Looking back at the senior Spurs youth team that won the 1984/85 South-East Counties Senior League Cup:

During the 1984/85 season, Spurs’ very talented senior youth side won over two legs against a very good Arsenal youth side, to win the 1984/85 South-East Counties Senior League Cup, for the first time in their history. Under the tutelage of head-coach Keith Blunt, Spurs’ senior South-East Counties League Cup winning side won against the likes of QPR, Southend United, Portsmouth and a very talented Arsenal side, to lift the trophy. Spurs had a very talented side of their own however, and with players such as David Howells, John Moncur, Danny Maddix and Vinny Samways all members of the squad, their talents as a team were recognised at that level during the mid 1980s. Spurs would win the South-East Counties Senior Division One during the following season, but during 1984/85, Spurs played some great football at senior youth team level, and they thoroughly deserved to win the South-East Counties Senior League Cup. Their first round game at home against Queen’s Park Rangers, finished 3-0 to Keith Blunt’s side, with John Moncur and David Howells scoring, as well as there being an own goal scored by one of the QPR players.

In the second round tie with Southend United, the score finished 1-1, with Gary Poole getting Spurs’ goal in that game. This meant that there had to be a replay, with Southend playing the match at home. Spurs were able to win the replay 2-0, thanks to goals from Danny Maddix and Shaun Close. Into the semi-finals of the competition Spurs went, but they wouldn’t play the semi-final match until the end of March 1985 (the previous game against Southend was played during December 1984). In the semi-final Spurs met Portsmouth, who they were able to win 2-0 against (Shaun Close and David Howells got the goals), with the game being played in front of fans at White Hart Lane. In the final of the competition Spurs would face Arsenal, over two legs. For the first leg, which was played at Arsenal’s old Highbury ground, the game would finish 3-2 to Spurs, with a brace from Shaun Close and a goal from David Howells enough to beat an Arsenal side which included Paul Merson, David Rocastle and Niall Quinn. 

In the second leg of the final (it was played at White Hart Lane) Spurs made a couple of changes to the team that had won the first leg at Highbury. The Arsenal side for this game included Tony Adams, who started in defence. Spurs were able to impress once again, as they won the match against a very talented Arsenal side which included players who would go and have great careers in the game, 2-1. Steve Grenfell and Brendan Conroy got Spurs’ goals in the second leg of the final. A great day was had for the Spurs lads who played in the two legs of the final, and who were part of the squad. It was a great achievement for the Spurs players and coaching staff that helped them to win the South-East Counties Senior League Cup. This piece is a commemorative piece about that cup winning side, with pieces written on every player that played for the Spurs senior youth team in the South-East Counties League Cup during the 1984/85 season.

(Special thanks must go to former Spurs players Allan Cockram and Peter Corder, for their help in writing this piece).

The players:

Peter Corder: A tall goalkeeper who had previously been with West Ham United, Peter Corder was the only goalkeeper to play for the Spurs senior youth team in the South-East Counties Senior League Cup winning side of 1984/85, and would play all six games in the competition. The Loughton born former professional footballer was a very competent goalkeeper, whose very good communication skills would have been very important during the six South-East Counties Senior League Cup games that Spurs played during that season. Corder was a mainstay of the South-East Counties Senior League team during the 1984/85 season, after joining Spurs an apprentice during the previous season. The goalkeeper would go on to play a good number of reserve team games for Spurs during his time at the club, before leaving them in late 1985, after going out on loan to Peterborough United for a time. Corder later played for the likes of Nuneaton Borough, Boston United (on a loan) and then Holbeach United and Raunds. He later went on to become a physiotherapist, and he would even become Peterborough United’s first team physio for a time. Back in the May of 1984 Corder would make his one and only first team appearance for Spurs (as a substitute) in a testimonial game with West Ham United.

Peter Corder still works as a physiotherapist to this day, and not so long ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing him (he is a really nice person) about his time at Spurs. He also still supports Spurs and his goalkeeping hero during his playing days was the legendary Ray Clemence.

Andy Edmonds: An FA Trophy winner with Enfield, later on in his footballing career, Andy Edmonds would make three appearances for Spurs in the 1984/85 South-East Counties Senior League Cup winning season. The player who started the first leg of the final with Arsenal, was a full-back who could also play at centre-half during his Spurs days. An enthusiastic defender who always gave 100% out on the pitch, the player who made 18 league appearances for the senior Spurs youth teams during the 1984/85 season, actually left the club at the end of that season. He would later play for the likes of Colchester United and Enfield, before later becoming a player-coach for non-League side Ware.

Mark Stimson: A player who would go on to have a good career in football after leaving Spurs in 1989, full-back Mark Stimson was previously with Queen’s Park Rangers as a youth player, before joining Spurs in the summer of 1984. The Plaistow born former footballer was a left-back during his Spurs days, and he was a footballer who had a cultured left foot. Stimson was a full-back who was full of energy, and got up and down the line really well. He started both legs of the final, and made a total of six South-East Counties Senior League Cup, playing in all of the games running up to the final. An important player for the Spurs senior youth team during that cup winning season, Mark Stimson made 23 league appearances at senior youth level for Spurs, during the same season. He would go on to make two competitive appearances for the Spurs first team, plus some additional ones in friendlies, after working his way up the youth and reserve team ranks at the club.

Mark Stimson would later enjoy a fine career in the game, after leaving Spurs. He played for the likes of Newcastle United, Portsmouth and Southend United, before starting a successful coaching career. Stimson has so far been with Spurs as an Academy coach, managed the likes of Stevenage, Gillingham and Barnet, and is now in charge of non-League side Hornchurch. Last season he led them to the FA Trophy final, which they won. That was a really big achievement for everyone involved in the club.

Tim O’Shea: Originally a centre-half during his Spurs youth team days, Londoner Tim O’Shea could also play in midfield, a role in which he would often fill in at during his career in the game. Previously with Arsenal, before signing for Spurs on the Youth Training Scheme in late 1983. As a youth team player with Spurs, the one time Republic of Ireland youth team international was a centre-half in the mould of the great Gary Mabbutt. In the sense that he was a real leader on the pitch, and also a very good defender at youth team level, forming a very good defensive partnership with John Polston. O’Shea was a real all-rounder and he would often captain Spurs at youth team level. Yet another member of this cup winning side who would go on to play for the Spurs first team, Tim O’Shea made three competitive first team appearances for the club (he made his debut as a substitute in a league game against Sheffield Wednesday, in 1987). He would leave Spurs to go on loan to Newport County in 1986, before then joining Leyton Orient on a permanent transfer in 1988.

O’Shea would later play for the likes of Gillingham, Yeovil and Welling United, later on in his career, before going into coaching. The former Spurs player made five cup appearances for Spurs’ senior youth team in 1984/85, plus 18 senior appearances in the league. He was undoubtedly an important member of Keith Blunt’s side during the 1984/85 season.

John Polston: A future first team player for Spurs, Spurs supporter John Polston (older brother of former Spurs player Andy Polston) was a centre-half who played in and started all six of Spurs’ South-East Counties Senior League Cup matches in 1984/85. The defender from Walthamstow formed a very good defensive partnership with Tim O’Shea for Spurs at youth team level. Polston joined Spurs as an apprentice for the start of that season, and he was a very brave defender who actually adapted really well to playing at centre-half, having previously been a centre-forward. A talented athlete during his youth, John Polston would later become a regular for the Spurs reserve side, before going on to make 24 competitive first team appearances (he scored one goal) for Spurs. He left to join Norwich City in the summer of 1990, and would stay there until 1998, when he joined Reading. He later went into coaching. 

Gary Poole: East Londoner Gary Poole, was yet another member of the Spurs senior youth team of 1984/85, who would go on and have a very respectable career in professional football. A right-back by trade, Gary Poole joined Spurs on the Youth Training Scheme for the start of the 1984/85 season, having previously been with Arsenal. A steady and reliable defender, Gary Poole could also play in midfield. He made five appearances (including one as a substitute) during the South-East Counties Senior League Cup winning season of 1984/85, scoring one goal. He was named on the bench for Spurs in the second leg of the final with Arsenal. He was yet another player from the cup winning side who went on to play reserve team football for the club. He would leave Spurs in 1987, to join Cambridge United, and would enjoy a fine career. Later playing for the likes of Barnet, Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic.

Eddie Martin: A part-time youth footballer who was at Spurs during the 1980s, full-back Eddie Martin made just one appearance (as a substitute) for Spurs’ Senior youth team in the South-East Counties Senior League Cup, during 1984/85. A tough left-back who used to like to make challenges, Eddie Martin made an additional 14 senior South-East Counties League appearances for Spurs during the same season. After leaving Spurs during the 1980s, unfortunately I was unable to find out where Eddie Martin went, and whether or not he continued his career in the game.

Ryan: Ryan (surname) made a single appearance (he also made six senior league appearances during the same season) from the bench in the South-East Counties Senior League Cup, of 1984/85. Unfortunately no one that I spoke to who played for Spurs around that time, could remember what his first name was. It is quite possible that he was a triallist with the club.

Brendan Conroy: A good all-round footballer who always had a good work rate, Islington born former footballer Brendan Conroy made three appearances in the South-East Counties Senior League Cup winning side, of that season. Conroy would actually score an important goal (he started the match in midfield) in the second leg of the final with Arsenal, at White Hart Lane. Often playing in midfield for Spurs, but also capable of playing in defence, Brendan used to train with local club Arsenal and also Charlton Athletic, prior to joining Spurs as an apprentice during the 1983/84 season. Once called-up to attend a Northern Ireland Youth training session (he was eligible to play for Northern Ireland at international level), Conroy would play for Spurs as high up as reserve team level, during his time at the club. The midfielder also made 20 senior South-East Counties League appearances during the 1984/85 season, scoring two goals. After leaving Spurs during the 1980s, former Spurs player Allan Cockram mentioned to me that Brendan possibly went to QPR for a time, but I was unable to confirm that he did.

Carl Hoddle: The younger brother of Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle, Carl Hoddle was in many ways similar to his brother, in regards to his style of play. Carl was very good at shielding the ball, making very good long passes and was also a very skilful player, who read the game really well. The midfielder had a good first touch and was physical as well during his days as a Spurs youth team player. Carl made five South-East Counties Senior League Cup appearances during the cup winning season, and he was an important member of that side. The Harlow born former footballer was a regular for Spurs in the senior South-East Counties League, and also made a good number of appearances for the Spurs reserve side, during his time with the club. Carl Hoddle left Spurs in 1986, and would later play for the likes of Barnet, Leyton Orient and Enfield, in what was a good career (he later went into coaching). He started the first leg of the South-East Counties Senior League Cup final with Arsenal in 1985. Very sadly Carl passed away in March of 2008, at the age of just 40.

Vinny Samways: Talented midfielder Vinny Samways was an intelligent midfield player, who was very technical with the ball, and would keep it moving well in midfield. The Bethnal Green born former professional footballer who joined Spurs as an apprentice during the 1984/85 season, would make two South-East Counties Senior League Cup appearances during that season, plus an additional ten appearances in the South-East Counties Senior League. Samways was described to me by Allan Cockram recently, as being a bit like a very technical Dutch midfielder during his days at Spurs as a youth team player, and later on in his Spurs career. The Londoner was definitely a very skilful player, who would later go onto enjoy one of the most successful careers at Spurs of those who played in the cup winning team of the mid 1980s. The former England youth international worked his way into the Spurs first team, and would make over 200 competitive appearances for Spurs at that level, and was also part of the Spurs side that won the FA Cup in 1991. Samways had a really good career as a professional footballer, and would later on play for the likes of Everton, Las Palmas and Sevilla.

