My interview with former Spurs player Terry Naylor: 

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC.)

Spurs legend Terence Michael Patrick Naylor made well over 300 appearances for Spurs, during his time at the the club during the 1960s and 1970s. From Islington in north London, Naylor was a very tenacious, hardworking, but also talented full-back during his playing days at Spurs, and he was a defender who the Spurs fans really appreciated, for the work that he did on the pitch, for their team. Not a full-back that opposing players liked to come up against on the pitch by any means, Terry Naylor was a part of the Spurs team that won the 1972 UEFA Cup. He joined Spurs as an amateur player in 1966, and during the early stages of his career with the club he would play for the Youth team in the Senior South-East Counties League, The Metropolitan League with the A team and also the Football Combination League, which he played in for the Spurs reserve side. He worked as a porter at Smithfield Meat Market, not far from where he lived in London, up until he signed professional forms with Spurs in 1969. Naylor made his first team debut in a league game against West Bromwich Albion, in the March of 1970. The versatile defender would go on to become an important player for Spurs over the years, but he would leave Spurs in late 1980, to sign for Charlton Athletic. After spending three years with Charlton, Terry would later play non-League football for the likes of Haringey Borough and Gravesend and Northfleet, before managing Tonbridge Angels for a short time.

This interview looks back on a Spurs fan favourite’s time with the club. It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to interview Terry about his time at Spurs. 

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Terry: If you go right the way back, I suppose seriously I can remember when I was playing at the flats on my estate. From when I was seven onwards I always had a football with me, as for whatever reason I loved it so much. Every time that we could we’d have a game of football, after we’d all had our tea. And youngsters back then had more things to do then, like run outs, when you’d run all over the estate. So all of these things makes you become adult a lot quicker, and so you’re clued in to what is happening around you, unlike today.

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

Terry: I joined the club through a man called Fred Rye (he was an ex-boxer), who used to drink with my father down in Clerkenwell. He said to my dad that he knew a fellow and that he could have a chat with him, to see if he could maybe get me a trial with Spurs. So I went down to see him, and there were about eight of them and they were all mates together, and he said “ look son if I get you a trial, don’t let me down. ” So I said “ look Mr.Rye if you get me a trial then I’ll definitely get in. ” What had happened with me was that I had a trial with Millwall, and I got in. And my first game which was at Chadwell Heath, was only my second time outside of London. So I ended up turning up 20 minutes after kick off, as I had no one to drive me there in a car. And so after getting a little bit lost and turning up late I was told that I couldn’t play for the next three games after that, and so I understood that and I apologised. While I was a substitute watching the game, we played Tottenham. I looked at the Tottenham team and I honestly thought to myself that I could get in the team, as although it was a good team, if I had trial with them I think that I’d do well. That stayed in my head and then of course that opportunity arose, and that’s how I took it with both hands. 

The man who had got me the trial at Spurs – Fred Rye, was a great stalwart of Spurs supporters. He used to go on tour with them and everything, and so for him as well I’m glad that everything ended well and that he knew that he’d done the right thing, like I had as well.

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

Terry: I think that I appreciated all football really. Obviously there were your Dave Mackay’s, your Danny Blanchflower’s and Dennis Law’s, who were absolutely brilliant. And at that time you had Stanley Matthews coming to the end of his career, at 48! Which sounds incredible today. So you had your heroes, and really you tried to be like them. You used to take them as role models, and so you’d do your best. Wherever you are in life, if you get a trial then you must standout. So make sure that you do the business, and if you have a bad game then don’t leave it down to other people not feeding you the ball, as if you have a bad game then you have a bad game. So make sure that that’s very rare, as you don’t want too many bad games. 

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Terry: Well from top to bottom I’ve got say Bill Nicholson. When I first went training at Spurs on Tuesday and Thursday’s, I never used to see Bill. Obviously then I used to captain the Spurs Youth team, and I wasn’t even an apprentice, even though the rest of them were. So I also learnt a lot there, growing up and playing good football against slightly older people, but it was just a privilege to go over there then and play football for Spurs. I’d never really met Bill properly until he signed me. As I say I was the captain of the youth team, who did really well with people like Jimmy Pearce, Terry Reardon, Jimmy Walker and John Collins, who were all terrific players. So after I was too old to play for the Spurs Youth team, I went in the Spurs A team. I remember the day that I played with Dave Mackay for the A team against Chelmsford City, and he said that we’d beat them 10-0! And we beat them 10-0, but that was Dave’s comeback after he’d broken his leg, but Dave was a wonderful role model and a marvellous player. He was a winner, whereas Danny Blanchflower had the same sort of ability as Dave and could read a game superbly well, but he was not as forward as Dave. Dave was robust and also very skilful, which is hard to get.

