(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC. Gerry is pictured last on the right of the front row.)
Born in Dagenham to Irish parents, former Republic of Ireland Under 18 international Gerry Reardon signed for Spurs in 1977 on schoolboy forms, and he would spend two seasons with the club at youth level, before leaving in 1979. Part of a very talented Spurs Youth team, Reardon was primarily a midfield player for Spurs at youth level, during his two seasons with the club. Gerry would later move to the U.S. on a scholarship, at Adelphi University, achieving ‘All American honours and he would later have a successful career with Tulsa Roughnecks in the North American Soccer League, but he would also play for New York Cosmos, later on in his footballing career in America, before returning to England because of work. The former Spurs player who used to for many years work for the FAI (the Irish football association) in Ireland, also coached current Spurs player Matt Doherty, when he was coaching at Dublin based side Home Farm. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking with Gerry about his memories of his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Gerry: I grew up in a very Irish neighbourhood, and so my first really clear footballing memory would have been the 1967 European Cup final between Celtic and Inter Milan. My dad would have had mates at the house to watch it, as it was sort of a late afternoon game, and I sort of just remember the happiness after the final whistle, and I would have been six when that match took place. The whole neighbourhood where I was living at that time would have been Celtic, with also some West Ham fans as well, as they were a local club.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs? And how did you come about joining the club?
Gerry: I would have gone to some clubs on trial, but I never really thought that I was anywhere near the standard. I played representative football for Barking and Essex, but when I was 16 Robbie Stepney, who had a fabulous career at Spurs, he had a local connection with the team that I played for growing up. However, he was running a business football team for a shoe company called Bata, and they had a bit of money as well. So they had an interesting Tottenham connection with double winner Terry Dyson, who played for them, and also Eddie Presland as well as a couple of other ex-pros and non-League players, but Robbie asked me to come and play for this team. And they had this fabulous ground which I believed England used to train at for the 1966 World Cup, and it was down at East Tilbury. So I went and played senior football down there at 15/16, and playing football with all those ex-pros meant that you had a totally different dimension to your game. What I became very good at was having an educated football mind, such as talking on the pitch, adding to my football education, and letting colleagues know they had time, and could turn etc. Robbie then went to Spurs that summer, and after saying to me that he had looked at the standard, he thought that I could play down there.
I went down to Cheshunt and played a trial game for Spurs, and then Peter Shreeves and Keith Burkinshaw basically asked me to come and join the youth team. I had done quite well in my O-levels, and so I was about to join the Sixth form, but I said yes to staying at Spurs on a part-time basis, and so I stayed at school and ended up doing quite well. I remember us (Spurs) playing Norwich in the FA Youth Cup at The Lane, and then the next morning Robbie Stepney said that there was an offer there at Spurs, if I was interested. But to be honest I was never, ever confident enough. I always wanted the security of an education, as I never thought that I was good enough to be a professional. So I relied on remaining at school and then by the time it came to leaving school I was always going to go to America, as I had a scholarship lined-up over there. And so for me it never became a conversation of becoming pro at Spurs, and so I just really drifted off into this scholarship.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Gerry: It would have been George Best, who was a fantastic player. But then as time went on it would have been Liam Brady. But also, John Giles was a hero of mine and in my household as well, and he was actually my manager when I played for Ireland at Under 18 level, and he is a fabulous person, and I have met him whilst at the FAI, and worked on some projects involving Ireland Supporters’ Clubs with him.