My interview with former Spurs player Terry Fenwick:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC.)

Terence William Fenwick is from County Durham, in the North-East of England. However, he started his professional footballing career in south London, with Crystal Palace, a club that he would make his league debut for, against Spurs at White Hart Lane in late 1977. Primarily a defender during his playing days the former England international was a very good reader of the game. Terry Fenwick could also play in midfield, and he would represent his country at the 1986 World Cup. Having moved from Crystal Palace to Queens Park Rangers, the talented, tough and versatile defensive player who played against Spurs in the 1982 FA Cup final, was also good on the ball as well. After a number of fine years with Queens Park Rangers, Fenwick joined manager Terry Venables, once again during his career when he signed for Spurs in the December of 1988. He was a regular starter for Spurs since joining them. However, Terry unfortunately broke his leg in a match against Manchester United, in the autumn of 1989, and upon his return to fitness he joined Leicester City on loan. A leader on the pitch, when Fenwick returned to Spurs he was very unlucky to have picked up another bad injury, after he broke his angle ahead of an FA Cup match against Portsmouth in the 1990/91 season. Sadly he missed out on playing in that seasons’ final with Nottingham Forest.

After leaving Spurs in 1993, after making over 100 competitive appearances for the club, Terry joined Swindon Town, where he finished his playing career. He has since gone into coaching and management, where he has held a number of positions. Most recently Terry Fenwick was the Trinidad and Tobago head-coach. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking with Terry about his time at Spurs during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Could you briefly sum up your playing career? 

Terry: When I look back over my career I was very fortunate to have learnt off some of the best coaches that Britain have ever produced. And I’m talking about people like John Cartwright, who was my youth team coach at Crystal Palace, and this was a team that had Kenny Sansom in the same team and also Peter Nicholas. We won back to back FA Youth Cup finals, and I scored the only goal and the winning goal in both of those finals. But I learnt so much off John Cartwright that I could almost play every position on the field, and in them early days at Crystal Palace I did. I played full-back, centre-back, midfield, centre midfield and on the right and left flank as a winger, and I even had one game where I played up front. I was so versatile because of the coaching that I had over the years with John Cartwright. Malcolm Allison was there before him, and obviously Terry Venables was Malcolm’s assistant who went on to Crystal Palace and QPR and Spurs. So I’ve been very fortunate to have gone through some outstanding coaches in British football, and I learnt my trade and career through them. Unfortunately I never won any of the cup finals that I played in, but I played in FA Cup finals and a League Cup final, and I’ve had some wonderful memories and great times, at a time when football was so much different than it is today.

I love football today, it’s great. There’s very little contact in comparison to back in the day but I loved my career and I had a great time. I did have some ups and downs, particularly off the field where I had a couple of issues, like an early marriage and divorce and also drink-driving, and six weeks in prison. And that was awful, but that was how it was at that time and it was how everybody was, as win, lose or draw you had a beer with the opposite number after the game. 

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

Terry: It was quite an amazing day that I had at Queens Park Rangers. I turned up for training at 9:00am to be told by Jim Smith that he’d been contacted by Arsenal manager George Graham, and that he’d arranged a meeting for me at 10:00am at the Target Roundabout, and there used to be a pub there on the A40 and it was there that I met George. I knew George from my Crystal Palace days and he was at one time on the coaching staff at QPR with the youth teams. I had one of the old brick mobile phones with me, and whilst I was in this meeting with George, the phone went. And it was Terry Venables who was on the other line, and he’d just taken over at Spurs. While I’m talking to Terry, George is looking across the table and asked me if it was Terry on the phone, and so I nodded my head and told Terry that I’d meet him that night at six o’clock. So it was amazing and in one day I had both the Spurs and Arsenal managers tracking me down and trying to sign me. Of course I had a long standing relationship with Terry Venables, and not only was he a great coach, but he was a great friend. There was no doubt once I met Terry that evening that I’d sign for Spurs. I’d had a long chat with him that evening, and we had a giggle as we talked about old times which was great, and we pretty much did the deal there and then.

