My interview with former Spurs player Glenn Poole:

Barking born ex-footballer Glenn Poole was a talented and determined goalscoring midfield player who would enjoy a very long career in the game. Poole joined Spurs as a 12 year old and he stayed at the club until he was 18, and during that time he played mainly for the Spurs youth teams in the South East Counties League, but he also did play for the reserves on occasions. A youth player at Spurs during the 1990s, Glenn Poole was part of a talented Spurs age group of which included Ledley King and Peter Crouch. After leaving Spurs in the late 1990s Glenn Poole played for a number of clubs, of which includes Yeovil Town, Brentford, AFC Wimbledon and Billericay Town. Now retired from the game, Glenn runs his own soccer school –  the Glenn Poole Soccer Academy. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Glenn about his time at Spurs, which was over 20 years ago. 

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Glenn: I remember playing my very first game for a team called Crystal Boys, and I remember playing over at a college in Redbridge. We won 4-2 and I scored two goals, and I can remember the kit and my number which was 11, and that was fitting as that’s what I ended up wearing at Brentford. So that was my first sort of football memory which was when I was about six years old.

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

Glenn: My first memory at Spurs was actually going to watch an FA Floodlit quarter-final against Norwich, and we (my mum and dad) just went into the ground (White Hart Lane) and enquired about a soccer school which is like what I do now, and it was a Tottenham in the community one. They told us where the venues were and asked me what my name was and I obviously said Glenn Poole, and they said that that name rings a bell, and they elaborated on it before saying that they’d been watching me. So they asked me if I wanted to train with them until the end of the season and just take it from there, and that’s what I did and luckily at the end of that season I got signed on for a year and it just progressed from there. I remember going into the ball court up at the old stadium and just training with the other players, and being a Tottenham fan as well it was just unbelievable. And never did I think that I’d end up representing the club as an apprentice.

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

Glenn: When I was young Ryan Giggs was somebody who I looked up to, but from a Tottenham point of view I’m named after Glenn Hoddle and so he was a big inspiration. I saw one of his last games for Spurs against Oxford United, when he dummied Peter Hucker and just slotted it in the goal, and I remember going to that game. We went to two games in that week, and we went to a game against Charlton (my first ever game) just before the FA Cup final in 1987 and we won 1-0, and then my dad took us to a game again the next week as well, and we saw them win 3-1. So Glenn Hoddle was a big influence on me and watching videos of him he was just unbelievable, and he was ahead of his time and just such a gifted footballer. Then growing up and as I was getting older and developing in the game and playing for Tottenham as an apprentice, my favourite player was David Beckham. I totally related to his game as I wasn’t the fastest wide player and I relied on my technique and my crossing ability, rather than getting the ball and dribbling past five players and then crossing a ball. So David Beckham was kind of like myself, as he could play out wide or play as a central midfielder as well, and so he was a big inspiration for me growing up. For me one thing that stood out with him was his work rate and it was unbelievable, and he was also a dead ball specialist and I used to focus on them as well.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Glenn: When I first went to Spurs I actually started off as a left-back, as that was where I played for my Sunday team, district team and school team. I went there essentially as a left-back but then I remember playing a game for an under 15/16 side against a full Wingate & Finchley team (first team). I remember that Bobby Arber sort of called me over and gave me a shirt, and I looked and it was number ten and I thought ok. So he played me in central midfield against a men’s team and I was quite small at that time, but at the end of the game Bobby called my dad over and asked him how tall did he reckon I would grow and how tall are his grandparents, because what he did tonight was fantastic. What he said that he really loved was that the goalkeeper Gavin had the ball between his hands, and I went between the two centre halves to get the ball after Gavin had rolled it out. Bobby was a big believer in me and he was hard at times with me, and I wasn’t a very strong tackler and I wasn’t as physically imposing as some of the other lads, and so he was only hard at times with me looking back, because he rated me. He tried to convert me into a central midfielder but I did play out wide a little bit, and I played out wide in the FA Youth Cup games when I came on, but the majority of the time I was playing in central midfield.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Glenn: We had some great coaches and Colin Reid was one of the first coaches that I ever had at Spurs, and Colin was technically a fantastic coach and he’s still doing wonders with his coaching career now. Des Bulpin was the youth team manager at the time and he was fantastic with me and he was very, very welcoming to me. Bobby Arber was one who really, really believed in me and like I said he was hard with me at times, and I remember once we were doing a football session and he tackled me really hard, and so I was a bit embarrassed and a bit confused as to why. But then looking back at it now he was doing it to try and toughen me up, because ability wise I was confident in what I could do, but it was just physicality that sort of held me back a little bit. I think that Bobby was trying to get that nasty streak out of me, and eventually it does come out of you as a player when you get older but Bobby was a big inspiration to me. He always showed faith in me, even when I’d been officially released, and I remember that we went to Holland for a postseason tour and I literally hadn’t played all season, and then he said that I was going to play. And I did play for most of the tournament and I did so well, and I remember we played against Celtic and I did so well and we beat Celtic. I also think that we beat Ajax but I definitely remember that we beat Celtic and afterwards one of the Celtic coaches asked Bobby who I was, as I had played quite well. Then at the end of the tournament Bobby said to me in front of all of the squad that I know that you’ve been released but you’re coming back in pre-season. So I was like ok, as I had already been released and went to the exit trials up at Lilleshall, and also had clubs messaging me to see if I’d like to go on trial.

