A Spurs schoolboy youth player from under 9’s level to under 16’s level, Tony Hazard played for Spurs at youth level during the 1990s and 2000s. The son of Spurs legend Micky Hazard, midfielder Tony Hazard unfortunately wasn’t offered a scholarship by Spurs, and he left the club at under 16 level. Hazard would later play for Sevenoaks Town in the non-League, after having been on trial with some other clubs. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Tony about his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Tony: One that stands out was when my dad was on TV, and we were watching and he went to charge down the goalkeeper. He thought that the goalkeeper was going to kick the ball but he basically did a trick on him, and so watching football that always sticks out in my mind. But playing football it was with a lot of the players who went to Spurs with me in our team, and we were beating teams like 8-0 and 9-0, and playing good football for Somerset Amberry. So I really enjoyed playing when I was younger.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Tony: There was a guy called Robbie Stepney, and I think that he watched my club team. And I think that about eight of us actually signed for Spurs and stayed there until we were about 16. At first there was no competitions or playing against other teams, as it was just all training until about a year later when we would play other teams. I always remember that Watford would be a good game but one that really stands out to me was playing Crystal Palace, and I actually had a really good game. Although I scored an own goal, missed a penalty and gave away a penalty but I did have a really good game, and so that game will always stick out in my mind.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Tony: There were two people that I would always watch or certainly try to play like. One was Paul Scholes, and my dad would always say to watch him as he always had a picture in his head before he received the ball. I don’t think that he was one of the best players ever, but David Beckham was somebody that I always used to try and use his technique to try and kick a ball. He had a very unique technique and I sort of tried to copy that technique. So Scholes and Beckham were always the two players that I watched as a youngster, particularly Scholes as he was my favourite footballer throughout, and I was sad when he retired. So those two players were the ones who I used to watch, and with Beckham I always wanted to have that same technique that he had.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Tony: I was mainly a central-midfielder, but I think that I was mainly a centre-back when I first went to Spurs. I always respected my dads views because he was always truthful in what he said, and he said that I reminded him of Glenn Hoddle on the ball, and I could make a pass even though I wasn’t the dribbling type of player. But like Scholes I had a picture in my head of what I wanted to do with the ball before I received the ball, and so when I received the ball I just wanted to be more creative. In terms of playing those through balls and moving the ball quickly, so I would basically say that I was more of a defensive midfielder who liked to create from a deep lying position.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Tony: David Ginola was always one and I’ll never forget watching Ginola, and I never had the movement that he did because of my height as I was very tall. So I wish I was more flexible and could drop a shoulder kind of thing, but growing up at Spurs there weren’t many players to really choose from. Another one was Steffen Freund, as his mentality and attitude to football was what I thought that you needed as a footballer. If you have that attitude then the fans will love you no matter what, and they loved him. He wasn’t a fantastic footballer but he never gave up, and I think that should be everyone’s attitude. So I would say Freund for his attitude but Ginola as a footballer at Spurs.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Tony: I had a spell at centre-back at Spurs and I think that Ledley King was definitely a player who I thought that if he didn’t have his injuries then he could have been one of the best, and so he was a player that I would definitely watch. But we were never a good team when I was growing up, so there wasn’t many great players. But I was trying to be a midfielder and so there weren’t many great players at Spurs in my time that I would watch closely. I think that’s why I decided to watch Paul Scholes.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Tony: It was probably the best time of my life. Even if my dad hadn’t have played for Spurs, my mums side of the family are all Spurs fans and season ticket holders, and so I would have been Spurs no matter what. Just having the opportunity to put on that shirt and play for them and also play against teams which even at a young age that you know you dislike, such as Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham, you treated it as though the games meant a lot. Even though there were no leagues or anything it still meant to me that I don’t want to lose to this team, but I would say that it was definitely the best time of my life. If I could go back and do it all again then I would.