Peter John Taylor was a very direct and skilful winger, who had great pace to his game. From Rochford, Essex, the former Southend United player who once played a South-East Counties League game for one of Spurs’ Youth sides during the 1969/70 season, would join Spurs on a permanent deal from Crystal Palace in a £400,000 transfer, in 1976. A player with a real eye for goal, Peter Taylor (he made 123 Football League appearances for Spurs. Not including cup competitions) was a really fine all-round winger, who also had good defensive qualities to his game. He was a very important player during his second season at Spurs, as he helped them to win promotion from the old Second Division, following their relegation to that division during the previous season. Taylor was at Spurs for over four years as a player, before leaving to go to Leyton Orient in the November of 1980. He would later play for Oldham Athletic (on loan), Maidstone United and Exeter City, before gradually going into management. Peter has had a long career as a coach and as a manager in the game. He has managed clubs such as Gillingham, England (as caretaker-manager) Leicester City and Crystal Palace, during his managerial career. Until fairly recently he was in charge of National League South side Welling United. However, I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Peter Taylor about his time at Spurs.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Peter: I was born in Rochford, near to Southend, but I always supported Tottenham. Although I can’t remember how I got there, I went to White Hart Lane once to watch Spurs play a game against Wolves, and so I supported them from very, very early on. My earliest memories of football were just playing every day and going with my mates over to the field to play with a football.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs? And how did you come about joining the club?
Peter: Well it’s amazing because when I was a schoolboy I had a trial there, and so all of the teams that I eventually played for turned me down as a schoolboy to sign for them, Tottenham included. I played in a trial game at Spurs, and I always say to people that I think that I had a big excuse to not be successful in midfield in that game, as I was in midfield for the trial team at Cheshunt. And in the midfield for Tottenham was Steve Perryman and Graeme Souness, and to be honest with you you can’t get much better than that, and so it didn’t surprise me that maybe I didn’t play well that day. But I eventually played one game in the South-East Counties for Tottenham, and as I say I had trials for Crystal Palace and also for Southend United, and I eventually played for them and had a good time there. When I joined Spurs from Crystal Palace, it was after a very good cup run that we had had at Palace, and we had nearly got to the final of the FA Cup in the 1975/76 season, but we lost in the semi-finals. I thought that I was going to be transferred to Leeds United, but then that fell through and then all of a sudden I was back at Palace. I then got a phone call from Crystal Palace, saying that Tottenham had agreed a fee for me. I was desperate to play for Tottenham, because they were the team that I supported, so it was a wonderful move for me.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Peter: I absolutely idolised George Best, because I thought that not only was he a fantastic crowd pleaser who had done some amazing things, but he also worked extremely hard at tracking back as a defender. A lot of people probably don’t see that in his game, but I thought that he was a very, very exciting player, and so he was the one who I always wanted to be like, as I thought that he was the real deal. But as I say I supported Tottenham, and one of the games that I watched there was against Spurs and Wolves. And Cyril Knowles was playing for Tottenham, and Peter Knowles was playing for Wolves. I remember that one of the Tottenham players had kicked Peter Knowles, and his brother Cyril wasn’t impressed. And that just shows you how competitive the game is.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Peter: I appreciated Keith Burkinshaw signing me on, and I really respected that. I think that I’ve played with the best captain ever in Steve Perryman, and I think that Steve was an unbelievable captain for the players, and also for the manager as well. I think that Steve would have helped Keith on certain things and with tricky decisions and styles of play, and so on. I remember once that Steve put me right once, after Keith Burkinshaw had left me out against Leeds United away. And I couldn’t really believe it if I was to be honest, and so I said that to Steve. Steve said to me that I hadn’t played anywhere near the standard of play that I could do, in the last month. And that really made me open my eyes and I thought that if Steve can tell me that, then it must be right.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Peter: Even when I came in at Tottenham, Jimmy Neighbour was the winger, but he eventually went to Norwich the week that I signed for Tottenham. I always liked the way that Jimmy used to take players on, but I think that I was a little bit of a different winger than him, because I think that I used to score more goals. But I loved the way that he used to always go at players. Then going back a few more years, the late Jimmy Greaves was an absolute artist. I always used to say to my old Spurs teammate John Duncan, that he finished a bit like Jimmy Greaves. As to me Jimmy Greaves he used to put it in the net, and he never hit the ball with much power, but he always used to score. I thought that Jimmy Greaves was a fantastic player, who was an off the shoulder player who could dribble past people. And I think that he would have been a very exciting player today.
Could you talk me through your memories of your first team debut for Spurs in a Football League match against West Bromwich Albion, in the October of 1976?
