Roman Michael-Percil was a versatile player during his time at Spurs as an Academy player, but his main position was as a winger. Born in London but a former Republic of Ireland youth international, Michael-Percil joined Spurs from Leyton Orient as a schoolboy and he signed scholarship forms with Spurs in 2011, and he stayed at the club until the end of the 2013/14 season. Roman later went on trial with Ipswich Town and Southend United before starting to play in the non-League after taking a break from football. Since then the Londoner has played for the likes of Concord Rangers, Dulwich Hamlet, Braintree Town, Wingate & Finchley and Haringey Borough, the team that Roman currently plays for, and he is still only 26 years of age. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Roman about his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Roman: Literally going to the park (Clissold Park) at like five years old and my dad taking me there for some football sessions. So that is my earliest memory.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Roman: So I was at Leyton Orient from ten until I was 14, and then Tottenham enquired about purchasing me and so then I went to Tottenham when I was 14, all the way up until I was 19. So my earliest memory was when I was 14 at Spurs Lodge, so I was there before they moved to the new training ground.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Roman: Like all kids mine was Thierry Henry, because obviously I’m an Arsenal fan.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Roman: I was a winger and I was always a wide player but Tottenham played me a bit up front, and then for a while they played me at right-back and at one stage I think they were going to try and convert me. But because I’m not the biggest they thought that they’d move me back to the wing, so I was always really a winger.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Roman: John McDermott was probably the biggest and he was with me the whole way from the start until the end. Also there was Alex Inglethorpe, so John and Alex Inglethorpe were the two biggest, and they were the two that in my opinion cared about the players that were under them.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Roman: There were a few seasons when Aaron Lennon was like my direct influence and everything he did I tried to replicate.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Roman: Personally when I was a youth team player and I was doing quite well at like under 17’s when I was 16/17 I kept on getting brought to the under 21’s at the time. I kept getting taken on trips with the under 21’s and it was a big difference because I was obviously playing with players at the time who were like four years older than me, so that was good for me personally. I scored an equaliser in the NextGen tournament in like the last kick of the game against Sporting Lisbon, but we ended up losing the game but I made it 3-3 and that was personally great because not everyone gets to score a last minute equaliser.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Roman: If I’m being honest it was quite disappointing but it started off well obviously because me and my dad had actually chosen Tottenham, as they weren’t the only team that I could have gone to. We thought that it was the best idea at the time and it started off well as I think that they had a good plan for me, but me the person I am I think that I was quite misunderstood by a lot of the coaches in terms of how I carried myself. I’m quiet and I don’t say much, and I don’t really smile for no reason and so some people took that as if I was just moaning but really I was minding my business. Then certain coaches took a dislike to me which in the end was my downfall, and they took a dislike to me for no reason to be honest because I was never rude to any coaches or anything like that. So it was a bit underwhelming to be honest and it could have gone a lot better than it did.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites (so far)?
Roman: So I was 19 and Tottenham actually had the option of giving me a one year extension but the manager at the time had been the development team manager, so he was the development coach/manager. He was the coach that really for whatever reason took a dislike to me and I don’t know what it was or what I did to him but he became manager, and so at that point I knew that I might as well go out and try and find something new. So I’d gone on trial at Ipswich but didn’t get anything there, but to be honest I was never actually formally told that I’d been released by Tottenham and I didn’t get no help from the club or any support. So I basically found out that I’d been released by that list that came out with all of the released players and so that’s how I found out, and I was never told or got a phone call or anything. So in pre-season of the next season I’d gone on trial at Southend and I did well there and I played Tottenham in a friendly, and the manager at the time who was Phil Brown said that he was going to sign me. The game was on a Thursday and I was told that I was going to be signed, and I left that meeting and I wasn’t happy and it was weird because I didn’t feel overjoyed as I had a weird feeling about it. Then there was another game on the Saturday against Braintree and come that game Phil Brown came to me and was telling me so many excuses like I haven’t got the budget, and I was just thinking that’s a lie because I’m at an age where I will take anything as I just want to play football. You could have given me a terrible deal and I’d just have taken it just because I want to play, and so my thinking was that he had spoken to the aforementioned person and got a bad referral of me.
