Paul Shoemark was a very highly rated England Schoolboys international who joined Spurs in 1965, despite interest from a number of other top clubs. The forward who would stay at Spurs until 1969 would progress up to reserve team level at the club. From Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, Shoemark was part of a very talented Spurs youth team during the 1960s. After leaving Spurs Paul later went onto play for Hatfield Town and Kings Lynn. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting Paul to interview him about his memories of the Spurs days. You honestly couldn’t meet a nicer man!
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Paul: That would be playing locally in the parks and all of the time I was kicking a ball around, because that was what he did in the 1960s. We used to have groups of players, maybe ten-a-side down at the local park, and it was just fantastic. I think that’s where I sort of honed my football skills.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Paul: Well it all started off with my England Schoolboys international games, having played seven games for England and scoring seven goals in that period of time. I was picked up by the chief-scout Dickie Walker, who came to the house and wanted to take me to Spurs if I wanted to. It all sort of went from there, but there were also other clubs who were interested like Arsenal. Also, my father and I went down to Southampton for an interview, also there was Coventry and lots of other different clubs who were showing interest after the England matches. Obviously the last match was against West Germany in Berlin, and that was absolutely fabulous and I scored two goals that day and we won 3-0. But from there everything progressed.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Paul: I used to admire Real Madrid and Di Stéfano and Gento, and so I used to follow them all of the time because they were the greatest team in Europe.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Paul: I always looked up to Jimmy Greaves in a big way and also Dave Mackay, who was absolutely fantastic. But there was also Jimmy Robertson and Alan Gilzean, who were others, so mostly it was the forwards who influenced me, but I would say Jimmy Greaves more than anybody else. As before I went to Tottenham I was renowned for scoring goals and so with Jimmy you just couldn’t ask for anyone else to look up to.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Paul: I went to Tottenham as a centre-forward, but I spent most of my time there as a winger which is a shame as I tended to get most of my goals up front. As I was so quick and if I got the right ball then I’d put it in the net, but instead I was sort of played as a winger, and so I was basically a winger.
How did you find not playing in your favoured position?
Paul: It was frustrating at times because when I was younger I was an opportunist and so if the ball came then that was it. So it did make a difference with regards to being put out on the wing as I was laying balls on for other people to score, and alright we used to score from the wing don’t get me wrong, but I found that most of it came into the middle.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Paul: The only one that I would say there was Jimmy Greaves. The thing that I would say for us was after we played in the morning and if the first team were at home then we used to sit on the benches right in front of the barriers, and so you were all at ground level. And so seeing how everything went in the match was just fantastic, and so if we won in the morning then we could go and watch and enjoy watching the first team in the afternoon.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Paul: Very up and down. We had some fantastic times and one of the best times as far as I’m concerned was when we won the FA Cup in 1967. Although I didn’t play I was so proud to say that I was part of a club that had won the FA Cup, and we had a fantastic reception a The Savoy Hotel, and we also had a massive party laid on at the Hilton Park Lane. It was just brilliant having won the FA Cup, and that for me was the pinnacle of anyone’s playing career.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Paul: Well I left the club as they released me, and then I didn’t really know what to do. I was still only young and I hadn’t sort of managed to get any skills, plus my education wasn’t very good as all I wanted to do was play football. So when I left I obviously had to get a job, but I also wanted to carry on playing football. So somebody mentioned the fact that a few players that left Tottenham had tended to go to Hatfield Town. So I approached them and they obviously knew of me and so I then played for Hatfield for about three years, and then I went to Kings Lynn and had a short time there. But when I was at Hatfield I got a job down at Brimsdown, and then when I went up to Kings Lynn I had to do the same thing. I had a relation living up there and so I stayed with him and got a job in the print trade and carried on playing for Kings Lynn for a short time. Then when I left Kings Lynn I went to Downham Market, and that was where I finished my career as such. But then when I went back to Northamptonshire one of the ex-players contacted me to see if I wanted to play locally, and it happened to be my wife’s brother.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Paul: The greatest moment of my career was scoring two goals against Scotland at Wembley in front of 85,000 people.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Paul: Well I’ve got to say Jimmy Greaves. Because obviously we had practice games down at Cheshunt where they sometimes played different players against each other, and you got who you got. But it’s got to be Jimmy Greaves.
What was it like to be an England Schoolboys international?
Paul: Obviously I didn’t know what it was like initially but we were treated fantastically. You had the best hotels and it was just an incredible time, and we had Peter Shilton in goal and Stephen Death, Alan Evans and John Stenson. We had some fantastic players in that team and we never lost, and so that was one of the best times.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Paul: For the reserves I remember that we played at home as it was my debut game and it was against Peterborough United. I scored in that game which was fantastic, but I wished that I could have had a few more games in the reserves as I think to gain confidence and experience I needed to be in that level, but unfortunately I didn’t get many games. From the youth team days I remember that we went to Feyenoord in Holland, and we had a big competition there which was fantastic. That was a pretty good time really and we had a good team with the likes of Steve Perryman there and also John Gilroy, who I got on quite well with. Also, another memory was the day that we hadn’t got a game in the youth team in the morning at Cheshunt, so I thought that I would like to go home. As it happens the Tottenham first team were playing Northampton and so I went into see Bill Nicholson, and asked him if I could come on the coach to Northampton so that I could come home to Wellingborough. So he said no you can’t go home, but you can stay on the coach with all of the players and be part of the club at Northampton Town. We went for a lovely meal before the game which was fantastic being amongst all of the players. Then I went to the game and sat on the touchline with Eddie Baily and Bill Nicholson, and so I sat with them on the line, along with the subs. I generally helped clear up afterwards after we beat Northampton, and it was just a great experience.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Paul: One of the toughest players that I ever played against was Pat Rice. There used to be a ditch around Highbury, and I can remember playing against Pat and he was a hard player, and I could never get past him. And one time he actually hit me so hard that he knocked me into this ditch, and me being short I had a job to get out. You look at it now and it’s quite funny but at the time it wasn’t.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Paul: Yes. I thought that I was quite close to John Collins, and I got to know his wife as well. When I went professional I had a bit more time on my hands as you used to train in the mornings and then you used to have the afternoons free. We used to go out to different places together which was great, and we’d go into the pub and have a game of darts. As he was a little bit older than me he sort of took me under his wing which was so nice.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Paul: Just stay level headed and keep your feet on the ground, because you can be there one minute and then you can be gone. All that you can say is to do your best.
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?
Paul: I had some absolutely brilliant times at Tottenham, I cannot say that I didn’t, and they are then ones which I’ve explained. They put me on the transfer list and obviously I didn’t make it into the big time, which I think after being so successful in schoolboy football was difficult.