Peter: I was so pleased when the move went through, and I knew that the first match was against West Brom. I knew that we weren’t the best of teams at that time, because Keith was changing a few things and we were struggling a little bit to stay in the division. So I knew that it wasn’t going to be us creating loads and loads of chances, and so I knew that the forwards were going to be defending as well to make us a solid team. But we went 2-0 up that day, and I think that Chris Jones might have got the first goal, and I got the second goal. I remember that the ball came across at me from the left hand side, and I stopped the ball with my right foot, and I hit it into the goal with my right foot. So although people think that I was a left footed player, I did used to use both feet. So I was really, really pleased to score a goal on my Spurs debut, but unfortunately we didn’t hold on as I think that West Brom scored after that, and then they had the confidence to go and get another three more goals.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories, or ones which stand out from your time at Spurs?
Peter: Well my favourite memories were some of the performances, and also playing for Tottenham and getting the crowd shouting your name, nicely. I’ll never, ever forget memories like that or things like that, because it makes you quite proud that they respected your play, and I was really, really happy with that. When we got promotion the year after I joined Spurs, we knew that it was a tough year, the first full year that Keith was in charge, and unfortunately for us we got relegated. And like most good teams and clubs it is a wake up call, and if that’s happened then that means that you’re not good enough, and that you need to get better. I think that we did and I think that we played some fantastic football in the old Second Division, and we scored lots of goals and I think that a lot of people became Tottenham supporters that year. Because I think that they really enjoyed the way that we played, and we played from the back and we ran the ball out from the back. We got lots of goals, crosses and chances, and so that was lovely. Then when we drew 0-0 against Southampton in the final game of that season, that got us promotion.
That night after we had won promotion, the whole team went down to Truro to celebrate, because I think that we went to open someones ground near there, after the Southampton game. But going back, I’ve had the pleasure of playing with some fantastic players, and to have the pleasure of playing alongside Glenn Hoddle, who is the best player that I’ve ever played with, I was so lucky. Because as a winger Glenn could find you whether you were 100 yards away, or two yards away, as that’s how good his passing was. So he was fantastic, and I’m delighted to see how well he’s done as a manager and as a pundit as well. Also, playing alongside Ossie Ardiles was fantastic, and I thought that he was an incredible and very clever player, who was always found space, and he always found the ball. And as I mentioned earlier, Steve Perryman is in my opinion one of the best captains that anybody could wish for, and he was probably a very, very underrated player, who should have played more for England. But he was a respected club man, and is still very respected by the players that played with him.
Could you talk me through some of your memories of that memorable promotion winning season of 1977/78 with Spurs?
Peter: We had some fantastic games, as well as a couple of not so good ones, but we did have some fantastic games. I remember the game against Bristol Rovers, at home, which was Colin Lee’s debut and he scored four goals. He was playing alongside Ian Moores, who was his partner up front, as we played like a 4-4-2 formation that day, and Ian got three goals that day. So it was an incredible performance and every time that we got a chance we scored and so that was an outstanding day for us, which we enjoyed. There’s been times when I’ve been at the end of a 7-0 or 8-2 loss, while playing for Tottenham. So you’ve got to enjoy games and results like the one against Bristol Rovers. And I think that the things that I enjoyed most from that season, was the way that we scored goals, and the way that we played attacking football. There were times that we played a defensive-midfield and there were times when we played a very attacking midfield, and there were also times when Steve Perryman played as a double centre-half. And that is something that you never believed was going to happen. All of the forwards went forward and never stopped overlapping, and we scored plenty of goals. So the most important thing was to get back into the top league, but to do it the way that we did was terrific.
So we really went for it in games, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the manager, Keith Burkinshaw. He had been relegated the season before, but he showed the following season what a positive manager he was.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Peter: To be honest with you, the only frustration that I had, which not a lot of people do know, is that I had a pelvic injury. I always say to people that my main threat on the pitch was my pace, and over ten to 15 yards I was very, very quick. It was an injury that doesn’t probably even happen now, but it was a pelvic injury which meant that my pelvis was moving, and was causing me groin problems, which meant that I couldn’t move the next morning. So all of a sudden they decided to pin the pelvis, to get me playing again, but I felt that a little bit of it was me, and a little bit of it was the management thinking that I was never going to be the same player ever again. So I think then that I wasn’t in the plans to play every week, which was why I left in the end, but I wish I had have stayed at Spurs longer and also given the injury longer, but you can’t have everything. I’ll never forget my time at Tottenham, because as I say it’s the club that I support and I felt as though I did alright for them, although I could have done better, but a lot of that was the pelvis problem, I think. As I think then people would have seen a bit more from me.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Peter: As a footballer it would be playing for England. And to get that opportunity as a Third Division player was great, and hopefully I was rewarded for putting in some hard work on my game to try and be a better player. But if it’s not actual footballing and it’s actually the managing side, then it would be managing England, and I never dreamt that that opportunity would happen to me. It was fantastic also for Glenn Hoddle when he was named manager in 1996, and that was when I first got involved in the FA, coaching the Under 21’s with Glenn. But then you get that opportunity, and I knew that it was only going to be for one game, but it’s on my memory bank, and no one will ever change that.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Peter: Well I did share a pitch with George Best, when he was at Fulham and I was at Crystal Palace. My final game for England was in a bicentenary tournament in Los Angeles, and Pelé and Bobby Moore, and I then played the last 20 minutes of the match. And so I was on the same pitch as Pelé, and I don’t think that you can ever better that, and in that game he was still very, very good. And so to be able to say that you were on the same pitch as Pelé, that is something that I’ll take all day long.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Peter: I played against Ron Harris a few times against Chelsea, and you didn’t want to mess around with him. He was a steady player, but to be fair I don’t think that he ever really tackled me that strongly in a game, and I don’t know whether that was me being clever or if he just didn’t fancy tackling me that strongly. One of my old managers – Ken Knighton, who played as a full-back at Hull City, was such a tough player. And so I thought that he was one of the toughest players that I ever played against, but I’d say that the best left-back that I ever played against was Kenny Sansom. He was a youngster at Crystal Palace when I was there, and then he eventually got into the team, and I got transferred to Tottenham. But he carried on and had 80 odd games for England, and what a career he had.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Peter: I think that the closest one for me was always Steve Perryman, because I knew Steve from playing for England Under 23’s, in four or five matches before I joined Tottenham. So he was probably the closest one that I knew at Tottenham, and even now he is one who I keep in touch with the most. I speak to him every other week, and I go and watch him when he does his after dinner talks, and so even though you’re not with your ex-teammates every day, you’ve still got that good friendship.