When I got to Spurs the club was going through a transition, and Alan Sugar had taken over and he could be very difficult. What I noticed when I met him up in the boardroom was that when he came across to say hello, he put his hand out to shake mine, but turned away at the same time. So I’m shaking a hand with someone who had turned away from me, and hadn’t even acknowledged me, and so that was sort of a strange beginning for me at the club. But there were some great players there at the club at that time, like Ossie Ardiles, who was still there. There was Chris Waddle, who was a great lad and player, and there was also Mabbsy (Gary Mabbutt) and some wonderful other players and characters. When you think of the players that Terry brought in to Spurs, like Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker, that was different class. Of course some brilliant players came up through the youth development, and I used to do a bit of the coaching myself on a Thursday night, in the inside gym. Tottenham are renowned for bringing some fabulous players through their development ranks, like Vinny Samways, and what a player he was. And also there was David Howells as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed doing the coaching. But as I said earlier, at that time at the club it was a transitional period for Tottenham.

Terry Venables was trying to build a top side at Spurs, and when you look at the Paul Gascoigne’s and the Paul Walsh’s that he brought in, they were great players, as well as Gary Lineker, who was some player. So I saw the club going in the right direction, but unfortunately the issues at the top with Terry Venables and Alan Sugar were just too much in the end.

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

Terry: My inspirations were people like Sir Bobby Charlton. I loved Bobby Charlton, he was so silky on the ball and a great player. I also liked Roy McFarland at Derby, who was a centre-back. I also liked Norman Hunter, who was not just a tough guy, but he was a good player as well, and so I used to watch Match of the Day all of the time and watch these guys. There was also Kevin Keegan and Tommy Smith, who were great players. As a youngster (at 13/14) I was invited across to Liverpool by Bill Shankly. They sent their chief-scout to pick me up and take me over to Liverpool, and I was wowed. They took me up into the boardroom and into the trophy room, and then downstairs into the dressing room. They played Man City and beat them 4-0 and Phil Thompson made his debut. But there was Kevin Keegan in the dressing room and also Tommy Smith, and I was like in shock as it was just unbelievable meeting all of these superstars of British football. And of course Ray Clemence was in goal for Liverpool at the time, and what a great guy he was, and I was very fortunate to still have Ray around at Spurs when I joined the club. He was a wonderful character on and off the field, and a very good professional who I loved. So there were some amazing times in my early years growing up. 

Malcom Allison was amazing. He got on a flight to watch me play in a schoolboys match in the North-East of England, with the raining pouring down on a Tuesday night. This man in a sheepskin coat with his chairman turned up to watch this youngster Terry Fenwick play in a school football match, which turned into a cup final because everybody recognised Malcolm Allison on the side of the field. But I have some brilliant memories of my youth and growing up with some great coaches.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Terry: Well I think that everyone looked up to Ossie Ardiles, and that was on and off the field. He is a great guy and he used to take you to one side and whisper suggestions in your ear, such as what about doing this, rather than that. He was such a lovely man and was still a great player at that time, but he was coming to the end of his contract at Spurs, but he always had a lot to offer. Of course Ray Clemence was also at Spurs at that time, and he had been there, seen it and done it, and so he was another big influence behind the scenes.

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

Terry: I would think all of them. I remember Chris Hughton, who was a great player for Tottenham, and always very difficult to play against, whenever I came up against him when I was playing for QPR and Crystal Palace. He was someone who said very little, got on with his job and was very professional. I loved characters like that because although they weren’t saying too much, you couldn’t underestimate how passionate they were about the game and how much they wanted to win. My word during my time at Tottenham there were some great players who came in, like Gary Lineker, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne, who was the best player that I’ve ever played with. And when you look at his period of time with Tottenham, he was unbelievable and he was unplayable. He also had so much passion to want to win and do good things, both on and off the field. Over my career I played with Gerry Francis, Tony Currie, Glenn Hoddle and Bryan Robson, but Paul Gascoigne was better than all of them, by a country mile. Because he was brilliant and he could do anything. As a young lad coming down from Newcastle he made such an impact at Spurs. 