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Tony: I was there for eight years and throughout most of it I would always say that I was a starter for at least six years of it. At about 13/14 I had a massive growth spurt which really affected my running, and I became tall and really not agile enough. So I was going in an hour before training three times a week to do fitness work but when I was 16 it was still affecting my running, and so I ended up being on the bench a lot. But I was quite unlucky as well because we had a manager who I did eventually win over as he had put me on the bench, and I would come on with ten minutes to go in games, before it went up to 20 minutes and then 30 minutes. So I started to win him over and start matches but then he left, and then the next manager came in and it was straight back to square one and I was on the bench again, and I wasn’t really playing. So I would say that it was a bit of both, as maybe I could have done a bit more when I wasn’t training, to work on my running, but also it was a bit frustrating to win a manager over and then after he left you were back on the bench again. So I would say that I was partly unlucky but also there was a part of me not doing enough. So Spurs eventually let me go at 16, and as Spurs was all that I sort of dreamed of I sort of stayed out of football for two years as Spurs was just me. Once I was released I had a few letters come through the door from teams like Barnet, Bristol Rovers and Plymouth. But I chose not to and I stayed out of football for a couple of years, but I played for Broxbourne Borough’s Under 18 side when I was 18, before I went on trial with Dagenham & Redbridge. But I couldn’t stand it as their motto was give it to the full-back and just hit the ball down to the line.
I think that I was at Dagenham & Redbridge for about a month when I left, and then I went to Maidenhead on trial for their reserves. I really enjoyed it at Maidenhead as they sort of preached the same style of football that I’ve always been brought up to, which is the passing game and keeping the ball on the floor. As a midfielder that is what you want and you want to be involved and pass the ball around, and that is what they did. They wanted to sign me but they just couldn’t give me any money, and so travelling to Maidenhead from where I lived was like an hour and a half drive everyday. So with training and match days it just made it not really practical for me and I actually didn’t even have a car at the time either. I then just helped my dad out at Sevenoaks Town as their Under 18 team had been promoted to the first team, and so me and Ricky just wanted to give them some more experience. And so that was where my footballing career stopped.
Having to leave Spurs must have been very difficult for you. How did you find that?
Tony: Even though I knew that it was coming because I was on the bench and that also the club only keep on eight players at the most, then I knew that I was going to be released. But it was still a massive disappointment and I remember that when I got told that I still got watery eyes, and it’s weird that I knew that it was going to happen but I was still devastated by it. As a kid all I had known was playing for Spurs, and today I still think about it and how things could have been different. But I wouldn’t have changed anything about my time at Spurs, as it was the best time of my life.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Tony: There’s two that stick out for me. One is scoring against Arsenal when I scored a really good goal, and I had the ball played into me and I just lobbed the keeper. Then when I was 16 there was a tournament which I think was called the Nike Cup, and all of the Premier League teams and a few Championship teams were involved. So you obviously got to play teams that you wouldn’t normally play, but we got to the quarter-finals against Newcastle and we were 2-0 down and then we got it back to 2-1. Then in the last minute of the game we had a free-kick. The player didn’t hit the free-kick properly but it went along the floor and came straight to me and I sort of pretended to shoot and let it go through my legs, and it sort of fooled the keeper and went in, and we managed to pull it back to 2-2. Because that tournament had a bit of an incentive to go out and win and that you knew that if you lost then you were out as it was always just friendly matches sort of, as a youngster. So to play in that tournament and have that incentive to go out and win and then have the feeling of winning or getting knocked out, that really inspired you to not let the team down. So that tournament was definitely my favourite of my playing career.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Tony: I actually managed to share a pitch with Gareth Bale when he was at Southampton as a left-back, but our right-midfielder always managed to get the better of him. I always remember him as he had a lovely left foot, but our right-midfielder always sort of got the better of him, and when he signed for Spurs our right midfielder got kept on and they had a conversation where he said that he really didn’t like playing against him. I also played against Theo Walcott at Southampton, and I don’t think that he ever made it but there was a player for Fulham called Billy. And he was an aggressive player who I used to love playing against as I loved the aggressiveness and the tackles. Jake Livermore was a year younger than me and he made it and was in my team at Spurs, but Spurs rated him so much that they put him into our year.
