I am an avid Spurs supporter! I have been all my life, I go to many home games and watch all away games on TV I also have a great interest in the academy set up, and shall report on every aspect of this wonderful club. COYS
Ugochuku ‘ Ugo ’ Ehiogu (born in 1972) grew up in Homerton, East London, and although he represented Hackney Borough in his youth (along with other youth teams), Ugo started his football career with the very well known Senrab FC youth team. However, the late former footballer and coach would move up to the Midlands to sign for West Bromwich Albion as a youth player, before later turning professional. A very determined, talented, highly skilled and commanding centre-half during his playing days, Ugo signed for Aston Villa in 1991, a club where we would endear himself to the fans during his time in Birmingham. It was at Aston Villa where Ugo won the first of two major trophies during his playing career, and he was a part of the Aston Villa side which won the 1996 Football League Cup (he was also an FA Cup runner up with Aston Villa in 2000). The Londoner would later play for Middlesbrough, where he won another League Cup in 2004. Ugo later had spells at Leeds United (loan), Glasgow Rangers, Sheffield United and non-League side Wembley, but he also won four caps for England during his playing career, scoring one goal. A very popular player wherever he went during his playing career, Ugo would continue to be so well liked when he embarked on his coaching career. Leaving a great impression on the players that he coached, the former footballer started off his coaching career with Spurs, coaching some of the various schoolboy Academy age groups, for around one to two years, prior to taking charge of the old Spurs Under 21 side.
While working with the Spurs Academy players, Ugo also worked with England, as part of his UEFA A License work. He worked with former Spurs player Peter Taylor, when Taylor was in charge of England’s Under 20 side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the July of 2014 Ugo was appointed the head coach of the Spurs Under 21 side. It must have been such a proud moment for him. Ugo took charge of his first competitive game for Spurs the following month, as his side beat West Ham 2-1 at home. Ugo’s appointment as the head coach of the Spurs Under 21 side coincided with a change of approach towards the Under 21 side. In the sense that the team wasn’t so much a reserve side, where you used to have first team players regularly playing for the side, for different reasons. Instead it was now a side which contained young professionals, even more so than before. And it was incredibly rare for a first team player to get minutes at Under 21 level, for Spurs. Ugo created a great bond with the players that he coached, and he would even often join in, in training with the Spurs development side. Under his tutelage the Spurs Under 21’s and later the Under 23’s side played some nice attacking football, and they played the game the Spurs way. During Ugo’s second season in charge of the old Spurs Under 21 side, his side were involved in some very memorable games. Such as a dramatic 3-3 draw with Manchester City, in Manchester. Spurs also beat Leicester City 7-4 at Hotspur Way, as well as beating them in the reverse fixture, in a game which finished 3-0 to Spurs.
Spurs also beat Chelsea away from home, during the 2015/16 season, a season in which Ugo helped Spurs’ Under 21 side to reach the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup. In the group stages of that competition Ugo’s Spurs lads impressively beat FC Schalke 04 3-1, and later on FC Porto, 4-0. The 2016/17 season saw the league renamed as the Premier League 2, and the teams had now changed to Under 23 sides. Spurs had also qualified for the UEFA Youth League during the following season, and Ugo was in charge of the Spurs Under 19 side which competed in the group stages of that competition (we beat a talented Bayer Leverkusen side in that tournament). However, the new Spurs Under 23 side continued to play their exciting style of attacking football, and with a team of very good young players, Spurs put in some memorable performances over the course of the season. Tragically Ugo Ehiogu passed away in the April of that season, his untimely passing shocked the footballing world. There was an outpouring of emotional tweets on social media from the players who had had the pleasure of working with him, and also from those that knew Ugo. He would have become a great manager in the future. For that I have no doubts. A highly knowledgeable coach who showed his great passion for the game from the sidelines, Ugo was more than just a coach to the young Spurs players that he helped. He was so greatly respected by the Spurs players for the knowledge that he passed on to those players at such an important stage in their career. But the hugely positive and long lasting impression that he made on the Spurs Academy players that he coached, will live with them for more than just their football careers. He meant and continues to mean so much to them. All of the Spurs lads will tell you that, if you were to ask them.
Ugo helped so many Spurs Academy players (he also would have helped some of the Spurs Academy coaches, such as his Spurs Under 23’s assistant Matt Wells) and future first team players to play Under 21/23 football at that level and beyond. Many players immediately come to mind, such as Josh Onomah, Harry Winks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luke Amos, Kyle Walker-Peters, Anton Walkes, Anthony Georgiou, and the list goes on and on. However, Ugo also gave a number of lads their debuts at development side football level, such as players like Oliver Skipp, Marcus Edwards, Kazaiah Sterling, TJ Eyoma, Alfie Whiteman and George Marsh, all players that have made competitive first team appearances for Spurs. There are also other players such as Samuel Shashoua, Brandon Austin, Christian Maghoma and Tom Glover, who are all players who were first given the chance to play that level of academy football by Ugo. Something that I’m sure all of those players are extremely grateful for. A true gentleman of the game who also always made time for fans, it was very fitting that this much loved and sorely missed gentleman’s final tweet on Twitter was about giving a homeless person in Dalston ten pounds. It spoke volumes about what kind of a man Ugo was. At Spurs’ Hotspur Way training ground there is a giant 15ft picture of Ugo on the wall above the academy staircase, which has been there since he passed away. Meaning that every single young Spurs player sees him every day, and is reminded of the example that he set. Rest in peace Ugo. Your legacy in football and at Spurs lives on.
Memories and words of appreciation from some former Spurs Academy players that Ugo coached:
Kodi Lyons-Foster: Ugo was someone that I as a young defender at the time learnt a lot from in a short space of time. He gave me some great advice and taught me lots in my time at the academy working with him. I remember when he first came in to the club and my dad recognised him straight away and pointed him out and made me aware of what a player he was. He was someone who you could not only learn off but also talk to on a man to man basis which is quite rare in football as usually you don’t come across many coaches that you could build that relationship with. I have nothing but words of praise to describe my time working with Ugo and I am so grateful I had the chance to work with him.
Jamie Reynolds: I think everyone that knew Ugo knew he was one of the nicest people they will ever meet. He always made time for everyone and got me to believe in myself when I thought I wasn’t able to.
Christian Maghoma: Ugo was not only a great coach, he was a great human being. His team talks, tweets and off the cuff training sessions sometimes made us laugh. But he would laugh too. I stress that last bit as that was hugely his character. Bubbly, funny, enthusiastic. He gave off a welcoming and positive aura that left us players looking forward to going in every day. Being a defender also, him and I had many 1 to 1 conversations about football. As it was him though we would also speak about life and other people things as he cared about how we were outside of football massively too. He sometimes said he saw himself in me which was a huge compliment to me and still is as his career speaks for itself. I always, always think about Ugo and always will. RIP to a legend.
Anthony Georgiou: Ugo for me was a special coach. I remember him first coming in to help Justin when I was an U16. At the time I was performing well and he really believed in me and gave me a lot of confidence to be told your a good player by someone we all highly respected even before we got to know him for his playing career. So when I got to U23 level and he took over with Matt Wells I was of course very happy. Him being a player made him relate to us all a lot more and he would always have great banter as well as some great advice and knowledge to pass down to us about football and life for footballers. For me I had a special bond with him during my time out injured where I missed a big majority of his last season with us. He took so much time out to talk to me and to be there for me when I was down and give me positive thoughts to get through it having gone through similar himself, and he always had the time for me, and always stayed out with me to do extra work. He would always be there chatting at the end of the day with Matt Wells to lift my mood after some tough days. I will always remember Ugo as someone who had a big impact on an important part of my career, giving me a lot of belief but more for the person he was off the pitch, the funny, caring, kind person who treated everyone well and always had time for everyone. You can see how much of an impact he had on us all by speaking to any player he coached. We all looked at him like a legend and he is missed by all and will always be remembered. To this day I still think about Ugo.
(Barry is pictured third across, on the left of the extreme right, of the above photograph.)
Barry Roffman was a lively inside-forward during his days at Spurs as a youth and A team player, but the Luton born footballer could also play up front as a centre-forward, as he did so on occasions. With the help of Barry’s former Spurs teammate David Sunshine, this commemorative piece will be focusing on the late Barry Roffman’s time at Spurs, as well as focusing on some statistics and matches from his time at the club. Barry joined Spurs as an amateur (he signed professional forms later on) in the summer of 1959, after leaving school. The inside-forward would have most likely started off by playing with the old Spurs Under 18 side in the South East Counties League, and during one season with that side he impressively scored 15 goals from 25 appearances. During a time of such competition for places in the three main sides that Spurs had (not including the Under 18 side) in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Spurs A team, reserves and first team were very difficult to break into. With internationals even playing in the reserve side, the A team contained quality players who could easily have got into some Second Division sides, such was the quality of the players in that side. As well as playing in the South East Counties League during his early days at Spurs, Barry would have also played in competitions such as the London Midweek League, the London Minor Cup, the FA Youth Cup and later on the Eastern Counties League, with the A team. A skilful player with good close control and distribution, Barry Roffman was a regular scorer for the Spurs youth team, and he even scored four goals in a preliminary round FA Youth Cup win over Terrington Lads, on one occasion.