That’s what I think happened to be quite honest because I’d ripped up pre-season at Southend and I had done so well and all of the fans on the blogs were buzzing off me. So that could have been the only logical thing that could have happened, and since then I stopped playing football for a bit because my head was so gone with that and I thought that there was no point. Then eventually about two or three months later another agent got in contact with me and told me about going into the non-League, and to be honest it was probably the worst thing that I could have done at the time because I could have really gone on trial at other full-time teams and got something. But I just fell into the non-League bubble you could say and since then I’ve literally been in that, so it’s been six years of that. So I’ve played for loads of non-League clubs but I’m at Haringey now and I’m settled for the first time in like six years. I don’t really plan on moving now as I’ve got a manager that understands me and my character, and how I am. And to be honest I’ve worked out now that in football money doesn’t really matter to you much and you might as well just enjoy football and just play with a manager that appreciates you as a person first, and so I’m happy with that.
What has been the greatest moment of your footballing career so far?
Roman: I’d say signing my pro for Tottenham and at the time I didn’t realise how big of an achievement it was because you’ve got to remember that I was 17 when I signed it, but I knew that it was kind of coming so I basically had a pro contract from when I was 14 years old. So where everyone else was working towards that it would have been an even bigger thing at the time, but for me it was just like I’m signing my pro but looking back that’s a very big thing because there’s so many people that would want to do that, and I managed to do that. So it was probably that or representing Ireland as that was a big thing for me as well because obviously not everyone gets to play international football.
What was that like to represent the Republic of Ireland at youth level?
Roman: It was good and it was a different experience because obviously I’ve gone to Ireland being an English boy and I’ve gone over to Ireland with all of these Irish lads with all there Irish accents. I think that the only other English boy there was Jack Grealish actually, so I think that it was only me and him. So it was great and I love Ireland and I like Irish people, so I liked it a lot and I just wish that I played for them more to be honest.
Who has been the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Roman: Obviously now we can say it’s Harry Kane because of what he is now but at the time when I used to play with Dean Parrett and John Bostock I used to just think that you two are ridiculous. I thought that Dean Parrett was unreal and also Alex Pritchard was ridiculous.
Who has been the toughest player that you have come up against?
Roman: I honestly can’t think of anyone to be honest.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Roman: There was the two McQueen’s and they are still like two of my best friends today, also there was Shaq Coulthirst and Laste Dombaxe and so I’m probably closest to them. But everyone in my age group was kind of close to he honest and we always used to be with each other.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Roman: Part of football is acting the part and people forget that but that’s something that I learnt and so you’ve got to play the part. If you’re told that you’ve got to fix this part of even your personality then change the way you act away from football, as that’s key as well. If you’re told to carry yourself differently even if you don’t agree sometimes you’ve got to do it to get yourself ahead of where you’re at at that time, because some of these coaches have got power just to ruin you. So that would be my honest advice to be honest with you, and it’s unfortunate but it’s just the truth.
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?
Roman: I look at my time there as a time where I made some good friends and had some good experiences, and I went abroad a lot and went on so many tours and everything that some people will never get to go on in their life, and so I’m fortunate for that. I don’t think that I fulfilled the potential that I had or have even because I can still play but I don’t think that I fulfilled that, and to be honest that’s partially my fault and partially not, but I’m thankful for some of the coaches that took their time to help me as much as they could. I’m unthankful for others and I wish that I didn’t cross paths with some of them, but do I hold Spurs close to my heart? I care about Spurs but I hold a certain feeling as well because I feel that the certain individuals that represented the club at the time didn’t treat me correctly, so if I’m being honest I hold a certain level of unhappiness with Spurs at the same time.