So I thought this was great and so I’d put other clubs like Yeovil off and also Barnet, as I was thinking that I was going back to Spurs. But Bobby Arber was a big, big influence on me and he did believe in me, so I was grateful for that.

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

Glenn: Any chance to watch the first team was great, and as I say I was a Spurs fan and so I was there watching great players, the same players that I had pictures up on my wall of. Jurgen Klinsmann was a massive hero of mine from being at Spurs the first time, and then when he came back there I was cleaning his boots and picking his kit up. David Ginola when I used to watch him was just unbelievable as a player, and also an unbelievable bloke as he dropped us off at the train station a few times. I remember when there was a couple of us on first team duty, and David Ginola was out there practicing free-kicks and then after we had collected all the balls, we were then out there practicing free-kicks as well. And he stayed out with us for another half an hour watching us, and I remember that he said to me that I had fantastic technique, and so that for me was just unbelievable. So David Ginola was one, and watching him in that season in his prime, was incredible. I also remember that at at times I would help out in drills with Rory Allen and Stephen Clemence with Chris Hughton, and I was in goal and I loved it, and I was diving around wearing big Pat Jennings’ gloves. But in terms of influences Stephen Clemence was one, and I remember that when I came on to make my Spurs reserve team debut, Stephen came off. And he gave me a big cuddle as he was going off, and he said go and enjoy it and you’ve got a few extra quid, as you used to get a little bit extra for making a reserve team appearance. Justin Edinburgh was quality as well with us and he actually ended up being my manager at Grays and he was always good with me, and also Les Ferdinand and Ruel Fox and Chris Armstrong were all good lads. When you used to go into the changing room they’d give you a bit of banter and you’d walk in all shy but they’d try and encourage you. 

As a Spurs fan those memories at Spurs are something that I will never ever forget, regardless of went on in my career.

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

Glenn: I mean you never want to leave but it’s just one of those things, and as I say I went back that summer for pre-season as Bobby had told me to come back, and so I followed the instructions and came back. I was there for two weeks and then Peter Suddaby asked me to come into his office and he said what are you doing here? I was like well Bobby’s told me to come back, but basically he said well Bobby’s not in charge, I am. But I think that Bobby was in charge of the reserve team the year before, when there was a bit of a structure change and it was because of him that I got involved with the reserve team. So I said to Peter Suddaby that’s fine and I’ll go then, and that was when they signed two Italian players, for what they maybe could have offered me, but I ended up leaving. I had spoken to Yeovil and even though I had put them off a little bit they ended up offering me a three year deal, and at the time I was playing some games for Witham Town in the Ryman League just to get games and a bit of money. Anyway a guy had spoken to John Moncur Senior at Spurs, and he said that he was the best technical player that we’ve had at Spurs for a long time, but physically he’s not up to it yet. So anyway I ended up signing for Yeovil for three years when they were in the Conference, and I scored on my debut against Hereford, but I was in and out there for two and a half years really. I went out on loan to Bath City and played one game there before getting injured, and then I came back to Essex to play for Ford United which is now Redbridge. I moved back home when I was 20 and moved into part-time football, and I was working in a hospital when I was playing for Ford United, and thats when my career sort of really picked up motion, and that was when a guy called Craig Edwards (manager of Cheshunt) came in and I just took off. 

