Barking born ex-footballer Glenn Poole was a talented and determined goalscoring midfield player who would enjoy a very long career in the game. Poole joined Spurs as a 12 year old and he stayed at the club until he was 18, and during that time he played mainly for the Spurs youth teams in the South East Counties League, but he also did play for the reserves on occasions. A youth player at Spurs during the 1990s, Glenn Poole was part of a talented Spurs age group of which included Ledley King and Peter Crouch. After leaving Spurs in the late 1990s Glenn Poole played for a number of clubs, of which includes Yeovil Town, Brentford, AFC Wimbledon and Billericay Town. Now retired from the game, Glenn runs his own soccer school – the Glenn Poole Soccer Academy. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Glenn about his time at Spurs, which was over 20 years ago.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Glenn: I remember playing my very first game for a team called Crystal Boys, and I remember playing over at a college in Redbridge. We won 4-2 and I scored two goals, and I can remember the kit and my number which was 11, and that was fitting as that’s what I ended up wearing at Brentford. So that was my first sort of football memory which was when I was about six years old.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Glenn: My first memory at Spurs was actually going to watch an FA Floodlit quarter-final against Norwich, and we (my mum and dad) just went into the ground (White Hart Lane) and enquired about a soccer school which is like what I do now, and it was a Tottenham in the community one. They told us where the venues were and asked me what my name was and I obviously said Glenn Poole, and they said that that name rings a bell, and they elaborated on it before saying that they’d been watching me. So they asked me if I wanted to train with them until the end of the season and just take it from there, and that’s what I did and luckily at the end of that season I got signed on for a year and it just progressed from there. I remember going into the ball court up at the old stadium and just training with the other players, and being a Tottenham fan as well it was just unbelievable. And never did I think that I’d end up representing the club as an apprentice.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Glenn: When I was young Ryan Giggs was somebody who I looked up to, but from a Tottenham point of view I’m named after Glenn Hoddle and so he was a big inspiration. I saw one of his last games for Spurs against Oxford United, when he dummied Peter Hucker and just slotted it in the goal, and I remember going to that game. We went to two games in that week, and we went to a game against Charlton (my first ever game) just before the FA Cup final in 1987 and we won 1-0, and then my dad took us to a game again the next week as well, and we saw them win 3-1. So Glenn Hoddle was a big influence on me and watching videos of him he was just unbelievable, and he was ahead of his time and just such a gifted footballer. Then growing up and as I was getting older and developing in the game and playing for Tottenham as an apprentice, my favourite player was David Beckham. I totally related to his game as I wasn’t the fastest wide player and I relied on my technique and my crossing ability, rather than getting the ball and dribbling past five players and then crossing a ball. So David Beckham was kind of like myself, as he could play out wide or play as a central midfielder as well, and so he was a big inspiration for me growing up. For me one thing that stood out with him was his work rate and it was unbelievable, and he was also a dead ball specialist and I used to focus on them as well.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Glenn: When I first went to Spurs I actually started off as a left-back, as that was where I played for my Sunday team, district team and school team. I went there essentially as a left-back but then I remember playing a game for an under 15/16 side against a full Wingate & Finchley team (first team). I remember that Bobby Arber sort of called me over and gave me a shirt, and I looked and it was number ten and I thought ok. So he played me in central midfield against a men’s team and I was quite small at that time, but at the end of the game Bobby called my dad over and asked him how tall did he reckon I would grow and how tall are his grandparents, because what he did tonight was fantastic. What he said that he really loved was that the goalkeeper Gavin had the ball between his hands, and I went between the two centre halves to get the ball after Gavin had rolled it out. Bobby was a big believer in me and he was hard at times with me, and I wasn’t a very strong tackler and I wasn’t as physically imposing as some of the other lads, and so he was only hard at times with me looking back, because he rated me. He tried to convert me into a central midfielder but I did play out wide a little bit, and I played out wide in the FA Youth Cup games when I came on, but the majority of the time I was playing in central midfield.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Glenn: We had some great coaches and Colin Reid was one of the first coaches that I ever had at Spurs, and Colin was technically a fantastic coach and he’s still doing wonders with his coaching career now. Des Bulpin was the youth team manager at the time and he was fantastic with me and he was very, very welcoming to me. Bobby Arber was one who really, really believed in me and like I said he was hard with me at times, and I remember once we were doing a football session and he tackled me really hard, and so I was a bit embarrassed and a bit confused as to why. But then looking back at it now he was doing it to try and toughen me up, because ability wise I was confident in what I could do, but it was just physicality that sort of held me back a little bit. I think that Bobby was trying to get that nasty streak out of me, and eventually it does come out of you as a player when you get older but Bobby was a big inspiration to me. He always showed faith in me, even when I’d been officially released, and I remember that we went to Holland for a postseason tour and I literally hadn’t played all season, and then he said that I was going to play. And I did play for most of the tournament and I did so well, and I remember we played against Celtic and I did so well and we beat Celtic. I also think that we beat Ajax but I definitely remember that we beat Celtic and afterwards one of the Celtic coaches asked Bobby who I was, as I had played quite well. Then at the end of the tournament Bobby said to me in front of all of the squad that I know that you’ve been released but you’re coming back in pre-season. So I was like ok, as I had already been released and went to the exit trials up at Lilleshall, and also had clubs messaging me to see if I’d like to go on trial.
