(Graham is pictured the fourth across from the left, of the back row.)
Graham Lawrence was a versatile footballer throughout his playing career as he could play in a variety of positions. Scouted by Spurs’ then Chief-Scout Dickie Walker, Dagenham born former footballer Graham Lawrence joined the ground-staff at Spurs for the beginning of the 1958/59 season and he would stay at Spurs until the end of the 1959/60 season. Primarily a youth team player at Spurs, Lawrence did also play for the A team and the reserves on occasions. After leaving Spurs in 1960 he joined Brighton & Hove Albion (after impressing against them in a mid-week game for Spurs). Graham also played for the likes of Cambridge United and Wisbech Town later on in his career. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Graham in person about his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Graham: My earliest memory was when I was playing for the school, and then I progressed from there up the grades, and I played for the school side in football and cricket. Dagenham was a big supplier of professional footballers and West Ham was the nearest team, but there was also Tottenham. There was quite a few people from the school who progressed up the stages, and there was also Jimmy Greaves who was in the school further over in Dagenham.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Graham: I played for Glendale which was a local football club for juniors, and so I played for them. I got spotted for them by the old West Ham centre-half Dickie Walker, who was a scout for Tottenham and he would go to the junior clubs and like in my case where he suggested that I went to Tottenham. I used to get the Green Line bus from Dagenham to the ground in Tottenham. I went into the ground-staff at Tottenham, which was what they used to call it, and I would clean the boots of the players. We had four teams at Tottenham with 48 players in total, and we used to train with the professionals in the morning and then after lunch we used to clean the boots. I used to play in the A side then, but you also had the Tottenham first team, the second team and also the Mid-week A side, who I also played for.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Graham: As a boy my dad used to take me to watch Dagenham as we supported them, but we’d also sometimes go to watch West Ham play, and the fans there then were mostly dockers. There was no bad language used at the ground then, we just used to have fun. I used to like to watch a number of players play for West Ham, like Geoff Hurst.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Graham: We had four particular coaches at Spurs then, and also one who was part-time who used to coach the youth team. Sometimes we didn’t used to play regularly as they would have players on trial, and you wouldn’t be able to play. I can’t remember the names of the coaches at Spurs, who coached me, apart from Johnny Wallis. But I remember that one of them used to run a pub in Wisbech for a while in recent years. Sometimes the second and third team coaches used to take the training. I do remember that the first team players used to do what they liked within reason.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Graham: When I was at school I used to play on the right flank, because I could run fast. I later played (at Spurs) at right-half, full-back and inside-forward. Then when I went to Wisbech they played me at centre-forward, and I used to score quite a few goals at centre-forward. I used to score goals after running in from the wing.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Graham: Dave Mackay was one, and also Cliff Jones. Dave Mackay was a really hard player and he even broke his leg, but along with him I also looked up to Danny Blanchflower and John White. People like Danny Blanchflower and John White were no different to anybody else, and Blanchflower didn’t have an arrogance about him as he was quite an easy-going sort of person. I also liked Ron Henry and an inside-forward called Tommy Harmer, who was very frail and tiny, and when the pitch was muddy they used to have to play someone else because Tommy couldn’t stay on his feet. I remember that he played at Norwich once for the reserves in the Football Combination, and I remember that he started kicking off and telling me where to go and what to do. I also remember once how Ron Henry got into a little scuffle once outside the ground with a reporter, as I think that the reporter was trying to get information out of him. The players in them days used to do a lot of betting, such as with cards and snooker as well, and when they used to play cards in the snooker room after training they used to bet with quite a lot of money, but then the top earners were only getting £20 a week then. But Bobby Smith did used to get in a bit of trouble because of his gambling. Another thing that I remember was how fast that Johnny Brooks was.