What was former Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw like to play for at Spurs? And just how big an influence did he have on your footballing career?
Peter: I really enjoyed playing for Keith, and I liked his training as well, because a lot of his training was based around teams. He used to like 11 v 11 games at Cheshunt, and although clubs didn’t do that so much, I liked it because I really enjoyed the practice matches. They were always competitive and so they were always a test, but Keith also wanted to play from the back as well. So that meant that there was more chance of getting the ball to my feet, and getting the ball when you’re getting good service made it more enjoyable to play in Keith’s team. Also, he didn’t restrict me making runs, and I’ve watched a lot of the old videos, and I’m always in the box. So if there’s a cross coming into the box from the other side of the pitch, then I got into the box to try and score a goal, and at no point did he restrict me on that, and he actually encouraged me to get into the box. Whereas a lot of other managers were more worried about the shape of the team, if you lost the ball. Keith is a good man and a very honest Yorkshireman who tells you how it is, and in some ways he was too honest with me. But that is exactly how he was, and I respected that and I got used to that.
How would you have described yourself as a footballer, during your playing days?
Peter: I think that I was positive on the pitch, and I think that I was exciting, although I don’t think that I did as well as I should have done. I should have been a bit more consistent, but I always wanted to be positive with the ball and to take people on with the ball, and to try and get behind players to try and get a better opportunity to score a goal. I think that the supporters respected how I played, but maybe on the consistency side maybe people didn’t think that I was as consistent as I should have been. I say to young footballers now, to not have any regrets at the end of your career and to give it everything that you’ve got. I think that I gave it everything that I had, but I still have a few little regrets that I should have done a bit better.
What prompted you to leave Spurs? And could you talk me through your career after you left the club?
Peter: The only reason that I left Spurs was because I thought that Keith wasn’t thinking of me being the first choice anymore. I was still confident that I should have been the first choice, and so I said to myself that I’d go to Leyton Orient after they wanted to sign me. So I thought that I’d go there and do well, and try and get fit again, and then try and get another move. And in the end it worked, because I went to Leyton Orient and started off really well, and I think that I scored in the first half a dozen matches. Norwich were showing a real interest in me, and I thought that I was going to go there, but Leyton Orient weren’t listening, and in the end I broke my leg. But that was the only reason that I left Tottenham, but if Keith had have said to me that it might have taken six months because of my pelvic injury to get back right, then I think that I would have stayed there, at Spurs. But I didn’t feel that that was how he felt. After Leyton Orient I carried on playing and I went to play for Maidstone, which was in the National League as it is now, and we won that. So I still played at a good competitive level.
Gerry Francis was the Exeter City manager, and so I joined them for a while, which got me back into the Football League. I didn’t really enjoy that though, and so I went back to Maidstone, and I just carried on playing. I got my first managerial job in 1986 at Dartford, and I played for four years and then went to Enfield, where I was player-manager for a year. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I was learning all the time about coaching players, and then Steve Perryman asked me to be his assistant at Watford in 1991, and I had two fantastic years there of coaching and learning. So that was the start of my managerial career.
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?
Peter: Very much so, and I’m delighted at how they are doing now. I had nearly four years at Tottenham, and it’s a wonderful football club. I’m delighted at the team that they’ve got, and I think that with this manager that he’s got a different mentality into the players, and I think that he’s going to toughen them up. So I still support Spurs and I want them to do well, and as memories go I’ve got fantastic memories of my time at the club, and the people there. I absolutely love the place, and I hope that they carry on improving.