John Moncur: The son of Spurs’ former youth development officer John Moncur Senior, John Moncur Junior was another very skilful midfield player, who was also very creative at youth and reserve team level. The Mile End born former footballer and England Youth international made four South-East Counties Senior League Cup appearances, scoring one goal in the first round cup tie with Queen’s Park Rangers. John Moncur did very well at youth and reserve team level for Spurs, and was yet another member of this side who would play for the Spurs first team. He joined the club during the 1982/83 season and would later go onto make 24 competitive first team appearances for Spurs, scoring one goal. He went out on a number of loans during his time at the club, before leaving on a permanent transfer to join Swindon Town in 1992. The midfielder would later join West Ham United, a club that he would later play for for a long time, before retiring from the game in 2003. He is still really well remembered by the West Ham supporters.

Steve Grenfell: A local lad from nearby Enfield, Steve Grenfell was a talented athlete  who was good at cross-country, and who was also a talented box to box midfielder with a great left foot. He was one of the Spurs youth team players who would play in all six of the South-East Counties Senior League Cup games in 1984/85, scoring an important goal in the second leg of the final against Arsenal. Described to me by former Spurs player Allan Cockram as being like a Bryan Robson type midfielder, the former London Schools footballer and Spurs supporter joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1983, and he was another member of this talented Spurs senior youth team, who would go onto play reserve team football for Spurs. He would actually make one non-competitive first team appearance for Spurs in 1985, in a testimonial with Maidstone United. Steve Grenfell would later join Colchester United on loan, before joining them on a permanent basis in late 1986. He would spend a couple of seasons with Colchester, before later playing for Bromley, Dagenham United, Aylesbury and finally Purfleet. The former footballer would then go into coaching, and would actually return to Spurs for a while to coach for them at youth team level. 

Danny Maddix: Initially a forward who would then go onto successfully become a centre-half later on in his career, Danny Maddix was also a very talented athlete who joined Spurs at Associated Schoolboy level. Maddix made two South-East Counties Senior League Cup appearances in 1984/85, scoring one goal in the second round replay with Southend United. He often played out wide as a winger but could also play as a centre-forward, where he was good at making good runs in behind the defence, and was also a good finisher in front of goal. Danny Maddix was a very agile and also skilful forward at Spurs, and the Kent born former Spurs player also scored eight goals from 19 senior South-East Counties League appearances in the 1984/85 season. Danny Maddix also played for Spurs at reserve team level during his time at the club in the 1980s. He left Spurs in 1987 (Danny went on loan to Southend United for a while in 1986) and would join QPR. Going onto make well over 250 senior competitive first team appearances for the west London club, Maddix had a very good time with QPR, often playing in central-defence. At one point he was one of the fastest players in the Football League.

Danny Maddix would later play for Sheffield Wednesday, Barnet and Grays Athletic. He would also win one international cap for Jamaica, during his football career. Maddix would later become the caretaker manager of Barnet for a time, after finishing his playing career.

Trevor Wilkinson: Trevor Wilkinson is from the Seven Sisters Road area of north London, close to the Spurs ground. A forward during his Spurs days, Wilkinson made four South-East Counties Senior League Cup appearances during the 1984/85 season. He also made 11 South-East Counties Senior League appearances during the same season, scoring one goal. Trevor was very good at holding up the ball, and was also an excellent header of a ball, and was also very good inside the penalty area from corner-kicks. Wilkinson left Spurs at the end of that 1984/85 season, and would later enjoy a successful career in the non-League, playing for the likes of St Albans City, when former Spurs player Allan Cockram was the manager, Enfield Town and Harlow Town. 

David Howells: Originally a centre-forward, Guildford born former footballer David Howells scored an impressive total of 21 goals from 28 competitive appearances for the senior Spurs youth team during 1984/85. A Spurs supporter, David Howells joined the club for the start of the 1984/85 season, and during his first season with the club he scored a very impressive total of 31 goals from 38 appearances for the senior Spurs youth team. Howells played in all six South-East Counties Senior League Cup matches throughout that season, scoring three goals, including one in the first leg of the final. The former England Youth international was a talented finisher who was very impressive at youth team level for the club, and although as time went on he would become a midfielder, where he showed his quality on the ball and ability to pass it well. Howells would make over 250 competitive first team appearances for the Spurs first team, since making his debut for them in 1986, in a league game with Sheffield Wednesday (he scored a goal in that game). He scored a total of 27 competitive first team goals for Spurs, and was along with Vinny Samways an FA Cup winner with the club in 1991.

After enjoying a very successful career with the club that he supported, Howells left them in the summer of 1998, when he joined Southampton. He would later play non-League football for the likes of Hartley Wintney and Havant & Waterlooville. Howells would later go in to coaching after retiring from playing and has since regularly played for the Spurs Legends team. He is still involved in football to this day.

Shaun Close: During the 1984/85 season Shaun Close scored a remarkable total of 27 goals for the senior Spurs youth team, from 25 competitive appearances in the senior South East Counties League and Cup (he scored five of those goals that season in a league game against Fulham). Born in Islington, but brought up in Waltham Abbey, the centre-forward joined Spurs in 1983, and he was one of the best finishers at youth level for Spurs during the 1980s. Close played in all six South-East Counties Senior League Cup matches in the 1984/85 season. And the forward scored four goals from those six matches including two in the first leg of the final with Arsenal, at Highbury. Shaun Close had a real eye for goal as a centre-forward, and unsurprisingly he was also a very good finisher. Shaun Close was a very important player for the senior Spurs youth team in 1984/85, particularly in the South-East Counties Senior League Cup. He was yet another member of this talented team who would go onto play for the club at first team level, scoring two goals from 12 competitive first team appearances. After leaving Spurs in 1988, after a loan move to Bournemouth (he signed for them on a permanent basis in 1988), Close would later play for the likes of Swindon Town and Barnet. The former Spurs player now lives in Australia.

My interview with former Spurs Youth Team manager Keith Waldon:

Keith Waldon was at Spurs as a coach and later youth team manager, from 1984 to 1994. A Londoner by birth, Waldon used to play youth football for Chelsea, reserve team football for Millwall, and later amateur football, via a time playing football in South Africa. Keith managed a very successful youth team at Spurs, with them winning the South East Counties League on numerous occasions, the FA Youth Cup during the 1989/90 season, and also other youth team honours. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking to Keith about his very successful time at Spurs.

What is your earliest footballing memory?

Keith: I’ve got to tell you that I was born on cup final day, near the Arsenal ground, when Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1950, April 29th. My earliest memories are I guess playing for school teams. I was born in London in 1950, but there wasn’t much football going on there in those days, but I moved out to Surrey as a youngster, where I just joined local teams. The thing is you never know quite how good you are, but I was just playing football when Chelsea wanted me to join them as a 15-year-old. And a bit like we did when I was a manager at Spurs, they had two South East Counties League teams, one in each division. At 15 I was playing for the Under 18 team for Chelsea, which was a bit of jump really. I still didn’t think that I was any good, but I must have been ok, as I was playing two years above my age group. From a professional point of view that’s where it all started. Prior to that when I was playing football for local team’s I was playing four games a weekend, Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons as well, as well as during midweek as well.

Did you play the game at any level?

Keith: As I say I was at Chelsea as a schoolboy, and then Millwall signed me from Chelsea. I think that I got Millwall into trouble, as I didn’t realise that once you had signed schoolboy forms that that held you for the next season as well. I didn’t know that, and I don’t think that anyone else around knew that, apart from the clubs themselves, so when Millwall came knocking and said would you like to play for us, they didn’t even want me to have a trial with them. I guess that they’d seen me play already, but I just said yeah, and then they were offering me apprentice professional forms. I’d ended the season where I’d played for Chelsea, but Chelsea hadn’t contacted me, and so I just assumed that I was let go and had been released. So, when Millwall came in for me I just signed, but apparently Millwall were in trouble because they’d signed an already registered player. That didn’t go down too well with the manager at Millwall at the time, but I signed associated apprentice professional forms, where I had two years before signing as a pro. I didn’t play a first team game for them at all as I was only in the reserves. I then moved out to South Africa, as a South African club had come out to see me, and they said that they’d like to sign me, and I said ok, thinking it would be the start of the season. But their season didn’t start until the February of the next year, and so this was kind of May time.

I thought that I might be getting released from Millwall but then the South African club approached me and then approached Millwall and said that they’d like to sign Keith Waldon, and so they said yes, ok. But what I didn’t want to do was go all that time without playing, so I played for Chelmsford City, who were in the old Southern League. I only played six months with them before going off to South Africa. The team in South Africa was called Berea Park, it doesn’t exist now, but two or three years prior to me going over there they had started their own professional football league, at the same time as America had started their Soccer League. I received an offer to play for Dallas. I was torn, Dallas or Berea Park? Berea Park were offering me more money, which sounded fantastic, so I went for the money and went to Pretoria, South Africa, that was where my career really kind of ended, because I suffered a badly broken leg. Both bones were shattered in my lower leg. That was in the second season and so I came back to England. My leg wasn’t healing properly, and I didn’t kick a ball again for four or five years but when I started to play again, I felt that my leg was ok, even though they’d told me that I’d never play again. Then, one or two non-League teams became interested in me, but back in the day, if you had been a professional then you couldn’t join the amateur ranks, unless you got a permit.

I had to apply for a permit to play and give a reason as to why I was now wanting to play amateur football when I’d already played professional football. The answer for me was simple, they let me play and I played for Croydon very briefly and then Dulwich Hamlet even more briefly, before then signing for Sutton United. I played many seasons at Sutton United, and maybe something like 250 games for them. When I was a young professional at Millwall I took all my coaching badges, and as I recall I think I was one of the youngest “Full Badge” coaches ever at that time. There was somebody younger than me who had got this highest of qualifications at 21. I got it at 22, I think. 

Having got the highest of qualifications that one could get, but having broken my leg, I needed to earn some money. So, I became a schoolteacher, I had gone to university to qualify as a teacher and then I started teaching physical education, but, because of my coaching qualifications, I was also working on behalf of the Football Association, running their Coach Education courses. There was some local stuff to begin with, but then I got called up to staff courses at a place called Lilleshall, which was the home of English football at that time. I was asked to deliver the courses up there which were of a much grander significance. 

The courses at Lilleshall got bigger and bigger until in the end I was doing international courses, coaching foreign managers and coaches when they took their UEFA coaching badges, and other aspiring coaches to do their refresher courses. At the end of each season, managers and coaches would go to Lilleshall to take this refresher course. I can remember coaching some of the top coaches and players of the day. I guess that that sparked the interest in me, and the guy who took me to Spurs (I went from teaching to Tottenham Hotspur) was David Pleat, who took me there as assistant to a great friend of mine called Keith Blunt. Keith played football with me for a very brief time at Sutton United before becoming manager of them, whilst I was still playing there. Keith therefore managed me while I was at Sutton United, and he knew that I’d got my coaching qualifications as well. So, I think that Keith put the word in for me and had said to Spurs, that I was the guy that he wanted to work with. So, it was 1984 I think when I first went to Spurs. That was initially a part-time thing, before it gradually morphed into a full-time one, and in all I was there for ten years. I’ve got to tell you that it was probably the happiest years of my coaching career, and probably also the happiest of my years in football. 

