A schoolboy with Spurs during the 1980s and 1990’s, skilful and prolific striker Malcolm Beddows would play for Spurs for five years, before unfortunately being released by the club at the age of 15. The former player from Surrey would later have a trial with Chelsea but an injury picked up during his time there stopped them from signing him. However, he did go on to play for Woking for a while, while studying at the same time, but that was to be the last team that Malcolm played for and he retired at the age of 21. Now living and working in Australia, I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of catching up with Malcolm as he looked back on his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Malcolm: I think that would be playing football for the first time as a six year old in my local recreation park in Leatherhead. I was kicking the ball around with my brother and he was teaching how to strike the ball properly. A man by the name of John Brown approached me and asked if I have ever thought about playing football before, and I was like no. John Brown was the manager who ran a local team called Fetcham Park United, and he asked do you want to play for us? That was both exciting and daunting as I’d hadn’t played football with other kids before and I guess I didn’t know if I was any good or not.. So, I went along to a training night, and loved it. I literally got the bug after one training session.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Malcolm: Playing for my local team Fetcham Park United, who I would have been playing for around three or four years ( alongside Chris Landon – Spurs youth player). I didn’t know at this point that Ted Powell ( head spurs scout) had come down to watch me play for three games and he had obviously contacted the club. I remember him coming up to me after the third game that he watched me in, and I remember how calm hand soft he spoke. He then said that he’d been watching me and he’d been really impressed with my game, positioning, pace, goals and attitude, and he’d like me to come down and have a trial at Tottenham Hotspur. So as a ten year old this was a dream, as a young aspiring football player, and you’re seeing all of these football players on television and then a top Spurs Coach comes down and says do you want to play for Spurs, I couldn’t believe it. Ted Powell then spoke to my mum on the phone and made arrangements, and we went the following Monday from Surrey to London for that first training session at Tottenham. It was great as my school would allow me to leave early.. I remember the smell of the sports centre in Anerley for the first time, the sound of trainers screeching on the floor, and players shouting commands at each-other, the head coaches and the atmosphere being intimidating. This was the moment to prove to yourself, you mum and the coach you deserve to be here amongst all this other great players. That first training session was intimidating but when you walked over the white line and the balls at your feet, your natural ability kicks in, and it then just becomes enjoyable, and you have that sense of freedom and thirst to want to score goals.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Malcolm: I was a small skinny kids, but, I was fast and skilful, so I would model myself on players like Gianfranco Zola, Maradona, Zico. But, growing up and watching and hearing the names like Diego Maradona, Zico, Batista, Josimar, John Barnes, Michel Platini, Socratese were all names and heroes to me during the 1986 World Cup, but Zola, John Barnes were players who I admired. It was players who had skill and who had the ball at their feet and could do things that you didn’t think were possible. I loved players who entertained and could also change a game with a moment of magic. So I would say Maradona, Pelé, Zola and John Barnes.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Malcolm: I was a striker who was fast and was one of the quickest players on the pitch, but I was also skilful, and so I used to model myself on skilful players who weren’t scared to take on defenders. I couldn’t beat a defender for pace, then I could beat them with skills. I also had a good eye for goal and I knew where the goal was. So, as soon as I got the ball my first instinct was, where’s the goal… I used to score a lot of goals so I was a fast and skilful striker with a good eye for goal.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Malcolm: I think for me players like Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle who I thought was amazing but, when Paul Gascoigne came along, he blew me away with his skill, balance and contribution to games. I loved watching players play with freedom. So my greatest influences at Spurs was Paul Gascoigne.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Malcolm: It would have to be Paul Gascoigne, watching someone play with enjoyment inspired me. My game was about self-expression, freedom and enjoyment too, so I think watching someone like him allowed me to believe what was possible on the pitch.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Malcolm: I wasn’t a big player and my body wasn’t growing at the rate the club wanted it to grow at, and because I was playing so much sport from a young age my knees were getting really bad. At the age of 15 I was having cartilage problems and my knee was locking, and I can remember playing for Spurs in a game and running for a ball and my knee was locking. I can remember Ted Powell taking me to the teams physio, and we were sitting down in consultation and they were saying that I had torn cartilages in my knees already and I’ll need an operation. I didn’t understand it at the time, but, moments like that sit in your brain and play on your mind. My legs were quite skinny and my knees weak and so the deterioration in my knees was causing me problems. An operation was inevitable. I was having problems with my knees, and my attitude was changing towards football, My discipline had gone and I started missing training sessions (White Hart Lane was so far away from where I lived, and my mum didn’t drive). I also felt I was missing out on my teenage years, things that my friends were doing, they were getting into skateboarding and other types of sports. I didn’t have that disciplinarian in my life to give me guidance, and guide me through some of early life decisions. I wasn’t really able to play other sports like skateboarding, because you’ve got to look after your legs, and at that age you really need support and someone to tell you what the bigger picture is. You need the father figure, the role model, someone who can advise you, but, my father wasn’t involved in my soccer that much as we live apart from each other and passed away when I was 15. So I went through a massive change in myself through losing my father, getting injured, operation and going through my GCSE’s at school. This was a really tough period for me.
The club released me because my discipline had dropped, I was missing training I wasn’t growing at the pace they wanted. Bring released was a massive shock to me and a huge dent in my ego. I had never experienced real rejection at that age, as this was hard to handle and I remember thinking I’ve got to tell everyone. I remember the phone call from Spurs and slumping down on my sofa in tears at the thought of letting my family down.
