Stephen William Pitt joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1963, and the very fast and skilful winger with a real eye for goal, was a very highly rated young player at the club. The Willesden born former Spurs player progressed up through the various youth ranks, the A team and the reserves to make two first team appearances for the club. Steve Pitt made his first team debut for Spurs as a 16 year old, in a friendly with the Maccabi club of Tel Aviv. He would also make a Football League appearance for Spurs, in a fixture with Blackpool, in the same year. Later playing for Colchester United, Stevenage and Corinthian Casuals, after leaving Spurs during the late 1960s, Steve did spend a really good number of years at Spurs during that decade, playing with some great players. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Steve about his time at Spurs during the 1960s. Steve is a really top man!
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Steve: My earliest footballing memories would obviously be at school. I was playing for the school team and then when I was ten I got picked for the county team. In fact in those days I used to have to borrow a pair of boots to even play football, from a friend of ours, and they were the old leather boots with studs, that you used to have to nail in. I later played for Middlesex and then London Schools, before being invited to the England squads for trials. And I can remember playing at Highbury against an Arsenal youth team, and I walked into Highbury and then they had underfloor heating, which was great. So they would be my earliest footballing memories.
How did you come about joining Spurs? And what are your earliest memories of your time at the club?
Steve: I left school just before I was 15 (I was born on the 1st of August, and the term finished on July) and so that’s when I left the school. So then from my time playing schools football Dickie Walker contacted me, as we had one of the only phones on the North Circular Road, as my dad was a bookies runner. So my dad told me that a scout had been in contact, and that he was going to see me tomorrow. I wasn’t really too interested, as I thought that this was a big club and so I was a bit nervous. So the next day I went out all day and didn’t come back to the house, because I didn’t want to see him. So my dad got annoyed when he realised that I wasn’t there, and so he then made arrangements for the scout to come back again to the house the following week. He would then invite me to a trial at Cheshunt, and so I went to Cheshunt. But back then I used to have to get the train from Stonebridge Park to Dalston, and so on and so on to Cheshunt. So anyway I went up there and had the trial and played pretty well, and then they offered me an apprenticeship straight away, and that was in 1963.
I enjoyed the camaraderie at Spurs in those early days, but going to a big club like Spurs was a big step-up for me. I didn’t used to enjoy training as a footballer, and me and Jimmy Greaves were probably the worst two trainers at the club, then. So I suppose that I didn’t push myself enough, and so I could have done a lot better. Just before I was 17, Spurs told me that they wanted me to sign me as a professional.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations? And if so who were they?
Steve: As a youngster I liked Dennis Law, who I thought was always a great player, and who had style and class. I also used to really like John White as a player, who was also a really lovely bloke. And so then you had Greavsie and Mackay, who most people would probably say were the real influences. And Greavsie was just so good, and he was so casual and laid back in training, and just a genuinely nice bloke. Most of the players were really nice, but the two that really impressed me were Greavsie and Mackay. I was also on the end of Danny Blanchflower’s career as well, but I would still mention Greavsie and Mackay as the main two, and that would probably be most people’s view.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Steve: Eddie Baily was a character, who wouldn’t stand any nonsense. But in them days the players mostly ruled the roost! When I was picked to play against Blackpool I travelled up by bus to training, and then Bill Nicholson told me that I was on the team. I couldn’t get back home in time, as the game was in the evening, and I had only came for the training at the ground. So I stayed in the snooker room at White Hart Lane, and on the biggest night of my life nobody explained to me what to do or give me advice, and so I was on my own all day, and so I was disappointed about that. They did tell me what to do when the players and I got into the dressing room, and I was of course up against England player Jimmy Armfield in that game, but things are so different these days. I went out onto the pitch at White Hart Lane completely nervy, obviously, and I didn’t really play my own game, which was getting on the ball and dribbling past players. But as I say, I was a bit overawed by it all on that day in front of 40,000 or so people.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were? And also what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Steve: When I was at school I used to play at inside-forward, and I was a little bit better than most of the other players as I had the speed and dribbling ability with the ball. I always scored a lot of goals from playing in that position, but then when I started playing for the county, I started playing on the wing. So I could play on the left or right wing, which were the positions that I eventually played in at Spurs. Later on when I was at Stevenage I ended up playing as a sweeper, and despite my height I ended up playing pretty good at it. I used to score a lot of goals as a winger at Spurs, and I remember that I was the top scorer in the Metropolitan League for Spurs, one season.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Steve: There wasn’t really anyone player that I used to study, as I just used to play my game, and so there wasn’t anyone that I used to watch closely.
Could you talk me through your memories of your two Spurs first team appearances for the club? (against the Maccabi club of Tel Aviv, and also the game against Blackpool).
Steve: I travelled with the Spurs first team to play a match in Tel Aviv after being picked to be a part of the Spurs squad (I was still 16 then). In that game against the Maccabi club of Tel Aviv, I played pretty good and I’m sure that Alan Gilzean scored a goal from a cross that I put into the box. So that was a great tour, but I was amongst the big players at the club, whereas I was in my comfort zone in the Youth team, A team and reserves, but stepping up to that level was different. But I did play pretty good in that game in Israel, and I had a really good time there, and we stayed in a big hotel. The game was the John White Testimonial game, and in that game I was able to play my own game, and I did well. I enjoyed that game a lot more than I did the Blackpool game, and I was a lot more relaxed than I was in the Blackpool game. As for the Blackpool game I can remember sitting in the dressing room before I went out, and it’s weird as I wasn’t really told what to do. So I was very nervous as I walked out at White Hart Lane, and I was very disappointed with my game against Blackpool. I actually should of scored in that game, as I got put through, but I just slotted the ball wide. That might have made a difference to me, had I have scored.