That meant there was Keith Blunt and me with the youth team, Doug Livermore, who was the reserve team manager, but a succession of managers came and went such as David Pleat, Peter Shreeves, Terry Venables and Ossie Ardiles. For most of that time I was the youth team manager as Keith Blunt left about a season after I had arrived to go off to Gillingham as assistant manager to Keith Burkinshaw. So, I took over the running of the youth team and it was a very successful period of time for Spurs’ youth team in every respect really. 

Because of the successes of that time for the Youth Team, some observers thought that I was just about winning games, but it wasn’t like that. I was just about improving individual players, and the fact that we had good players meant that if you coached them properly then they’d end up winning more games than they’d lose. I think that we won the South East Counties League nine years out of ten, we also won the FA Youth Cup in 1990. We also won other competitions like the League Cup and the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup. We also had great success in winning trophies abroad in the many international tournaments in which Spurs Youth Team took part. We’d win often, but I used to tell the players from the day I first arrived that my job was to make them all better players. The youth team players came in at 16 and left me at 18, so I would tell them “I’ve got to take you to being an international footballer in two years”.

It was all about trying to improve the players that we recruited. John Moncur was the scout at the time, and he and his team brought in some very good players. But my job really was to make them even better players.

Did you have any footballing heroes or inspirations? And if so, who were they?

Keith: Several players really. Ron Flowers of Wolves was one of them. Wolverhampton Wanderers were one of the top teams in the 1950s. I used to watch the Arsenal games at Highbury, near where I lived, when one day Wolves came down. And I watched Wolves play and they were brilliant, Ron Flowers in midfield was different class, a serene type of player, and so I watched him. There were other players like Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo Di Stéfano. We’d only recently got a television and so we’d see snippets of those two players when they were playing for Real Madrid, and they were phenomenal players. Throughout my career I’ve always admired great players, and I mean Glenn Hoddle for me was one of the best ever, and I think that he’s the best passer of a ball with either foot that I’ve ever seen in football to this day. Glenn would practice doing things that I could only dream of; he was a fantastic player. He couldn’t dribble like some other players, and he wasn’t known for defending. I think that that was his downfall really. But he was so good going forward and I just couldn’t understand why he only played 50 times for England, he should have played 150 times for England. So yes, I had lots of heroes growing up but not one that I thought that’s the one. I just admired good players.

Could you talk me through your career at Spurs?

Keith: I started as youth team coach and Keith Blunt was the youth team manager. But we had two teams and so I took the second of those teams during that first season while Keith Blunt took the first of those teams, in the South East Counties League. I would even take some of the teams on Sunday morning, so I was heavily involved right from the start. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was probably about the start of the second season that I was there, and Keith Blunt left to go to Gillingham, and I took over the running of the youth team. I needed an assistant because we had two teams. I’d met Patsy Holland, who was youth team coach at Leyton Orient, and he joined me at Spurs. Pat and I got on really well, and still do funnily enough (I’m still in touch with Pat). I’ve got to tell you that Patsy was a fantastic partner, and his knowledge of football was great. We’d just sit and talk until it got dark in the evening, with a big old-fashioned pot of tea, and we’d have the magnetic board out and we just talked football nonstop. We planned how we were going to produce good players for the first team. 

In my early tenure, I remember often being criticised, by several people funnily enough, that I was tiring the youth team: working them too hard and too long. I was training them too much they said, as we did three sessions a day some days. We’d train longer than the first team in the morning for about two hours, and then we’d clear everything away as the first team players would disappear. Then the youth team would go out again in the afternoon to train for another couple of hours, and then in the evenings I’d often take them back to the ball court that we had at White Hart Lane. It was the best training environment for youth players, ever! If ever I went back to a football club as a manager, then the one thing I would insist upon is having a ball court that was just like that one. It was just fantastic. It was indoor Astroturf with a huge high ceiling and although it had glass in the roof to let the light in, there was some wiring in there to stop the balls smashing the glass. It was well lit, and you had four big high walls which were painted white, but on the white, were painted goalposts and targets to play at. For me it was all about technique and so every afternoon we’d go back to the ground and each player would have a ball each, and they’d go and stand near a blue circle, or red square, and I’d say, chip it with your left foot and the first to get to 25 in the target – shout out, then with your right foot, then left foot, then curl it, drive it – left foot, right foot etc.  . everybody would do ball work for nearly four hours.

When Patsy Holland first arrived at Spurs, he said to me that I think you’re doing too much ball work. But by the time he left he said that he could see why I did it, as it was amazing seeing the players at 16 and then two years later after two hours of ball work every afternoon for two years. He said to me that their technique work was just superb. 

When I was criticised for training them too hard, my answer was that I’ve got two years to take the players from being a schoolboy footballer to an international footballer. I’m not going to do that by giving them time off work, and I don’t care that they’re going to be tired for the game on Saturday as the game on Saturday is immaterial. I’ve just got to get as much football into them as I can in two whole years, that’s all I’ve got. So that was my reasoning for doing what I did. I didn’t have the players running up and down hills or lifting too many weights, it was all with the ball. Everything was about manipulating the ball and understanding what you’re trying to do when you’re on the field of play. So, the morning sessions were all about tactics and how to defend as a group of players. We’d spend hours working at defending as individuals, then in small numbers, then as a back four or five. 

Attacking in football to me was a lot more about what the players brought to it. We had some phenomenal players who could do things and who saw things that I could never see, because I wasn’t as good as them. I used to say that I can’t coach what you do, so whatever you want to do try it. If you’ve tried it 20 times and it’s not come off once then maybe we need to think it again, but if you try it and you perfect it, and it works for you then let’s keep it going. So in an attacking sense in their heads, they could do what they like with the ball, but defending’s much more about team cohesion and all understanding what we’re trying to do as a defensive team. So that I coached very heavily. I remember talking to George Graham once when we were doing one of these refresher courses at Lilleshall, and he and I were roommates. He asked me how I coached the youth team and how do I keep winning the South East Counties League with them? I said that every single day I do back four/five/three defending. George said that’s what I do at Arsenal. They had some great defenders; Tony Adams, Bould, Keown, Dixon, Winterburn and David Seaman in goal. He said that every single day he took the back four and told them what to do if this happens, then if that happens then you do this, and so on. And I said that’s exactly what I do. 

George Graham asked me what about going forward? And I said to him that it was more about what they can bring to the party, and of course he brought Ian Wright to Arsenal. So, he didn’t have to coach him much as he knows what he’s doing, so I just let him do his stuff. Graham and I had very similar philosophies about how to play the game, he won the double with Arsenal, so it can’t be too bad.

What was it like to be Spurs’ youth team manager?

Keith: First of all, obviously it’s a great honour to be asked to do that at a big club like Spurs. But it wasn’t daunting for me, and I didn’t think oh! and panic, I just thought that it was a great job, and it just came like second nature to me really. I was privileged to have the people around me that I did, like John Moncur and Bill Nicholson, and Doug Livermore was a great guy. He was very calming, and he knew the game, having played at a very high level, so he was great to have around. And also, Ray Clemence was on the coaching staff as well, but we all got on together so well during that era, regardless of who the manager was, so all of that side of it was fantastic. 

Could you talk me through your memories of the 1989/90 FA Youth Cup winning campaign? And what it felt like to lead such a talented group of players to winning such a prestigious trophy?

Keith: There’s always an element of luck about everything, and I remember that one of the goals in the semi-final at Manchester City, (from Scott Houghton) deflected off somebody and looped over the goalkeeper and into the goal to win 2-1, which sent us through to the final. So, we had a bit of luck, but we got into the final which was two legged, and we drew away and then won at home. We had some very, very good defenders at that time, and that was without Sol Campbell, but we had five of the England youth team playing for us at that time. Three of them were defenders and so I knew that defensively we would be ok; it was just a question of whether we could open up the opposition enough to score the goals. I wasn’t best pleased with our performances in the final, but I guess that the occasion might have got to the players a little bit. But I didn’t think that we played anywhere near our best performances in the FA Youth Cup final. Some of our best performances were in the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup or the league that we played in in those days. Although the FA Youth Cup final wasn’t one of our best performances the result was very good. For me performances really mattered, and I wanted the team to play and impress people. I thought that the win was more for the players than it was for me, and so I didn’t show my disappointment at the performance.  

During your time at Spurs as a coach and being in charge of the youth team, Spurs had a very talented group of players at the club. What was it like to coach them?

Keith: That was the joy for me, the whole joy. Mostly I was with the youth team, but often I’d have to take the reserves or the first team and so Terry Venables for instance for a whole season would ask me to take the defenders and he’d take the forwards. So I thought that Terry Venables might have thought that I was quite good at coaching, and so he would ask me to take the team sometimes, like the defenders or the forwards. I was therefore coaching the first team in the morning and Patsy Holland would take the whole of the youth team squad on his own, and then in the afternoon I’d coach the youth team again. But with whatever team I was with (including the youth team) all of them had phenomenal skill level. And like I said to you Terry Venables used to say to me to not take the first youth team over because the first team couldn’t get the ball off them. That is an accolade to the players for the abilities that they had, and I can only take reflected glory that I was in charge of them at that time. Whether they’d have achieved that or more without me, I don’t know. Maybe they’d have gone on and achieved better things.

What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?

Keith: It was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They are a big club and at that time we still had Bill Nicholson at the club, and I’d sit and chat with him and we got on really well. We’d sit in his office near to where I was in the afternoons, and I can remember the sun coming in through the window, and we’d just sit and chat football, it was brilliant. And it was the same with Patsy Holland, as we’d sit and talk football until it was getting dark at night. Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence were great characters, and Clem was such an inspiration in lots of ways, and he was always lively. He is sorely missed. So, the whole period for me there was fantastic. I was always a bit in awe of the people around me like Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle, and all of these kinds of people. And, on the management side as well, because they were all big-name people like Terry Venables, but I never felt uncomfortable about chatting with them about football. Even though they were big name people, but I was pretty solid in my own views on how I should coach players, and I think that just flowed really. Like I said Glenn Hoddle was the best passer of a ball I’ve ever seen, but to coach those sorts of players was fantastic.

I remember also that when Terry Venables became the manager at Spurs, he wanted me to bring the youth team over to training every Friday morning, as to do an 11-a-side with the first team, to try things out.

We used to have two youth teams in those days and one day Terry Venables said to me “next week to bring the second youth team”, as the first team couldn’t get the ball off us! So, from then on, we had to take the second of the two teams over and I would go with them. Then one day something funny happened when one of my players got injured and so Terry Venables asked me to go in at left-back. I went in at left-back and I was up against Chris Waddle, and well, he just turned me inside out! I was 40-something years of age and in a nice way I was a laughingstock, and the players thought it hysterical. After that, Terry said to bring ten of the second youth team and me! So, I’d have to play at left-back. 

