Martin O’Donnell was incredibly unlucky in the sense that he never got to reach his full potential at Spurs. However, he bounced back really well from a terrible injury, to forge a very successful career post Spurs, as well as also doing well in non-League football. O’Donnell is from Chiswick in West London, although a versatile player, he did play mainly at left-half for Spurs at youth level. Martin was formerly of Eton Manor, prior to being scouted by Spurs scout Ronnie Clayton and assistant manager at the time, Eddie Baily (Eddie’s son Graham Baily was playing against Eton Manor, when Martin was spotted). Martin would join Spurs as a schoolboy footballer in around 1963, and he would progress well and would later be offfered apprenticeship forms in 1965, which he signed. Training with the likes of Jimmy Pearce, Ray Evans and Paul Shoemark during those days at Spurs’ old Cheshunt training ground, Martin was progressing well and he was playing regularly for the Spurs Under 17 side in the 1965/66 season. A season in which Martin helped the Spurs Under 17 side win the South-East Counties League II and Cup double.
A fast, skilful, creative and composed player, who had a real eye for goal, O’Donnell once scored a memorable hat-trick for the Spurs Under 17 side in the South-East Counties League II in a league game with Chelsea in 1965/66. He was compared to former Rangers player Jim Baxter by Spurs’ former Chief-scout Dickie Walker during his time as an apprentice. However, just days after being told that he was going to be offered a professional contract by Spurs, Martin fractured his femur (thigh bone) at Cheshunt. He would spend nine months in plaster in hospital, and he could not play football properly again for another 18 months. However, Spurs looked after Martin well during this time, and he even returned for them at youth level for a while on a short basis later on in the 1960’s. After leaving Spurs O’Donnell would play non-League football for the likes of Hayes (alongside his now very good friend Dave Bassett), Northwood, Southall and a Walthamstow Avenue side which contained a number of former Spurs youth team players. At one time in his non-League football career, Martin was meant to go to Nottingham Forest for a trial, and going back to his time at Spurs, he had ambitions of playing for the Republic of Ireland, as his parents were from there. Although he still played at a good standard of football, he was understandably not quite the same player after his thigh injury.
After football Martin O’Donnell embarked on a highly successful career in business. He started in sales and would later go into the fragrance and cosmetics business, where he worked for Revlon and later Estée Lauder, where he became sales director for Europe. Martin was also very successful when he set-up his own fragrance and cosmetics business, later on in his career post Spurs. Although he didn’t get the chance to progress as he would have hoped to at Spurs, because of his injury, Martin O’Donnell did ever so well for himself in his professional career. Since I interviewed Martin in 2018, he has become a good friend. Now retired, he has so much to be proud of, and Spurs is still a club close to his heart. He is a really top man, and he was at my Spurs mid 1960’s youth team reunion last summer in Essex.