While playing for Crystal Palace’s Youth team as an apprentice during the late 1970s, you would have played against a talented Spurs Youth team on a number of occasions. Do you have any memories of that time?

Terry: We recorded a 3-3 draw against Spurs, at Crystal Palace in the FA Youth Cup semi-final, but we beat Tottenham at the Lane, the following week. That was against a number of Spurs players who came through to the first team, such as Paul Miller. And with him as you can appreciate, everything was competitive and he was a tough guy to play against. But we had some stars like Kenny Sansom and Peter Nicholas, and with John Cartwright running the show we were very well organised and disciplined, and we had a style of play that was different to most other youth teams, and that’s why so many players came through. John Cartwright actually did a tour of Great Britain, trying to find the best young footballers that he could from Britain, and I think that out of that Crystal Palace youth team, eight or nine of the players that started got into first team football, and five of them into the national team. Also in that Spurs youth team that we used to play against at Crystal Palace, there was Micky Hazard. And he was from Sunderland, which is just up the road from me. So I came up against Micky in County Durham games and obviously he was a great talent, and I look back at Micky and think to myself if he hadn’t have had Glenn Hoddle in front of him, then he might have been a much bigger star somewhere else, which I think just took the shine off of Micky Hazard, who was also a very talented player.

What was that Spurs team of 1982 like to play in the 1982 FA Cup final?

Terry: At the time Spurs had a very good and well balanced side, who were hard to play against. People didn’t realise what a good player Steve Archibald was. He could drop into midfield and link the play and make it very difficult for the opposition, and then there was Glenn Hoddle in behind him. Then there was Tony Galvin on the left wing, and you couldn’t stop him running as he was such an athlete and what a player he was, and then there was also Garth Crooks. So Spurs had a very good side at the time, and were well balanced and well organised, and also I thought that the manager Keith Burkinshaw was brilliant at that time. So I always loved the Spurs. What a club, what a team and the fans were brilliant. They gave me a hard time for a while, which I understood as if it wasn’t me then it would have been someone else. So I loved my time at Spurs and it was very engaging, and it was a transitional time for Tottenham. If only Terry Venables had been able to hold on and stay at the club, then I think that they could have gone on to unbelievable things. Then looking at it today with the new stadium, which I can’t wait to go to, it’s so set up to be a top club, and also Antonio Conte is a top manager. So hopefully he can move the club forward, win a trophy or two and build the foundation.

Spurs has everything, like a great following and fans, and also a great stadium. And for six or seven years now we have ended up above Arsenal in the league. But Tottenham have in my opinion got to be in that frame and in the top three teams in the league.

What are your memories of your Spurs debut, against Watford in a league match on the first of January 1989? And how did that day come about?

Terry: It was a great occasion for me, but it was actually a bit of a difficult one for Spurs, who had just let Graham Roberts go to Rangers. David Pleat had actually tried to sign me earlier, but it was a difficult transitional period for Tottenham, with the fans thinking what’s going on here, and what’s happening next and also what will Terry Venables do. So there was a lot of excitement around Spurs at that time. Terry was a great man manager, who built great teams, and so I think that there was a lot of enthusiasm around the club that they were going in the right direction. But my first game against Watford was unbelievable, as I put on that Spurs shirt. It was brilliant, and I was so proud to be walking out as a Spurs player at a great club, in front of great supporters. I loved it!