What was it like to work with former Spurs coach Keith Blunt?

Keith: Keith Blunt was a great coach and a very strict disciplinarian who was quite straight about how he went about things. I think that it was his organisation that allowed me to flourish more when he went. Had “Blunty” not organised things so well, I don’t know if I could have put together such organisation. And the team that I inherited when Keith left made my start easier. I had it easy really and just couldn’t go wrong, as he set it up so that I could coach. 

Were there any people who you looked up to during your time at the club?

Keith: Of course. You can imagine that I was a bit part player, mostly in non-League and now I’m talking to people who have played 50, 60, 70 times for England. I looked up to most of the players and the coaching staff as well, so I was enlightened by them and that enthused me really, because I was talking to top, top players. So, it was rather an uplift than anything else, and you could ask them anything and they’d answer honestly, so again I was very lucky, as I had some fabulous people around me.

Are there any memories from your time at Spurs which really stand out to you?

Keith: I think that would probably be in the delight that I had from some of the performances from the youth team in games. I watched them do things which I didn’t coach them to do, but they had a skill level above my grade and could do things that I couldn’t imagine, never mind perform! What I could do was try and tie it all together, so as a coach, if so and so could do this; or so and so could that; then how could we make the best use of that. Everything that I did was to try and get the best out of the youth team players by whatever it was I coached, and I can remember on several occasions actually saying to players I can’t coach what you can do. They were far better players than my coaching knowledge, and so that used to make me smile. I remember when we played Gillingham once, and we were 5-0 up at half-time and I said “You’ve proven that you can score five goals in that half. If you drop your level a little bit, then you won’t score five again, so I want you to keep all of this going and we need to at least score another five goals in this half otherwise I’ll be a bit upset”. We beat Gillingham 10-0, and our lads were magnificent. Even the Gillingham manager came to me afterwards and said I’ve never seen a team play like that in the South East Counties League. So that kind of thing really impressed me, as it was all down to them really. 

Were there any players who you coached at the club, who you were surprised never played for the first team?

Keith: There were so many good players! Some lovely lads too. Some players didn’t make as many appearances for the first team as I thought they might, while others went away and did very well. We had a player called Lee Hodges, who for me could have been a very, very good player. But I think that he would get nervous in amongst that calibre of player and then maybe wouldn’t have shown his real true class, but he was such a nice lad. One of those who disappointed me with how far he went in the game was Jeffrey Minton. Jeffrey had phenomenal ability with his feet, was quick off the mark and had wonderful skill. But he didn’t go as far as I hoped he would, and I think that he’d tell you that he wasn’t the most disciplined person, but he was a wonderful player. 

I could eulogise about so many of them. It was that era where the players were just fantastic, and they just really impressed me and could play fantastic football. Nicky Barmby, Steve Robinson, Ian Walker to name but a few (Apologies to those I have not mentioned). But some of them never went on to make fantastic careers. According to John Fennelly, the press officer, in my ten years at Spurs, 44 players from the youth ranks made their debut at Spurs! A phenomenal number. Some went on to have great careers. I can remember working with Sol Campbell and I wasn’t sure what position he was going to play in. And that thing that I’m going to take him from schoolboy to international level came true with him, because I just worked and worked with him. At so many lunch times we’d go out with a bag of footballs, and we’d work on his left foot and on his headers, and so I worked very, very hard on making him a fantastic footballer. But I used to tell him that if he didn’t make it as a footballer that he’d be a good 400 metre runner, as he was also a very good athlete, but he wanted to be a footballer.

I also played Sol in midfield and up front, and in all different types of positions. So that he could get his feet better and his understanding of what was around him better, but then finally it was that he was going to be a centre-half, and of course his career was a very good one. 

 What would your advice be to the Spurs youth team players of today as they look to make it in the game?

Keith: The advice is very simple, and you’ve got to make use of every single moment of every single day when you’re in the youth set-up. Like I say, you’ve got two years to go from a schoolboy to an international footballer, and you cannot waste one single second of that. You need to focus, especially with the ball as you don’t get fatigued if you’re just playing with the ball. If you improve your skills and understanding of the game and you’ve got a very good chance.

 After all these years how do you look back on your time with Spurs, and are they a club who you still hold close to your heart?

Keith: Yeah, I watched their game against Liverpool the other day and I still watch all of their games. But I’m detached from the club now because I don’t know the people who are there now, so for me it’s not about the clubs it’s about the people I know. So, everybody says are you a Spurs supporter? Well actually, I was an Arsenal supporter, but then I went to Chelsea and so I kind of supported them, and then I went to Millwall and so I kind of supported them. And then I’m at Spurs and so I support them a bit, but I still do watch the Spurs games and I hope that they win a trophy again soon. I also hope that they’ll produce that skilful footballer again, like Man City do. Bill Nicholson would tell you about push and run, and all he’d ever say was pass and move, and don’t stop doing that and you’ll become effective. And if you watch Man City that’s all they do – pass and move. And they’ve always got options and players to receive the ball, whereas if you watch most teams someone’s got to take about three touches of the ball before someone makes an angle so they can pass to them. But what Man City do is the kind of thing that I’d like for young players to get their head around, as if you haven’t got the ball at your feet then you should be getting into a position to receive the ball. And if you can do that and also manipulate the ball properly then you’re going to become a player.

Spurs Under 18’s 0-2 Aston Villa: (match report)

Spurs’ Under 18 side welcomed Aston Villa to Hotspur Way on Saturday afternoon, for a Premier League South fixture. Spurs lost the match 2-0, and although they were missing a number of regular starters, they did well, and were in the game all match, creating a lot of chances. Spurs lined up with Aaron Maguire in goal, while a back four of Maxwell McKnight, Alfie Dorrington, Archie Chaplin and Jordan Hackett started in front of him. George Abbott and Billy Heaps started in central-midfield, and Sam Amo-Ameyaw and Riley Owen started out on the flanks, either side of CAM Han Willhoft-King. Captain Jaden Williams led the line for Spurs. Aston Villa got the game underway on a really nice day at Hotspur Way. After receiving the ball out on the right flank Sam Amo-Ameyaw came inside onto his left foot before having an early effort saved by Aston Villa goalkeeper Sam Lewis. A couple of minutes later a loose pass from Alfie Dorrington came to Dewain Sewell, who went down the right side of the Spurs box, before hitting an effort just wide of the goal.

Another loose pass from a Spurs player (Han Willhoft-King) saw the ball come to Dewain Sewell, who crossed the ball to Kadan Young, whose first time effort was saved by Aaron Maguire. A good run down the right flank from Amo-Ameyaw resulted in the winger cutting inside onto his left foot, but his curling effort was tipped over by Sam Lewis. After Alfie Dorrington headed Billy Heaps’ free-kick across goal inside the Spurs box, Jaden Williams did well to catch the ball on the volley, but his effort went narrowly wide of the Aston Villa goal. After receiving Travis Patterson’s pass inside the Spurs penalty area, Chisom Afoka hit a low effort wide of Maguire’s goal. Amo-Ameyaw hit a low cross right across the face of the Aston Villa goal a couple of minutes later, after again showing good skill with the ball. Amo-Ameyaw then had an effort saved by Sam Lewis inside the Aston Villa box, before a Billy Heaps free-kick almost deflected into the path of Archie Chaplin inside the Aston Villa box, but Sam Lewis was able to gather the ball in time.

Travis Patterson hit an effort low and wide from distance for Aston Villa, before at the other end of the pitch Billy Heaps hit an effort wide. Heaps then blocked Aston Villa captain Aaron O’Reilly’s effort, a minute or so after. Aston Villa took the lead about eight minutes before half-time. Dewain Sewell managed to latch onto Billy Heaps’ loose pass on the edge of the Spurs box, before showing good composure in front of goal and finishing well with a low effort past Aaron Maguire, 0-1. Spurs tried to respond before half-time. Jaden Williams had a deflected saved by Sam Lewis, after receiving a pass from Riley Owen inside the Aston Villa box. Sam Amo-Ameyaw then appeared to be fouled inside the Aston Villa penalty area, but he was still able to pass the ball to McKnight, who came inside onto his left foot well, before curling an effort over the goal. Han Willhoft-King then had an effort blocked, before the referee sounded his whistle for half-time.

Spurs got the second half underway. Chaplin headed an effort wide from a Billy Heaps free-kick, before McKnight had an effort on his left foot saved. George Abbott played a one-two with Riley Owen inside the Aston Villa box, before seeing his effort saved well by Sam Lewis, with a defender then clearing the ball off the line. Maguire saved well with his feet to stop Kadan Young from scoring inside the Spurs box. Spurs then made their first change of the game, as Damola Ajayi came on to make his debut at this level for Spurs, in place of Billy Heaps. A corner-kick from Ajayi was met by Chaplin inside the Aston Villa box. His headed effort was saved by Sam Lewis, and then Williams also had an effort saved on the follow up. Before Owen then had an effort on goal cleared on the line. Tyrese Hall came on to replace Riley Owen, before Archie Chaplin did well to clear Travis Patterson’s effort. Hall then had an effort blocked, as Spurs continued to look for an equaliser. McKnight hit an effort narrowly over Sam Lewis’ goal, from the edge of the Aston Villa box.

Charlie Pavey headed an effort just over from a cross, before Maxwell McKnight’s fine cross to Tyrese Hall inside the Aston Villa box at the back post, resulted in Hall having his effort tipped behind by the impressive Sam Lewis. Another cross from McKnight a couple of minutes later found it’s way to the unmarked Tyrese Hall at the back post of the Aston Villa box. However, Hall was unlucky as he ended up putting the ball over the goal. Spurs continued to create chances. Jaden Williams’ lofted pass through to George Abbott inside the Aston Villa box, resulted in Abbott having an effort saved by Lewis. However, after Aston Villa player Todd Alcock made a good run in behind the Spurs defence to latch onto Travis Patterson’s pass, he continued into the Spurs box, before finding the bottom right hand corner of Maguire’s goal, 0-2. An impressive challenge from Archie Chaplin on Travis Patterson inside the Spurs box, stopped a chance for Aston Villa late on in the game, with the referee sounding the full-time whistle moments later. Spurs’ next Premier League South game is away to Reading, next Saturday (the game starts at 11.30am).