How big an influence was your dad – Micky Hazard. On your footballing career?
Tony: Massive! Without him I don’t think that I would have been anywhere near being a footballer. When I looked at the other coaches at Spurs it looked like the main thing that mattered was winning the games rather than improving young footballers. At that age my dad never cared about the result, he just wanted everyone to play well and to play the right style of football. My dad had a massive impact and I don’t think that anyone would have been able to train me the way that he trained me, although it was easy for me to answer him back and I was a nightmare sometimes. But I would never have been the player that I was without him, and the one thing that he says that he regrets was working on my running more, but again that was down to me. And I could have done that by myself and in my own time, but in terms of the footballer that I was I would have been nothing without my dad. I always thought that I was a step ahead of other players on the pitch and that was down to him and his training sessions, and what he would do. Whatever team that he managed whether he was at Spurs or Crystal Palace, they would normally go unbeaten throughout the season. That was all down to him and his style, and how he would help you in each individual position and where you needed to be. He always liked diamonds on the pitch and so if you had the ball then there would always be somewhere for you to pass, because there would be diamonds and triangles all over the pitch. So if anyone got managed under him then they would probably say the same, because he was an unbelievable coach. And so I would not have been the player that I was without him.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Tony: Definitely the Nike Cup which we spoke about, but there was another time when we went to Italy on tour and we played against AC Milan and Chievo Verona, and that was like a massive bonding session between everyone. As we went with the group below us as two teams, and there was more incentive to go out and win matches and it felt real. There was also a time that we beat Arsenal 5-1 and I was on the bench, but it was 0-0 when I came on. I played probably the best match that I’ve ever played and I used to love playing against Arsenal, and I miss it so much be honest. When I watch those games on TV now I just want to be out there playing against them, and it infuriates me when you see the players just strolling around in those games. Another memory was getting to play at White Hart Lane with about 200 people watching us play.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Tony: Definitely the player for Fulham called Billy, who I played against. Because of the way that he was as he was like a Scott Brown type player who would do everything to frustrate you, but you’d enjoy the battle and you’d shake hands afterwards, and it would all stay on the pitch. I must say that when Theo Walcott was playing as a striker at Southampton, he was really good. Because of his pace he got in behind everyone and would always cause us a lot of problems. I also really enjoyed playing against Aston Villa.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Tony: Before joining Spurs I played with a lot of the players at Somerset Amberry such as Cian Hughton who I was really close with, and also there was Matt Wells who I went to secondary school with, and also Nick Chrysanthou, and we still play golf together. I felt that I was close with everyone and that we were all sort of good mates.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Tony: Don’t get distracted by anything outside of football and if you’re not training then train at home. The only way to get good at things is to practice, practice, practice. Just because you’re at Spurs it doesn’t mean that that’s it, and I don’t think that that was my attitude but when I wasn’t training then I was just sat at home doing nothing. Use that time by being in the garden and doing one touch passes against the wall, as anything helps. Anything that you’re not good at or could get better at, you need to work at. Don’t get distracted by silly things and just work and work, as your work will eventually pay off. I’d love to go to a professional club and try and teach young players, and try to guide them in the right way.
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?
Tony: Massively. I’ve got a season ticket and I’ll never not stop supporting Spurs even though I was released by the club. I still went to the games and supported them and I go to away games as much as I can afford, and even European away games. I would say that part of my problem as a youngster was that I preferred going to the games rather than playing football. Spurs are never going to go from my heart, and I was lucky enough to have my dad play for them, but I’ve also got four or five generations on my mums side of the family, so supporting Spurs is not just because of my dad. But Spurs are here to stay throughout my life and nothing will change that.