Barry’s consistently good performances for the Spurs youth team were rewarded during the famous double winning season of 1960/61, when Barry made his first two competitive appearances for the Spurs A team in the Eastern Counties League. Of his two appearances that season he scored a hat-trick for the A team in a 9-0 league win over Biggleswade Town. During the following 1961/62 season Barry had a breakthrough season for the Spurs A team. He made 23 appearances for them in the Eastern Counties League, scoring eight goals, and he also scored an additional goal for the A team in an Eastern Counties Football League Challenge Cup game against Stowmarket. Scoring for the A team in games against the likes of Ely City and Southend United respectively, this would have been a memorable season for Barry. Although the Luton born footballer never played a competitive game for the reserves (he may have played for them in a non-competitive game), it was incredibly difficult to make that step up into the reserve side in those days. Especially when you had players like double winner Frank Saul getting games for the reserves, in the days when there were no substitutes for first team games. Back when Barry was a Spurs player the youth policy at the club was very different to what it is today. Often Barry would have turned up to play youth games for Spurs not knowing, nor having played with some of the players that would be playing in the same Spurs Under 18 side as him, or possibly (no records exist to my knowledge) even for the second youth side in the Wood Green & Metropolitan League. That was because Spurs used to often field trialists in those games, trialists who more likely than not would never play for the club on more than one occasion.
Barry did play in the same youth and A side as players who would go on to play for the Spurs first team. The most notable former player is Spurs legend Phil Beal, but other players that Barry played with who played for the Spurs team, included Derek Possee, Roy Low and Ron Piper. As his old teammate David Sunshine recalls, Barry was a popular and well liked member of the Spurs youth and A team, and David also remembers that Barry had a good sense of humour. Although it is unknown whether or not Barry continued to play football at any level after leaving Spurs, he did go into the fashion industry and set up a business called Pret A Porter, before later moving to Spain (Barry sadly passed away in 2014). To have been at Spurs during those three and a bit years must have been a wonderful time for Barry, as it was for all of the players who were at the club during that period. And to have been at Spurs for the length of time that he was, like with all of the players who were at Spurs during that period in the 20th century, it speaks volumes of just how talented they were as footballers.
Centre-forward Dane Pharrell Scarlett enjoyed an excellent first season full-time at Spurs, during the 2020/21 season. Next season Scarlett will be a second year scholar, but during his first year of scholarship at the club he scored a phenomenal total of 25 goals from 27 competitive appearances (includes first team appearances) for Spurs at all levels. The Hillingdon born footballer also registered four assists. In the following short piece I will be writing about some of Dane’s best attributes as a player and also his style of play, as well as talking a bit about the last two seasons for Dane. Scarlett made his Spurs development side debut for a Spurs XI in a pre-season friendly against Enfield Town in the August of 2019. But he first made his competitive Under 18 debut for Spurs on the opening day of the 2019/20 season at Fulham’s Motspur Park training ground, against the west London club. The then schoolboy footballer started against a very good Fulham side on that day. Fulham saw a lot more of the ball than Spurs during that game, when he played almost as a second striker to Kion Etete, and although he didn’t get on the ball much in promising positions, he did work very hard off the ball. Scarlett featured in four more games for Spurs at competitive Under 18 level that season. He came very close to scoring in a league game against Norwich City, in what was a good cameo performance, before then scoring a good centre-forwards goal in the next game against Aston Villa. However, Scarlett unfortunately sustained a bad season ending injury early on in his next league game (after making a sliding challenge), which was against Chelsea in November 2019 (Scarlett also made the bench on one occasion for Spurs’ Under 19 side in the UEFA Youth League).
That injury would have been very difficult for the England youth international, but Dane came back for the 2020/21 season after impressing with the Spurs first team in some pre-season friendlies. He scored two goals and registered two assists for Matt Taylor’s Spurs Under 18 side against West Ham United on the opening day of the Under 18 league season, and what followed in terms of goalscoring was nothing short of phenomenal. Of the standout individual moments from Dane during the season just gone, a 7-0 Under 18 league win over Southampton stands outs when Dane was involved in five goals (four goals and one assist). Also, his hat-trick against league runners up Crystal Palace would have been a memorable moment for the 17 year old, as would his first competitive goal for the Spurs Under 23 side, back in the December of 2020. However, Scarlett also made three competitive first team appearances for the Spurs first team during the 2020/21 season, registering one assist (he became the youngest player to assist in the competition since Kylian Mbappé). His goalscoring/assists record during the season just gone was almost on the levels of Reo Griffiths’ outstanding 2017/18 season, a season that Griffiths scored 34 competitive goals in. Obviously I haven’t seen as much of Dane at the same stage in his career as I saw of Troy Parrott during his first year of scholarship. However, I feel as if I have seen him enough to write a bit about his style of play. Dane Scarlett is a very good finisher of goals, but something I have been very impressed with has been how good he is in the air. Scoring a good number of goals with his head, his headers are often powerful ones with a nice accuracy to them. A commanding presence up front for the Spurs Under 18’s during the 2020/21 season, Dane seems to exude confidence in those games, but also for the Under 23 side he did cause problems for defenders. With a good example of this being in a Premier League 2 game against Chelsea last year.
During the Spurs Under 23 game game against Chelsea the centre-forward scored a really good and powerful header against Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, after some good movement inside the Chelsea box. The centre-forward was playing out on the right flank as a winger, and his movement off the ball was really impressive, as was his desire to track back and help out the Spurs right-back during the game, and his defensive work during that game was very, very good. Scarlett is obviously a very good finisher, and he is a striker who will score a variety of different goals (he is good from distance also). But if opposition defenders make errors in and around the penalty area then the last thing they need is a centre-forward of Scarlett’s quality around, more than ready to find the back of the net, if given the chance. Apart from his aerial ability the Spurs Academy player who signed his first professional contract with the club last season, is a player who likes to try a variety of finishes (he is a very good finisher). Although he does like to finish with power and style, in my opinion it is actually Scarlett’s off the ball movement which is perhaps his greatest attribute as a player. Terrific at pressing defenders (whenever I have seen him play) and never giving them a moment to focus on the ball, his off the ball work reminds me of Troy Parrott’s, at the same stage in his career. He is so good at getting himself into good goalscoring positions, and he seems to almost ghost into fine positions from which he can score from. A physical player who is not afraid to battle for the ball, Dane takes responsibility in games and he is also a leader too. He is a confident player with good pace, and he showed this in first team games last season against Ludogorets Razgrad and Wolfsberger AC respectively.
Dane has come back from a bad injury and performed remarkably well during the recent 2020/21 season, and whenever I have seen him I have been so impressed with his off the ball movement, and that desire to run the extra yard for his team. A player who has just had a very promising season, Scarlett has a very promising future in the game, and with Spurs in the inaugural UEFA Conference League next season, the 17 year old will surely get more first team appearances. The centre-forward should be very proud of all that he has achieved during the 2020/21 season, and I wish him all the very best of luck for next season.
Having been at Spurs for many years (Kazaiah was previously at Leyton Orient) centre-forward Kazaiah Sterling left the club last Thursday, after it was announced by Spurs. Sterling (22) came up through the Academy ranks at Spurs to make two competitive first team appearances for the club, but to those Spurs fans who watch Academy games, they would have first been aware of Kazaiah during the 2014/15 season. During that season the player from north London made a number of competitive appearances for the Spurs Under 18 side as a schoolboy, and he even scored a fine goal against Chelsea in the semi-finals of that seasons FA Youth Cup, at White Hart Lane. Sterling did well for the Under 18 side during the following 2015/16 season, and he would step up to play for the then Spurs Under 21 side on three occasions in competitive competition, scoring once. The former England youth international missed quite a bit of the start of the following 2016/17 season through injury, but his goals in the FA Youth Cup were one of the main reasons why we reached the semi-finals of the competition that season. Also capable of playing out wide or as a second striker, Kazaiah Sterling scored two goals from three appearances for the Spurs Under 23 side that season, a season which he finished strongly. The 2017/18 season saw Kazaiah promoted to the Under 23 side, although he also played for Spurs’ Under 19 side in the UEFA Youth League.
A very technical forward, who is a very clinical centre-forward and particularly good in situations when he only has the goalkeeper to beat (one on ones), Sterling made his competitive first team debut for Spurs during the 2017/18 season. After he came off the bench against Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia in the UEFA Champions League, at Wembley Stadium. Sterling also scored an impressive amount of goals at Academy level for Spurs during that same season. Although he was a part of Spurs’ (the first team) pre-season for the start of the 2018/19 season, Kazaiah picked up an injury that summer which would rule him out until the October of 2018. He returned to Spurs’ Under 23 side and he would score four league goals from seven Premier League 2 appearances, before joining Sunderland on loan for the second part of the season. After impressing in France for Spurs’ development side in pre-season in the summer of 2019 where Kazaiah put in some really good performances, he joined Doncaster Rovers not long after scoring two goals for Spurs’ Under 23 side, in their Premier League 2 opener. However, he picked up an injury not long after he joined Doncaster, which would sadly rule him out for the rest of the 2019/20 season. Kazaiah did return for pre-season of the season just gone, and after playing a good number of games for Spurs’ Under 23 side he joined League 2 club Southend United on loan.
