My interview with former Spurs player Paddy Stack:

(Paddy Stack is pictured on the extreme left of the top row.)

Paddy Stack predominantly played as a centre-half during his playing days for Spurs at youth level, during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. From nearby Walthamstow just like his old Spurs teammate David Sunshine, Stack often captained the Spurs youth team during his time at the club, and he also played for them in the South East Counties League, as well as playing for the Spurs reserve side on one occasion. After leaving Spurs the defender would play non-League football, playing for the likes of Woodford Town and Walthamstow Avenue. I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Paddy to talk about his time at Spurs.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Paddy: My earliest football memories are when I was about ten in the junior school, and our headmistress in a Catholic school (they had nuns at the school) called sister Peters decided to form a football team, which we hadn’t had before. She taught us how to play football and so that’s how I got started, and so that’s my earliest memory.

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?

Paddy: I think that I was recommended by my district schools coach, but when I hadn’t heard anything (he had said that he had said something to Spurs) I wrote to Spurs. And so I explained who I was and what I had done and what have you, and they invited me for a trial and there was at least 100 people like me there for this trial, and most of them stayed on for five to ten minutes or whatever, but I stayed there for the whole match. I was then taken on as a ground-staff apprentice professional which is what they called it then, but the odd thing about it was that I was 15 in the November, but they wouldn’t let me leave school until Easter. I never did understand that, and so the last three months of my schooling was an absolute total waste of time, because I wasn’t interested. When I eventually left in the Easter of course the season was virtually over, so when I got to Tottenham all of the other youth players had already gone on to a tour. So there was about two or three of us there at Spurs and that was all there was, so they stuck me in the ticket office throughout the summer, so I was handing out season tickets and doing paper work, as well as doing a bit of training now and again, and running up and down the steps. However, there was hardly anybody there and it was a strange atmosphere really, but if they’d have let me go on my birthday in the November or Christmas then I’d have been involved in all of that, but I wasn’t. From there we went on to pre-season training and I was pretty fit, and slim and agile and a good sportsman, but at the end of the first day of pre-season training I couldn’t get get out of bed, as everything hurt, so I really couldn’t move, but it was interesting.

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

Paddy: As a youngster the one that I liked most was Stanley Matthews, because he was a special dribbler and people didn’t dribble much in those days, as it was long balls from one end to the other from defence. So I was really keen on people like Stanley Matthews, but I didn’t get a chance to watch much football because we didn’t get a telly until I was about 11, but obviously Spurs was my first team because I lived in Walthamstow and they were the nearest. I’d been over to Spurs several times to watch them, and one day it was thick fog outside of my window and I thought well it must be clear at Tottenham, because I hadn’t heard anything. So I walked three miles across the marshes to Tottenham and by the time I’d got within 100 yards of the stadium you couldn’t see anything in front of you, literally there was smog everywhere. And so there was two or three of us all holding on to each other as total strangers, just to hold on to each other to keep safe, instead of going in the road or what have you. Of course when we got there the game was called off, but I was really keen in them days for watching Tottenham.

 Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Paddy: Well I was centre-half and I mean I’d always been a centre-half but of course when I’d got to Tottenham I’d stopped growing by then for some reason. I was about five foot ten when I was about 11 or 12, and I was still five foot ten when I got to Tottenham at 15, so I wasn’t tall enough at that position. They did try me in a couple of other positions but I just couldn’t do it, and I wasn’t good enough at the other positions as I was just a basic defender. I could tackle well, I could run fast and I could anticipate things quite well but when they tried to get me to be a proper footballer and be clever no, I couldn’t do that. 

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Paddy: Well there were no influences really, because we didn’t have any coaching whatsoever, we did have training and gym work but there was nobody ever that told us how to do things. I played for the reserves once as they must have been missing a lot of players, so they stuck me in the reserves just for the one game and it was so totally different from us playing in boys football, because every time that the ball came to you you had somebody telling you what to do. One player or another would be pointing and talking to you, whereas before that I never had any of that and I didn’t know what to do, and so you just used your own initiative. So there were no big influences at Tottenham really, I wasn’t a loner as such but I was independent and so I made all my own decisions. My parents were never interested in football although my dad played for All-Ireland at hurling my mother told me, and nobody really talked about it, so I would have expected him to take a lot more interest in me than he did, but neither were interested really. When I went and played for the schools team and then the district team and county team and London, there was nobody ever that influenced me as how to play. Nobody told you what to do or how to improve yourself, so anyway that I could improve myself I did by heading. Because I knew that I was short for a centre-half so I used to tie a football in a net and hang it up on a high hook of some sort, and then try and reach it with my head. I spent hours jumping up and down to head the ball, but I don’t think that I was aggressive enough, as I was far too nice. If I barged somebody over then I’d spend five minutes picking them up again rather than getting on with the game.