The work rate that Craig Edwards instilled in me was just unbelievable, and it was ironic because in his first game he left me out. But then I came in and I scored 22 goals from left-midfield in my first year, and then 30 from left-midfield in the second season, and then the season after that I ended up being transferred to Thurrock. At the end of that season I had another 25 goals before moving to Grays Athletic, who had just been promoted to the Conference, but they were full-time. Obviously being back in full-time football was what I’d always wanted and I didn’t want to be working in a hospital for the rest of my life with all due respect. My career then took off in a different way and I finished top goalscorer in my first year and we came third in the Conference and then lost in the play-offs semi-finals, but we actually won the FA Trophy and I scored in the final. There were a couple of of Football League clubs who came in for me at the end of that season but I ended up staying at Grays, and our manager went to Stevenage and wanted to take a few of us with him, but nothing ever materialised. I then ended up going on loan to Rochdale in League Two for about six weeks and at that point I’d never played in the Football League, and I thought I’ve got a chance to play in the Football League and even if I play one game you can’t take that away from me. So I went up there and played six games but I didn’t do great to be honest and it was a bit bizarre, I was also the only southerner in a northern squad, so I didn’t really settle there to be honest. But they actually wanted to sign me and they offered me a one year deal, and so I’d spoken to Dagenham and Barnet and then Brentford phoned me and the assistant manager had seen me playing in the FA Trophy when I was playing centre-midfield, and it was one of the best games that I’ve ever had. So he’d said to Terry Butcher that we’ve got to get him in, and they offered me a better deal and a bigger signing on fee, and so that’s where I ended up signing.

I signed at Brentford for two years and for 18 months of those two years it was phenomenal and in my first year again I finished top goalscorer from left-midfield. That summer I had interest from some League One clubs such as MK Dons and Leyton Orient and I even read that Leeds were looking at me but nothing ever came of it and my agent never mentioned it, but to be honest I wanted to stay unless a club was offering me unbelievable money. So I said to the Brentford manager that I wanted to stay, and he said give it a little bit of time after the season starts as I’m trying to build a team that will win the league, and then we can talk about a new deal. So I scored seven goals after 21 games and then I found that I wasn’t in the team or the squad at times which was bizarre, but that’s football. I then left Brentford and went back to Grays for a while but that wasn’t the best experience as we were struggling, and I then signed for AFC Wimbledon which is a fantastic club but it was just the wrong time for me as my heart wasn’t in it at the time. I then went to Barnet with Mark Stimson but he then got the sack and Paul Fairclough came in and said that he was going to pay me off or send me out on loan, as I’d been injured. So I thought that there was no point going out on loan so just pay me up so I can go and sign elsewhere, and that’s what I did. I went and signed for Braintree and won the league with them (Conference South) before leaving there and going back to Thurrock for a while, and then signing for Billericay. That was a fantastic time for me and I loved Billericay and it’s still such a great club with great people there, and that’s when I fell in love with football again. I signed for Craig Edwards who always, always got the best out of me along with Mark Stimson. 

We won the league that year as well (Ryman Premier) and went up into the Conference South, and that was fantastic. I stayed there for like two and a half/three years before signing for Canvey Island for a little while, which I enjoyed as the lads were good but I just wanted to go back to Billericay, as it was just such a great place. So I ended up going back there for six months before signing again for Thurrock as player-coach with Mark Stimson, and that year we got promoted (Ryan 1 North) from the play-offs at the first attempt. Then I finished off my career with Grays, going back there as a player-coach but I knew that it was the right time for me to stop because I wasn’t playing as regularly and I was 37 at the time, and the old saying is that when you get to that age you can’t do two games in a week, which I thought was not right. Because the season before at Thurrock I played 48 games as a 36 year old just turning 37, and I said that once I’m in and out of the team then that will be it for me, and I was officially player-coach but never really did any sessions. So I thought that it was just the right time, and I had met my now wife as well and we were talking about starting our own little family and I’ve also got two stepson’s as well, and so it was just the right time. I’m not going to lie I miss the game massively now but for me it was just the right time to finish, and that was nearly three years ago now.

What was your time at Spurs like on the whole?

Glenn: On the whole it was unbelievable and I don’t look back on it with any negativity, because at the end of the day the likelihood of me ever playing in the first team at Spurs was like one in a million. You look at the likes of Ledley King who was in our year, he was always, always going to make it and he was one of the best players who I’ve ever played with. You could tell when he was 14/15 when he came to Spurs just how good he was, also Peter Crouch was the same and in my opinion he was always going to have a great career. I always thought that he would have a good career in the Premier League as he was just fantastic at a young age and he just excelled, and he just got better, and better and better. And also them two were absolutely fantastic lads and even now they are the same down to earth people. But I’ve got no negativity whatsoever about my time at Spurs because it built me up a great footballing education for whatever career I was going to have and what I did have, because the footballing ethics and the professionalism and the way that you conducted yourself was instilled in me from when I first signed there as a 12/13 year old. Just watching those players and the way that they conducted themselves was just great, as well as actually being part of a club which you support and their history. Nobody will probably remember who I was at times but playing with players like John Scales, Les Ferdinand, Chris Armstrong and David Howells in that reserve team was just unbelievable. If you were to say who was Glenn Poole they’d be like who? But to me that was just so, so valuable and there’s no negativity whatsoever, and I’ll always look back on it really well as it was just fantastic. Because I could have been a trainee at like Barnet with all due respects, as that was not for me as being at Spurs was just a great environment to grow up in from when I went there as a 12 year old, to when I left there at 18. 

