Darren Gosnell was a talented defender who was at Spurs as a youth player during the 1990s. A local to Tottenham, having grown up not far away from the old stadium, Darren Gosnell would later play for other clubs after leaving Spurs, and the first one who he joined after leaving the club was Wycombe Wanderers. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Darren in person, about his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Darren: That would be kicking a ball out in the garden with my dad.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Darren: I was brought to the club by a scout called Dickie Moss, when I was playing at Enfield Playing Fields. I wanted to come off as well, but then I saw him after looking over my shoulder. And that was it. At first after joining the club I was shocked and I couldn’t sleep after the first week of training, and what shocked me was the amount of quality that was there at training, and that was quite difficult. To be honest I didn’t want to go back to Spurs, as I thought that I was out of my depth.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Darren: Growing up I used to watch a lot of the Spurs 1981/82 team on London Weekend TV. So I watched a lot of Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman, and also Graham Roberts. Graham Roberts was someone who I looked up to, and obviously everyone wanted to be Glenn Hoddle, and that was when I was a schoolboy.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Darren: I actually knew David Howells when I was a youth team player, because he stayed in digs at my aunt and uncles house. So David was the main one.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Darren: I was a defender. I wasn’t very quick but I read the game well, although I actually started as a central midfielder, and I remember in my first game which was against Arsenal, we lost 4-0. They said to me that I wasn’t a central midfielder, and that I had to go back to be a defender. It was Len Cheesewright who said that to me.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Darren: Gary Mabbutt. What a great pro he was, and his attitude was fantastic. I always used to look at him during training and also in matches. He’s an absolute legend!
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Darren: I think that it was an eye opening experience, and a very good learning experience as well. I know that I could have done better personally, but I never. Breaking my nose had a big effect on me, but it was a really good learning curve to play with these really top players. It also sets you up for life, because the jobs that you have to do like cleaning the changing rooms and the stands, and the kit all stands you in good stead.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Darren: I was just invited into the office one day and they said to me that they weren’t going to renew my apprenticeship, and they never did, and so I was released. After leaving I went to Wycombe, where I played under Steve Walford, and then after leaving there I went to play for Enfield Town, Haringey Borough and various other non-League clubs. Then I stopped playing at roughly the age of 23.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Darren: I think that it would be the day that I was called into the office at Spurs to be offered my YTS/apprenticeship, that would be the greatest moment.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Darren: Quinton Fortune, without a doubt, as he was just unbelievable. I remember that we were playing a game against Charlton, and we were losing 4-0 at half-time, but then he scored four goals to get us level, and that was at Mill Hill, and I’ll always remember that game. That game was also the only time that I was the captain at the club, because Peter Suddaby used to give it around to a different player each week, and I was fortunate enough to get it that day.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Darren: I’ll always remember the banter in the boot room, especially when the lights went out, but it was quite scary as well as funny as well. It used to be between the first year apprentices and also the second year apprentices. I remember that we played Arsenal away, and we drew 1-1. That was one of my proudest and also best games as well.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Darren: John Hartson. I was keeping a clean sheet against him at Mill Hill, but within half an hour I had been taken off as he had scored a hat-trick.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Darren: That would be Dean Calcutt and Neale Fenn.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Darren: My advice would be to enjoy every moment of your playing career, and also to enjoy the experience. You should enjoy being at a big club like Tottenham, as it doesn’t really last too long.
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?
Darren: I have loads of great and fond memories, and I loved every minute of it from being a schoolboy, right up until YTS. I think that the most important thing for me is to see some of my heroes and then to see them around the club when you’re there yourself. That makes you feel that extra bit special, and to actually be involved in the 1991 FA Cup final, and to actually watch that team play as a schoolboy was absolutely fantastic, and one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had.
Are there any other memories from your time at Spurs which really come to mind?
Darren: I’ll always remember the day that Terry Venables got sacked and that was the day that our contracts came through, and I’ll always remember sitting in the Bill Nicholson suite when Ossie Ardiles and Steve Perryman walked in, and everyone there went “ oh no! ”As they didn’t want them. Everyone was very close to Terry Venables, and I was in particular quite close. But I remember seeing the great pros that we had at Spurs at the time such as Gordon Durie and Nayim, and so it was a really good time to be around at Spurs. When you make it as an apprentice then you possibly think that you’re going to make it, and that is the big difference. I also remember that Bill Nicholson used to watch all of of our youth games, which was a great privilege.