During his time in Essex Kazaiah scored one goal from 12 appearances for Southend, before returning to Spurs and joining Scottish Championship side Greenock Morton for the second part of the season, where in total he made nine appearances, before again returning to Spurs. I always enjoyed watching Kazaiah play for Spurs and I’ve always thought that he is a quality player, but has just been unlucky with injuries. I used to like to watch him in the warmup to games, as during the warmups he would rarely not find the back of the net when the players used to try and beat the goalkeeper from the edge of the six yard box. A skilful player who was more than capable of playing development side football as a first year scholar, Kazaiah is very good at scoring goals from inside the oppositions box. And his goalscoring record at Academy level for Spurs has always been impressive, as has all the different kinds of goals that he has scored at that level. A player who shows great composure in front of goal and who also likes to place his efforts on goal rather than go for power. Some games which really stand out from watching Kazaiah over the years include the time when he scored two goals in the FA Youth Cup against Norwich City in 2017. And also an excellent individual performance for Spurs’ Under 23 side in the Premier League 2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2018.
I truly believe that the hardworking centre-forward has a very good future in the game, and I very much look forward to following his progress. Farewell and good luck, Kazaiah.
Of the 11 Academy players that left Spurs on Thursday with their contracts almost coming to an end, one player from the very talented 2018/19 Academy first year intake was also on the list. Harlow born winger Chay Cooper had previously been at Southend United prior to joining Spurs as a schoolboy, and then later signing scholarship forms with the north London club in the summer of 2018. A versatile and creative player who is capable of playing out wide on either flank, as a CAM or even in central midfield, Cooper had shown his versatility during his time at Spurs in their Under 18 side. Chay made his competitive debut for Spurs’ Under 18 side in a Premier League Cup game against Wolves in the September of 2018. And although he didn’t get a lot of competitive game time during the remainder of that season (he made the bench on one occasion for our development side in the EFL Trophy), Chay did put in a terrific performance against Aston Villa, at their training ground, in a league game. With the then first year scholar causing so many problems for the Aston Villa defence, in a game which Spurs won 3-2. That performance was a sign of things to come for Chay, who during the following and curtailed 2019/20 season would put in a series of really good performances. Performances of which included some really memorable moments for Chay, and during that season he contributed to the Under 18 side by scoring five goals and registering six assists. Always more than capable of wowing with with his skill, agility and ability to score from long range (he is good with both feet), Cooper impressed me very much in Under 18 Premier League games against the likes of Swansea City, Southampton and Norwich City. He also came off the bench against Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup to score a really nice goal, to help us progress into the next round of that competition.
His ability on the ball to create chances out of nothing, as well as his pace and defensive work are some of his main attributes, which in my opinion saw him do so very well during the 2019/20 season. In a piece which I wrote on Chay during the 2019/20 season, I mentioned a few similarities he has as a player with Nathan Oduwa. Nathan was more than capable of producing magnificent pieces of skill at Spurs, and some of the outrageous pieces of skill that Chay managed to produce home and away, did remind me of Nathan. One standout piece of skill in an Under 18 league game against Arsenal, saw Chay knock the ball over an Arsenal player before then deftly putting the ball through the legs of another player. He then skilfully turned away from another Arsenal player before setting up Kion Etete, who scored after receiving Chay’s nice and accurate lofted pass inside the Arsenal penalty area. Although Chay featured in three pre-season friendlies for Spurs’ Under 23 side during pre-season of the season just gone, he wouldn’t play a competitive game for the Spurs Under 23 side that season. He returned to his old club Southend United on a development loan, which saw him play for their Under 23 side. Chay wouldn’t play again for Spurs at Academy level. An unpredictable and highly skilful player, I am sad to see Chay leave Spurs, but I really do believe that he has a very bright future in the game to look forward to, wherever that may be. The player whose favourite footballer is Lionel Messi, will in my opinion no doubt go on to achieve really good things in the game. I very much look forward to following his footballing journey, and I wish Chay all the very best of luck for the future.
Goal-scoring former Spurs midfielder Jack Roles has been one of the most consistent players for Spurs at Under 18 and Under 23 level in recent years, in my opinion. The former Cyprus Under 21 international from Enfield, has left Spurs after his contract came to an end this week, as it was announced by the club on Thursday. Roles had been at Spurs since a young age, and the now 22 year old had been out on two loans during the season just gone, with Burton Albion and Stevenage Borough respectively. Jack has been a real joy to watch, ever since he first stepped up to play for the Spurs Under 18 side as a schoolboy in the 2014/15 season. Roles didn’t play too many competitive games during the 2015/16 season (he made the bench for the old Spurs Under 21 side during that season), as a first year scholar. However, he played a lot more games for the Under 18’s during the following 2016/17 season, and the midfielder impressively scored 15 league goals from midfield, even scoring more goals than Jadon Sancho, and he impressed as Spurs’ Under 18 side reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, during the same season. Although Jack had been excellent for the Under 18’s during the previous season he had to wait until the September of the 2017/18 season to make his competitive Under 18 debut, with that coming from the bench in a Premier League 2 game against Everton, at Goodison Park. Roles had to wait a little while before he got a good run in the team, but when he did he ended up scoring four goals in four games. A skilful player, who can play out wide on either flank, as a CAM, central midfielder or as a centre-forward, Jack Roles is a very skilful player with good balance and ball control. His movement off the ball is some of the best that I have ever seen at Academy level, but most importantly of all he is a clinical goal-scorer, who is capable of scoring a great variety of goals.
A hard worker off the ball, the Cyprus youth international who I’m sure will go on to become an important player for the Cyprus senior team in the future, is capable of the spectacular. Whether that be a stunning long distance goal or the ability to skilfully work his way around a crowd of players before threading through a decisive pass, Roles is a match winner, and he proved this time and time again for Spurs at Under 18 and Under 23 level. The boyhood Spurs fan who played for the first team on occasions during the 2019/20 pre-season, would excel for the Spurs Under 23’s during the 2018/19 season, and he scored many a goal and registered many an assist, as he helped Spurs to avoid relegation to Division Two. The 2019/20 season saw him join then League Two side Cambridge United on a season long loan, and it was a successful one too, with Roles scoring some important and impressive goals (he got five in 25 competitive appearances). However, during the season just gone, Jack unfortunately didn’t get too much game time during his two Football League loans. Another member of the talented 2015/16 Academy intake to leave the club, Roles was a real pleasure to watch play for the Spurs Under 18’s, 19’s and 23’s during his time at the club. A couple of games stand out, such as when he led the line for Spurs’ Under 23’s up in County Lancashire, and registered two clever assists in a 3-1 win, in what was a very good individual performance from him. In addition his hat-trick for the Under 23’s against Derby County at Stevenage Borough’s ground also stands out, as does his goal and assist against Manchester United at Old Trafford for the Spurs Under 23 side in early 2018.
I’m sad to see Jack leave Spurs, especially as he’s a player who I thought was capable of making competitive first team appearances for the club, but I have no doubts whatsoever that the next chapter in his football career will be just the start of great things to come for him in his career. I would like to wish Jack all the very best of luck for the rest of his football career, and I look forward to following his progress in the game.