Player reviews:

  • Aaron Maguire: The second year scholar and goalkeeper had a solid game in goal, and couldn’t have done anything to stop either of Aston Villa’s goals. Maguire made one really good save with his feet during the second half.
  • Maxwell McKnight: Starting this match at right-back rather than as a winger, first year scholar Maxwell McKnight often stayed quite deep to defend during much of the first half (he was still involved quite a bit in the final third). However, as the second half went on McKnight got forward down the right flank a lot more, showed his quality on the ball and delivered some good crosses into the Aston Villa box.
  • Alfie Dorrington: Regardless of the score line, Alfie Dorrington formed a good defensive partnership with the slightly less experienced Archie Chaplin. Dorrington made some good defensive interventions during the game.
  • Archie Chaplin: My man of the match, see below. 
  • Jordan Hackett: The left-back often stayed quite deep on the pitch to help out the two centre-halves.
  • George Abbott: The deepest of the two central midfielders got forward with the ball well, and was involved in some clever play in the final third. Abbott was unlucky not to score again today.
  • Billy Heaps: The midfielder started the match just ahead of George Abbott in central-midfield, where he worked hard during his 61 minutes on the pitch.
  • Sam Amo-Ameyaw: Showing some really good skill on the ball out on the right flank. Particularly during the first half the schoolboy footballer was very direct with the ball and would really test Aston Villa left-back Harvey Rhoades. This was in my opinion Amo-Ameyaw’s best game so far for the Spurs Under 18 side.
  • Han Willhoft-King: Starting the game as a CAM but later going to a central-midfield role, the hardworking midfielder once again showed good composure with the ball when he went on forward runs.
  • Riley Owen: Again showing good skill on the ball, left-winger Riley Owen was direct with the ball and went on some skilful runs with it.
  • Jaden Williams: The Spurs captain was very unlucky not to score today, such was his good movement and hard work off the ball.
  • Damola Ajayi: The second half substitute initially went to start in the CAM position, but later went out to the left flank, on his debut for Spurs at this level.
  • Tyrese Hall: The schoolboy footballer made his fourth appearance of the season for Spurs’ Under 18 side today, when he came on in the second half. A skilful player with the ball, Hall went to the CAM role following his introduction to the game. On another day he could have scored a brace.

My man of the match: Archie Chaplin. The centre-half had a very good game on the left side of central defence. The schoolboy footballer made some really good clearances, challenges and defensive interventions against Aston Villa, and his overall reading of the game was very good. Chaplin is a very quick defender, and he formed a good central-defensive partnership with Alfie Dorrington.

Spurs Under 18’s versus Aston Villa: (match preview)

Spurs’ Under 18 side will welcome Aston Villa on Saturday to Hotspur Way (the game starts at 12:00pm), in a Premier League South game. Spurs impressively won 7-0 against Birmingham City in their last Premier League South game, last Saturday. Spurs won 3-1 away to Aston Villa in the reverse league fixture earlier in the season, and Aston Villa at this level this season are currently in 12th place in the Premier League South, two places behind Spurs in the league. Spurs will be without five players for the game on Saturday, because of the current international break in the football calendar. However, this will likely be a good opportunity for some of the players who haven’t played a lot of games this season to get some game time. I would like to wish the team all the very best of luck for the match.

My predicted lineup: Maguire, Abbott, Dorrington, Sayers (c), Hackett-Valton, Willhoft-King, Heaps, McKnight, Amo-Ameyaw, Owen, Williams.

Subs from: Krasniqi, Chaplin, Linton, Hall, Irow.

Injured/unavailable: Renaldo Torraj (international call-up), Rio Kyerematen  (international call-up), Jamie Donley (international call-up, Will Andiyapan  (international call-up), Thomas Bloxham (international call-up).

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 3-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Dewain Sewell. The Aston Villa player has scored nine Premier League South goals, and provided four assists so far this season. 

My interview with former Spurs player Peter Hopkins:

(Peter is pictured third from the left of the back row)

Goalkeeper Peter Hopkins was at Spurs as a youth team player during the late 1950s. From the Rhondda Valley, in Wales, Peter Hopkins was still at school in Wales, when he was with Spurs. He would travel down from Wales to London, in order to train with the first and second team, and also play some matches with the youth team in the South East Counties League. Peter Hopkins would later join Swansea, for whom he played some reserve team games until suffering a career ending injury not long after he had signed for them. I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Peter about his time at Spurs.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Peter: When I was about five or six, I used to play football with all of the other lads. I lived in a Welsh mining valley where we had a lot of terraced streets, and were literally a ten minute walk from some space at the bottom of the mountain. And so four or five of us used to go over there with a football for just a kick around.  That was the main thing that we did pretty much every holiday and every day after school, as long as it was light. And that was my only sporting interest at that young age.  

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?

Peter: Well firstly there’s two odd things. When I was about seven years of age, the father of one of my uncles knew that I was a Spurs fan (I can’t remember why I became a Spurs fan). One day he came to our house and said that he had a present for me and he gave me an old football with lots of autographs on it.  It dated from about 1910 or 1911 and was the ball used and then autographed afterwards by the players, from a game involving Spurs and Porth, when Spurs came to Wales for some reason. Of course back then we were pretty poor and I had never owned a football, so instead of keeping it which would have been a remarkable souvenir, we all played football with it, until it was destroyed.

I later ended up playing local football, and I mostly played in teams where I was the youngest player. And when we formed a team in the village that I played for, I was only 13 but playing Under 18’s football. I played with my local team until it were disbanded after the older lads got past 18.  We just  no longer had enough players. I immediately signed for Ystrad Boys Club that had a history with Spurs, but I don’t know where that started. Although I do know that Mel Hopkins was the first post war player to join Spurs from Ystrad Boys Club. Although Mel has the same surname as me and comes from the next village we are not related. So when my original side disbanded, our coach, Les Vantus, told me that Dai Bevan, who was the coach and organiser of Ystrad Boys Club  wanted me to play for them. So I joined Ystrad Boys Club l After a few months Dai Bevan when I was still only 15 said that I was probably good enough to be introduced to Spurs to see how it would go.

So that’s where the connection came from. I was invited up to Spurs and my father came with me. Spurs had already seen me play after sending a scout called Andy McDonald down to Wales. He saw me play a couple of times and I happened to have enjoyed two decent games. So I went up to Spurs to meet the manager, Billy Nicholson, and stay the night. The next morning I went with some of the famous first-team players with the squad for a training session at Cheshunt and my father and I were brilliantly received, and while I was left to speak with Mr Nicholson my father was taken by the chairman around the ground and to the trophy room. However, I actually signed when I was about 16, and I think that I signed a standard Football League contract, which I guess was the same for all of the young players. I was asked about my background and my future education and whether I’d like to come and live in the Tottenham area and play for them at youth level. But I considered that my whole time at Spurs was on the basis that I would continue to live down in Wales, but Ystrad Boys Club would make sure that I wasn’t approached by any other League clubs. I would continue to travel to Spurs when it suited me and them.

 I played in South Eastern Counties games from time to time and on other occasions would train with the first-team squad.   It was hard to believe I was on the same pitch as some of the great names – Danny Blanchflower, Terry Medwin, Cliff Jones and Bobby Smith some of the top international players. Sitting on the team coach next to current Welsh International and hero, Terry Medwin, was a great thrill. When I signed, for me to be in the same room as Bill Nicholson, who was one of my Spurs heroes, was just great. I used to collect autographs of footballers, and once I saw a second team game of Spurs against Cardiff City when I was about 14. Bill Nicholson captained the Spurs side as before managing the first team, he ran the second team as a sort of player/manager.

So Bill Nicholson was the captain of the second team, and for the Cardiff City game he brought along a lot of the younger players there. However, I also remember that that great entertainer, Tommy Harmer was in the side. I remember walking all the way from Cardiff station to the ground at Ninian Park. In those days the team would walk about a mile and a half, carrying their kit!  I walked with the team to the ground, chatting all the way mainly to Bill Nicholson.  I clearly remember  that he asked me what Cardiff was like as a City and for housing as Cardiff had approached him to play for them and manage them! I still have the autographed match programme!

But my experience at Spurs was a very happy and thrilling one. It was really beyond belief for me that I had actually signed for Spurs. I remember Bill Nicholson saying that Spurs had been very impressed with me and that I’d had two outstanding games. He also thought that from everything that he had heard I had a good chance of making it. 

Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?

Peter: Actually the only team that I supported was Spurs. I can actually go back to the 1950s team. Ted Ditchburn was a hero of mine as was Ron Burgess who was both Welsh and played for Spurs. I also had heroes here in Wales, like centre-forward Trevor Ford and left-winger Cliff Jones who I would watch playing for the Welsh International side. However, when I was about 14, Danny Blanchflower was my absolute hero, and for me to have ended up playing with him when I was about 16 was just like a dream.

Who were your greatest influences in football?

Peter: They weren’t goalkeepers as in those days most of my heroes were outfield players. Pretty much all of my heroes/influences were connected with Spurs, unless they were Welsh international players who played for other clubs. But my big goalkeeping hero when I was younger was Jack Kelsey, who was the Welsh goalkeeper who also played for Arsenal. I still have a big opinion of him as a goalkeeper, and although he was unspectacular, I modelled myself a bit on how he played. He commanded the goal area, was very good in the air and he positioned himself very well. After I finished with Spurs and had joined Swansea, I had the thrill of playing my first game for the second team against Arsenal, at Highbury. Amazingly Jack Kelsey, who was the current Welsh goalkeeper, was in the second team. He was only in the second team because he had broken a finger and Wales were playing a couple of weeks later and the Welsh FA had asked Arsenal if they would play Jack Kelsey to improve his fitness.

I dared to go into the dressing room before the game to have a chat with him and he wished me all the best. He’d heard a bit about me, and then after the game he told me that I’d had a fantastic game and that I had every chance of making top level football. That was nice of him to do so, and it meant a lot, as he was my goalkeeping hero. Later on Bill Brown and Pat Jennings came into the equation, and I think that Pat Jennings is the greatest goalkeeper that I ever saw. He could make spectacular saves, but he was safe and also organised as well. So I think that he was the complete goalkeeper.

Could you describe to me what type of goalkeeper you were, and what your style of play as a goalkeeper was during your time at Spurs?

Peter: From the time I was about eight I was always a goalkeeper, and I didn’t think much about it.  It was just the way that it ended up. I read every football annual, which was all that I got as a present at any Christmas time. I studied goalkeeping and as  a youngster I read everything avidly that you could read about goalkeeping. So when I started playing I was very aware of angles, and I was very good in the air and I commanded the box. Only about six or seven times that I played football did I ever have a ball headed past me. I used to work out that if someone was crossing a ball in the air, the area between my goal-line and three yards to the penalty spot was my area. I would set out to catch anything in that area. If someone was hitting a long ball into the penalty box then I would be very quick off my line to either catch it or gather the ball. Of course a lot of this has now gone out of the game, because with a much lighter ball goalkeepers tend not to go out to catch the ball, unless it’s right on the goal-line. In my day a couple of yards from me to the penalty spot, was my area.

I would say that I was a very organised goalkeeper, who commanded the area, and also simply told centre-halves and full-backs where they should be, so they could get out of my way to give me a clear view. I wasn’t a particularly spectacular goalkeeper but my view then has not changed really, and that’s if you see a goalkeeper make a lot of brilliant saves in a game then it’s probably because he’s standing in the wrong place to start off with. 

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?

Peter: Well Danny Blanchflower was the biggest influence on me, and also on the whole of the Tottenham team. He was the man that everyone respected and he was the complete wing-half. He was very good defensively and he was an outstanding footballer who never wasted a ball and was always looking to make an incisive pass. But he was absolutely outstanding, and was the complete footballer.  That seemed  apparent to me from quite a young age, as I’d watched Danny Blanchflower quite a bit. Whenever he came up to Cardiff I saw him play, and he was the biggest influence on me.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?