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

Terry: Well I took some stick over time, and before me Gary Stevens used to take a bit of stick, and before him it would have been Paul Miller, so on and so on. But every team has got to have someone in it who is down to earth, and who gets on with thing and organises things. That was one of my biggest attributes, and I was a good leader and talker who could recognise how the game was flowing and what we needed. That was all because I grew up with the same coaches, and in particular Terry Venables, and I knew what his system of playing was all about. I think that the fans were having to get used to something different that they’d not had before at Tottenham. They were blessed with so many wonderful players over such long periods of time, but Terry wanted to win and of course he won the FA Cup in 1991. And when you look at that team there was obviously some astonishing players like your Gary Lineker’s and Paul Gascoigne’s, but what people didn’t realise was that there were some great players who had come through the youth system as well, like David Howells and Vinny Samways. That was all part of Terry’s growth of the club.

It was a very entertaining time when Spurs made the additions of Paul Gascoigne, who was just incredible both on and off the field, and who just changed everything up. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Terry: It would be playing for England, playing in a World Cup and also scoring in an FA Cup final. I had some great times, but obviously I’m very proud to have played for my country and won 20 caps, and also to have played in the World Cup, and obviously played against the best player ever in Diego Maradona. So I loved all that, but now I’m enjoying football development and I’ve got my own football factory in Trinidad, which is going really well. I’ve been approached by two or three British clubs that want to set up an academy in the Caribbean, as there’s talented young footballers on the islands. And so coaches are reaching out to me, and I’ve had 131 players who have come through my development and got professional contracts around the world. What is amazing is that the people who I played with and against during my career, we still stay in touch. And so it’s great that people give a helping hand.

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

Terry: I think that it’s got to be Diego Maradona, as he was unbelievable. But the best player that I played with was Paul Gascoigne, as he was absolutely head and shoulders above everybody else, and I played with pretty much all the best players of my era. He could do everything, was fearless on the ball, and could dribble with it and also tackle and defend as a box to box midfielder. So he could do everything and he almost transformed Spurs overnight. 

You played quite a bit with Spurs legend Gary Mabbutt in central defence, at Spurs. What was Gary like to play alongside?

Terry: What a lovely man. He always had a smile on his face and was always there to help, and if there’s anyone that’s Spurs through and through then it’s Gary Mabbutt. People don’t realise that he had a problem with his weight for a while because of a medical condition. But this man stuck at it and trained twice as much as everyone else, and kept himself fit and kept on being a winner. He kept on doing all of the right things, and he was a great leader of the club and just a brilliant man. 

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time at Spurs?

Terry: Obviously there was the cup run, which I unfortunately broke my leg in, which was actually a bit of a story. I broke my leg at Old Trafford, and the surgery that I had missed that I had a crack right across my ankle, which wasn’t picked up on. So I went back to training and then on loan to Leicester to get myself back into gear, but when I came back to Spurs we played Portsmouth in the third round of the FA Cup, and on a freezing cold day my ankle cracked in the warmup. So I had to get carried off in the warmup, which was just unbelievable. So that wasn’t good and it was really disappointing, but the FA Cup was great but I think that signing for Terry was memorable, because everyone was very buoyant because of Terry and Alan Sugar’s partnership. So everyone thought that that was going to be brilliant, including me as I thought that it was the ideal way for the club to move forward and build. But unfortunately Alan Sugar and Terry fell out. There’s a little bit of an anticlimax there because I always felt that when I signed for Spurs, a while after that George Graham went on to win the league with Arsenal, and I still reflect on that today. Everything that he did at Arsenal with his back four was everything that we did at Queens Park Rangers, and at Crystal Palace before that with Terry, and even Malcolm Allison before that.

So George Graham had that same defensive philosophy, and back then all of your top teams had top teams and top defences, and were hard to beat. And so they had two or three players in that team who could score that goal, and that was what all of the British teams were like at that time. So British sides were on a defensive formation and were going to be very difficult to beat, and yes I did think that Terry brought that to the table at Spurs, but when you look at the signings that he made, his side was much more attacking than it had been previously, when I had played for him. 

It obviously must have been very difficult for you to miss the final of the 1991 FA Cup final through injury. You bounced back from that bad ankle injury well in time for the start of the following season, but how difficult was it to have to miss that final?