Me and Dean Harding got on fantastic at Spurs and we just got on really well, and we were two proper technical footballers who weren’t on the big side, and me and Dean just clicked from the first session that we had at Spurs. But there was no negativity from my time at Spurs.

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Glenn: Scoring in the FA Trophy final for Grays (we had a great team) was great, and also at Brentford winning League Two and winning Football League goal of the year for Brentford was also great. Winning leagues at Braintree and Billericay were amazing as well and to have medals on the table is always something to be proud of, and is something that I can show my son and stepsons, and also my grandchildren in the future. Winning trophies was always satisfying for me but probably the most satisfying was winning the FA Trophy final, because we had such a great team and it was a great group of lads, and it was the most enjoyable season collectively that I’ve ever had. Just to top it off I won that in front of loads of friends and family at Upton Park which was local to us, which was just fantastic.

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

Glenn: Ledley King from a teammate point of view was great and he was a teammate for so long in the youth team days, but I ended up playing against him in a friendly for Grays at Spurs Lodge. He was playing that day, and as was Luka Modric and he was just playing at half pace. I also played against Steven Gerrard in the very first FA Under 19 game and he absolutely ran the show, and even then you could tell that he was going to be a player. So from them days I would say those players.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Glenn: I remember scoring a goal in a South East Counties game on a Saturday against Bristol City at home, and it was a really, really cold day and we were losing 2-1. I remember Bobby Arber sending me on and I remember the ball came to me and I sort of like let it bounce and swivel and then hit a volley, and it went over the goalkeeper and straight into the top corner, and that was one of the games where I thought that that was decent. So that sort of built my confidence up as I was quite shy as a youngster and quiet, but that brought my confidence out. I also remember scoring a penalty against Southampton in one of the FA Youth Cup games and hitting the ball into the top corner. I also remember my first reserve game at White Hart Lane and ironically that was against Southampton as well, and we won 5-0 on a sunny day. There were a few of us younger lads there and we had to be ballboys as well and I was sitting at the Park Lane end, and I was sitting there on my own and thinking I might be getting brought on here, and there were some top players on the pitch for us. I remember Bobby Arber calling me and waving from the dugout, and it was just unbelievable and to play at White Hart Lane even though there was no one there was just something that I’d always wanted to do, and I couldn’t care how many people were there as it was just an achievement for me. And we won 5-0 and that was unbelievable, also playing in the FA Youth Cup games in front of a bit of a crowd was great. I remember coming on in a game against Walsall and I should have scored a goal but I snatched at a shot and it got cleared off the line, but I should have had a touch and slotted it in.

Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?

Glenn: I just remember one game and it was a testimonial game and I don’t really remember anyone who gave me such a hard time, but it was Damien Johnson who played for Blackburn Rovers. I remember playing left-back for Yeovil (I was 19) in this testimonial and they beat us like 10-0, and I was petrified every time that he got the ball and that was the only game in my career that I was embarrassed in, and I can’t really remember anyone else to be honest. 

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

Glenn: Me and Dean Harding were close from 12 up until 16 when he left, and we would always pair up with each other when we did drills. His dad used to speak to my dad as well and me and Dean would always sit next to each other on the coach, then growing up Wayne Vaughan who was the year above me and was the golden boy at Spurs at the time, we were quite close, and as apprentices he used to pick me up and we would drive in. David Lee is a really good lad and I used to play with him at Thurrock and I’d always see him about, also James Dormer was another one who was the year above me. In my year there was Ledley King, Peter Crouch and Gavin Kelly the goalkeeper and we all used to travel home with each other when we were on the train. Mark Arber (Bobby Arber’s son) was another one who I’ve been close to over the years, but whenever I would see someone from Spurs we would always have a chat.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Glenn: Have a fallback plan as you’re not always guaranteed to make it, and you need to work hard and not get sidetracked, also keep your feet on the floor as nothing is guaranteed, never mind a football career. You need to want to learn as I was guilty at times of thinking that I knew it all but you never do, and the book of knowledge is never full. Also don’t take things to heart at times and just have a fallback plan, and if you’re not playing games for Spurs then go out on loan and play games and learn your trade instead of being comfortable sat on decent money. And just enjoy playing because it goes so, so fast.

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?