Peter: Absolutely wonderful. It was very limited and it was a strange set-up, but I was quite a mature player at 16 and I was quite comfortable playing with older players. From what I was told, the hope of Tottenham was that I would go up and join them when I was 16. They talked about accommodation and how they could do it, but I was quite academic at school and I wanted to be fully educated. They did explore the possibility of me going to a local school, but that wasn’t feasible. So a letter was written by Andy Donaldson, the Spurs scout, on Spurs paper to Dai Bevan, saying that we like this footballer Peter Hopkins, but as he can’t join us yet we’d like you to give him some games when you can, and make sure that he doesn’t join any other club. So the arrangement was that I would stay with Ystrad Boys Club, and go to Spurs to play games whenever I could.

However, whenever I trained at Spurs, I always trained with the first and second team, and no one else. Whenever I went up to Spurs, I always had someone allocated to look after me as I was so young. One was Eddie Clayton. I remember one day that he took me to Clapton Dogs.  Little did anyone there realise that I knew more about dog racing than any of them. And if Bill Nicholson had found out that I had been to Clapton Dogs I am sure that he wouldn’t have been very happy.

The other person who looked after me was Terry Dyson. However, my time at Spurs was brilliant because I hero worshiped everybody, and to be on speaking terms with them was just great. Whenever I got on the coach to go to Cheshunt with the team, I always sat next to Terry Medwin, as he was also from Wales. I didn’t see much of Cliff Jones, apart from when I was training as he appeared not to travel on the team coach. The other player who I was very friendly with, and who I had a very high opinion of as a footballer, was John Ryden. He was a superb defender who I think would have been in the first team for most other first division sides. But he struggled, because Harry Clarke was at the club for most of his career. But I had a wonderful time at Spurs, and everyone was so kind to me.

A funny story which I remember, involved that brilliant England and Spurs centre-forward Bobby Smith, who happened to be a terrible gambler, which I didn’t know of course. One day we were on the coach when Bobby Smith asked me to come back to sit near him.  He said that I was a good goalkeeper and that I’d have a bright future with Spurs as it was such a good club. He said that he’d left his money in his bag and could I lend him two pounds. Back in those days people used to only earn seven quid a week, and footballers only 20. So two quid was quite a lot of money.  But I happily said ‘Yes’ and he said don’t forget to remind me to give it back to you. Then when I finished the training session I didn’t see him.  I think it was Terry Medwin who saw me in conversation with Bobby and cautioned me not to lend him any money. I told him that I gave him two quid. Terry said that you’ll never get it back. But anyway he said that next time you’re up here, remind me to get the money off him. So when I saw him about six weeks later, he said we’ll go and get that money off Bobby Smith. So he explained to Bobby why I needed the money back, and so Bobby gave Terry the money to give to me. And that was just about the only time that Bobby Smith had repaid anybody at the club, according to Terry.

But I hero worshipped all of these players, and it’s just a happy coincidence that Spurs were my boyhood dream team. I’ve got programmes from years ago, with autographs from all the Spurs team of the fifties on Cardiff City programmes. But for me to go to Spurs and have this playing association with so many star players when I was only 16 was terrific and just unbelievable.

What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?

Peter: Well it was an odd situation. My whole dream was to play football and to sign for Spurs. I had a French teacher at school who was keen to employ me (he left the school before my final year) and work for him to do a potentially top job. So I’d been a well-paid guide in Paris looking after hundreds and hundreds of people during the Easter holidays. Footballers were only earning twice as much as the average wage at that time. So I had wanted to study at the London School of Economics to further my educational qualifications to get a good job. But in the meantime I had met my first proper girlfriend, who became my first wife. And then all of a sudden the £20 wage and the chance of a job here in Wales with my ex-teacher was appealing.  The prospect of a £20 maximum wage put me off. So I thought I’m better off working in Wales and playing part-time football. Had my prospective employer refused time-off to train and play part-time football – I guess I would have been tempted to take my chances and become a Spurs player. But he agreed to be flexible on time-off.  So I signed terms for Swansea – and my Spurs dream was over.

The Swansea manager at the time asked me if I wanted to sign full-time forms, but I said no as if I’d wanted to do that then I would have stayed at Spurs. So I said that I wasn’t prepared to play as a full-time professional but would play part-time. I duly signed and the manager asked me what money I wanted and how the training arrangements would work. I asked him what he was offering, and he said that he couldn’t pay me £20 a week as that was what full-time professionals earned. They were very keen to sign me as their goalkeeper was just coming to the end of his career, and they needed a second team goalkeeper. So the manager said that he’d pay me £10 a game, but make sure that I had two games a week! So when I went to Swansea I got £20 a week, the same as the professionals, I trained two mornings a week and had a well-paid travel job.   

Do you ever have any regrets for not staying longer than you did with Spurs?

Peter: I do actually. I was heavily influenced by the French teacher, who was keen and genuinely believed that there was no worthwhile career in football, because of the poor money. He thought that I was a bright guy and that I would do well. In the event, I eventually ran my own company, which became about the fifth biggest tour operator in Britain. So he had a significant influence on me when I was still thinking about the £20 maximum plus a new girlfriend in Wales at the time.

If anybody had told me that I would be offered a contract to become a professional footballer with Spurs and that I would turn it down, then I would never have believed it! It was something that I had dreamed of since I was about ten. So I do regret that I missed that opportunity, but of course two months into joining Swansea I snapped my cruciate ligament and never ever played again. So I didn’t play football beyond the age of barely 18. However, the other view is that if I had signed for Spurs the Swansea accident may never have happened.

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Peter: I think actually that one of the greatest moments was being selected to play that game for Spurs against Trowbridge, out of the blue along with players like Danny Blanchflower and Terry Medwin. I had no idea until I arrived in the Royal Hotel in Bath that I would play in this star-studded team. I thought I was playing for the youth team. So, to suddenly be with all of those great players was breathtaking.  Only a few years before, I had been queuing up for their autographs!  So to be playing that Trowbridge match was just amazing. It was hard to realise that here I was in the same team as my boyhood hero, Danny Blanchflower who in 1958 was approaching his peak. In the same team was Terry Medwin, Ron Henry and George Robb. George was a great left winger who would have had lots of caps, were it not for the fact that his career coincided with that of Tom Finney. 

Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?

Peter: That would have to be Danny Blanchflower and Jack Kelsey. These were the players who I saw in great home internationals as a youngster. Then, suddenly,  I’d become a 16 year old and I was on the same pitch as them. Quite amazing.  

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Tottenham youth team?

Peter: My best memory was the first game that I played, which was against Bexleyheath and Welling. I didn’t know anybody in the Tottenham youth team of course as it was my first game, but going down to the ground on the bus I made friends with my now long-time close friend, Tony Berry, without knowing who he was at the time. My father and Tony’s father met up before the game. I was a complete bag of nerves before the game as it was a big game for me. And it was raining and the pitch was treacherous. I was always conscious of the fact that I never wore gloves and ought to have some with me.  In those days there would be no such thing as specialist goalkeeping gloves, as they didn’t exist. So my father told me that my mother had a pair of gloves that I could try on. Even though they were a bit small I took them in desperation. I’d never ever worn goalkeeper gloves in my life, but when I got to the ground as it was raining I thought that it might look unprofessional if I didn’t wear them.

When the Spurs team ran out onto the pitch everyone whistled and booed, and gave us a hard time. So I put the gloves on during the game. The gloves were green with a sort of white pattern on them. As soon as I put them on, someone behind the goal shouted “He’s got his mothers gloves on!”.  So in the end I put the gloves back by the post, and never wore them again.  But I was lucky, as I just had a very good game, which seemed to impress everybody at the time. Tony Berry always says that we should have lost 6-0, even though we won the game 2-0. Bexleyheath were a much better side than us during that game.  I managed to make some good decisions and stopped everything.  I couldn’t have had a better debut. So that game created a good impression about me to everybody that mattered at Spurs.  Dai Bevan back at Ystrad Boys Club received a glowing report asking him to “keep Hopkins sweet”.

Then as a new Swansea Town player, right at the start of the season, I went back to Spurs, to play against them at White Hart Lane in my second game for the combination team.

In that game against Spurs I played against a number of my ex-colleagues with whom I had trained or played. Notably Eddie Clayton and John Ryden were on the team-sheet alongside former youth team players, Frank Saul and Brian Fittock.  The famous Tony Marchi captained the team which also included Norman Lee, a former Ystrad Boys Club player and now an established professional at Spurs who was about 3 years my senior.  I was made to feel very welcome. Before the game I went in to say hello to some of the Spurs players. Eddie Clayton and the coach asked me why ever did I leave Spurs. So it was really heart-warming to discover a feeling that I had been welcome to have stayed with Spurs!  However, in that Spurs game we went 1-0 up, and although we ended up losing 2-1, I made a lot of good saves in that game and was highly praised in the match report in the Swansea Evening News.   

Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?

Peter: In that game against Trowbridge Town, there was a striker, Vic Lambden who had been a real star and local hero for Bristol Rovers when they’d been in the second division.  He was their regular top scorer over a ten-year period. He’d gone to Trowbridge Town, and from the time that he got on the pitch he spotted me – a nervous, 18-year old!   He decided to annoy me, kept shoulder charging me and dancing around in front of me when I had the ball. It got to me. He scored two of the four goals in that game, and two went straight through my wobbly legs!  I’d never had a worse game!  Finally, Lambden came running into me and knocked me over.  John Ryden quietly confronted him to warn him not to that again. He didn’t!   Lambden was a seasoned pro and quite a hard nut. But for that matter, no-one was tougher then John Ryden.

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to during your time at the club?

Peter: Oddly enough it was Eddie Clayton, although he’ll probably  never remember me. I was not a full-time pro  training everyday at the club like the other Ystrad Boys Club players like Mel Hopkins, Philip Stephens and Norman Lee. So, because I was in full-time education and not permanently at Spurs,  I didn’t have that same sort of regular relationship with the other players. But the one player who had the most responsibility for me was Terry Dyson. I got to know most of these players as I got to spend quite a few days training with them at those times I trained at Cheshunt. I also chatted with Terry Medwin at times, and I knew some of the younger players like Brian Fittock and Frank Saul as I played some games with them in the youth team.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs goalkeepers of today as they look to break into the first team?

Peter: Well the new ball changed everything and it’s a new game now.  In my day players would hit the ball into the penalty box from everywhere. Back then you had to be very good in the air and you had to command the box. It was the keepers’ job.  Very rarely do you now see goalkeepers do that not helped by the fact that the new ball goes about ten yards further than the old ball. 

As a goalkeeper you need to learn your craft, listen and be well coached. Of course now you fill in as an 11th player, whereas is in my day the one simple job that I had was to stop goals.  Good distribution was just taking accurate goal kicks and for the most part just punting the ball as high and as far as you could. Fitness these days is obviously at a premium for a goalkeeper.  Some of the saves that goalkeepers make nowadays would not have happened in my era. The one thing that I would say to goalkeepers is to learn to cut the angles, particularly covering the near post where you should never be beaten. You still see too many goals scored now against top goalkeepers, where they carelessly leave a gap at the near post.  