Terry: It broke my heart mate, because I’d never been injured in my life as I always get up and go. But when I’d broke my leg at Old Trafford, it was that my studs were caught in the turf, and my body weight had gone through it, which was what had broken my leg. But then to get back in six/seven months after training and doing good things to get myself back in shape, my ankle went in that FA Cup tie in early January, which I just couldn’t believe. I was in the gym everyday with the physio Dave Butler, training hard. Then the lads would come in and do there bit, and we would have a chat and have fun, while I was in the gym trying to keep myself in good shape, ready to go again. 

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

Terry: I think that Graham Roberts would be up there, and also Graeme Souness as well. Kevin Ball of Sunderland was also up there as well, but they were all great players who were tough. But I think that the toughest guy was a guy that I came up the youth ranks with at Crystal Palace, and that was Peter Nicholas, who later went to Arsenal. He was a tough, tough character.

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

Terry: Yeah, so Paul Walsh and I were room partners, and on and off the field we got on great. What a lovely fellow and a great player, and Walshy was a lovely lad and we got on very well. He was a lovely player who could do anything on the ball and he could change things around, and he was the player who could open things up. I think that Paul Walsh was another player who fell under the shadow of Paul Gascoigne, when he was at the club. But what a talent Paul Walsh was, but Spurs had so many others as well, like Chris Waddle, who was a lovely fellow and a great player. Players didn’t realise the turn of speed that Chris Waddle had and how he could use the ball, but he also had that magic left foot and he could just do anything. When I lived in West Hampstead, Gary Lineker used to pick me up and we’d drive to the training ground together, and so little things make me think oh my word I used to share a car with Gary Lineker. And I was part of the organisation committee with all of the other players, like Gary Mabbutt, and before him Chris Hughton. There were some great characters there, and we always used to do things with the fans and organise forums and things like that.

Everybody in the league realised what Terry Venables was doing at Spurs, and myself included I think that everyone thought that the 1991 FA Cup final was just the start, and the FA Cup was the biggest competition in world football then. I can remember that in the 1982 FA Cup final against Spurs, on the way from the tunnel on to the field this man told us that this game was going live to 91 countries around the world. Then in 1991 I was sat on the bench with all of the lads, and while I was upset that I wasn’t out there playing, I was delighted for the team. Beating Arsenal in the semifinal with Paul Gascoigne’s free-kick and Lineker scoring the next goal, my word what a day that was. And although they had a good side at the time, that kept Arsenal quiet. But I didn’t think that Terry got that time to make and turn Tottenham into that Liverpool type and Man United type top of the league side, and that was a disappointment.

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

Terry: Well I just had to move on as I wasn’t getting playing time. I had got involved with the coaching at Spurs, and as a 29 year old I had already done my full FA coaching license, and Terry helped me through that. I was already coaching with some of the Spurs youth sides on a Thursday evening, and Terry was pushing me towards the coaching side of it. But I didn’t think that I wanted to stop my playing days that early, and when Terry eventually left Spurs there was no doubt in anyone else’s mind that the next one to go would be Fenwick, because of the alliance that I had with Terry Venables. So that was pretty much how that one spiralled out, and so I went to Swindon just after Glenn Hoddle had left, but I went there and there was no structure or organisation, and just nothing behind the team. And I’m just looking at the Premier League at the time, and thinking that this team was going to struggle if they didn’t get some shape and organisation around the side. I was an experienced player then, who had been around the block and played with lots of really good players and had some really good teammates and coaches over the years.

So I would sit down with the manager and say that we needed to work on this and that, but the manager just wasn’t interested.

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

Terry: I used to be the only Tottenham fan in The Caribbean, and win, lose or draw I’d have my Spurs shirt on. But now there’s a lot of people over here supporting Spurs, and we have different areas where we’ll turn up and watch a game together, and there can be as many as 150 or 200 people supporting Spurs, and the support down here in The Caribbean is brilliant. Win, lose or draw we are sticking with the Lilywhites.

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