East End born former footballer Paul Van Gelder was a right-back during his time at Spurs in the 1970s as a youth player, having previously been a midfield player. A talented and technical full-back who liked to get forward down the flank, after leaving Spurs Paul Van Gelder would play for Barnet, and then later Wingate & Finchley, where he played under a number of former Spurs players. Paul also represented and captained Great Britain at the Maccabiah Games. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Paul about his time at Spurs, which was over 40 years ago.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Paul: We used to play out in the street and I sort of grew up in the East End, and so we used to play quite a lot of football. It was always a case of being called up to go upstairs because it was bed time, kind of thing. So that was really what it was all about as we didn’t really have much else, so it was really all about football, as there weren’t any computers or any of that around then. If anyone had a football then that was it, and it was just great.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Paul: Well I’d got invited for a trial, as obviously I’d been spotted playing for my local club. Back in them days the trial was at Cheshunt, and so when I turned up at Cheshunt basically it was a sort of in-house game with some juniors, some youth team players and some trialists. We had a game with both of those categories, and so that was the first trial. Then I got invited back which was great, and we used to train at the ground on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but obviously back then it was a lot different to what it is now. There was only one team and not all of these different satellite clubs and different academies, as it was just a squad of probably 16 to 18 players. You were quite privileged if you like and it was quite a big thing because it was at the ground, and it was exciting.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Paul: I am a Tottenham supporter and I always was a Tottenham supporter, and so it was a massive thing for me to be involved with the club. At the time probably my biggest hero was Steve Perryman, because he was this young lad coming through the ranks. Initially I was that type of player but I ended up being a different type of player, but I suppose that I modelled myself on wanting to be like Steve Perryman, but beyond that my biggest influences are obviously the greats, like George Best and Johan Cruyff. Those types of players always inspired me and I loved that type of footballer.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Paul: I would probably have to say our manager Ron Henry from the double team, and it’s funny because I went there as a midfield player. In my first year there I struggled a little bit to pin down a regular spot in midfield, and the game was obviously a lot quicker than I was used to as a midfield player. Then out of the blue one Saturday we turned up and Ron Henry called me to one side and said that our full-back at the time Roger Wade wasn’t available, and so Ron asked me to step in at right-back. He could have told me to play up front, centre-half or anywhere as I’d have said yes, but I had a really, really good game there, and it just seemed to suit me. From that day on I was right-back regularly and never missed a game, as I was always picked, and I would have never have done that had I have stayed a midfield player. So Ron saw something in me and trusted me to play there, and I would say that that was a breaking point for me.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Paul: I played in lots of different positions over the years but at that age I always considered myself either a midfield player or a forward, because as a youngster you always like scoring goals. I was a skilful player and technically very good, and I just think that being further back and having everything in front of me enabled me to read the game a lot more. And I would say that in the modern day I was one of the original overlapping fullbacks in them days, which we would call wing-backs now. So I would say that I would be a modern day wing-back.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Paul: Probably everyone that you’ve spoken to from my age group would talk about one person and one person only, and that’s Glenn Hoddle. Going back to that trial game I remember saying to Gary Hyams and Barry Pace, who was the number ten, and was he a youth team player? And bearing in mind that the youth team players would have been two/three years older than us at the time, but they said that he was one of the juniors and that he was the same age as us. Glenn just stood out and he was just phenomenal, and we used to train during school holidays at Cheshunt, and we would train with the youth team then, and Pat Welton was the youth team coach at the time, and he was a very, very good coach. Any demonstrations that needed to be done from what we were doing at the time, Pat would always pick Glenn above all of the youth team players. He was just in a different league and I was lucky enough to play at right-back behind him in quite a few games, and it was just so easy as you would just give him the ball. It was just do your bit and give him the ball and let him get on with it, as he was just phenomenal, and without a doubt the best player that I’ve ever played with, and probably even seen.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole
Paul: I loved it and it was a dream, and I mean it was just turning up on a Saturday and training on Tuesday and Wednesday. And we used to get trained occasionally by Mike England and Martin Chivers, and as they were senior players they would come down on the odd Tuesday and Thursday night and give us a little bit of coaching. So that was obviously a dream and then to turn up on a Saturday and get on the coach outside the ground and put that kit on, you just can’t beat that. After the game we used to come back and if the first team were at home then we’d get our tickets for the game, and so it was just a boyhood dream.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Paul: Basically I probably got to Spurs six months too late, as by the time that I’d got there a lot of the lads had already been there for two or three years. It came to signing apprenticeship forms and both myself and Chris Hughton got called into the office in front of Bill Nicholson to say out of probably eight lads who didn’t sign apprentice, that they wanted us both to stay, and sign what was then amateur forms. Both I and Chris did sign amateur forms, and after the first year I started to play more regularly and started to make a few appearances for the youth team if people were injured, as youth team players got priority. Then when that season finished they asked us both to do the same again, but I didn’t feel that I was getting anywhere with it. But obviously in hindsight if you could go back and put an older head on those shoulders, then I would have probably stayed. I remember going on a summer holiday and coming back and my mum said that Peter Shreeves, who had just taken over the youth team, and he had phoned. I spoke to him and he said that he wanted me to stay, but he said that he couldn’t guarantee me regular football because of such and such. I suppose that I lost a little bit of the drive that you needed to have, and the rest is history and Chris Hughton decided to stay and go for it, and look where he ended up! I’m not just saying this but I was actually a better player than Chris Hughton, but that’s my story. It was different times then and if you were doing that now then there is so many other opportunities to play a decent level of football and earn a good living out of it. Back in them days which was 40 odd years ago, even the top pros at Tottenham weren’t earning fortunes, and it wasn’t like it was a great career financially.
So then it didn’t feel that important as I thought that well I hadn’t quite made it, and so I’m not going to do it. Ron Henry was obviously friendly with Dave Mackay, who was at Swindon at the time, and he said that he could get you to go down to Swindon, and I also had an offer from Leyton Orient. But for me it was Tottenham or nothing, but then I played a couple of games for Barnet under Barry Fry, back in the day when they were in the Southern Amateur League. I then got a bit fed up with the travelling and the midweek games to somewhere two or three miles away, and then getting back home at one o’clock in the morning. I then actually got asked to play for Wingate, and I knew a few of the lads who were playing down there. At the time they were playing at a decent Sunday morning level, and then I stayed there for a while and went through the leagues and I ended playing in the Ryman’s, so I was there for a long time.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Paul: Obviously going back to putting on that Tottenham shirt is definitely the biggest highlight, but I would say after that it would probably be representing Great Britain in the Maccabiah Games, which is like the Jewish Olympics. So that was important to me, and so countries from all over the world would compete as an Olympian. And obviously I captained the Great Britain team and represented them on three occasions throughout my career (it is held every four years), and I captained them on the second and third occasion. So I suppose that would be my personal achievement and it is very like the Olympics, and the opening ceremony is live on TV in Israel, and there’s 60,000 people in the Ramat Gan Stadium. So that was a great experience.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Paul: Glenn Hoddle, without a doubt. But I played with Paul Miller, who I knew for a long time and he actually managed us at Wingate for a while with Joe Kinnear. Outside of that I have a good friend called Jeff Bookman, who captained England Under 18’s and played for Chelsea and Arsenal as a youth team player, and I’ve known him for a long time. But also Barry Silkman was another one, and he played for Man City and QPR, and he’s a good friend of mine, and we actually play in the same vets team. But no doubt the best player that I’ve ever played with at the highest level is Glenn Hoddle.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?
Paul: I think that it goes back to to the South East Counties League Division 2 Cup game against Chelsea, and obviously we played the first leg at the ground, and that was an incredible memory to go and sit in the changing room and put your kit on. And then you’d come out of the old tunnel at the old west stand and play on the pitch. Following that we played West Ham in a two legged final and the first leg was at White Hart Lane, and again we won that one-nil, and then we went up to Upton Park which was a great experience to play there. We actually lost that second leg one-nil, and we had the replay the following week at Cheshunt, and that was in 1975 and so West Ham had just won the FA Cup and so there was a lot of people at Cheshunt for that game, and eventually we beat them one-nil. So probably those three games are probably the three games that stand out the most as far as me being at Tottenham.
During your time at Wingate you played under a number of former Spurs players. What was that like?
Paul: That was great and I got on great with all of them, and they obviously knew my background a little bit, so I would say that I got a little bit of special treatment from the old lads like Tommy Harmer and Terry Dyson, who were fantastic. Then obviously when Paul Miller and Joe Kinnear came down that was great, and I knew Paul anyway. And also there was Micky Dulin, who had obviously been at Wingate for a long time, but I got on great with all of them. We even had George Graham down there at one time, and he was there for about a year, just before he took over at Arsenal. As he was doing some work at QPR and one of the people at Wingate who knew him quite well got him to come down to Wingate.
Who was the toughest player that you have ever came up against?
Paul: Vinnie Jones. He used to play for Bedmond who were in the South Midlands, and we used to play against them. This was obviously before he went to Wimbledon. But other than that nobody really stands out, but I suppose that I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned him if he hadn’t have been the Vinnie Jones who ended up playing at Wimbledon. But I can’t say there was anybody when I was at Tottenham who I used to play against that was really difficult to play against.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Paul: I was close to Barry Pace, because I knew Barry before I had went to Tottenham. But there were other players who I used to play against that I used to know, such as Billy Porter who used to play for Leyton Orient. But at Tottenham me and Barry Pace used to meet at Liverpool Street on a Saturday morning and then get on the train to Cheshunt, as we used to live near each other.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Paul: Looking at it as a supporter now and the experience that you think you’ve now gained over the years, I would say just do the best you can. It’s a totally different game now and what you need to make it as a pro, especially at a club like Tottenham, but it’s difficult as a youth player to break into any team. I look at somebody like Harry Kane, and I’d be one of the first to admit that when he first came into the side that there was no way that you would ever think that he was going to be the player that he has turned out to be. But he’s obviously worked very, very hard and he’s obviously very dedicated, and I think that his hard work is paying off for him, and so for me he is the perfect example for any young footballer trying to break into the first team. I remember seeing Wayne Rooney play at 15 against the Tottenham youth team when Everton came to White Hart Lane, as a friend of mine called Michael Stone was coaching the Tottenham youth team. He invited me down to the game and I remember him saying to me before the game that Everton have this player who is 15, and to keep an eye on him. You knew straight away that he was going to be a top player, and he scored two goals that night and he just stood out. I also remember watching Gascoigne as well at a young age, but you would never say that about Harry Kane, whereas with Gascoigne and Hoddle you knew. Certain players you look at and you think that he’s got it, but not with Harry Kane. So I would say to any young player to look at Harry Kane.
After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?
Paul: I went there as a supporter and I remember not long after I left that Glenn Hoddle had made his debut and Spurs got relegated, and I think that I only missed two games that season, home and away. Me and a group of friends used to go everywhere, and in one particular game we turned up away to Bolton and we were a couple of tickets short. We were sort of standing around when the Spurs coach turned up and Glenn got of the coach and we had a chat, and he asked me if I was alright for tickets, and I said that actually we need a couple. He said to come back in ten minutes, and he actually sorted us out a couple of tickets. I remember going into the hotel and seeing Peter Shreeves, who was the manager, and we used to have a chat. But listen Tottenham is my club and will always be my club, no matter what happens.
Stephen John Perryman (M.B.E.) is Spurs’ most successful ever player, and the former Spurs man from west London who wrote his name into the history books of Tottenham Hotspur during a 19 year spell with the club as a player, was someone who had one of the best footballing brains in England during his time as a footballer. His anticipation of situations in games, his tenacity and energy on the pitch, as well as his ability to pick a pass and keep the ball moving, were all first class attributes of his. Always one step ahead of the game as a player, regardless of whether he was playing in midfield or in defence, Perryman’s reading of the game and defensive organisation skills more than made up for the fact that he was never one of the quickest players on the pitch. Rarely missing a game for Spurs since he stepped up to play for the first team, the Londoner was the complete captain, who had the respect of every player that he played with at Spurs. Without doubt Spurs’ most successful ever homegrown player, Steve Perryman won two FA Cups, two League Cups and two UEFA Cups during his time at the club as a player. Joining the club as an apprentice back in 1967, Spurs’ all time record appearance holder endeared himself to the Spurs faithful during that time, and still to this day the Spurs fans have a massive amount of respect and gratitude for one of their own. After leaving Spurs in 1986, Steve Perryman played for Oxford United, before becoming player-assistant manager and later player-manager at Brentford. Since then Steve has held roles of which included being manager of Watford, assistant manager to Ossie Ardiles at Spurs, a successful spell managing Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, and also being director of football at Exeter City.
