Ricky Hazard was at Spurs as a schoolboy youth player from under 9’s level to under 16’s level. The son of Spurs legend Micky Hazard, Ricky was born in Enfield and he joined Spurs in 1994, and would play for the club at schoolboy youth level until 2001, when he wasn’t offered a scholarship by the club. After taking a break from playing football, the midfielder returned and would end up playing for the likes of Sevenoaks Town and Hoddesdon Town in the non-League. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking to Ricky, as he looked back on his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Ricky: it’s not a good one but I would say the 1993 semi-final against Arsenal, and I remember that there was an Arsenal fan holding onto the back of a bus singing “ donkey won the derby ”, because Tony Adams had scored the winner. My mum said to me at the time “ even though you’re only a child you can swear if you like? ” So I think that going to watch Spurs at Wembley in that game, even though we lost, is my earliest memory.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Ricky: I was scouted by a guy called Robbie Stepney. I had played for Broxbourne Rangers/Somerset Amberry, and Robbie Stepney scouted me and asked to me come to Spurs, and I had always wanted to play for them. And I was about nine or ten when I was scouted at Broxbourne Rangers.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Ricky: I loved Klinsmann when he came to Spurs and also David Ginola was one of my favourite players, so they were who I watched growing up. But I also used to like watching the old videos of my dad’s side with Glenn Hoddle as well. As a kid, seeing Klinsmann and Ginola as the first sort of players that I saw live at Spurs, I thought wow! And I just loved them.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Ricky: I was skilful and as a youngster I was a dribbler, and I became sort of a goalscoring midfielder. Although as I went on and as my career went on, I sort of dropped deeper, but definitely growing up as a youngster I was a skilful dribbler who would score goals from midfield.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Ricky: My dad would have to be the main one, from playing and training with me most days as a youngster. He coached me at Spurs from the age of about 12 until 14/15, and so he coached me for about three years. I probably come across as biased, but I’ve never seen a coach like him and I remember when I was younger he would study the Ajax youth Academy videos, and how they would train. He would preach the passing game and his sessions were such an enjoyment, because everyone just liked playing a game really. But you used to enjoy the sessions which he put on and the one touch football and little triangles that we used to do. I’ve never played under a coach that did training sessions like him, and it was a joy to grow up with. It was actually when he left that I started falling out of love with football at around 14/15 really, and I stopped caring a bit as the enjoyment had sort of gone.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Ricky: I used to love watching Ginola but as I was growing up I don’t think that we were blessed with great players. But as a youngster I remember I always loved watching Ginola, but again my dad was one who I liked to watch, just to see how he played. He was just a good player to watch and to learn how to improve from, as he was a good dribbler himself.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Ricky: In the early years I absolutely loved it, but I think because I got to Spurs at the age of nine, it became like a full-time job. I essentially lost out on a childhood, because my dad was quite strict about not going out and going to bed early. I would never get to see games on Match of the Day, because we had games on Sunday and there was training on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So I’d never get to see Match of the Day as I’d be in bed, and I’d be straight home from school and I’d be going to training and back. By the time that I was 15 I’d sort of fallen out of love with it, and I’d had enough. It became like a chore rather than something that I enjoyed doing. The early years were great but towards the end and at about 15/16 I’d sort of lost interest in it a bit, which is a shame as later in life I realised how much I missed football.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Ricky: They actually released me anyway, but I had actually spoken to my mum and dad and said that even if I get kept on then this is not for me. I think that it is because I missed out on things, like my friends would go out and I wouldn’t be able to go out and enjoy myself with them, and I maybe just wanted to experience that side of life as I didn’t really enjoy football then. Some of the coaches that followed my dad, I didn’t like the way they played and I didn’t enjoy my football and so I just wanted to give it up and have a life with my friends. But later in life I realised that I could have done both, but I was young and sort of naive at the time. So I was about 16 when they released me and it was only when I was about 23 that I got back into football, and I started trying to play again, but then it’s sort of very hard to get back into. When I returned to football I didn’t play in any of the first teams at Barnet when I went there or Dagenham, as these were like trials. But I played in a lot of their reserve games and also at QPR, but then I ended up signing for Maidenhead in the Conference South, which I think they were in then. They sent me on loan to FC
Leyton, who I think were folding as a club and they had promoted their youth team and so I was playing with a youth team. We were getting beat like seven or eight – nil every week, so that wasn’t the best loan time, and Maidenhead was a long journey for me, and it used to take two hours to get there and I wasn’t getting paid a lot of money to play there either.