Glenn: Like I say the experience that I had at Spurs was invaluable for me as a player, person and as a supporter, because not many Spurs fans would be in my situation. A lot of the lads when I was there supported Chelsea and Arsenal and so it might have not meant as much to them, whereas to me I’ve always been a Spurs fan and I always will be. I was there when Spurs won the Worthington Cup, and to experience that was just unbelievable, and I had so many valuable life experiences at Spurs, and it’s a club that I’ll always support even though they can really frustrate me. I also do think that if the Spurs manager gets the players that he wants in the summer then he will bring success, but as I say Spurs are a club who are still very, very important to me and it’s a club that I love and always will do.

My interview with Spurs’ former Northern Ireland scout Robert Walker:

Robert Walker was Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout from 1980 to 1994. However, Robert returned to his first love Spurs in 2008 after 7 years at West Ham and another 7 years at Portsmouth. The former scout from Lisburn in Northern Ireland had already retired from Scouting but when Redknapp asked him to join him at Spurs again, Robert just couldn’t refuse. In his two times at Spurs he would recommend many, many young and promising Northern Irish players to the club. The Northern Irishman recommended the likes of Gerry McMahon, Paul McVeigh and Steve Robinson to Spurs, and those three players would play for the Spurs first team in competitive games, as well as playing lots of times for the Northern Ireland National team, although he recommended many more players who would have very fine careers in the game, Robert is somebody who I couldn’t speak highly enough of after my interview with him. It was a real pleasure and privilege to interview Robert who is a boyhood Spurs supporter, about his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

What is your earliest footballing memories?

Robert: My first football memory would have been nothing to do with Spurs, in 1957 when I would have been 14. I went to see Northern Ireland play Italy in a World Cup qualifier and interestingly the referee was fogbound in Manchester, so there was 60,000 people in Windsor Park for the international and the referee didn’t come. So they had to play it as a friendly and it was chaotic because people had got out of work to see a World Cup match but all that they could see was a friendly. I was only a kid then and there were fights both on and off the pitch and it was just awful, So a 14 yr old seeing that was my first memory of like big time football. My second memory was probably in 1960 when I saw John White play for Scotland, and he had gone to Tottenham by then but I had seen him play before that when he was with Falkirk and playing for Scotland. I couldn’t take my eyes off him because he was such a different kind of player from anybody I had ever seen before, of course coming from Northern Ireland my hero was Danny Blanchflower, the story goes that after that game Bill Nicholson rang Danny to ask how White had played in the game and after they spoke about Whites performance, Bill Nicholson said I can sign him for £20,000 said to him to get the first train up to Edinburgh and sign him, if you can get him for that. I was kind of already a Spurs fan because of Danny but John White was just the cherry on the cake for me and obviously he was only there a year when they won the double. 

I remember that during that double winning season that I saw Spurs for the first time at Goodison Park and I think they beat Everton 3-1 and John White scored that day too, so so that made my day. After that experience my brother and I used to catch the Heysham boat at 10:30 on Friday nights, arrive at 6:30 next morning, catch a train to London at 7:00am, changing at Crewe, arriving in London around noon, then a tube to Manor House and then a bus to the Ground, queue up for an hour or so watch the game then the reverse journey home, arriving home around 9:30am Sunday morning. We did that twice a year through the sixties. I remember telling Steve Perryman that and he said that the two of us where mad. My brother Harry and I have been Spurs fans since 1960. Another memory was on the 22nd of December 1962, a Friend and I went over to see Spurs v West Ham. The whole journey to London we could not see out the windows of the train, the fog was so thick. My friend had a little radio and we could hear the games all over the country were being called off. We both felt that there was no chance of the game being played but as we came up out of Manor House tube station to our surprise there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As we went up to the ground and queued, eventually got through the turnstiles, when we were standing on the shelf it was announced through the loudspeaker that John White’s father-in-law had died (he was the then assistant manager). So one of my favourite players was out, then we found out that Blanchflower was injured, so that didn’t sit well with me, two of my favourites out of the game. Anyway we saw an amazing game. The game finished 4-4, one goal from John Smith who stood in for Blanchflower and Dave Mackay got a hat-trick, and so it was 4-4 and not a forward scored from either side. 

When we came back home we found out that loads of games in England weren’t played, so we were really lucky to see a game and to see a 4-4 was something else. We were home just a few days, on Boxing day snow started and it lasted right through to March, there was no football for months. Then the 70s came round and I saw the two League Cup finals that they won against Norwich and Aston Villa, my first two visits to Wembley. In 1978 when I was in England on business I got a train down to Southampton for the last game of the season where Spurs just needed a point to go up to the First Division, having been relegated the year before, the game was sold out, I bought a £3 ticket for £15, and £15 in those days was a lot to me, I remember thinking to myself during the game that half-time must be close, looked at my watch it was only ten past three, it was the longest ten minutes and the longest match I ever saw abs the old Dell wasn’t the nicest ground to be at either and I was also with the Southampton supporters as well. That was one game I did not enjoy, although I did enjoy the final whistle.