I recently had the absolute privilege and pleasure of interviewing Steve about his legendary association with Spurs as a player. From those early days as a youth player at the club, to captaining the side to major silverware. If you haven’t already read Steve’s fantastic book which is called A Spur Forever, then I would highly recommend that you purchase a copy. Even if you are not a Spurs fan, as you will still thoroughly enjoy reading it.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Steve: In general it would be going over to the field or the park, or in the road outside of our house, as we lived in a cul-de-sac. There were not a lot of cars around in those days and there wasn’t too many of us. And my brothers were actually responsible for getting us a park as we only had a field to go to, and so they went around the next estate and turned the field into a park, which is Lime Tree Park in Northolt. So that was my earliest memories which was playing with my older brothers and older kids, but not always, although they were usually my brothers age. And then I played football for my school which was never easy as you’re playing against bigger, tougher, stronger boys.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Steve: So I had relative success at primary school level, and for instance I was in the district team a year early, and if you got into the team you were a good player, but if you got into the team a year early, then you were a very good player. I managed to be good enough to get into the team in my fourth years, but I then dropped completely out as I got into a basketball playing grammar school, and I followed my two brothers to one of the local grammar schools. Of course I was going to follow my brothers as I could share their blazers and stuff, but anyway I dropped out of the football scene. Although my brother wrote to a couple of clubs like Brentford and Reading and at 13 years of age I had trials, but I had no backup and I wasn’t going in there with any real confidence, as when you’re young you don’t know that you’re a good player. But anyway you would go to a trial situation, and I think that I went on trial to Chelsea because they had a lad called Steve Skoulding who joined Chelsea as an apprentice professional, and he was from our school. My dad and my brothers asked him if there were any trials at Chelsea and if so then to let us know. So I just turned up at Stamford Bridge and there was about 60 kids there, and then when they read out all of the names of everyone that had been invited, they said had they missed anyone? So I said me! As I had been invited but they had just missed me off the list, and so they asked me where I played? And I said inside-forward, and so they said that they had plenty of them but they said could I play left-back? So I said yeah. But that was not successful, and it was not until my last year at school that I got put into the district trials again, because of the new sports master.
I got into the Ealing District team, and then eventually throughout that year I progressed into Middlesex, London and England. But on my very first game for Ealing against Harrow the chief-scout at Spurs (Charlie Faulkner) scouted me. Instead of scouting a professional game in the afternoon he came around our house and he invited me to training. My eldest brother Ted, sort of believed in me the most, and Charlie Faulkner had asked me to sign this form to come to training, but Ted said no, he doesn’t have to sign that form. How he knew that I do not know, because I would have been 14, and therefore Ted would have been 18 and so I don’t know how an 18 year old knew the rules, I don’t know. I couldn’t understand it as no one was asking me to go training and this was Tottenham Hotspur, and although I had never been to a Tottenham game I was obviously aware of Bill Nicholson and the double team, and all that went with that. So anyway Ted was right and I could go training without signing this form but I did go training, and as my sort of schoolboy career progressed I ended up being the only England Schoolboys player who wasn’t signed to a club. So the interest in me was huge but ironically I never ended up signing for the team who knocked on the door first, and the decision on why I went to Tottenham was on how they treated me, and how they treated my family. And I’m talking about respect and not money, but that was down to Bill Nicholson, who had his finger on the pulse of everything that happened at that club. He even visited my house at least twice during that year and he was also writing letters to us, and of course Charlie was backing all of this up as chief-scout.
Charlie in fact was new to the job and I suppose that I was his first sort of signing as such, and Charlie didn’t live a million miles from us and so and he was always around the house. You never know what would have happened if you went somewhere else, and the contenders were West Ham and QPR, and QPR were because I was local and I used to enjoy watching them play in the old Third Division. And if I wasn’t at QPR then I was at Brentford following my two brothers, but West Ham were because of Hurst, Moore and Peters, and also my brother Ted was a a bit of a Ron Greenwood fan. But when it came down to it Bill Nicholson was the man and he was honest, and I said to someone the other day that the love for his club just shone through every pore in his body. And that was a convincing sell, and he wasn’t very praiseworthy and said it like it was, and so I thought that with someone like that then you are going to have a chance.
What was it like adapting to being at Spurs during those early days as a young player. And what was it like to have so many top clubs wanting to sign you as a schoolboy footballer?
Steve: So the minute you sign for someone else then you forget about all the other clubs, and I forgot about most of them (it was only between three) as I knew that I was never going to live in digs somewhere up north. Adapting was difficult, it was strange, it was four hours travelling (two hours there, and two back), and it was tough physical, stressful, and you had to do your bit, work-wise and playing-wise. So you were taking in all of this new information, which is why you joined a club led by Bill Nicholson, and they certainly didn’t fall all over you because you were a good player, because they were all good players. Certainly the younger group of the club maybe thought that I was an England schoolboy who thought that I was better than everyone else, but I certainly wasn’t that. But the fun part was when you were training and when you were playing, and that gets you through the moments where you think what am I doing. I was thinking this is tough, I was falling asleep on the train and missing my station which was Northolt and ending up at West Ruislip, which was about five past where I should have got off. I also got an injury which was a bad back and I missed about six months of my development, and although it was the same as everyone else, the treatment wasn’t great in them days. For some reason the medical thing with injuries hadn’t moved on but thankfully I had all my injuries early on in my career, and not later on. So I had got a bad back and was having to spend all of these hours on a train, and also sweep the gym, and spend time in the drying room in the summer, which was stifling hot.
So when you’re having to do all this nasty stuff that you haven’t done before and with a bad back, you were not walking properly and couldn’t walk straight and so that was testing. A lot of these days I’m hearing about people and stress and all this stuff, but forget my stress think about the people who fought in wars and were in the trenches and who weren’t fed properly. So I was the next stage of that which was nothing, but as a young person you’re thinking about your bad back. But looking back on it and if you get through all of that then it toughens you up, and you deserve a career.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Steve: With local football being QPR and Brentford, Rodney Marsh was the standout player. But there were lots of other players that I liked, like Mark Lazarus and Peter Angell and Frank Sibley, and George Francis and Jim Towers at Brentford. But at the international stage the higher class of football would have been Bobby Charlton and he was the pinnacle and the one to look up to. In terms of how he acted and played he was such a good role model, and I’m lucky enough because of my success that I have met him in later years, which is great.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Steve: Well I’ve been very lucky and I think that your career depends on your influences and at a young age I had Ted, and then when I joined Tottenham, from a managerial point of view it would have been Eddie Baily and Bill Nicholson. You weren’t dealing with them everyday as they had bigger fish to fry, but they were having a total influence over the club and that filtered down to you as an apprentice. Of course if you were playing for the England youth team then you would get a telegram from Bill Nicholson saying “ wear the white shirt of England just as proud as you would the white shirt of Tottenham, and you’ll be fine ”. But from a playing level as it’s who you’re mixing with everyday and who you are leaning from everyday, and so that would be Phil Holder. He was my age group and he seemed to do everything, and he had experience before his time and he had fighting qualities and as a competitor he had nous, and he knew how to live his life. I was from west London and I wasn’t from the east end or anything, but Phil was was just a dream for me. We traveled in together and traveled out together, and when I eventually turned pro and could drive I would pick him up at certain stations and then drop him off. So we spent hours and hours and hours together in the car, and you live off someone as competitive as him off of their words. My brother Ted made me a captain by saying that if you realise that if you help the man on the ball (your teammate) then it will help you as a player. Not that he’s got to listen to you as there is a lot of things going on in peoples head when you’re on the ball, if you’re telling them to turn or shoot or whatever. He said that they don’t have to listen to you but if you just pass on that then it makes you a better player and gives you an opinion on the game. Not because you’re a better player than them, but because none of us have got eyes in the back of our head.
What advice that is to a young schoolboy player, and it gave me such a leadership string to my bow, and you need as many strings to that bow to make you selectable. I was never a captain at school or in the youth team but people and particularly your teammates notice when you give them good advice, and if it’s good advice then they trust you, and you then give them more advice. It gives you the confidence that you’re saying the right things and so eventually when I get in the team as a 17 year old (I’m still not a captain) I didn’t have any problem to advice Jimmy Greaves that he could turn, or Gilly that he could hold it. That was part of you getting integrated into the team but if you were doing that in a flash way then that could work against you, but because I was brought up the right way I never took liberties with it no matter how good I was. So I just accepted whatever I got with good grace and tried to help those around me, and that put me in very good stead over the years.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Steve: Alan Gilzean, as Bill Nicholson put me as a room partner with Gilly. So I was taught to be humble but not listen to nonsense, and to stand up for myself. Those two things are quite hard to put together because if someone pulls you up for talking nonsense to them, then it could be because you’re flash. But stand up for yourself, be humble and listen to the advice, as the next bit of advice that someone may give you may be the best bit of advice that you’ve ever heard in your life and that can change your football life, and therefore your life. So if you’ve got too big an ego to listen to that bit of advice then you’re going to miss it, so I learnt more life things than football things at Spurs, because football is life.