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Gerry: Robbie Stepney would have obviously been one, and I would get a lift off him to matches and training, as he was from my area. Then there was also Bill Nicholson, who was always behind the scenes. He would always have a friendly word to say and also a lot of time for me, which I thought was quite an honour. I think that he liked the idea of players continuing their education, and so he would always ask how I was getting on at school. I think that I was a bit different to the apprentices who were around at the time, as well. Also, Peter Shreeves was a great coach as well, but they were all positive influences.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were? And what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Gerry: I would have gone there as a sweeper, but I didn’t have the size for a defender. I was predominantly left footed, and there wasn’t many left footed players around at the club then, and so eventually I moved to left sided midfield. During my first year at Spurs I played at the back, and that suited me really, really well. Then when I went into midfield in my second year in the youth team, almost everyone was full-time, and I was still at school then. So I used to also work behind a bar on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, to earn a few quid. So the pace of the game made me really struggle, as I didn’t have those energy or stamina levels, so on reflection I’m not surprised that I wasn’t setting off alarm bells anywhere at that stage.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Gerry: We used to obviously get complimentary tickets, but we used to get into the stadium early just to watch Glenn Hoddle warm up, and he was incredible. During the holidays and during bad weather, I had the pleasure of just watching him with a football, when everybody was in the gym. He was world class and to see him at those close quarters was just brilliant. After I had moved to America, whenever I used to come back to England I used to get invited back to Spurs through Robbie Stepney and Peter Shreeves. I remember when Spurs were playing Nottingham Forest in a rearranged cup tie as the previous game the week before had been postponed, and Spurs needed a runner to play for the reserves against the first team at Cheshunt, in about 1982/83. I was sort of off the pace and Glenn Hoddle was playing in that game, and it was just wonderful to be on the same park as him. I also seem to recall in the ball-court at White Hart Lane, that the ball seemed to rebound back to him, and he seemed to catch the ball between his calf and his hamstring, as it was travelling at pace. Maybe I’m just imagining it, but I seem to remember everyone just applauding him. Witnessing his ability with a football was just incredible.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Gerry: It was good, although I never ever felt although I was going to go on and become a professional there, as there was so many good professionals there. But I enjoyed it and I met some really, really nice people, such as Mark Kendall, who was a really, really lovely fellow who was always interested in everyone. Also, there was Tony Galvin, who I think was in digs near Cheshunt at the start, and we always used to sit together on the way back to training, after he was picked up. I’ve subsequently met Tony through the Republic of Ireland Supporters Club, and he was very interesting. There was also Micky Hazard and Mark Falco, and with Mark I used to think to myself that I’m never going to be of his level, just like with Garry Brooke, who I’d have regularly played against at representative level. But they were genuinely really nice people, although you didn’t really have much to do with them outside of matches. Spurs didn’t used to take on that many apprentices, and so it was a really limited number of apprenticeships at that time.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Gerry: Because of my background it would probably have to be playing for Ireland, as that was huge for me. A member of that Irish Under 18 squad was Ronnie Whelan, who was a big success. There was also Gary O’Reilly, who was a member of that Irish side, and who also played for Spurs, and he had a good career. Also, part of that squad was Alan Campbell, who had a good career, and there was also the late Dermot Drummy, who coached at Chelsea.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Gerry: Franz Beckenbauer. I played against him when I was playing for the Tulsa Roughnecks, while he was playing for New York Cosmos. So that was a surreal moment to be playing against Franz Beckenbauer, but that was the beauty of playing football in America. And so I played against some magnificent footballers.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Spurs youth teams?