Did you play the game at any level? 

Robert: Well I finished off back where I had started playing, which was for my local team, Wesley Football Club. In between I played for Portadown in the Irish League for a while and that was a fairly high standard in those days, lots of players would have been transferred to England back then.

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

Robert: It’s hard to define because there’s different styles, Dave Mackay was just amazing, he could do everything. He could tackle, he could play, an inspiration, he was very impressive. Of course John White and Jimmy Greaves were two other players that inspired me, John, one of the best midfield creators I have ever seen. As a striker you couldn’t go past Jimmy, he was the best striker in the world back then. Not forgetting Cliff Jones, Mike England another two greats. I still believe to this day that if those players had come along now with the training facilities and the pitches the clubs have now, they would have excelled at the top level, great players are great players. Later on there was Perryman, Hoddle, Ardiles, Jennings, etc. Last but by no means least, the main man, William Edward Nicholson OBE

(Bill).

How did you come to be the Spurs Northern Ireland Scout?.

Robert: I saw a young player here in Northern Ireland called Paul Ferris and I recommended him to Spurs, went to see his mum and dad. They said that he could go over to Spurs for a trial but then it worked out that Northern Ireland were playing Scotland in Scotland, and Bill Nicholson went up to watch the game. I then got a letter from Mr Nicholson saying that although they weren’t going to take Paul (they had just signed Ally Dick), he was offering me the job because he thought that Paul was good enough to play at that level. Paul signed for Newcastle Utd instead and became the youngest ever debutant at 16 years and 294 days. So thanks to Paul I got the job at Spurs.

What is your earliest memory as Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout?

Robert: Going over to meet John Moncur, I think that I went over on the Friday and met him and I remember asking John to take me to a youth game as I wanted to find out what the standard of player they would be looking for. He took me to see the youth team on the Saturday morning then the first team in the afternoon, then the youngsters on Sunday morning. I was very nervous at the beginning but John made me feel at home. Then I suppose recommending my first player to Spurs, that was exciting. In those days the Club trusted the scouts, all you did back then was make a phone call saying that you’d seen a good player, Spurs would make all the arrangements to get the player over with either the parents or myself travelling with them, sometimes both. As a scout I went to games on Saturday morning and afternoon, Sunday morning as well as going to schoolboy games during the week. You can go to lots of games and you can drive all over Northern Ireland because you get people who know that you work for Tottenham, and they would recommend a player to you. You can’t afford not to go watch the player because you just never know, and you can drive for miles and miles to see a player and just be so disappointed, that happens way more often than not, because it’s such a high standard that we are looking for. But now and then this little gem comes along and it makes it all worth while because if you love football like I did and you see that little gem then it’s just great. Now that doesn’t mean that you’re going to sign him because if he’s that good then there will be a lot of scouts after the same player. So with that player it’s a matter of seeing their parents and their club, he might go to three or four clubs for trials but Spurs were always in with a shout because they treated the kids so well on the visits.

Having told me some of your early memories of being a Spurs scout could you talk me through the rest of your career as a scout for the club?

Robert: Well the first player after Paul Ferris was a kid called Ritchie Johnston who never made it, but he was in my opinion the best one of the whole lot, but he didn’t have that other ingredient that every young player needs, work ethic, dedication, whatever the word is, he was a very quiet and unassuming young player and he didn’t have a lot of luck in life as a youngster, but what a player he was. I remember taking him across to the old training ground Cheshunt and I was over with him for a week and Spurs (youth team) were playing either Gillingham or Colchester in a game. This was the first time that Ritchie was playing for Spurs in an actual arranged game and John Moncur came over to me and said that it looks like you’ve got a player there. I said to him John if I’d have wanted to bring a midfield player over then I wouldn’t have brought Ritchie as that was not the Ritchie Johnston that I know, Ritchie was dropping in deep in that game. There was a big centre-forward playing and Ritchie laid on three goals for him, that was on the Friday and then on the Sunday they were playing again. So early that morning I tried hard to convince him to be the Ritchie Johnston that I knew and I’ll always remember Cheshunt on that nice sunny morning. Spurs won the game 7-1 and Ritchie got six goals. I remember Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles were there watching as they’d got a knock on the Saturday and so they were in for treatment, after which they came out to watch the game. at the end of the game Glenn Hoddle came over to John Moncur and said where did you get that player from, as Ritchie was so good. 

