Wayne Cegielski was a strong and commanding centre-half during his playing days. From Bedwellty in South Wales, Wayne Cegielski (former Wales under 21 international) joined Spurs in the early 1970s and he signed apprentice forms with the club in the summer of 1972. Wayne worked his way up the ranks at Spurs and the man who captained the Tottenham Hotspur youth team to winning the 1974 FA Youth Cup would also go on to become a regular for the reserve side, although he never played for the Spurs first team. Cegielski would later enjoy a very good career in the game, playing for the likes of Tacoma Tides, Wrexham, Port Vale and Hereford United. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Wayne about his time at Spurs in the 1970s.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Wayne: I used to train at Cardiff City on a Tuesday and a Thursday with the schoolboys, and I used to get a train from where I used to live in South Wales in one of the valleys, and then make my way to the Cardiff City training pitch. When I got to the age when Cardiff were choosing the apprentices they said that they didn’t want me as an apprentice. Then on the following Saturday I played in a game and unbeknown to myself there was a Tottenham Hotspur scout watching, and so he came up to my parents and asked if we (Spurs) could sign your son as an apprentice, and so that was how it first started.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?
Wayne: Going back to the beginning that would be cleaning the gym and the changing rooms which were the early memories of what we used to have to do. I also remember being amongst all of the famous footballers which was an amazing thing, and to be part of that family was wonderful. Of course I remember playing in the reserves when I was a young professional and playing with the so called stars of the Tottenham Hotspur side was fantastic, and you would make your friends and as apprentices we were all pretty good friends, and then also when we became professionals as well.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Wayne: Funnily enough they were mainly Leeds United strikers as well as the centre-half Mike England, as he played in the position that I played. So they were the type of players that I used to think of as a youngster and then all of a sudden you’re in London and you’re amongst all of these famous people. All of the first team footballers at Tottenham were all wonderful, wonderful people and they would do anything to help you.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Wayne: I was a centre-half and I was a type of man marker and so if there was a centre-forward who was playing then I would obviously mark them. In those days when the goalkeeper kicked the ball long you had to head the ball or what have you, and you would have to win the ball when a centre-forward came up against you, so that was my job really as a centre-half in them days, which is completely different to today. I learnt off the stars of the Spurs first team as I went through the ranks at Spurs and became a professional.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Wayne: To start with it was Mike England as obviously he was a centre-half, but there was also Alan Gilzean, Cyril Knowles, Martin Chivers and Phil Holder who would always ask us if he could do anything to help us. Pat Jennings was wonderful and he was always very fast, and all of the sprinting competitions he would win, but also there was Martin Peters and Joe Kinnear, so they were all very, very nice people. There was always a bit of animosity if someone didn’t make the reserve team but that happens in all football teams, but going back those were the people that I looked up to.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Wayne: Cyril Knowles was one and he was a great attacking footballer and I used to think to myself that he never used to get caught out. There was also Terry Naylor when he got in the first team and he was somebody who would always let you know if you had done something wrong, and so players would come up to you and say that you should be doing this rather than doing that, and they were the things that you had to learn.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Wayne: I was due to make my first team debut for Spurs against Coventry City on Boxing Day one year, and apparently my name was on the team list. Mike England had got injured with an ankle injury, but when I got to the ground at one o’clock on the Saturday I was told that Mike England had had an injection and that he was going to be playing. Within three weeks I’d been sent out on loan to Northampton Town and so basically that was it and that summer I was going to be leaving the club. Obviously we had a knew manager (Terry Neill) and he didn’t fancy me being in the first team but that’s football and I would get used to that over the years when the manager doesn’t think that you’re going to be in his team. After I left Tottenham I went to play in Germany, and I played for six months in Germany before coming back to the UK and then went out to America to play there for that summer. When I came back from America I went to Wrexham and I played for Wrexham for six years and we managed to get to the old Second Division, but after that I went to Port Vale and stayed there for three seasons. Then from Port Vale I went to Blackpool on loan, and then from Blackpool I went to Hereford where I stayed for two years, and after that I decided to finish playing football when I got to the age of 31.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Wayne: I had a wonderful time and to be captain of the FA Youth Cup winning team was absolutely wonderful, and you can’t ask for more than that really. I can always say that I had a wonderful time at Spurs and I still think about them all of the time, and I make sure that I watch them play on the television when I can. When the scores comes on on a Saturday Tottenham Hotspur is one of the clubs that I look at to see the scores.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Wayne: I think winning the Third Division Championship with Wrexham was the one, and the team that we had there was absolutely fantastic. People say that they have never had such a wonderful time watching Wrexham because of the way that we played, and to win so many matches in the FA Cup made other teams be afraid of coming to the football ground at Wrexham because they knew that they were going to be in for a tough game. We even played Tottenham down at Tottenham and we won there, but all of the First Division clubs used to hate to come to Wrexham because they always knew that they were going to have a really, really hard game. However, winning the FA Youth Cup with Tottenham was another wonderful thing and you can honestly say that not a lot of people do that, but the football team that we had at that time saw all 11 players go on to play in some part of the Football League, and you can’t say that very often for a lot of teams. And a lot of that team played over 200 football games which is a wonderful thing, and it shows just what great scouts Tottenham had at that time.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch
Wayne: I would say Martin Chivers because I looked at him and thought that he had everything that a football player wanted, as he was just such a wonderful player, and everything seemed so easy for him. When I was at Spurs Martin was always very nice but in my eyes he always stood out.