So I thought this was great and so I’d put other clubs like Yeovil off and also Barnet, as I was thinking that I was going back to Spurs. But Bobby Arber was a big, big influence on me and he did believe in me, so I was grateful for that.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Glenn: Any chance to watch the first team was great, and as I say I was a Spurs fan and so I was there watching great players, the same players that I had pictures up on my wall of. Jurgen Klinsmann was a massive hero of mine from being at Spurs the first time, and then when he came back there I was cleaning his boots and picking his kit up. David Ginola when I used to watch him was just unbelievable as a player, and also an unbelievable bloke as he dropped us off at the train station a few times. I remember when there was a couple of us on first team duty, and David Ginola was out there practicing free-kicks and then after we had collected all the balls, we were then out there practicing free-kicks as well. And he stayed out with us for another half an hour watching us, and I remember that he said to me that I had fantastic technique, and so that for me was just unbelievable. So David Ginola was one, and watching him in that season in his prime, was incredible. I also remember that at at times I would help out in drills with Rory Allen and Stephen Clemence with Chris Hughton, and I was in goal and I loved it, and I was diving around wearing big Pat Jennings’ gloves. But in terms of influences Stephen Clemence was one, and I remember that when I came on to make my Spurs reserve team debut, Stephen came off. And he gave me a big cuddle as he was going off, and he said go and enjoy it and you’ve got a few extra quid, as you used to get a little bit extra for making a reserve team appearance. Justin Edinburgh was quality as well with us and he actually ended up being my manager at Grays and he was always good with me, and also Les Ferdinand and Ruel Fox and Chris Armstrong were all good lads. When you used to go into the changing room they’d give you a bit of banter and you’d walk in all shy but they’d try and encourage you.
As a Spurs fan those memories at Spurs are something that I will never ever forget, regardless of went on in my career.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Glenn: I mean you never want to leave but it’s just one of those things, and as I say I went back that summer for pre-season as Bobby had told me to come back, and so I followed the instructions and came back. I was there for two weeks and then Peter Suddaby asked me to come into his office and he said what are you doing here? I was like well Bobby’s told me to come back, but basically he said well Bobby’s not in charge, I am. But I think that Bobby was in charge of the reserve team the year before, when there was a bit of a structure change and it was because of him that I got involved with the reserve team. So I said to Peter Suddaby that’s fine and I’ll go then, and that was when they signed two Italian players, for what they maybe could have offered me, but I ended up leaving. I had spoken to Yeovil and even though I had put them off a little bit they ended up offering me a three year deal, and at the time I was playing some games for Witham Town in the Ryman League just to get games and a bit of money. Anyway a guy had spoken to John Moncur Senior at Spurs, and he said that he was the best technical player that we’ve had at Spurs for a long time, but physically he’s not up to it yet. So anyway I ended up signing for Yeovil for three years when they were in the Conference, and I scored on my debut against Hereford, but I was in and out there for two and a half years really. I went out on loan to Bath City and played one game there before getting injured, and then I came back to Essex to play for Ford United which is now Redbridge. I moved back home when I was 20 and moved into part-time football, and I was working in a hospital when I was playing for Ford United, and thats when my career sort of really picked up motion, and that was when a guy called Craig Edwards (manager of Cheshunt) came in and I just took off.
The work rate that Craig Edwards instilled in me was just unbelievable, and it was ironic because in his first game he left me out. But then I came in and I scored 22 goals from left-midfield in my first year, and then 30 from left-midfield in the second season, and then the season after that I ended up being transferred to Thurrock. At the end of that season I had another 25 goals before moving to Grays Athletic, who had just been promoted to the Conference, but they were full-time. Obviously being back in full-time football was what I’d always wanted and I didn’t want to be working in a hospital for the rest of my life with all due respect. My career then took off in a different way and I finished top goalscorer in my first year and we came third in the Conference and then lost in the play-offs semi-finals, but we actually won the FA Trophy and I scored in the final. There were a couple of of Football League clubs who came in for me at the end of that season but I ended up staying at Grays, and our manager went to Stevenage and wanted to take a few of us with him, but nothing ever materialised. I then ended up going on loan to Rochdale in League Two for about six weeks and at that point I’d never played in the Football League, and I thought I’ve got a chance to play in the Football League and even if I play one game you can’t take that away from me. So I went up there and played six games but I didn’t do great to be honest and it was a bit bizarre, I was also the only southerner in a northern squad, so I didn’t really settle there to be honest. But they actually wanted to sign me and they offered me a one year deal, and so I’d spoken to Dagenham and Barnet and then Brentford phoned me and the assistant manager had seen me playing in the FA Trophy when I was playing centre-midfield, and it was one of the best games that I’ve ever had. So he’d said to Terry Butcher that we’ve got to get him in, and they offered me a better deal and a bigger signing on fee, and so that’s where I ended up signing.