Going back to your question, Bill Nicholson was my main influence at Spurs. And when I worked at Smithfield Meat Market and played for Spurs during those early years as an amateur, I never saw Bill Nicholson until he sent me a telegram. He sent me this telegram when we were playing Crystal Palace reserves on a Friday night, telling me that he was coming to watch. I was playing and so he wanted to watch me in that match, and we won it 3-1 and so afterwards Bill phoned me up and signed me for Spurs on the Monday. 

Could you describe to me what type of player you were? And what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Terry: Well these things can go for you or against you, but I was a utility player who could play anywhere across the back line, like right-back and left-back, and also centre-back, right and left midfield, and also inside-forward, but never centre-forward! I don’t know why I didn’t ever play at centre-forward as I scored a lot of goals as a youngster. But my sort of thing was fitness and toughness, and I had the will to win which you’ve really got to have. Also, when you’re down you’ve got to lift the people around you and not look at yourself and feel sorry for yourself, so at least have a go during the last 20 minutes of play or whatever, as then you’ve got no recall on yourself later on. 

Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from, especially as a young player with the club?

Terry: I think to be the honest with you I’d have to say all of them, as it was such a good side at Spurs. I mean you had Cyril Knowles who was a top left-back and a marvellous player, and also you had Joe Kinnear who was so unlucky as he broke his leg when he was about 19, and he would have been every bit up there with Cyril. You also had Pat Jennings, and if there are two goalkeepers as good as him, then you’ll be lucky to find them, as he was the greatest. So I did play with quality players and what you have to remember is that the better players you play with, the better you will look. So by playing with good players you learn off them, and copy off them good things that they do on the pitch. 

What was it like during your early days at Spurs when you played for the Senior Spurs Youth team in the Senior South East-Counties League? And do you have many memories of playing for that team?

Terry: Funnily enough you can’t think off three games really, and I had 21 games for that team. But it was just a pleasure to play with the youth team players at Spurs, and don’t forget that at that time they were all apprentices, who were getting coached football everyday, whereas I was only getting it twice a week. But my get out with that was that I used to play with the meat market team and so I played with good semi-pros, and at 16/17 I learnt so much off of playing in that team. I could read a game naturally, and so there’s always something that you get that you do really well, and I could read a game, and you can’t give that to people. Bobby Moore had it in bucket loads, Danny Blanchflower had it in bucket loads, and it’s also a terrific skill but you’ve just got it automatically. Going slightly off topic, myself, Tony Want, John Pratt and Jimmy Pearce would have walked into any other First Division side at that time, when we weren’t always regulars for the Spurs first team. 

You would also play for Spurs quite a bit in the A team in the Metropolitan League during the late 1960s. And you were also a part of the Spurs A team that won The Metropolitan League during the 1966/67 season. What are your memories of the Spurs A team days?

Terry: We had three players in the Spurs A team, and they were myself, Bobby Strickland and Roy Woolcott. And they were in the Spurs A team, and I knew them as they trained with me on a Tuesday and Thursday. But then you also had stars like Ron Henry dropping down to the A team a little bit, and also Dave Mackay playing a little bit after coming back from injury. So that was what it was like, but you learnt from it because you had class players and you were learning from them, even if some of them didn’t have the pace anymore, they still had that football brain. Even though I can’t actually remember the A team winning The Metropolitan League, it was lovely to be a part of. Going slightly off topic again about the Spurs days, Steve Perryman was too good really for the A team as a youngster, and Bill Nicholson knew that he was too good not to be in the first team. And another class player was Phil Holder, who was very unlucky not to get more games in the first team for Spurs. One of the treasures that I’ll always hold dear, was that Daily Express five-a-side competition, when we had all home grown players, and we won it. And the other teams all fielded their top players, and yet we won it. And Bill Nicholson turned around afterwards and said that that was the first time that he’d picked the side for that particular competition, and we’d won it!

Are there any memories of your time in the Spurs reserves which really standout to you?

Terry: Many times. I had a bit of arrogance about me in the reserves, as at times I looked down on some of the forwards that were playing against me, but when the game was finished I’d still buy them a drink. But out on that pitch you’ve got no friends, apart from in your own team as you’ve got to be ruthless to succeed in anything. 

From your time playing in the talented Senior Spurs youth team and also the Spurs A team, were there any players who really stood out to you on the pitch, for Spurs?