As captain of the Spurs youth team which won the 1973/74 FA Youth Cup could you talk me your memories of that campaign?
Wayne: It was up and down really because most games were very, very difficult through to the quarter-finals and then when we got to the semi-finals we were playing Arsenal and unfortunately I had two bookings. That took me over the number of bookings that you could have, so I had to go in front of the Football League and ask if it was possible to have one of the yellow cards taken away (I had been booked for arguing with one of the linesmen) and fortunately they agreed to take one away, because at that time I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play in the final. But the games were very, very difficult because you were playing against teams who wanted to beat you because you were Tottenham Hotspur, but we had the players to deal with all of the different prospects of how the game went on, and at the end of the day we won, and I can still remember the team now.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Wayne: The FA Youth Cup game against Arsenal stood out because that was a very important game and then also in the final when we played Huddersfield Town. Funnily enough many years later when I was at Port Vale I actually met Bob Newton who was the centre-forward for Huddersfield in the final, and he always used to say to me that Spurs shouldn’t have won the FA Youth Cup because Huddersfield were the better side, but my response was that at the end of the day we won it. Playing in the reserves with the first team members who were coming back from injuries or who were on the sides, those times were great times and wonderful experiences which obviously came good for me later on in my footballing career. So I’ll never forget playing in the reserve side for Spurs.
Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?
Wayne: Sam Allardyce. I’ll always remember corners with big Sam because he was one to worry about because of the way that he played. There was also an Everton centre-forward whose name I can’t remember, but that was the beauty of playing at that time against a centre-forward as it was like a battle between the two of you and whoever would come out on top would be the one who would win the game. So in every game that you played you had to make sure that the centre forward who was playing didn’t have any chances to score goals, and that was the hardest part of being a centre-half in those days. I had some wonderful times in my career, such as playing in Europe with Wrexham and making the FA Cup quarter-finals, and now hopefully they can get back in the Football League, because the Wrexham supporters were fantastic.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Wayne: Chris McGrath was one who I was very close with as well as Andy Keeley, and also Bobby Scarth, but we used to be all good friends being in the youth team at Spurs. We all sort of stayed together after football training and went out together to wherever in groups of five or six, but because myself, Andy Keeley and Chris McGrath all lived together in the same household we all sort of tended to do our things together. Chris and I obviously couldn’t get down to South Wales or Ireland at the weekends, so we were good friends.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Wayne: I’d say to keep training, always give your best on the football pitch and always remember that there are other players around you that are going to help you, and you can help them also. By doing that everything on the football pitch should run right, but at the end of the day if you give 100% then the supporters will always want to see you because you’re always giving 100%, or 105%, or 110% on that pitch. That is all that they ask of a football player that when you step over that white line that you give your all on that football pitch, but I would never want to be a footballer of today I don’t think, because number one everyone wants to know what you’re doing or what you are about. We didn’t have that in our day, and I would hate if I was walking down the street if somebody would come up to me with a camera and just take my picture with a mobile phone, and that’s something that you don’t want all of the time, but that’s life today as a footballer.
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?
Wayne: Of course I do. I was a young lad at 14 when I went to London from one of the valleys in South Wales, and just to be in a big place like London was a massive thing for me. The people around the football club made my time really good and comfortable, and I’ll always have that in me that Tottenham Hotspur looked after me as a young player, and for that I am so grateful. I will always have them in my heart as they gave me the first opportunity to do something that I always wanted to do, which was to play football and they gave me that opportunity. So they will always be there with me until the day I die.