In those days Spurs were one of the few clubs who had two youth teams whereas most of them only had the one, but Spurs had the two and so Ritchie was playing for the under 16 team when he was like 14, and then a year later he was playing both for the under 16 and under 18 side. So he was doing really well and then when Terry Venables came (it might have been an international break) for some reason he couldn’t take charge but anyway he had arranged a friendly with Brentford and at that stage Ritchie was about 17. It was the first ever team that Venables picked and he (Ritchie) might have been sub, but he did play in that game. Then afterwards Stephen Robinson, Gerry McMahon and Paul McVeigh came along but there were players in between that I brought across to Tottenham who signed for other clubs. I also remember when Gerry, Paul and Stephen made their first team debuts and it was such a thrill to think that you’ve done at least a little bit to make that happen, then obviously when they make their international debuts, That made me so proud.

Would you be able to tell me some interesting players that you recommended to Spurs?

Robert: The ones who got away you mean. There was David Healy (Man Utd) Northern Ireland’s record goal scorer, Neil Masters (Wolves) a really good player, Keith Rowland (West Ham), Gareth McAuley (Leicester City and West Brom), Steven Davis as a very young player was somebody who I talked to Spurs about many times but he was like eight years old then and too young to take across, and there were also many more.

What was your time at the Lilywhites like as a whole ?

Robert: It was absolutely brilliant and I was treated really well and probably only for the chairman at the time then I would probably have never went anywhere else. If you can imagine being a supporter from when you were like six years old and then getting to work for Spurs was just brilliant, and they treated me great and John Moncur was very good to me. I was going to watch games from 1980 to 1994 in the middle of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and I went into every area but for some reason I was looked after well, I like to think that football crosses all boundaries. But my time at Spurs was terrific. I’m not taking any credit for this but I was the reason along with John Moncur why Spurs (with Stephen Robinson and Nicky Barmby in the team) came to the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland as Under 16’s which they won that year. Also Spurs’ Republic of Ireland scout John Fallon and I have remained great friends from the early eighties when I had brought Ritchie over to Spurs he had brought a lad over called Tommy Fitzgerald around the same time, he was John’s first player. So that was one of those coincidences that happened, also I remain a very good friend of Gerry McKee who took over from me as Spurs Northern Irish scout

You came back to Spurs in 2008 when Harry Redknapp took over as the Spurs manager. What was it like to come back to Spurs after all those years?

Robert: It was different because the whole youth set-up had all changed. I was old school. When I was first at Spurs all I did was lift the phone and say that I had found a player, and then John (Moncur) would have arranged it all and sent me the tickets, but when I went back it was writing report after report and using new technology and all that stuff. So it had all changed and all of the people that I knew had left, but going back to my first time there, there was a story which is very important to me. When I was in John Moncur’s office one day, we were just having a chat when the door opened behind me and I got a hand on my shoulder and he said Rob would you like a cup of tea? Without even looking around I said yes thanks, and then the door closed again before opening five minutes later and Bill Nicholson was there with my tea. And I was thinking Bill Nicholson made me a cup of tea and he knew my name, how great is that. That was amazing but Bill was such a lovely man. That would never have happened when I went back because the youth system as far as the youth scouts were concerned were so far removed from the first team set up it was unbelievable. In the old days the fans used to get into the training ground to watch, when I went back as a scout I used to have to show my Spurs credentials to get in and I was working for the club. Fans do not mean anything to the big clubs now. Change for the sake of it, is not always for the best.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Robert: Well John Moncur was very good to me and I enjoyed the company of the likes of Pat Holland, Chris Hughton and Peter Shreeves as they were proper football people. Paul Gascoigne was absolutely brilliant with me and I know everybody says things about him but in my eyes he was one of the kindest people on the planet, he was also great with the young players as well. People will advise you to never meet your heroes because sometimes you can be disappointed, in saying that I’ve met two of the best people that I’ve ever met in football and one of them is Harry Redknapp and the other one is Steve Perryman. Both remain great friends to this day. They both are two of the nicest and most down to earth people you will ever meet, Steve is as honest as they come and Tottenham through and through, Steve probably was the last of the great captains. As nowadays in football I don’t think that there really are proper captains anymore and in my opinion he was the best Spurs home grown player ever, though Glenn is up there with the very best because of his skills, he was a genius. I also saw Harry Kane as a youth player the last time that I was at Tottenham as a scout about two or three times and I was not impressed at all, but he just took off, there are some late starters in the game. I admit that I never thought that he would reach the heights that he has reached, as he is absolutely phenomenal now. I choose Steve because of the 19 years that he was at Spurs, 17 with the first team and captain for 11 of those years, 854 appearances. Steve Perryman is one of the most important players ever at the club. That’s why I choose him.