I signed at Brentford for two years and for 18 months of those two years it was phenomenal and in my first year again I finished top goalscorer from left-midfield. That summer I had interest from some League One clubs such as MK Dons and Leyton Orient and I even read that Leeds were looking at me but nothing ever came of it and my agent never mentioned it, but to be honest I wanted to stay unless a club was offering me unbelievable money. So I said to the Brentford manager that I wanted to stay, and he said give it a little bit of time after the season starts as I’m trying to build a team that will win the league, and then we can talk about a new deal. So I scored seven goals after 21 games and then I found that I wasn’t in the team or the squad at times which was bizarre, but that’s football. I then left Brentford and went back to Grays for a while but that wasn’t the best experience as we were struggling, and I then signed for AFC Wimbledon which is a fantastic club but it was just the wrong time for me as my heart wasn’t in it at the time. I then went to Barnet with Mark Stimson but he then got the sack and Paul Fairclough came in and said that he was going to pay me off or send me out on loan, as I’d been injured. So I thought that there was no point going out on loan so just pay me up so I can go and sign elsewhere, and that’s what I did. I went and signed for Braintree and won the league with them (Conference South) before leaving there and going back to Thurrock for a while, and then signing for Billericay. That was a fantastic time for me and I loved Billericay and it’s still such a great club with great people there, and that’s when I fell in love with football again. I signed for Craig Edwards who always, always got the best out of me along with Mark Stimson.
We won the league that year as well (Ryman Premier) and went up into the Conference South, and that was fantastic. I stayed there for like two and a half/three years before signing for Canvey Island for a little while, which I enjoyed as the lads were good but I just wanted to go back to Billericay, as it was just such a great place. So I ended up going back there for six months before signing again for Thurrock as player-coach with Mark Stimson, and that year we got promoted (Ryan 1 North) from the play-offs at the first attempt. Then I finished off my career with Grays, going back there as a player-coach but I knew that it was the right time for me to stop because I wasn’t playing as regularly and I was 37 at the time, and the old saying is that when you get to that age you can’t do two games in a week, which I thought was not right. Because the season before at Thurrock I played 48 games as a 36 year old just turning 37, and I said that once I’m in and out of the team then that will be it for me, and I was officially player-coach but never really did any sessions. So I thought that it was just the right time, and I had met my now wife as well and we were talking about starting our own little family and I’ve also got two stepson’s as well, and so it was just the right time. I’m not going to lie I miss the game massively now but for me it was just the right time to finish, and that was nearly three years ago now.
What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?
Glenn: On the whole it was unbelievable and I don’t look back on it with any negativity, because at the end of the day the likelihood of me ever playing in the first team at Spurs was like one in a million. You look at the likes of Ledley King who was in our year, he was always, always going to make it and he was one of the best players who I’ve ever played with. You could tell when he was 14/15 when he came to Spurs just how good he was, also Peter Crouch was the same and in my opinion he was always going to have a great career. I always thought that he would have a good career in the Premier League as he was just fantastic at a young age and he just excelled, and he just got better, and better and better. And also them two were absolutely fantastic lads and even now they are the same down to earth people. But I’ve got no negativity whatsoever about my time at Spurs because it built me up a great footballing education for whatever career I was going to have and what I did have, because the footballing ethics and the professionalism and the way that you conducted yourself was instilled in me from when I first signed there as a 12/13 year old. Just watching those players and the way that they conducted themselves was just great, as well as actually being part of a club which you support and their history. Nobody will probably remember who I was at times but playing with players like John Scales, Les Ferdinand, Chris Armstrong and David Howells in that reserve team was just unbelievable. If you were to say who was Glenn Poole they’d be like who? But to me that was just so, so valuable and there’s no negativity whatsoever, and I’ll always look back on it really well as it was just fantastic. Because I could have been a trainee at like Barnet with all due respects, as that was not for me as being at Spurs was just a great environment to grow up in from when I went there as a 12 year old, to when I left there at 18.