I spoke to my sports teacher Mr Hill, at Therfield School a few day’s after and he gave me a lot of support and advice. Two or three weeks later we got a phone call from Chelsea and they had said they had heard that you had left Tottenham and would you like to come down and trial. After three weeks at Chelsea I got injured again and I remember pulling my groin and thinking maybe my body isn’t up to playing football at this level, I was 15 and continuously getting injured. I stopped playing and concentrated on Art at School and went into sixth form to get my grades so I could go to college. I studied Aerospace engineering, and whilst studying, I played for Woking FC part-time. Woking played in the Capital League on a Wednesday night (I had a few games upfront with Clive Walker), and games on Saturday. It was a really good standard, and a league you see a lot of ex-school boys play in who didn’t quite make the Professional grade.
Having to leave Spurs must have been incredibly difficult for you. How did you find that?
Malcolm: It was a very difficult moment in my life, so much was going on personally, academically and sporting. I had never felt disappointment like it before, and didn’t really have the support network to handle it. I guess I bottled it up and took up skateboarding – I started expressing myself more creatively at 15 and followed my passion in life! It was hard for a 15 year old to handle all those emotions that come with rejection, trauma and peer pressure. It was really tough and it was a dent in your ego, but getting that call from Chelsea helped bring some of that self confidence back..
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Malcolm: It was absolutely life changing, you can’t imagine what happens to a young person mind who’s from a little country village like Leatherhead to get the chance to play for Spurs, one of the biggest teams in Europe. It opened up other opportunities for me, with clubs, travel, friendships, growth and experiences. The club were amazing and were very supportive of me, and Ted Powell was one of the most amazing influences in my life, he gave me the opportunity to change my life. Ted taught me almost everything I know about football today and how to be a better player, how to use my size, my speed and my skills to my advantage. The youth systems are an amazing opportunity for any kid to be a part of something huge, and the professionalism of a club like Spurs is exceptional. Dream come true!
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Malcolm: At the age of 13 I went to America to play in the Dallas Cup (it’s like a youth world cup), you play against other clubs from all over the world. I won a Sports Award and this paid for my trip. I travelled and played in the US with my team at the time, who were Rangeligh. We had won the West Surrey Boys league at the time, and were chosen to represent England. This is a trip which changed my life for many reason. The style of football from other countries was really evident. Especially playing against a team from Mexico. We were able to watch a Brazilian team play, who i believe may have gone on to win the Tournament. I met my hero Pelé at the tournaments opening ceremony and I got a chance to shake his hand, this was a moment I’d never forget.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Malcolm: I would say that there are two players and the first one is Paul Gascoigne. He came down and coached us one time at Spurs. He didn’t stop smiling when he played, his touch and skills was phenomenal – it was a joy to watch. Clive Walker, he helped me as a striker when playing at Woking. How to find space, when to make your runs and how to bring other players into the game.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Malcolm: Because we had the two centres at Spurs which were south and north of the river they were always trying to get us together to play against each other. So we used to travel to Cheshunt which was great because we used to get to watch the first team train and also see the first team facilities, and also get to see the first team players. We then got to play against the north side of the river and it was actually a good benchmark to kind of see where we were at as a team, and also where we were as individuals. So it was always a joy to travel up to Cheshunt with Ted and the other lads in the bus, and then also meet and watch the pros train. That was always enjoyable and as was going up to White Hart Lane and training on the Astroturf pitch which was also an absolute joy, but also getting the chance to walk out on to the pitch at White Hart Lane and having that dream of one day playing there was awe inspiring for me. Another great memory was of going to watch the first team play at White Hart Lane, and a memory of mine is going to watch Tottenham play Liverpool, and they gave me two free tickets to go and watch the game. That was the first time that I went to White Hart Lane and understanding the club that I was playing for and as a 12 year old with the potential to play for that team. So walking up those stairs and seeing White Hart Lane packed with 40,000 odd people and then watching that team and thinking wow I wear that kit when I train on a Monday night, that was incredible.
Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?
Malcolm: That’s a hard one because I finished playing quite early, but there was a player whose name I can’t remember, and when I was playing for Woking we played against Wycombe Wanderers. He used to play left back for Blackburn Rovers and I just couldn’t get past him, and for all of the pace and skill that I had he was too strong. It was my one stumbling block in my career where I just couldn’t get past a player for speed, skill and strength as he read me like a book. I think I asked the coach If I could switch sides and play on the left – haha!!
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Malcolm: Chris Landon, Danny Bolt and Danny Smith were players who I was close with and they were my core friends. Chris was a great mate and I still speak with him on Facebook which is amazing. Me and Chris also played Sunday football together, so, we literally grew up together.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Malcolm: My advice would be to try and prepare yourself mentally, to really listen to the people around you and build a good support network. Stop thinking as an individual and think as a team player, and although you may possess individual skills, you are only going to make it if you understand what it is to be a team player. You need to be mentally strong but you also have to enjoy what you do and don’t be restricted by club culture, respect it, and try and fit your game around it. It’s a job, you have to make management happy, work hard and enjoy it. It’s easy to get lost in the EGO, but, if you can control that, you’ll go a long way. Never stop growing and listening, and take as much advice as you can from the people who has been in the game or coached. Listening to people was my worst trait, as I thought I knew it all. Understand the position and opportunity you have in life and snatch it with both hands. Also understand that a football career is short and that injuries can stop your career tomorrow, so just enjoy every single moment that you have on that football pitch, but, also look beyond football. What other interests do you have in life – nurture them too.. Good Luck!!
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?
Malcolm: My time at Spurs changed my life in so many ways, some indescribable, it changed my relationship and it gave my mum something to be proud of. I look back on my time there as an incredible experience, a dream come true, and although I’m not a Tottenham fan I still watch them and want them to do well. Even just hearing the name Tottenham Hotspur means so much to me emotionally that they will be in my heart. I coached my son’s U10 team here in Sydney, and I often think; how would Ted have taken this session..