve obviously played on a pitch with Johan Cruyff and he was my all time hero, but I’m talking about people who I’ve played with. So I couldn’t put anyone above Hoddle and Ardiles as I thought that they were two very different players, but unbelievable players in their own way. I think that Glenn was probably the best English footballer I’ve ever seen, certainly the most gifted and I’ve never seen anything that he couldn’t do. Ossie was a genius in a different way, and he read the game so well and was three or four steps ahead of everyone, and he was a wonderful footballer. So yeah I couldn’t put anybody above them two.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Micky: Ossie Ardiles when I played for Chelsea. I came up against Ossie Ardiles and I’d scored two at White Hart Lane the previous year for Chelsea to win three-one and then I came up against Ossie Ardiles, and I was sitting in the dressing room thinking Ossie’s got such a great brain, he’s going to know everything that I do, so I’m going to change my game today. Little did I know Ossie was sitting in the other room saying Micky’s a clever footballer and he’s not going to play his normal way, he’s going to change his game because he knows that I’m going to be waiting if he doesn’t. But he was waiting somewhere else where I went! So yeah he was very difficult, very quick, very sharp and very quick thinking, so he was always ready for anything that I tried, and so he was just a super player.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Micky: I was close to quite a lot of them although they might not have been as close to me, but I felt as close to them. Ossie was obviously my closest friend and he was my room partner, but I was very close to Ricky Villa and I get on great with all the boys, and I’ve got no problems with any one of them as they are all nice guys. When you watch football you can see someone as flash or arrogant or this or that by the way that they play football, but that’s not the case off the pitch, or in general certainly in my time. The vast majority of the players that I came across are lovely guys, and still are.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Micky: I would say work hard, but don’t just work hard work on particular things that would improve you as a player. Don’t spend all of your time keeping the ball up as that won’t improve you as a player, instead work on things that are going to improve you as a player, and the next comment I’m going to make I got off Glenn Hoddle. Don’t do the same thing twice because when you get to the top you do it once, and the next time the best players are waiting for it to happen. So mix it up and vary your game and do something different, do a step over once and next time do a double step over so you fool them, or drop your shoulder one way then drop it the other way and do a turn this way. Always do something different because top class opponents will find it hard to read which one you’re going to do.
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?
Micky: My only club. I had great times elsewhere but nothing will ever touch Spurs, listen you can’t help who you fall in love with it’s as simple as, and it’s the same in football. You can’t help who you support as it’s in your blood and it’s in your soul, I don’t make any apologies for the fact that Spurs is my club and I don’t apologise for the fact that my sons’ are Spurs fans. It’s something that controls you rather than you control it, and it’s something that’s in your blood.