When I was about 28/29 I went to Sevenoaks and I played a season there before finishing at Hoddesdon. But playing in the seventh tier was actually where I really enjoyed playing my football.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Ricky: I scored a goal from the halfway line at Sevenoaks after I had dribbled past four or five players, so I’ll always remember that. But a memory from when I was a youngster playing for Spurs was scoring against Arsenal with my left foot, I was right footed but I sort of became two footed in the end. But at the time I was about 13 and I can remember picking the ball up outside the box and shifting it onto my left foot, and then smashing the ball into the bottom corner against Arsenal, and I didn’t like them! So that is one of those moments that I’ll never forget, and even though it wasn’t for the first team I played for Spurs and scored against Arsenal! So that is one of the memories from my time at Spurs that I’ll always remember.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Ricky: I could say my dad because he actually played as player-manager for Sevenoaks, where he actually came on in a game. But when I was at QPR there was a guy called Ákos Buzsáky, and I think that he was there when QPR got promoted to the Premier League, but he was very good. QPR had just sacked Micky Harford, who was the manager who I was sort of training under, and then when the new manager came in he sort of said that we haven’t got time to look at you, and they were also going to bring some other players in. But I remember doing some training and Ákos Buzsáky, who they had brought in was playing, and he was really good and a very tough player to play against, and one that always sort of sticks in my head. But I played with some really good players in my Spurs team as well, such as Paul Burton who was a great midfielder to play alongside, and me and him were the two centre-midfielders. That was when I most enjoyed my time at Spurs as we had quite a good partnership. But during my trial at QPR, I thought that I didn’t look out of place with the Premier League players and I’m doing a good job amongst them, and so I thought that I had a good chance of getting in. But then when the new manager sort of came in he straight away said that he was bringing his own players in, and he had no time to look at me and so he sort of let me go. After that I sort of stopped and it was a real sort of low, and I thought that is this really worth it?
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Ricky: Scoring that goal at Arsenal would be one, but when we went on a tour to Keele University, Ajax were there. We played them in the final play-off round, and obviously they were famous for having an unbelievable youth team. I think that we recorded a one-one draw with them, but it was an unbelievable game of football that I’ll never forget, and in that tournament we also played against the likes of AC Milan. So playing against those sides as a youngster was amazing, but in another tournament we played a team in the final. But when we got to the final to play this team, we found out that they had been playing overage players (we were 13/14 at the time) and they had been playing 16 year olds and youth team players. So to play against all of them players who were so physically stronger was a great experience, and we sort of held our own against them even though we lost three- nil. But I do remember it because we were more than a match for them for most of the game, and these were players who were two/three years older than us. So I sort of remember those moments, but definitely playing against Ajax and AC Milan always stands out.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Ricky: Although I only really played against him once I would probably have to say Ákos Buzsáky. But we played against Arsenal a few times, and they had a midfielder who I loved playing against and it was always a great battle, but I can’t remember his name. It was always a big thing when we played Arsenal, as it was always a battle between me and him in midfield, and I used to love playing in those games as well, and I used to relish it.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Ricky: David Kendall was one, as he used to live around the corner from me, and he didn’t get a scholarship, which was staggering as we all thought that he was going to go on and become a captain for England. But also Paul Burton and Dave Hicks were my closest friends I would say, as us three grew up together playing for the same club side (Somerset Amberry) and we all sort of joined Spurs at the same time. Somerset Amberry were a very dominant club side who used to win most things, and so growing up with them they were probably my closest pals at Tottenham.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Ricky: Practice, practice, practice. Never give up and keep trying, as my biggest regret is that my attitude and passion came too late, and so I would say to make sure that you’re passionate and look always to listen and learn. As people are trying to help you.
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?
Ricky: I look back on it with fond memories as it was great growing up as a youngster to play for Spurs, and I’ll never forget some of the moments it gave me as a youngster. Being able to score against Arsenal at the time for a young and passionate Spurs fan, has given me one of the best memories of my life. I’m still a season ticket holder at Spurs and I still absolutely love them.