(Steve Outram is pictured above. He is the last on the right, of the back row.)
Romford born Steven William Outram was a fast and direct wide player who loved to get to the byline and deliver crosses into the danger zone. At Spurs from 1968 to 1971 as a youth player and part of the Spurs youth team that won the Southern Junior Cup in 1970, Steve Outram left Spurs as a 17 year old and ended up quitting the game altogether (Steve did go out on loan to Southend United during his time at Spurs). He did however, get into athletics as he was a talented athlete, and also surfing, a hobby which Steve still does to this very day. Now retired and living by the coast, I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of catching up with Steve who is a really nice guy, to look back on his time at Spurs during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Steve: I played at a match for Basildon at Redbridge and Dickie Walker was there and I didn’t know that, and then afterwards he came up to me and said would I like to train on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Tony Want and John Pratt, who took the training. So I used to go from school and go up there in 1968 and so that was one of my earliest memories. I’ll never forget that I went to pre-season training and Jimmy Greaves was my idol, and all of a sudden I’d gone from playing as a schoolboy to actually lining up against Jimmy Greaves, and I just froze as it was really difficult. It was weird because I was used to being at the stadium and then all of a sudden you’re on the pitch, so that would be my earliest memories.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Steve: Well the year before I signed as an apprentice I signed as an amateur and played in the junior side, and we played against West Ham and Chelsea and all them. We used to go up to Cheshunt to train now and again and Ron Henry was our manager and I really liked him, but then in the next year when I signed as an apprentice going to the ground was quite weird really. Nowadays you go into gyms and everybody’s singing and dancing, but I remember that we used to train in the morning and then do jobs in the afternoon or sometimes we’d do weights. The gym was underneath one of the stands at White Hart Lane and there was like two bits of wood with a pole across, and you used to put weighs on the end, and there was a few dumbbells and a couple of benches and that was it, can you imagine it? Also I remember Cecil Poynton and he was a lovely old guy and he was a Yorkshireman, and it was a running joke that you used to come in everyday and say where’s my keys! As he could never find his keys, so that was really funny. Also training around the pitch you used to have the things with the A, B, C, D and people used to put the half-time scores from other matches up, but we used to jog and sprint those. Also you had people like Terry Venables, Pat Jennings and Alan Gilzean and they were just incredible, and so going to Cheshunt and training with those guys were some of my earliest memories. I don’t think that I was mentally ready for it and that jump though.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Steve: Well Greaves was the main one but also people like George Best as I used to love wingers. So people like Cliff Jones, Jimmy Robertson, Francis Lee and Stan Bowles and the people like that were the characters that I loved, but I mean Best, Greaves and Dennis Law were the main ones, and also Eusébio from Portugal and Pelé, but Greaves was the man.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Steve: I was number seven so outside-right as they had five forwards back in the day. I was fast, and my game was to get the ball and run and cross it but I also scored quite a lot of goals as well as a winger, but it was really just to get the ball and run at people, which I don’t know if they do as much anymore. But I would just go down to the byline and get it over, so my game was pace, but I wasn’t very good with tactics. A newspaper clipping said that Steve Outram hit the jackpot, scoring five well taken goals with Bobby Scarth and Bob Field getting the other two as the Spurs juniors beat Leyton Orient juniors in a game at Cheshunt. So that was pretty much what type of player I was.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Steve: That’s interesting. I think that Tony Want and John Pratt were really good but I didn’t have much to do with the first team, but Eddie Baily was an influence and Dickie Walker the scout, but overall I would say Ron Henry. Ron Henry was incredible while John Pratt was good with the training, and Jimmy Pearce, Terry Lee and Phil Holder (he was incredible!) but that was about it really.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Steve: Graeme Souness was one of them but also Roger Morgan the winger was another one along with Alan Gilzean who had a great touch, and was a big influence.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Steve: Winning the league was the biggest thing really I would say, but also being around the first team when they won the cup and we went to the Savoy, and things like that. Earlier on that newspaper clipping that I read out, I didn’t mention that Bill Nicholson was watching me in that game and afterwards he criticised something that I did, and I let that affect me in a bad way. So my advice to anyone would be to take it on board and take it as a positive to get better and learn, and I didn’t and I used to let things like that, and things that Pat Welton used to say affect me and I would take it the wrong way. I took it as criticism and not creative criticism, and so I struggled with that.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Steve: I think it was getting signed by Spurs and just being invited for the training as it was incredible and unforgettable really. We used to be given season tickets and it was amazing.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Steve: Jimmy Greaves. There is no doubt about that, although I could say Souness but I think I would have to say Jimmy Greaves without a doubt.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Steve: Graeme Souness. He was so hard although we did play West Ham once and they had a player (whose name I can’t remember) and he was pretty hard as well.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Steve: Well Eddie Baily came up to me and he said sorry you’re not going to make the grade unfortunately, and that was before my 17th birthday when you had to sign professional, and so that was that. It was difficult and after that I never really played again which is interesting, but I did get into surfing and athletics, because as I say I was fast and I actually got an English national three A’s medal for 10,000 metres. I competed with Basildon and we had a great team which included the likes of Eamonn Martin, but I got into athletics and surfing and I never played again really. I did have the odd kick about with mates’ teams now and again but I never came back from it really, though I don’t regret it as I did other things which was good like I say and I was good at athletics. But it was hard and I admire people that pick themselves up like Peter Taylor who was rejected by Spurs, but he picked himself up and on he went. But to be honest I didn’t have the character at the time, but funnily enough and once I got into athletics I developed a mental character, and I had two coaches and one was big on psychology. If I’d have had that at Tottenham it would have helped me, and for example before a match if it was an away match then we would stop on the motorway and have steak and chips two hours before a match! Also, everyday we would go in the White Hart and we’d have soft drinks, but the pros wouldn’t as they’d be in the pub drinking. So anyway once I got into athletics I had a different mindset and if I’d have had that while I was playing football I think that things could have been different, for example just breaking things down. In athletics we looked at a six months training schedule and we’d aim at six months to a year, and we’d look at diet and specific training, which I am sure that they do now in football.