Could you talk me through that 1969/70 FA Youth Cup triumph with Spurs. And also your standout memories from that cup winning campaign?
Steve: So the final was over four legs. We had a very good team, and me and Phil, and Barry Daines were in our last year in the youth team and we’d turned professional. The year below us had good players like Mike Dillon, Ray Clarke and Graeme Souness of course, and then we had a group of apprentices. So Eddie Jones who was a local lad, and people like that, but Spurs also had a group of amateurs and that’s not being disrespectful, because they were not on the professional staff. But they were as important as everybody else, as if you had a 15 year old apprentice left-back, and their best player is the right winger who has played in someone’s first team then you may lose the game because of that sort of battle. So you needed this age group of amateurs, who were attempting to do what people like Chris Hughton and Terry Naylor had done, and do enough as an amateur to then be offered professional terms later in life. Some people would say that if I’m good enough to sign apprentice then I don’t want to as they wanted to go into education as well, and therefore if they were good enough then the club would offer them the chance to play as an amateur. But we all develop at different rates, and I was in the first team at 17 at a club where you had 22 year olds who had never really played for the reserves. Because there was a team in-between which was an A team, and so in a way that was sometimes difficult to cope with, as in a way they were looking at me as if I was a favourite. But managers don’t have favourites, they have players that they trust, and if trust means that you get selected then that could be turned into you being a favourite. Well he (the manager) trusts what you do and likes what you do, and his job depends on you doing it at first team level.
If the manager doesn’t quite trust you like with Graeme Souness, who didn’t do enough to be trusted to the point where his patience ran out and he decided to go home. The timing has got to match, but at 17 and in the first team I don’t think that I was in a position to say that I was homesick or that I’d lost patience, as there was no reason for me to do that. But going back to the FA Youth Cup winning team, we were a very successful group of lads who had a very successful few years, but the pinnacle was to win the FA Youth Cup. I think that we only lost one game that year which was away at Colchester. So one week I was playing with Jimmy Greaves and Alan Gilzean, and Pat Jennings, and then the next week I’m playing with amateurs. But that’s not being disrespectful, but there were people like Bobby Wiles and John Oliver who were in that bracket and trying to do well enough to achieve a professional contract. So the expectancy level just went sky high for me as I’d just played for the first team. But I didn’t play against Arsenal on one of the last games of the season, because I was playing in the FA Youth Cup final and we wanted to win it. So that was a good decision by Bill Nicholson, but of course he wanted to beat Arsenal as well in the first team game, but managers had to make thousands of decisions everyday, and there is a mistake around every corner. But Bill Nicholson had his finger on the pulse of everything at Spurs, and of course he appointed Pat Welton, who had had success at the Little World Cup, and a lot of good players had come through his leadership in that team. Probably the first time that I was coached in an FA manner, was by Pat, as he was an FA coach. But Bill Nicholson, Eddie Baily and Johnny Wallis was more competitive, and there was 11 v 11 football, and there was a guideline of things to stick to, such as playing quick, easy and accurate.
So you were told all of these things, and I’ll never forget when Alan Gilzean had controlled the ball, that he wanted to play the ball in behind to Jimmy Robertson, past the reserve left-back Tony Want, but Jimmy was stood still. So in his eyes he had played it in behind, but Bill Nicholson had said to stop that and why did you put the ball there for? And Gilly was right, and he knew what Bill was going to say, and that was that the man off the ball makes the play. And so he said to Gilly what was he doing? And so he said that he was stood still, but Bill said to leave it to him to dictate that he makes that run, and that you have to respect that he’s the man off the ball. That’s a very simple thing but it’s so right from a managers point of view, and those lessons were gold dust for you, and you were getting those messages regularly. Sid Tickridge was our manager at weekends in the youth team, before I got into the A team with Johnny Wallis. Those messages just kept coming thick and fast, and if we played a big game such as on the pitch at White Hart Lane then Bill Nicholson and Eddie Baily would have been there along with a number of the first team players, which was great. And the players would say what a goal that you scored or well played, when we saw them in the corridors the next day. But Bill Nicholson used to have a session with us in the away dressing room, and he just used to be underlining all those messages again, such us one goes back, the next one should go forward. So there were maybe 20 of these which were the framework for which you played your game within, and he wasn’t telling you that you couldn’t do a step over, and he wasn’t telling you that you couldn’t do a trick on the ball. But if you did and you did not adhere to one of these rules then you had to watch out. They didn’t actively encourage flair but they didn’t discourage it either, as it was what the flair resulted in, and that was a very good way to manage, as you knew exactly where you stood.
Could you talk me through your memories of your first team debut for Spurs, against West Ham United in a friendly in Baltimore, in the May of 1969?
Steve: So I was very surprised to have been taken on that trip as I don’t think that I’d played a reserve team game up to that point. So I was travelling with a group of people who knew me and my face, and my name, but they didn’t really know me, although I certainly knew them. West Ham were based in Baltimore and we were visiting them, and so that was to sort of spread the name of football in that country. The game was played in a baseball stadium and the pitch included the diamond and the track where you run for the baseball was also there, so that was different. I was playing against Hurst, Moore and Peters, against the team who were managed by Ron Greenwood, who I might have joined. The similarities between the two clubs were amazingly close, and Bill Nicholson and Greenwood were great friends and I think that Bill and Eddie both went there when they left Spurs, because of the closeness of ideas. I can’t remember too much about the game but I loved it and I enjoyed it, and I ran about and I just loved being in the company of these players, and I probably did okay in the match. I was supposed to play that game and then go home, as Alan Gilzean was joining that after that game because he’d been playing for Scotland in an international game. But anyway David Jenkins had been swapped with Jimmy Robertson at Arsenal, and he was on the trip, but he couldn’t play in that Baltimore game because he had sunburn on the top of his feet. You can imagine how Bill Nicholson reacted to that and so he sent him home and I stayed, and so there’s little moments like that in your career where there is no way that they could be planned. That resulted in me having an extra opportunity, and I ended up playing every game on that tour, from Baltimore to Atlanta, and then to Toronto in a tournament playing Glasgow Rangers and Fiorentina.
I think that that trip gave Bill Nicholson the thought of me being involved in the first team at a quicker stage than he was already thinking. It was inhibited by a thigh injury, and I never got injured other than that back injury, but I had a thigh injury in pre-season and that as Bill Nicholson described, stopped me from being in the first team photo, that is sent out to every away team at the start of the season for their programme. So Bill Nicholson would say that if you hadn’t have got that injury then you would have been in that first team picture, but you never answered Bill Nicholson back. But if I’d have been braver then I would have said Bill, do you think that I want to be injured? But of course you don’t say it. So those things live with you for ever, as it’s such an important mark in your career, and that said a lot about their reaction to injuries. I remember when Bill Nicholson came into the treatment room and he would just stare at you, and then sort of end up sighing, before walking out. The message was, that if you were injured then you’re no good to me, as I’ve got to concentrate on the ones that are good for me. And I think that there’s something to be said to that.
What was it like to play for the great Bill Nicholson at Spurs. And could you talk me through the impact that he had on you making that transition from being a youth player at the club to becoming an established first team player at Spurs?
Steve: Well it was all in the preparation, and that was through the apprenticeship and the young professional, which wasn’t long in my place. It was treating you in a tough love type of way and nobody really told you how good you were. Looking back now, I was part of the squad who went to Baltimore and I was also on the list that was kept on rather than being sent home. So then I was selected in the team to play against Fiorentina and Glasgow Rangers. Alan Mullery told me that he was on an England trip and he came back having played all three games, and Bill Nicholson phoned him and said how did you get on, Alan? And so he said yeah I feel fit, and so Bill said to him to have a good rest, and also did you do well? Alan said that Alf Ramsey said that he was the best player. And Bill said that that’s great Alan, as I’ve found you’re replacement! He said who? And Bill said young Steve Perryman, and he’ll replace you one day. You can imagine Alan Mullery’s answer to that. But yet Bill Nicholson wouldn’t say that to me personally that I would be replacing Alan Mullery one day. If Bill smiled at you then you did a lap of honour, if he said well done to you then you must have played well, but it was tough love wilt everything. When I was about 21/22 I got married on a Monday in March, during the season. Bill said why are you getting married in the season for? Well I said that I wanted to leave the summer clear to rest and enjoy myself, and in the super professional Bill Nicholson’s eyes that was just so strange. Bill Nicholson also couldn’t stand long hair, and I think that the fact that I had a short haircut (I used to get my haircut by a guy who used to cut hair for the local boxers) didn’t harm my case for when I got into the first team.
Bill Nicholson truly thought that Spurs were special, and why wouldn’t he believe that, as they had been great to him. And he had been great for them as well.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the Tottenham youth teams and reserves?