In that game against Blackpool I found myself running back and forth, and not really playing my game.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Steve: I had a great time. A lot of the lads who you have interviewed, who played at Spurs during my time, like Jimmy Pearce and Jimmy Walker, well we were like a unit. Most players at football clubs are mostly the same. They like a laugh and enjoy going out and having a few beers, and so I had great social times at Spurs, even in the first team. Even when I got a car when I was 17, I used to be able to meet up with the other players and go out with them. The Rolling Stones used to be my favourite band, and I remember when they used to perform at the Angel Edmonton, and I went with Jimmy Walker and Jimmy Pearce to watch them. We also used to go down to the Tottenham Royal to watch The Dave Clark Five.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Spurs Youth sides, A team and the reserves?
Steve: I was also a good player in those sides, and I think that my goals proved it. I used to enjoy playing at that standard as well. I also obviously won the Metropolitan League during my time in the Spurs A team. And I can remember we played a penalty-kick short in one game in the Metropolitan League, to pass it. I don’t think that many people probably knew that at the time, but unfortunately I didn’t score from that penalty! We used to play against some tough teams and players in the Metropolitan League, and in them days we did have Dave Mackay and Ron Henry at times playing for the A side. Just before I made my first team debut for Spurs, I played in a game against the Spurs first team. And Dave Mackay, who was the hardest man who I ever came across in football, well me and him went in for a 50/50 challenge. I expected to get clattered by Dave Mackay, as it was a really hard tackle. However, he stopped me after the tackle and he told me that he admired me for that, and that it was a great tackle.
Unrelated to that, I remember playing a game (probably with Stevenage or Spurs) and I think that it was away at somewhere like Brighton. And Bobby Smith was playing (either in the reserves or A team) and one of the fans in the stand was having a go at Bobby all of the time during the game. When the ball went out of play near where the half-way line was, he jumped over and got hold of this fan and went for him! I’ll never forget that.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Steve: Obviously I didn’t fully enjoy the game against Blackpool that would probably be the one, along with the game in Israel and the cup that we won there. Plus I was one of the youngest players to play for the first team at Spurs. Also, playing for that England Youth side against Arsenal was a big thing for me, as I got to play with some really good players, such as Frank Sibley of QPR.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Steve: There was so much individual talent in that Spurs team of the 1960s, from Maurice Norman at the back, right through to Dave Mackay, and Greavsie and John White. I was of similar stature to Terry Dyson, and he was someone who I used to admire. He was also at Colchester when I was playing for them, and he was living in Sudbury and I was at Wembley, but we used to meet at the tube station and travel to Colchester together, and we used to have such a laugh.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Steve: My main friends were Jimmy Walker, Jimmy Pearce, Tony Want, Billy Mail and Ray Evans. We used to all meet in a group and get together quite often and that was my main group of friends, although I got on with all of them.
Could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites? And what prompted you to leave the club?
Steve: I was at Spurs until 1969. One day I got called in and I was told that the club weren’t going to renew my contract, and they then told me that Colchester United wanted me to sign. The Colchester manager at the time was a hard man, and he offered me a house in Colchester to sign for them at the time. So anyway I was there for a little while, and I’ll never forget a game for them against Doncaster Rovers, that I played. I got injured in both legs after a Doncaster player slide tackled me, which meant that I was off for probably four or five weeks. So I was just getting fit again after that injury, and the manager put me as a sub in a home game against Chester, after my return to the side. It was 0-0 until with about five minutes to go Chester scored. He told me to get warmed-up for the game, and after I got on I was probably on for about four or five minutes before the final whistle went, and so all of the lads knew what to expect if you lost at home. Anyway the manager went around and was having a go at the players for their performances. So he gets to me, and I’m thinking that he’s not going to say much to me, as I’d only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes. So he told me that he was going to have me in to train every morning, afternoon and evening to run until I could run no more.
So nobody used to answer the Colchester manager at the time, but I told him that I ain’t going to be doing what you’ve told me to do. I also told him that he wouldn’t see me at Colchester United again, and at the time all of the players were looking at me in disbelief. I went up to the secretary’s office and told him that I wanted to finish with the club today. He couldn’t believe it, but I went around to my house after leaving, and as I got there I could see four or five of the Colchester players telling my wife that I was going to be leaving Colchester. So that was it anyway, and after four of five months we left Colchester the next day. After that experience with Colchester I wasn’t that bothered with playing football full-time. Jimmy Burton was a business partner of Dave Mackay’s tie making company, and he was a big Spurs fan. He eventually got me to Stevenage, to sign for them, as he became a director of Stevenage. I ended up playing with them for almost four years, before finishing my playing career with Corinthian Casuals.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to progress up the various ranks at Spurs?
Steve: I think that they have a lot better an opportunity than all of the players from my era at the club, so it’s difficult to say. The set-up nowadays is far better then when I was playing as a youth player, as we didn’t have that much personal one to one training, so it was very different.
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?
Steve: I loved being a part of the group at Spurs, and I had a fantastic six years at the club. I could have done a lot better at Spurs, but I loved the six years that I was there, and I would have stayed there longer had they have wanted me to. I loved the people at Spurs and I also loved the camaraderie at the club. That gave me a good confidence for all aspects of life, and so Spurs taught me that.