In my day I completely commanded the penalty area in the air, and I very rarely had a ball headed past me. A high ball in my patch was wine!  Nowadays goalkeepers very rarely come off their line because of the new ball. Despite this, most should do better as it is becoming a lost art. Another similar piece of advice is that when there is a ball in the air a goalkeeper must work out the highest point of the trajectory of the ball. This gives a keeper the advantage over the would-be goalscorer. An opponent heading the ball can’t get to a keepers’ highest point as one leap is head height whereas the goalkeeper has the advantage of his up stretched arms.  Goalkeeping in the air now is a lost art compared to my day but inevitable because of the lightness of the ball and the amount of swerve and movement. Goalkeepers should be very prepared to listen to the coaches. Listen carefully to your coaches and watch the best goalkeepers in the game. That way you will pick up tips and good habits.

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?

Peter: Oh absolutely – the only club. I had the advantage of supporting them for no particular reason living down here in Wales as a youngster. I think that I was probably attracted by the name Tottenham Hotspur. However, I followed them and I kept a scrapbook with cuttings from the daily papers on Spurs. I knew all the players and loved reading about their ups and downs. Obviously then came the unbelievable coincidence of going to Ystrad Boys Club – the top ‘junior’ team in the area. This was not prompted by the Spurs connection but when I got to know about the Ystrad/Spurs relationship I was really excited. I remember Dai Bevan saying to me that it was a good job that I played well during one game as Spurs were watching me. I just couldn’t believe it.  It was such a thrill.

From those early days I’ve never stopped following them, and my son Will and grandson Lewis are big supporters. I look back on everything to do with Spurs as just being wonderful. Up until the pandemic I’d watch them live at least a couple of times every year. So it’s just been a brilliant association all of the way through. 

Spurs Under 18’s 7-0 Birmingham City: (match report)

Spurs’ Under 18 side welcomed Birmingham City to Hotspur Way on Saturday, in their latest Premier League South game. Spurs impressively won the game 7-0 (Jaden Williams got five of Spurs’ goals), and it was a game in which they were much the better team in, throughout. Spurs lined-up with Aaron Maguire in goal, while a back four of Will Andiyapan, Alfie Dorrington, Archie Chaplin and Jordan Hackett-Valton started in defence. Han Willhoft-King and George Abbott started in central midfield, with Maxwell McKnight and Renaldo Torraj starting out on the flanks, either side of CAM and Spurs captain Rio Kyerematen. Jaden Williams led the line for Spurs. Birmingham got the game underway on a nice day at Hotspur Way, and it was the visitors who actually started the game the better of the two sides. Kieran Wakefield managed to latch onto a loose pass, and he went on a surging run with the ball, past Alfie Dorrington, before continuing into the Spurs box. However, Wakefield’s first effort was saved well by Aaron Maguire, and then moments later Maguire saved well again from the same player, before Jordan Hackett-Valton headed an effort clear on the line.

Spurs responded well to Birmingham’s early chances, and after Renaldo Torraj received Rio Kyerematen’s pass down the left side of the Birmingham box, he came inside onto his right foot before having an effort saved by Alfie Brooks. Rio Kyerematen hit a free-kick from the left flank just over, before then hitting an effort over from the edge of the Birmingham box. A couple of minutes later the England Under 17 international was again involved, this time seeing his effort towards goal blocked by a defender. Renaldo Torraj then had an effort blocked inside the Birmingham penalty area, before at the other end of the pitch Archie Chaplin did well to block Ife Oni’s effort inside the Spurs box. A nice lofted pass from defender Alfie Dorrington managed to pick out Jaden Williams, who had made a good run in-behind the Birmingham defence, but his resulting lofted effort towards goal went just over. Spurs took the lead shortly after, as Archie Chaplin took a free-kick quickly to Maxwell McKnight down the right flank, and his early cross into Jaden Williams in the centre of the Birmingham box, was smartly volleyed low past Alfie Brooks, and into the back of the goal, 1-0.

A lofted pass to McKnight from Williams inside the Birmingham penalty area, resulted in McKnight trying to score from a headed effort. However, the Birmingham goalkeeper managed to punch the ball clear. Dorrington made a good defensive intervention at the other end of the pitch, before Spurs doubled their lead. After Jaden Williams received Rio Kyerematen’s nice ball forward, Williams went forward with the ball, past a Birmingham defender before entering the penalty area and finishing low into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, 2-0. Rio Kyerematen hit an effort over from a free-kick, before finding Archie Chaplin inside the Birmingham box, from a corner-kick, but Chaplin’s effort went over the goal. The referee sounded his whistle for half-time a couple of minutes later. Spurs got the second half underway and not long into the half they extended their lead, as Jaden Williams got his hat-trick. After receiving McKnight’s pass inside the Birmingham box, Williams tried to score with an effort on goal, and it ended up taking a significant deflection off of a Birmingham defender, before going into the goal, 3-0.

Midfielder Han Willhoft-King went on a good forward run after receiving the ball in midfield, and it ended with him bringing the ball towards the Birmingham penalty area, and hitting a low effort wide of the goal. After Luke Carsley had brought down Jaden Williams inside the Birmingham box, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Williams stepped up confidently to find the bottom left hand corner of the goal, 4-0. Renaldo Torraj hit a free-kick effort wide, before Billy Heaps came on to replace Han Willhoft-King in midfield. After Williams had an effort blocked inside the Birmingham box, the ball came to George Abbott, who hit the ball into the top left hand corner of the goal, 5-0. Spurs made their two final changes shortly after as Maxwell McKnight and Renaldo Torraj were replaced by Riley Owen and Sam Amo-Ameyaw. Amo-Ameyaw and Riley Owen came close to making the perfect start to their time on the pitch, with Amo-Ameyaw’s low cross from the left, almost being tapped home by Owen, but for a Birmingham defender getting to the ball just in time.

After turning well with the ball, Riley Owen passed the ball to Jaden Williams down the left side of the Birmingham penalty area, and Williams calmly put the ball past Alfie Brooks, and into the back of the goal, 6-0. Spurs made it 7-0 less than ten minutes later, after Williams had held the ball up well, before making a good pass to Rio Kyerematen inside the Birmingham box. The Spurs midfielder and captain for the game finished well past Alfie Brooks, with a low effort, 7-0. Aaron Maguire saved an effort on goal from Felix Miles, before Ben Beresford volleyed over from a corner-kick. A couple of minutes later a good Birmingham move ended with Felix Miles having an effort deflected wide of the goal, and then a couple of moments later he had an effort which went over the Spurs goal. The referee sounded the full-time whistle a couple of minutes later. Spurs’ next Premier League South game is at home to Aston Villa, next Saturday at Hotspur Way.

Player reviews:

  • Aaron Maguire: Making two impressive and important saves during the opening minutes of the game, goalkeeper Aaron Maguire didn’t have a lot to do after that. However, the Republic of Ireland youth international was vocal throughout the match, and was always giving out instructions to his teammates.
  • Will Andiyapan: The right-back had a solid game down his side of the pitch. Although Birmingham didn’t test Spurs a lot going forward.
  • Alfie Dorrington: The centre-half started the match to the right of Archie Chaplin, and he made a couple of important defensive interventions during the game.
  • Archie Chaplin: The left sided centre-half once again did not look at all out of place at this level, as he defended well alongside the more experienced Alfie Dorrington.
  • Jordan Hackett-Valton: The left-back made a good headed clearance on the Spurs goal line during the first half. The second year scholar had a solid game defensively. 
  • Han Willhoft-King: Starting the game in a more defensive role to George Abbott, midfielder Han Willhoft-King again showed his quality on the ball on occasions during the game. He worked well with Abbott, and also brought the ball forward well, during his time on the pitch.
  • George Abbott: This was a good all round performance from the first year scholar, who took his second half goal well, helped Spurs to win the midfield contest and also did some good defensive work. 
  • Maxwell McKnight: The winger provided two assists from out on the right flank against Birmingham City, taking his total amount of assists this season at this level to nine. McKnight went on some good runs with the ball during his time on the pitch, as he impressed once again at this level.
  • Rio Kyerematen: Starting the game as a CAM, England youth international and Spurs captain Rio Kyerematen provided a fine assist and scored a goal on Saturday afternoon. Kyerematen tried to score on a number of occasions throughout the match.
  • Renaldo Torraj: The winger who started the game out on the left flank was involved quite a lot in the game during the first half. The second year scholar completed 65 minutes of the match. 
  • Jaden Williams: My man of the match, see below.
  • Billy Heaps: The second half substitute went into central midfield after entering the pitch.
  • Riley Owen: The winger came on during the second half and made a good impression on the game. Owen turned well with the ball before setting-up Jaden Williams for one of his second half goals.
  • Sam Amo-Ameyaw: The winger and second half substitute almost got an assist during his time on the pitch, and he also had a goal ruled out for offside.

My man of the match: Jaden Williams. The centre-forward was outstanding against Birmingham City, leading the line so well as he scored five goals and provided two assists. The first year scholar was involved in all of Spurs’ goals today, and the quality of his performance was so good. Williams made some good runs in-behind the Birmingham defence, held the ball up well on occasions, moved really well off the ball and took all of his goals well. Jaden has now scored 12 goals and provided six assists at Under 18 level for Spurs this season.

Spurs Under 23’s 3-1 Leicester City: (match report)

Spurs’ Under 23 side faced Leicester City in a Premier League 2 fixture on Friday evening, at the Lamex Stadium. Spurs won the game 3-1, after starting the match really well, and going into the half-time break 3-0 up. Spurs lined-up with Thimothée Lo-Tutala in goal, while a back four consisting of Maksim Paskotši, Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Tobi Omole and Marcel Lavinier lined-up in front of him. Captain Jamie Bowden and Matthew Craig started in central midfield, and Kallum Cesay and Yago Santiago started out on the flanks, either side of CAM Alfie Devine, while first year scholar Jamie Donley led the line for Spurs. Spurs got the game underway, and early on in the game Leicester City player Tawanda Maswanhise had an effort blocked inside the Spurs penalty area by Maksim Paskotši. A couple of minutes later at the other end of the pitch, Jamie Bowden had an effort from distance saved by Leicester goalkeeper Brad Young. Jamie Donley then had an effort on goal saved by Brad Young, before Yago Santiago headed an effort wide, after meeting Marcel Lavinier’s cross from the left flank.

Spurs were playing very well, and in the 23rd minute of the match they deservedly took the lead. After controlling Marcel Lavinier’s header well and showing good skill on the ball, Yago Santiago brought the ball forward at pace down the left side of the Leicester box, before finishing low, inside the bottom right hand corner of the goal, 1-0. Less than ten minutes later Spurs doubled their lead, through Alfie Devine. Devine gave the ball to Jamie Donley, who then played the ball through to him inside the Leicester penalty area. Through on goal the England Under 19 international never looked likely to miss, and he confidently finished past Brad Young, 2-0. Spurs wanted to extend their lead before half-time, and after the impressive Jamie Bowden passed the ball out to Alfie Devine on the right flank, Devine brought the ball forward before sending a low cross into the Leicester box. He was almost able to pick out Jamie Donley, but he couldn’t reach the ball, and it deflected past Brad Young off of Leicester player Lewis Brunt, 3-0. This was the final chance of the first half, for either side. 