We used to go out before a match and have a kick about and there was no stretching as we’d just start playing, and the first team did it as well. Jimmy Greaves never used to kick a ball about, and one day I’ll never forget that he was in the changing room and he was smoking, and I was thinking my hero’s smoking before a match and it was just incredible. I think that I would have been better playing football now as it has changed a lot, and I was never one of the boys if that makes sense, and I was never one for going down to the pub, and it was all about that then and that didn’t help. Another criticism that I got was for being distant and I weren’t, it’s just that I weren’t really interested in that sort of Jack the Lad stuff if that makes sense, but it’s funny now how it has changed.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Steve: The first two years was positive and really good as a schoolboy and as an amateur, and I enjoyed it but once I signed as an apprentice professional I can’t say that I enjoyed it. I didn’t particularly get on with Pat Welton who was our manager although I did get on well with Ron Henry, and I loved football but once you start doing something and getting paid for it, it changes for me. It’s funny with surfing and I’m still surfing now although I’ve got a problem with my back, but with football once you train everyday it’s different. If it had have been different then I think that I would have enjoyed it more, as I say I liked athletics because it was more scientific, but in football we used to go out and do a few drills and then have a five-a-side match but I found it a bit repetitive to be honest, you know. But now they’d be in the gym and doing all sorts of cardiovascular stuff and that, but overall I enjoyed my time at Spurs and it was good. But also it was difficult, because once you let your head go down it’s really hard, I mean for the last 20 years I’ve been retired as I was a teaching assistant with special needs pupils. When I used to look at pupils sometimes they’d be in class and do something, and fail and then their head would go down but I used to say to them that failure is part of success, but I never had that when I was younger. I never had that, and I used to think that I was not good enough and that was the end of it, and I don’t think that that was true actually, but there you go. Although it was really good at Spurs especially as I had always supported them and still do.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Steve: Terry Lee, Kevin Worsfold who you interviewed and Julio Grato who sadly died last year, also Micky Flanagan I was close to, so I was really close with those guys. Julio Grato was great and his parents were Spanish and I came from an east end working class background and I was brought up on bangers and mash. One time he took me to his house and they lived in Stoke Newington somewhere, and his parents cooked me this meal and it was something Spanish although I forget what it was, and it was incredible and I thought that this was great, and it showed me a different world from where I came from. But I was closest to Terry Lee really and he was a character and a half.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Steve: I would say to players don’t do what I did which was taking criticism personally, but take on board what is said, like when Bill Nicholson said that I could have done this or that, after I had scored five goals in a match. I should have taken that on board and got better you know, and the other thing is that I breezed through playing for my school and my county, but once I got to Spurs it was a different ball game, and I should have knuckled down. I thought that I had made it and I hadn’t, but I would say that it’s just a start and just take as much advice as you can get and knuckle down and train and take the knocks and move on. I would say basically to not give up, my one big regret was giving up, but there you go. I didn’t look to learn enough, and you asked me questions about who I looked up to to improve but if I’m honest I didn’t actually do that much. Although I did do that when I got into athletics and surfing, and in athletics especially I studied people and tactics, and all sorts of stuff as I was a track runner. So I would say to really study people and learn as much as you can.
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?
Steve: I still love Tottenham and that will never change. Afterwards it was hard but now when I look back and the hurts gone It was a privilege to be at Spurs, and to have been in the Savoy with the first team after they won the cup was something which I wish I could go back and enjoy now. It’s like a lot of things, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone as Bob Dylan sung. So it would be great to go back and savour it more.