Gerry: I remember the game when we beat Norwich 3-0 in the FA Youth Cup, and although they were a good side we did play really, really well, and Micky Hazard was fantastic during that great game. We also beat West Ham 2-1 in the FA Youth Cup at Upton Park, in my second year at Spurs. And as it was obviously just up the road from where I was l brought up, I had a lot of family and friends at the ground, to see a really, really good performance against a good side. And then the only ever time that I played for the Spurs Under 17 side, was against Oxford United in the second leg of a cup final (we had lost the first leg 4-1). The team was obviously strengthened up a little bit for the second leg, and we ended up winning 4-0 in front of a decent crowd at White Hart Lane. So all of the games at White Hart Lane and other senior grounds do stand out, and I can also remember us losing away against Aston Villa in the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup, and while we had a very good team, they were excellent. They would have had Gary Shaw up front, and what a player he was. But any games that we played at stadiums standout in my mind.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Gerry: At youth level I would probably have to say Gary Shaw and Clive Allen. Clive is from Havering/Barking, which was the neighbouring borough to me. When he got to QPR he was really electric and clever, and he would take me on runs all over the place on the pitch. Similar to Gary Shaw, both players stick in my head as being fabulous players at youth level. Then when I went to America every club that I played against had a sort of expensive signing, like Franz Beckenbauer. I remember when we played away against Vancouver once, and they had the former Ipswich player Frans Thijssen, who was fabulous. So there were plenty of brilliant players in America who I played against, and the Peruvian international Cubillias was another, at Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Gerry: I would of been fairly close to Kerry Dixon, and we used to have a chat. I would also have been quite close to Gary O’Reilly, as we used to play in the same Essex teams. So I’d like to think that I’d got on well with everyone, although I wasn’t a really loud person off the pitch, but I would have gone out of my way to be polite to anyone. I also must mention Garry Brooke, who was a great player who I got on well with, and also Peter Southey, who was such a lovely lad.
You played with some great players at youth level for Spurs, such as Micky Hazard. What was he like at youth level?
Gerry: Micky was fantastic and just a really, really nice guy. He was very down to earth, maybe because he was from Sunderland and was a big Sunderland fan. I think that he wore a Sunderland shirt to a Spurs versus Sunderland game, which was unusual as people didn’t wear football shirts to matches then. I used to see him grow into matches, and we played one game away to Arsenal at London Colney, and we were 3-1 down. He then took over the match and scored twice, which I hadn’t seen him being so influential before.
What prompted you to leave Spurs? And could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Gerry: As I said to you I was keen to stay in education, and I’d actually been to America on a football tour when I was 16, and so I had a number of colleges get in touch with me. So I eventually chose to go to a place in America called Adelphi University, in Long Island in New York, and as at that time I didn’t feel that I had an automatic future at Spurs, it just felt like a natural decision to make. I left on really, really good terms with everyone at Spurs, and I had a really nice letter from Peter Shreeves recommending me, in case I wanted to go anywhere else in football. He said in the letter that I could have been a professional for Spurs, but I’d done well at school and I wanted to attend university. So it was a really nice letter that he took the time out to write, but I ended up going to America and doing a degree in politics and economics at this college in Long Island, which was a really good experience for me, both academically and socially, and also living abroad etc. So it was all really, really fascinating, and I ended up doing really well in football in America. They still had a draft system for the old North American Soccer League.
I got picked by a team called Tulsa Roughnecks, who were managed by an old Welsh international called Terry Hennessy, who was a fantastic man and although we weren’t a very fashionable team we won the Soccer Bowl in 1983, with a team made up mainly of older English and Northern Irish players. So that was like Leicester City winning the Premier League, as we had the lowest budget and we played in the smallest city, but we had great team spirit. So in 1984 the Olympics was on, and so the New York Cosmos needed players, and so I ended up signing for them on a one year contract. That was also a great experience as well. I was into financial markets over there, and via a chance meeting I was offered a job as a money broker for an international company called Tullett & Tokyo, and so I worked on Wall Street. But at that time I was still playing part-time football over there, up until I was offered the chance to go back to London to work there. I only thought that I would be in London for a year or two, but things went well there and I remained there for going on 20 years. Although the job was quite demanding I did play for a team down in Motspur Park with some great friends until this day with the Old Tenisonians in the ‘London Old-Boys league until I was in my early 40s.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Gerry: It’s probably a question beyond my scope, but without stating the obvious I’d recommend looking to develop yourself beyond football, and also try and keep your feet on the ground.
What was it like to represent your country, the Republic of Ireland at youth international level?
Gerry: It was fantastic, and I probably knew that even as an 18 year old it might be the pinnacle of my career, and so I took it all in. It was just fantastic.
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?
Gerry: Yes they are, even though it’s obviously changed since I was there. I’ve been to the new stadium for a game against Crystal Palace, over two years ago now. But I don’t know anyone around the club now, although I still have great memories of my time at Spurs.