Leicester got the second half underway and early on in the half Thanawat Suengchitthawon hit a free-kick from distance towards the Spurs goal, but Thimothée Lo-Tutala was able to gather his effort. Lestyn Hughes then had a low effort saved by Lo-Tutala, before the Spurs goalkeeper made another save to stop the same Leicester player a couple of moments later. Lestyn Hughes curled an effort over from the left side of the pitch, before Will Russ hit an effort wide on the turn. Spurs then went on a good forward run, as Alfie Devine showed great pace to go past a Leicester defender and enter the Leicester box, before attempting to square the ball for Jamie Donley in the centre of the penalty area, but his pass was put behind by a Leicester player. A couple of minutes later Jamie Bowden took a free-kick early and managed to pick out Jamie Donley inside the Leicester box, but Donley’s resulting effort was blocked by a defender.

After going on a surging forward run with the ball past Malachi Fagan-Walcott and into the Spurs box, Will Russ tried to score past Lo-Tutala with a lofted effort, but it went wide of the Spurs goal. Dermi Lusala came on to replace Maksim Paskotši at right-back, before Tobi Omole received a yellow card. Ethan Fitzhugh hit a free-kick wide for Leicester, from the right side of the pitch, and then captain Jamie Bowden handed the captains armband to Tobi Omole, as he left the field to be replaced by Romaine Mundle. After latching onto Khanya Leshabela’s through-ball pass, Ethan Fitzhugh was through on goal inside the Spurs penalty area, and the midfielder finished past Lo-Tutala, 3-1. The referee sounded his whistle for full-time moments later, as Spurs won their first game of the year at this level. Their next Premier League 2 game is not until the fourth of April, when they travel to East London to face West Ham United.

Player reviews:

  • Thimothée Lo-Tutala: The Spurs goalkeeper and France Under 19 international made some fairly comfortable saves during the match, but he was very vocal throughout. And he was constantly organising the Spurs defence.
  • Maksim Paskotši: Starting the match at right-back and completing 77 minutes of the game, Estonia international Maksim Paskotši had a solid game in defence. The 19 year old made an excellent long run at pace to get back to make a really good and important challenge on a Leicester player to win the ball, not long before he was substituted.
  • Malachi Fagan-Walcott: Starting the match on the right hand side of central-defence, Malachi Fagan-Walcott defended well alongside Tobi Omole, although they weren’t really tested too much by the Leicester forwards. 
  • Tobi Omole: Like Malachi, Tobi Omole hardly made a mistake during the match and he defended well.
  • Marcel Lavinier: This was an impressive performance from the 21 year old at left-back, as he went on some very good forward runs at pace with the ball, got an assist for the opening goal of the game and defended well down his side of the pitch.
  • Jamie Bowden: The Spurs captain had a really good game in my opinion, on his first competitive start for the Spurs Under 23 side of the season. Bowden showed some really good skill and composure on the ball in midfield, as he helped Spurs to be the better team in midfield, also making some good forward passes. The 20 year old completed 83 minutes of the game.
  • Matthew Craig: Starting the match alongside Jamie Bowden in central midfield, Matthew Craig covered a lot of ground and did well alongside Bowden. He completed the whole of the match.
  • Kallum Cesay: The full-back actually completed Fridays game as a winger on the right flank. Cesay did however, do some good defensive work. 
  • Alfie Devine: My man of the match, see below. 
  • Yago Santiago: Taking his and Spurs’ opening goal of the game really well, and also going on some nice runs forward with the ball down the left flank and also linking up well with left-back Marcel Lavinier, Santiago had a fine game for Spurs.
  • Jamie Donley: On only his second ever competitive appearance for the Spurs Under 23 side, the forward and first year scholar didn’t look out of place at this level, and he led the line well and got an assist for Alfie Devine’s goal. 
  • Dermi Lusala: The full-back replaced Makism Paskotši at right-back for the final part of the game.
  • Romaine Mundle: The winger replaced midfielder Jamie Bowden in the 83rd minute of the game.

My man of the match: Alfie Devine. The Spurs CAM for the match scored a goal and got an assist, to take his total goal involvements at Under 23 level for Spurs this season to 13 (nine goals and four assists). Devine would often drop deep to try and get on the ball and influence the game, and the second year scholar showed some really good pace and energy both with and without the ball. He took his goal well during the first half, and it was his cross that resulted in the third goal of the game. The England Under 19 international worked really well both on and off the ball, and he is definitely one of the most clinical finishers in the Premier League 2.

Spurs Under 18’s versus Birmingham City: (match preview)

Spurs’ Under 18 side host Birmingham City at Hotspur Way on Saturday (the game starts at 12:00pm), in a Premier League South fixture. Spurs haven’t won a competitive game at this level since January, when they won 6-1 against West Brom in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. Birmingham City won the reverse fixture in Birmingham, 3-2 back in September of last year, with Riley Owen getting both of Spurs’ goals on that day. Birmingham are in 13th place in the Premier League South, with 12 points from 19 games, and they are one place behind Spurs, although they have played three games more than them. Spurs have lost their last four games in all competitions at this level, but they will be hoping that they can win Saturdays match, and also Birmingham have only picked up five points away from home in the league this season. This should be a good game of football, and I would like to wish the team all the very best of luck for the game.

My predicted lineup: Gunter, Andiyapan, Dorrington, Sayers (c), Linton, Abbott, Kyerematen, McKnight, Donley, Bloxham, Williams.

Subs from: Maguire, Chaplin, Heaps, Hall, Torraj.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 2-3.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-0.

My one to watch: Ben Beresford. The Birmingham City forward is their top scorer in the Premier League South this season, with four goals and one assist from ten appearances.

Spurs Under 23’s versus Leicester City: (match preview)

Spurs’ Under 23 side will be looking to bounce back after losing 7-1 to Liverpool on Saturday, in the Premier League 2. Spurs’ next Premier League 2 game is on Friday, when they face Leicester City at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium (the game starts at 19:00pm). Spurs have not won a competitive game this year, but they did win 4-1 away to Leicester City in the reverse fixture last year. Leicester are in good form of late and are unbeaten in their last six competitive games. They are two points and two places behind Spurs in the league, and once again they will try and make this a difficult game for Spurs. Spurs had a very difficult game against a talented Liverpool side, in their last game. However, Malachi Fagan-Walcott and Matthew Craig will return from suspension for the game on Friday, and could possibly start the match. Leicester players Tawanda Maswanhise and Shane Flynn are two players that I have been impressed with in the past, and they are players who Spurs will have to watch. I’ll be at the Lamex Stadium on Friday, for Spurs’ second last home league game of the season, and I’d like to wish the team all the very best of luck for the game.

My predicted lineup: Lo-Tutala, Cesay, Fagan-Walcott, Omole, Lusala, Matthew Craig, Bowden (c), Bennett, Devine, Mundle, Robson. 

Subs from: Oluwayemi, Paskotši, Muir, Santiago, Donley. 

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 4-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Tawanda Maswanhise. The skilful Leicester City forward impressed during the reverse fixture between Spurs and Leicester, earlier in the season. The 19 year old scored a fine goal in the reverse fixture to give Leicester the lead in that game, and he was Leicester’s best player during the match, in my opinion. He has scored eight Premier League 2 goals and provided one assist, from 20 appearances this season. 

Looking back at Spurs youth team graduate Jimmy Pearce’s Spurs career:

Jimmy Pearce was born in Tottenham (in 1947), supported Tottenham Hotspur as a youngster, and got the chance to join the club and work his way up into the first team, from the youth and reserve team levels. In fact Pearce was up until late 2020, when goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman came on for Spurs as a late substitute in a UEFA Europa league game against Ludogorets Razgrad, the last player who was born in Tottenham to play for the Spurs first team in a competitive match. Pearce, a tricky and highly skilled winger, who was direct and had a great body swerve, was much liked by the Spurs supporters during his playing days, and is still remembered well and thought of highly by those fans who used to watch him play. Joining Spurs in 1963 as an apprentice, despite interest from other London clubs, Jimmy had previously played for Tottenham Schools and also England Schools, but had followed his local team Spurs, since the 1950s. The former Rowland Hill School pupil progressed up from the Spurs youth team that played in the South East Counties League, and then into the A team, where he played in the Metropolitan League along with the likes of John Pratt and later Ray Evans.

A regular for the talented Spurs reserve side for quite a while, Jimmy Pearce once instead of going for goal from a penalty kick in a Spurs A game with Metropolitan Police, actually laid the ball off to Stephen Pitt. Unfortunately the move didn’t work, with Pitt having his resulting effort saved by the goalkeeper, although the good news was that Spurs were 10-0 up by that stage of the match. Making his non-competitive Spurs first team debut against Anorthosis (in 1968) during an end of season tour of Greece and Cyprus. Pearce made his competitive first team debut for Spurs less than three months later in a North London Derby against Arsenal, at White Hart Lane. He made the very most of his chance in the first team (Martin Chivers was injured at the time), and he had got a lot stronger and physical from his days as an apprentice with the club (he signed professional forms with Spurs in 1965). Over the next six or so years, during the remainder of his time with the club, he made an additional 192 senior competitive appearances for Spurs during that time. 

The player who scored a fine total of 35 competitive goals for the club, mainly from out wide, got to play on the same pitch as two of his Spurs heroes Dave Mackay and Jimmy Greaves. Pearce would be introduced off the bench in a League Cup semi-final second leg tie against Bristol City, where he would make the difference and score the decisive goal which would help Spurs get to the final of the competition for the first time in their history. Although he didn’t start the final against Aston Villa that year, Jimmy Pearce did collect a winners medal, as he also would for the following years UEFA Cup triumph. However, he would start the 1973 Football League Cup final at Wembley, against Norwich City, which Spurs won. A very clever player and winger, the Londoner had fine balance and great skill on the ball. However, he was a direct and traditional winger who fitted in well to the Spurs team of that time, even though he was not always a regular starter. Pearce could hit a ball really well and scored some really good goals at youth, A team, reserve and first team level for the club.

In many ways Jimmy Pearce the footballer oozed class on the pitch, with the ball at his feet. I recently asked a Spurs youth team player and apprentice from the mid 1960s (Martin O’Donnell) about Jimmy Pearce, and he was basically saying that Jimmy was a wonderful player and guy, but he always thought that he was better as an inside-forward rather than as a winger. Although the only way that he would have got into the Spurs first team during that time in the clubs history, was to be a winger, but he was a very versatile player, as he showed throughout his career. Jimmy Pearce is still really well thought of by the Spurs fans, who watched him play during the late 1960s and 1970s. He was like them an avid Spurs supporter, but one of fairly few youth team graduates of the time to make over 100 first team appearances, because of the fact that the Spurs side at that time had so many outstanding players in it. Very sadly Jimmy suffered from a rare bone condition called Chondromalacia of the higher patella, which meant that he had to retire from playing for the club that he loved so much, at the age of only 26, in 1974. Similarly old Spurs teammates Roger Morgan and Peter Collins also had to retire early on in their careers, at similar times.

Jimmy did play non-League football for Walthamstow Avenue for a short time, but he didn’t play for them for long. A proper Tottenham Hotspur player with skill, confidence on the ball and a real desire to make a difference in games. I had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Jimmy Pearce back in 2020, and it was obvious that he is a great guy, and his great love for the club is still so clear now, after all these years. It is also particularly fitting that boyhood Spurs fan Jimmy Pearce set-up one of his Spurs idols Jimmy Greaves, for the final ever goal that he scored for the club, during the 1969/70 season.