Steve: I remember when I played a reserve game for Spurs in front of probably 200 people away at Crystal Palace, and I think that we won about seven-nil. It was known that I was going to leave the club, and so I assume that people had come to look at me, to see if my legs had gone, or if my attitude was bad. As how’s he going to cope playing for the reserves, after 866 games playing in the first team. But I absolutely loved it, because I was surrounded by young players who wanted to learn and who wanted to thrive. They were at the same stage as me all those years ago, and they wore the white shirt of Spurs with some pride and passion, and they would listen to me as I was the captain of the club. They weren’t worried that I had one foot out the door, and so how could I be arrogant and flash, and think that I don’t deserve to be in this team? I’ve never understood why a player who is out of the team for whatever reason (mostly injury) would not want to play for the reserves to get back to fitness, to help young players improve and give advice. From the Spurs youth team there was one day that was special. As that one year I played for the youth team, the reserves, the first team and the England youth team, and how ever many games I played that year I do not know, but I don’t think that I had one midweek off. During this year the Spurs youth team were playing a final against West Ham at Cheshunt, and I’d have been training with the youth team at Cheshunt the day before and nobody had told me that I was involved in this youth final. Maybe I should have asked the question, but you can’t have it both ways, and I wasn’t told that I was needed for this game and therefore it was a day off. It was difficult training and playing in the first team and you needed your rest, but anyway I got a phone call from Pat Welton asking me where I was. I said that I was at home and so he asked me what I was doing at home, as I had been picked to play.
No one had told me that I was in the squad, which can happen as coaches have a lot to think about, and a lot of planning to do, and I was in two teams. I had to knock on next doors door, as my brother was at university and my dad was working, and so there was no one who could drive me to Cheshunt. But I eventually got a next door neighbours son who wasn’t into football to take me, and by the time that I’d got to Cheshunt I went into the changing room and got changed and I got put on for the second half. Spurs were either two or three-nil down. I’m not the player, unlike Souness or Jimmy Neighbour who can change a game like that, but anyway we got a goal and we were back in the game and in the end we ended up winning three-two or four-three. But it was as if I had made the difference, and in a way I did, but not the normal type of difference you know, when you come on and score four goals, as I was and never would be that type of player. So that is a game that I remember because it was so unusual for the miscommunication and how I dealt with it, and I didn’t come in and play like some superstar, I just played like I had the first time that I had played for the youth team, as a 15 year old. That was doing my best, working hard and in this situation trying to get a goal back, and not over celebrate when we got that goal, and instead get the ball back to the halfway line, and on we go again, and let’s be relentless, and in the end we won it.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which standout from your time in the Spurs first team. As well as talking about the various cup successes which you were a part of?
Steve: So it was like a whirlwind when I got into the team and all of a sudden I was playing with Jimmy Greaves, and Pat and Gilzean, who were all great people and players. Then Jimmy Greaves goes and Martin Peters arrives, and all of a sudden I’m in a new midfield with Mullery, Peters and Perryman. So wow, it’s not always great week in week out, but eventually we get to the League Cup final and we win that, and then in the following years we got to a League Cup semi-final which we lost, and then another final. It appeared to me that you didn’t have to have a great whole season to win a trophy as you just had to win various games, and if that luck came as well then it was that competition which you won, be it the UEFA Cup or the
League Cup. So it was like a whirlwind and this young Steve Perryman was just going along with it all, but they were great moments if not particularly great individual moments. I had my moments in every competition, like when I kicked the ball off the line very importantly against Aston Villa at 0-0, and I know that I did my job against Norwich. I also certainly did my job over two legs in the Wolves game, but I done more than my job in the first leg semi-final against AC Milan when I scored two goals. It was very unusual for me to have two shots at goal, let alone to score two goals, and it was very unusual to shoot the ball under eight foot for me, and twice as well! So you’re basically doing your job and some weeks you’re doing it surprisingly well. But then there was relegation in the mid 1970s and life goes into a depression because your great club that you’ve been loyal to is now not signing great players, like we have had in the past, and so we were signing second and third rate players. So the club just goes from bad to worse and that is a bad thing to cope with, but when you’re talking about stress, I don’t like the word stress, but it’s all that I hear these days out of young peoples mouths.
But anyway Spurs managed to regroup and get up again and that was my favourite season as that was the season that was the pinnacle for me, in terms of me showing my ability. Because I went to the back and just brought the ball out and set Hoddle free and McNab free, and John Pratt free, as well as the overlapping full-backs. It sounded like I didn’t make a mistake but I didn’t make many mistakes, but from being a worker/runner I sort of returned to my youth of having a freedom, because of lack of pressure, in terms of having an immediate opponent. I just flourished with this freedom of playing, and this is why today I get so disappointed with how clubs don’t play the ball out of the back good enough. There is too many square passes and there is no one going between two players and running forward between the two, and that very rarely happens, and I think that’s where England lost out to other countries, as they could do it to us in such a way. But that season was a particularly good year and we managed to get out of the division and eventually sign Ossie and Ricky and get a really good team together, and have the purple patch of seven games in 18 months at Wembley. I can’t distinguish really between all of them, but Ricky Villa’s goal and the way that we were leading and losing and then get back and win it, and then get back on the stage. I led that team down and I led them up again, and now I was leading them at Wembley and was going to pick the cup up. That was the greatest day of your life, the greatest! And so they were the sort of highlights but of course I missed out on the 1984 UEFA Cup final at Tottenham, but you know what I sampled it against Wolves, and I know what that crowd can do to a team. Yes they can be critical and they’ll let you know if they are not happy, but when the crunch came, they lifted us over that line.
What a night it was at the Lane, and Danny Thomas missed a penalty and they chant his name back to the halfway line. That is a special crowd and if there was one, how does the next penalty taker feel having heard the reaction to Danny Thomas, if they understood that the crowd were chanting Danny Thomas’ name. That’s the power that a crowd can have on you and don’t undersell or undervalue the power that supporters have got. The referee for the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup cost me my appearance in a final, and you know what the Anderlecht players all apologised to me after the game, even though I thought that they were apologising for celebrating my second yellow card in that tournament. But I consoled myself that we had won the final and that I had already done it against Wolves.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Steve: I just didn’t really get on with the chairman at the time, and it was becoming a different club to the one that I had joined. My legs had ran out and so I wasn’t worthy of a new contract and so I do understand that, but I’ve never understood how Tottenham say goodbye to players, as it’s ridiculous. So I went to Oxford United who were trying to stay in the top division with a capacity crowd of 6,500 at the Manor Ground. We managed to stay up, and I ended up moving on as assistant manager/player to Brentford under Frank McLintock, and I eventually took over from Frank. Then after a couple of years I moved onto Watford, and then Ossie gave me the chance to come back to Tottenham as his assistant, and the club was now totally not the one that I knew. It was almost a different club with different ethics and different ways, and of course the game becomes more of a business as time carries on. But do not tell me that Bill Nicholson wasn’t a businessman, but he was a football man first, with an eye on the business. Some of the chairmen when I was involved with Spurs did not trust anyone, and if that was to do with football then that is a disgrace. So anyway I moved onto Japan after some time in Norway, after Ossie had offered me the chance to join him in Japan, which I did, for the experience and adventure. We were very successful in Japan, individually and as a pair, but eventually I came back to England for a while, before getting another job in Japan, which I took up. I eventually returned after 2002 and decided that I didn’t want to work for any businessman again, who had enough money to tell me what to think about football. So we moved down to Devon, and I helped Exeter City who were in dire financial straits, and I worked for them for nothing for four years, before starting to turn it around and starting to put the youth policy into action.
Exeter City eventually got back in the league and spent many good years there, and then supporters wanted to tell me what to think rather than chairmen of football, and that was when I decided that that was enough for me. But I’m delighted to see some of the former players like Ollie Watkins doing well, and the club now is in a very healthy position in terms of money, and that was done by hard work. The owners kept a distance, but when the supporters trust didn’t want to keep a distance anymore then that was enough for me.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Steve: It was wonderful, with great people. If you have supporters, the club and it’s players and then you have the people in-between who are supporters and they live local and they work for the club. Like the groundsman, office staff and the scouts, and that group of people were top football people, and I remember that I used to go in the local cafe, and the groundsman used to go in there. One would say are you ever going to have a shot on goal, Steve? And that was just gold. No one ever speaks of those people, like the laundry lady, the tea ladies and the lady at the training ground who made the lunches, and the groundsman at Cheshunt and his wife, those people are what Tottenham is about. Of course it’s about Jimmy Greaves and Gilly and Pat, and all those greats, but we were all one, together. That’s my abiding memory of Tottenham, and as I just described what they (the supporters) did to get us over the line at Wembley and against Wolves, when the team and the supporters are one then you’ve got something, and that’s a force that can’t be reckoned with. I’ve seen some highs and I’ve seen some lows, and relegation is a low, but if I’d have changed clubs and I’m sure that I would have met good people at the other clubs, but I wouldn’t have met as many good people that I met at Tottenham Hotspur.
You returned to Spurs during the early 1990s to serve the club as assistant manager to Ossie Ardiles. What was that like and could you talk me through your memories from your time in that role?
Steve: Awful! Football was not the most important thing anymore and it was about making money and it was not good, and it was not the club that I joined. It was not what I believed that the football club should be. When I was sacked I was absolutely delighted as I did not want to be surrounded by these people who were in control and have to listen to their nonsense. They could not teach me one thing about football or life. I’m a great believer in respect for football, respect for the players and respect for supporters. So it was a very sad time for both Ossie and me, and that’s why I’ll never ever criticise managers, as you don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. Spurs had to pay me and Ossie to leave the club, which I’m not proud of, but that’s the rules. And for us to then go and do what we did in Japan, they should be ashamed of themselves.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Steve: Picking the cup up in 1981. I led the team down and I led them up, but to be serious you have to win a trophy and the FA Cup is a serious trophy, and that was a serious victory with a lot of style and richness about us. I’m truly, truly proud of that. The second year was good but it didn’t feel as good.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Steve: That’s a difficult one, as how do you judge a saver of goals like Pat Jennings to Jimmy Greaves, a scorer of goals? How do you judge a Glenn Hoddle, who played it his way and delivered the ball and then George Best who did his stuff? But I’m just proud that I played with and against some of the best players of all time.