Terry: Paul Shoemark was one, as he was a very talented player. He had terrific pace and he played for and scored goals for England at youth level, but I don’t think that he got the chances he deserved for Spurs.

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

Terry: It was fantastic, and just the greatest wish that you could have. It was always a privilege to be turning out for Spurs with the greatest supporters in the world, no question. I know that as a youngster I was an Arsenal supporter, as I came from Islington, but after spending 13 years at Tottenham I’m now a real Spurs man. That move to the club worked out so well for me in my life. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Terry: There’s been so many, and there’s been some disappointments as well. But one of the greatest ones was playing AC Milan at home in the UEFA Cup, and they were so arrogant in that match, it was unbelievable. They went 1-0 up and scored first, and I started as Phil Beal was injured. However, we won the match 2-1, and as the final whistle went they were all hugging each other and I couldn’t believe it as they’d just lost. But they thought that no one was going to score in Milan against them in the second leg, as they were going to win. Don’t forget that this was a top team, but we were also a really good team. Anyway we went out there and Alan Mullery scored first and we recorded a 1-1 draw comfortably, but we could have won the game comfortably. But that was a great occasion, although a not so good memory was the 1974 UEFA Cup final (second leg) against Feyenoord, and if Chris McGrath’s early goal had counted then we would have won that match, no question. They got a late goal after Pat Jennings surprisingly dropped the ball, and then as we went in search of an equalising goal, they scored another goal. Of course the scenes in the crowd at that game was what people say was what made Bill Nicholson retire, but I think that Bill, who had been so brilliant with Spurs, could only go so far. But in my opinion he is arguably the greatest manager ever, at least in my time.

Keith Burkinshaw, was another great Spurs manager who I played for. But also his assistant Peter Shreeves helped him a lot. Peter was brilliant technically, and showed Keith all about Tottenham Hotspur. But Keith was so important and influential in getting Spurs out of the Second Division and into the First Division, which was so important to the club. I had many ups and downs with Keith, but I respected him as a man and as a manager. 

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

Terry: George Best, by a mile! You didn’t want to upset George Best, as he could produce that match winning moment just like that. But I must also mention Glenn Hoddle, who had absolutely marvellous skill. His first touch of a football was incredible, and while Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were incredible players, Glenn was in a bit of a league of his own to be honest. He had reading of the game that you just can’t give to people.

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

Terry: I would have to say Tommy Smith. I’ll tell you a little story about him. Well Tony Want was on holiday, and he heard someone talking, so he turned around and saw Tommy Smith walking up this hill to get to his hotel. All of a sudden he slipped and hit this post and a lump of concrete came out of this post and hit him, but Tommy kept on walking as if nothing had happened, but Tony couldn’t believe it. But Tommy Smith was the hardest man that I ever came up against in football, and he was also a great reader of the game. 

From your time in the Spurs first team what are your favourite/standout memories?

Terry: You’ll always remember the games that didn’t go so well, more than the games that did. But luckily there were a lot more of the games that did, and so you took them a little bit for granted. For me there was never any real satisfaction there, with myself. I remember listening to Frank McLintock after Arsenal did the double, and he said that they had worked so hard to do the double, and when they finally did it he had nothing left, as it was like he’d won it and now that’s it. So I can understand what he meant by that. The elation is there in every game until you finish, but when you win a trophy, you just think well next season here we go again, but that’s what you had to do. But some of my favourite memories at Spurs were playing with some great players. I’ve also got to give Eddie Baily a big mention, as like Bill Nicholson he was one part of the club. He was a fantastic coach, and he used to go out to training and draw a line out, and he would hit that line with the ball eight out of ten times, it was fantastic. But he was also a big assistant coach for Bill Nicholson, and he should get more mentions.

Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?

Terry: I’d definitely say Phil Holder, Steve Perryman, John Pratt and also Tony Want as well. We were all mates, but Phil Holder was probably the best mate that I had at Spurs, but John Pratt, Tony Want and Steve Perryman were also good friends as well. 

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

Terry: I think that the first thing that you’ve got to do is look at the history of that club and realise that you are out there performing to the greatest supporters in the world, bar none. The team is fantastic, but it’s the reception and the crowd that follow the team everywhere who are just marvellous, and I can’t say enough about them really. 

After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club that you still hold close to your heart?

Terry: Until I pass away I’ll always be a stalwart of Tottenham. As I say the supporters and the people that I bump in to have always been fantastic. We had great players, but we all had fun together as well. However, when that whistle went we were on it for those supporters.

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