So I don’t think I really wanted to become a professional footballer really, and so of course when we got called in by Bill Nicholson along with Dave Sunshine and Terry Lloyd, he called us three in. And he said that I don’t think you’re going to make it at this club at this time, so he said I’ll give you the opportunity to turn professional and stay on for another year and see how you go. The other two stayed on for the year and I said no I don’t fancy that and so I left, because there was no money in the game at the time and I’d already been told that I could earn more down the road working in a shop or something. So because I made all my own decisions I just sort of walked out really, I later went on to play for Woodford Town and I played there for a couple of years before going to Walthamstow Avenue and they were a good team at the time but I couldn’t really get in the first team there. I eventually ended up playing Sunday football, or Sunday and Saturday as I was playing on Saturday and Sunday every week at one time, but I don’t know if I’d have ever made it as I just was disinclined I think to try hard.

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

Paddy: No not really, because I was always independent and I was always captain for every team I played for, including Tottenham youth. I played for the Rep side in the South East Counties League alongside some other good players and so I didn’t take a lot of notice of other people, so yeah there was nothing there for me to influence myself or base myself on.

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

Paddy: Well as I said I left Spurs because I wanted to and I didn’t think that there was any future for me there but at least I gave it a try. Then when I went to non-League football and played for Woodford and Walthamstow I had a lovely time for quite a few years and thoroughly enjoyed myself, because it was less demanding and I was captain so what I said went. I made some really stupid decisions really, I got a bit blasé about it I think in the end, so I’ve never considered having a problem with leaving.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

Paddy: It was ok, I mean I was disappointed about getting there late and missing the tour but other than that it was fine and I was playing quite well, and as I say I got into the Rep side. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Paddy: I suppose being take on by Spurs after that trial match, and so that’s the one that stands out. I won lots of cups and leagues and all that sort of thing, but I don’t remember them, so nothing was really important. When I was playing Sunday league football I got in the Rep side there of course, and I played against various teams including the showbiz team twice, which was good, and we also played against a jockeys team. When I was playing the showbiz team a helicopter landed on the pitch in the middle of a game as it was some celebrity/actor from a long time ago whose name I can’t remember, and he gave out the trophies afterwards. So little things like that stick in your mind but I can’t think of the greatest thing or anything that was outstanding.

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with? 

Paddy: I shared a pitch with the whole of the Tottenham team obviously, and that was the year before the double so they were pretty good, and I’ve got lots of little stories about them. I suppose top internationals such as Bobby Smith and also Terry Dyson and people like that, and talking of Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson they had a snooker room at White Hart Lane, and during the summer while I was there virtually by myself I used to go in there and play. And when they came back off tour (the first team and everybody else) one day there was Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson playing snooker, and they were always rowing and were very combative, and I was playing on one table by myself and they were playing on another. All around the room they had pictures of past teams and stuff like that, and at one stage Terry Dyson got annoyed so much that he literally threw the cue like a javelin at Bobby Smith, and it missed him and smashed into one of these pictures, so yeah there were things like that that I remember. I played in a pre-season match against Bobby Smith and I was at centre-half and he was at centre-forward, and the first time a high ball came over he easily beat me although he was about the same height he would use his arms and legs, and so he virtually just pushed me out the way. So the second time that happened and a high ball came down the middle I thought I can’t let this happen as Bill Nicholson was standing watching. So I climbed all over the back of Bobby and my knees were in his back and my elbows were on his shoulders, and I headed the ball away and fell over as I did it. He came down and lifted me up and said don’t you ever do that again! And that scared the life out of me as he was the England centre-forward and I was only a 15 year old schoolboy virtually. So it’s things like that which I remember.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Paddy: I haven’t got any memories of it really, and I know that we played in various cups and leagues and stuff like that, but I can’t remember it now, as it’s just another team that I played for. 

Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?

Paddy: It’s got to be Bobby Smith, because I wasn’t at Tottenham for very long I didn’t come up against many tough players really, as in other leagues and teams that I played for I was always the toughest. I wasn’t dirty but I was aggressive and I didn’t like getting beaten, and that didn’t matter what team or league I was playing for, so yeah there’s nobody who I could really put down as the toughest.  

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

Paddy: No, I mean obviously I knew Dave Sunshine for a few years because we played everywhere together, and we both played for the schools team, and the Essex team and the district team and the London team, so where I was he was, or the other way round. So yeah I got to know him fairly well but he had no influence on me.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Paddy: Well just work hard and be determined, and you’ve got to want it in the first place as I think that I wanted it more for the glory than the football to be quite honest. I don’t know that but it’s just what I’ve realised over the years, but I could have done a lot better I don’t know, because I was independent so I made my own decisions and maybe walking out on Spurs was one of the wrong ones, but I had nobody who influenced me or who was tough with me. 

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?

Paddy: No, not really as it’s all a bygone age now and the whole thing (football) has changed now. There’s different pitches, a different ball and new rules and you can’t get away with anything now. 

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