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Graham: It was enjoyable even though I didn’t make the grade to get into the first team, but I didn’t know that at the time as I used to train with the reserves and the A side, and I trained then with players like Roy Moss and Brian Fittock. I was always hopeful at Spurs but it was enjoyable, although all of the time that I was at Spurs they only signed one lad onto a contract (Dennis Walker), but also in them days they were able just to go out and buy somebody. Bill Nicholson’s favourite player from my group of players was Frank Saul, who was brought up to the first team, but he was a favourite of Bill Nicholson’s, and Frank was like a centre-forward. Because there were 48 players at Spurs then sometimes I couldn’t get a game on a Saturday for them.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Graham: From Spurs I was picked up by Brighton & Hove Albion (after impressing in a mid-week game against them for Spurs), where I progressed from their junior side and A side to the reserve side. After that I was taken on by Wisbech and when I arrived at the station I was picked up by the manager Jesse Pye, who used to play for Wolves and was a top player for them. I was sponsored by a farmer at Wisbech, who used to invite me to his home for dinner. It was enjoyable at Wisbech, as the people there all knew who you were, and also I was the only full-time player there. From there I went to Cambridge United, who I played for in the Southern League, but I later played for Cambridge City before deciding that I’d had enough. I did play for the village side for a couple of seasons with three other ex-pros who had dropped down to play for them, and like them I needed a permit to play. Although I didn’t make the grade at Spurs I was happy with the way that things worked out in the end.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Graham: I think that the greatest moment was being invited to go to Tottenham. I also remember when Spurs won the Eastern Counties League (in 1959/60) when I was there, but I had to go there with a sore head on the day. As we were all messing about in the shower at the ground, and Frank Saul had thrown a scrubbing brush across the shower and it had hit my head. That was in the afternoon and then later on I still played in a match, but we had some fun at Spurs during my time there.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Graham: I think that that would be Danny Blanchflower. He would help you and talk to you during matches, whereas some of the other players thought that they were the bee’s knees. But Danny Blanchflower was quite a happy lad who got on with everybody, even if you were just like me and on the ground-staff he would still talk to you. Also there was Dave Mackay and Tony Marchi who I played with, and Tony went to Italy, but he was a good player. Jimmy Greaves was also a good person to play with in matches, and I used to play against him in a school competition. Also there was Tommy Harmer and Cliff Jones. Cliff Jones was the quickest player in the team and at running down the line. You also had big Maurice Norman and Johnny Brooks, and Johnny was very quick in sprint training. Not forgetting John White, who was the king of Spurs at one time, and when he joined after coming from the services I can remember the day that he arrived. He would stand up against people like Dave Mackay, and he was a very good player.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Tottenham youth team and reserves?
Graham: I remember once that we went to Copenhagen with Spurs with the junior side for a competition. We traveled by train to Copenhagen, and we traveled from Holland where we got the train, and we got there in a day. We traveled over night and I can remember that we were spaced out in a cabin, and I remember that one of the lads (one of the junior players) had got smelly socks on, and so we put his feet out of the window!
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Graham: Ron Henry could be a very tough player, and so I would say that he was the main one.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Graham: I was close to a number of lads at Spurs like Brian Fittock. As I used to talk to him and go about with him. I used to talk to Roy Moss as well, and I remember that he was one of the players who used to get a lot of the games. I also remember David Sunshine, as there used to be a record shop down the road from the ground in Tottenham where he used to be, and I used to have to get the Green Line bus to Dagenham. He used to get off halfway on the journey, but I used to always travel with him on the bus. I also knew Micky Harris as we both went to Brighton together after leaving Spurs.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Graham: I would advise them to get a trade. As I was lucky as although I didn’t make the grade I did have somewhere to go to afterwards. I think that you’ve got to try and understand whether you are or aren’t going to make it, and I think that you can tell yourself. As there’s a good number of players who don’t make the grade. Getting that trade helps you when don’t make the grade in football.
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?
Graham: Tottenham was the club that me and my son Daniel mainly used to go to, but I also went with him for quite a few years to Norwich. If there were two games on the telly then it would always be Tottenham that I would watch.