Who was the toughest player that you ever came up against?
Steve: I think in tough in terms of a competitor it was Bryan Robson. I remember saying in a magazine interview that this player was going to be a superstar, and without being like a George Best or a Glenn Hoddle, he was in his own way. And that was in terms of drive, energy, power and desire. He was the toughest player that I ever played against, and I don’t mean that in a nasty way.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Steve: Phil Holder is still to this day my best friend in football. I had a closeness in play with Glenn Hoddle. Alan Gilzean was another one, as I roomed with him and he was like a father figure to me, and also Pat Jennings in terms of respect. I respect Pat’s career and what he stands for, and maybe he would say the same about me. We had a mutual respect.
You were the captain of Spurs for many years but you’re also the clubs record appearance holder during your 19 years at the club as a player. What do you put that down to?
Steve: That is a bit of luck, and also being a stopper of goals who could help turn a team to be in a position to make the goals. And that’s what a good captain does and he helps to set the scene. I had a football brain for sure and I had a football desire, and a desire to keep learning, and also a competitiveness.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Steve: Be humble, keep listening to football people, never forget that the most important people in football are supporters, and enjoy what you are doing.
After all these years and a 19 year association with Spurs as a player, how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?
Steve: Yes. It wasn’t before I joined but the moment that I walked into the club I knew that it was something special. Bill Nicholson was a special man and it’s no surprise that he made a special club. I love it when Spurs win and I don’t like it when they lose, and I love the style of Tottenham over the years, which all comes down to Bill Nicholson, from my knowledge. I’m proud of what Tottenham stands for, and if I can be labelled Spursy, then I’m proud to be that, because that attaches me to the great Tottenham Hotspur.
In my latest Spurs Academy player article I will be focusing on central midfielder Michael Craig, the identical twin brother of Matthew Craig, who I wrote about recently. Barnet born footballer Michael Craig (capped by Scotland as high up as Under 17 level) made his debut for the Spurs Under 18 side as a schoolboy towards the end of the 2018/19 season. Michael came off the bench in a 2-0 league win over Reading, and he would also make an additional appearance for the Spurs Under 18 side, in a 4-0 league win over Fulham. The midfielder registered an assist in that game, and he impressed during his 22 minutes on the pitch. Craig would sign scholarship forms with Spurs for the start of the following 2019/20 season, and he even started for a Spurs XI in a pre-season friendly against Enfield Town, in the August of 2019. In that game Michael put in a really mature performance in central midfield, and he had a calming presence in the centre of the pitch, was tidy with the ball and also made some impressive and well weighted forward passes. A midfielder who can play either as a number four or eight, Craig actually started the season with Spurs’ Under 18 side by playing right-midfield, in a league game against Fulham. Michael started and completed the full 90 minutes of the next three competitive Under 18 matches, impressing in all three. However, shortly after a 4-0 league win against Swansea City in the late August of 2019, Michael sustained an injury which would rule him out for the rest of that 2019/20 season (he registered one assist from his four competitive appearances). Michael spent over a year out injured and he only returned to competitive games for Spurs during the September of last year, when he came on as a late substitute in a 2-0 home Under 18 league win over Arsenal.
Despite spending such a long time out injured, Michael Craig gradually established himself as a key player for Matt Taylor’s Spurs Under 18 side during the season just gone, getting a lot of game time for Spurs at that level. Michael made 20 competitive appearances for the Spurs Under 18 side in the 2020/21 season, contributing with five assists and one goal at that level. Michael also stepped up to play for the Spurs Under 23 side on two occasions, which was fully deserved. The midfielder impressed in both his Premier League 2 appearances against Derby County and Manchester United respectively. And in that Manchester United game in particular Craig really made a big impact on the game. Playing as a number four, he stayed close to Manchester United’s very creative CAM Hannibal Mejbri, and he got stuck in, and was assured in what he did in the central areas of the pitch. The then second year scholar who recently signed his first professional contract with Spurs (it runs until 2023), also registered an assist in the game against Manchester United (Spurs won 3-0). After a really good season of progress for Michael I am predicting for him to become an important regular for the Spurs Under 23 side during the 2021/22 season. So what type of midfielder is Michael? He is a technical one, who tends to play as a more advanced midfielder than his brother Matthew, who is more deep-lying, whereas Michael likes to advance forward with the ball more. He has shown that he can add a good number of goals and assists, and that he is more than capable of dictating play and running things in the centre of the park. Very good at winning possession both in the central areas of the pitch and also in the final third, as he demonstrated in the Spurs Under 18’s 6-1 league win over Chelsea during the 2020/21 season, when he put in a very good performance (registering another assist as well).
In that game against Chelsea at Cobham, Michael Craig pressed really well and he closed down the Chelsea players very effectively, and used the ball to great effect when he had it at his feet. Like Matthew, Michael is good at keeping the ball moving in the central areas of the pitch, and he makes intelligent decisions on the ball, and often with little time to think. He is a creative midfield player who has fine vision, and has the ability to make a highly effective and well weighted threaded pass in the final third. Like his brother Matthew, Michael Craig is a player destined for a bright future in the game in my opinion, and he is a player I look forward to hopefully seeing a lot more of for the Under 23’s next season. I would like to congratulate him on a great 2020/21 season for Spurs.
Previously of Watford, prior to joining Spurs as a schoolboy, versatile young footballer Matthew Craig was a regular and important player for Spurs’ Under 18 side during the season just gone. Like his twin brother Michael, Matthew is about to become a first year professional with the club (beginning at the start of the 2021/22 season), as he recently signed his first professional contract with them, which runs until 2023. The former Dame Alice Owen’s School pupil was a county cup winner and 1,500m district champion during his school days, and Matthew Craig has also represented Scotland at youth level, and he played for them at the 2018 Victory Shield. Obviously over the course of the last 2020/21 season I haven’t seen anywhere near as much of the Spurs Under 18 side as I would have in previous seasons when I would report on every game, home and away. However, and while part of this piece on Matthew Craig is based on watching the Barnet born footballer play during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, I still feel as if I have watched more than enough of Matthew for Spurs, to be able to write this short piece on what type of player he is. A central midfielder by trade, Matthew Craig (18) first made his Spurs Under 18 competitive debut back in the 2018/19 season. When the then schoolboy footballer came off the bench in the same game that his brother also did, to help Spurs to defend a two goal lead against Reading, away. Matthew did well in that game, and then a couple of weeks later he came off the bench again for the Spurs Under 18 side in a league game Aston Villa. Signing scholarship forms with Spurs for the start of the 2019/20 season, Matthew showed his versatility during the early stages of that season, playing at right-back and centre-back.
Putting in two really good and assured performances against Norwich City and Swansea City in central defence at the beginning of the competitive season, Matthew Craig followed this up by playing in his main position of CDM for the next game against West Ham. However, an injury sustained in the following game against Southampton at their Staplewood training ground ruled him out until the January of 2020, with Craig eventually returning to play in a league game against Brighton as a substitute. He played three further competitive games for Matt Taylor’s Spurs side, playing well in all three. But his best game for Spurs that season came in the final one, just before the season was curtailed, when Matthew registered two good assists in a 6-1 league win over Southampton at Hotspur Way. The next season (2020/21) the midfielder played 23 competitive games for Spurs’ Under 18 side, often alongside his twin brother Michael in central midfield, but Matthew would have almost certainly have played in every competitive game for the Spurs Under 18 side that season, but for missing the final games of the league season, presumably because of injury. He established himself as an important member of Matt Taylor’s side during the season just gone, and getting such a good amount of games will do him good for next season, when he steps up permanently to the Under 23 side. So what type of player is Matthew Craig? Well when he plays as a central defender (RCB) the midfielder has always impressed me whenever I have seen him play there. He keeps good positioning and is particularly good at making blocks, as he showed in the FA Youth Cup fourth round tie against AFC Wimbledon early in the year. His fine reading of the game also helps him to play well at centre-half, as well as his ability on the ball to bring it out from the back.
As a midfielder Matthew plays usually as a number 4, and he is more deep-lying than his brother Michael, who likes to get forward more. An intelligent and tigerish midfield player who likes to watch Harry Winks play for Spurs, Matthew is very good at anticipating the play and he works very hard off the ball, covering a lot of ground during matches, thanks to his great stamina. With good passing ability, the midfielder is good at keeping the ball moving in the central areas of the pitch, just like somebody like Harry Winks does, for example. Never overcomplicating things when he is on the ball, Matthew has a calming presence about him on the pitch, but he is also a tenacious player despite not being the biggest of players. Good at making challenges and getting in front of opposing teams players at the vital moment, one thing that Craig does which I really like is that he is so often looking to make that forward pass whenever he receives the ball. However, most importantly he is a very consistent performer and a reliable player, who looks to have a very bright future ahead of him in the game. And he is at a great club for producing defensive minded midfielders. I would like to wish Matthew all the very best of luck for next season, when I hopefully will see him play again on a regular basis. He should be proud of all that he has achieved during the season just gone.