Me and Dean Harding got on fantastic at Spurs and we just got on really well, and we were two proper technical footballers who weren’t on the big side, and me and Dean just clicked from the first session that we had at Spurs. But there was no negativity from my time at Spurs.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Glenn: Scoring in the FA Trophy final for Grays (we had a great team) was great, and also at Brentford winning League Two and winning Football League goal of the year for Brentford was also great. Winning leagues at Braintree and Billericay were amazing as well and to have medals on the table is always something to be proud of, and is something that I can show my son and stepsons, and also my grandchildren in the future. Winning trophies was always satisfying for me but probably the most satisfying was winning the FA Trophy final, because we had such a great team and it was a great group of lads, and it was the most enjoyable season collectively that I’ve ever had. Just to top it off I won that in front of loads of friends and family at Upton Park which was local to us, which was just fantastic.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Glenn: Ledley King from a teammate point of view was great and he was a teammate for so long in the youth team days, but I ended up playing against him in a friendly for Grays at Spurs Lodge. He was playing that day, and as was Luka Modric and he was just playing at half pace. I also played against Steven Gerrard in the very first FA Under 19 game and he absolutely ran the show, and even then you could tell that he was going to be a player. So from them days I would say those players.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Glenn: I remember scoring a goal in a South East Counties game on a Saturday against Bristol City at home, and it was a really, really cold day and we were losing 2-1. I remember Bobby Arber sending me on and I remember the ball came to me and I sort of like let it bounce and swivel and then hit a volley, and it went over the goalkeeper and straight into the top corner, and that was one of the games where I thought that that was decent. So that sort of built my confidence up as I was quite shy as a youngster and quiet, but that brought my confidence out. I also remember scoring a penalty against Southampton in one of the FA Youth Cup games and hitting the ball into the top corner. I also remember my first reserve game at White Hart Lane and ironically that was against Southampton as well, and we won 5-0 on a sunny day. There were a few of us younger lads there and we had to be ballboys as well and I was sitting at the Park Lane end, and I was sitting there on my own and thinking I might be getting brought on here, and there were some top players on the pitch for us. I remember Bobby Arber calling me and waving from the dugout, and it was just unbelievable and to play at White Hart Lane even though there was no one there was just something that I’d always wanted to do, and I couldn’t care how many people were there as it was just an achievement for me. And we won 5-0 and that was unbelievable, also playing in the FA Youth Cup games in front of a bit of a crowd was great. I remember coming on in a game against Walsall and I should have scored a goal but I snatched at a shot and it got cleared off the line, but I should have had a touch and slotted it in.
Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?
Glenn: I just remember one game and it was a testimonial game and I don’t really remember anyone who gave me such a hard time, but it was Damien Johnson who played for Blackburn Rovers. I remember playing left-back for Yeovil (I was 19) in this testimonial and they beat us like 10-0, and I was petrified every time that he got the ball and that was the only game in my career that I was embarrassed in, and I can’t really remember anyone else to be honest.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Glenn: Me and Dean Harding were close from 12 up until 16 when he left, and we would always pair up with each other when we did drills. His dad used to speak to my dad as well and me and Dean would always sit next to each other on the coach, then growing up Wayne Vaughan who was the year above me and was the golden boy at Spurs at the time, we were quite close, and as apprentices he used to pick me up and we would drive in. David Lee is a really good lad and I used to play with him at Thurrock and I’d always see him about, also James Dormer was another one who was the year above me. In my year there was Ledley King, Peter Crouch and Gavin Kelly the goalkeeper and we all used to travel home with each other when we were on the train. Mark Arber (Bobby Arber’s son) was another one who I’ve been close to over the years, but whenever I would see someone from Spurs we would always have a chat.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Glenn: Have a fallback plan as you’re not always guaranteed to make it, and you need to work hard and not get sidetracked, also keep your feet on the floor as nothing is guaranteed, never mind a football career. You need to want to learn as I was guilty at times of thinking that I knew it all but you never do, and the book of knowledge is never full. Also don’t take things to heart at times and just have a fallback plan, and if you’re not playing games for Spurs then go out on loan and play games and learn your trade instead of being comfortable sat on decent money. And just enjoy playing because it goes so, so fast.
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?
Glenn: Like I say the experience that I had at Spurs was invaluable for me as a player, person and as a supporter, because not many Spurs fans would be in my situation. A lot of the lads when I was there supported Chelsea and Arsenal and so it might have not meant as much to them, whereas to me I’ve always been a Spurs fan and I always will be. I was there when Spurs won the Worthington Cup, and to experience that was just unbelievable, and I had so many valuable life experiences at Spurs, and it’s a club that I’ll always support even though they can really frustrate me. I also do think that if the Spurs manager gets the players that he wants in the summer then he will bring success, but as I say Spurs are a club who are still very, very important to me and it’s a club that I love and always will do.