What do you feel was your greatest contribution to Spurs as a scout?

Robert: I suppose the players I recommended that made the Spurs first team, it’s always about the players. The major clubs in the U.K. Always think there might be another George Best in Northern Ireland. He was a one off I am afraid to say.

Are there any memories from your time as Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout which stand out to you?

Robert: A memory which stands out was when Spurs were signing Nicky Barmby he had come over here to play against Northern Ireland Schoolboys and I kind of had to look after him for a while as John (Moncur) was having lunch with Nicky`s mum and dad. Another one was a player called Justin McBride who was a very good player and played for Glentoran was in his early 20s. This would have been in 1991 and I had to go and watch Justin playing for Glentoran v Glenavon in an Irish Cup game, the game ended 0-0. The replay was at Glenavon’s ground on the Tuesday night, so I went up to the game to watch Justin, but there was a player playing for Glenavon who I never heard of. As I knew most of the players over here, I could not understand why I I never heard of him, he was absolutely brilliant. I had no mobile phone at the time, so I went down to the social club and got a pound changed into ten pence pieces, and went to the phone on the wall and rang Terry Venables and said that you can forget about Justin McBride as I’ve seen somebody else. They then sent Ted Buxton over to watch him but he ended up getting hurt in that game, but they signed him a week later for a good fee and also Spurs came over to play Glenavon in a pre-season friendly. Also part of the deal. The player also got to stay with Glenavon until the end of the season when they reached the Irish Cup Final, so Ted Buxton came over to watch the cup final and Glenavon won 2-1, that player was Gerry McMahon who scored the winner. Gerry was another who loved it at Tottenham.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to make it in the game?

Robert: First of all I would tell them that they already have the skills that can be developed, if not they would not be interesting the pro clubs in the first place. Secondly I would tell them that ability alone is not enough to make it. You need complete dedication and a willingness to give 100% to football. Nothing less will do. Bringing me back again to Steve Perryman, his attitude as a 13/14 year old was really the attitude of somebody much more mature, as he was grown up in that football environment he knew what he wanted and he knew that nothing was going to stop him. That’s as much a thing as the talent that he obviously had, at that time I think that any team in England would have signed Steve when he was a schoolboy.

After all these years how do you look back on your time with the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who still hold close to your heart?

Robert: It was one of the best times of my life and I am still grateful at being offered the chance to be Northern Ireland’s Spurs scout.To answer your question I will offer a quote from one of Spurs best ever players . Once a Spur, always a Spur.

My interview with former Spurs player Laste Dombaxe:

Laste Dombaxe was a central midfielder during his time at Spurs as an Academy player. Born in Luanda in Angola, but brought up in London where he attended Winchmore School, Laste Dombaxe had been in Arsenal’s Academy prior to joining Spurs, and he spent a long period of time at Spurs after joining them in the 2000s, before leaving the club at the end of the 2013/14 season at the age of 19, the same season that he had made the bench for the Spurs first team in the UEFA Europa League (Laste made two appearances for Spurs’ first team in friendlies). The 25 year old has since played for the likes of East Grinstead, Maldon & Tipree and Haringey Borough, the club that he currently plays for. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Laste about his time at Spurs.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Laste: That would probably be signing for Tottenham, because I was at Arsenal and then I signed for Tottenham on the same day that I had left Arsenal. So that would be the earliest memory. 

What was it like to join Spurs from Arsenal, and were there many differences between the two clubs at the time?

Laste: To be fair there wasn’t much difference at the time but the only difference that I can think of was that when I came I think that I fitted in straight away, whereas when I was at Arsenal it kind of took me a while. But when I came to Tottenham I I fitted in straight away and so that was my personal experience.

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

Laste: So I used to play for a team called Broadwater Farm which was in Tottenham, and from there there was a guy who was the owner of the centre. He had lots of connections from different clubs, and so I was there from about under 9’s and then I trained with them for about two or three years, and then he sent me to Arsenal. But then afterwards when I left Arsenal as they didn’t sign me on he sent me to Tottenham and I signed straight away. My earliest memory at Spurs was when it actually hit me when I was 15 and I would probably say that was my actual earliest memory, as in I was training with the youth team and thinking yeah ok I’m doing something good here.

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

Laste: It would have to have been Ronaldinho and Kaka, and so yeah it would have been those two.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Laste: So in the beginning I started as a striker and then I moved down to number ten, and I trained hard and I’m always running and trying to get the ball back, and always trying to get on the ball. So then I thought to myself because I do that then I might as well become a midfielder, as I used to like running around and getting the ball and making tackles and all of that. So then I became a midfielder as I liked to be on the ball and being a striker you don’t really get to touch the ball often, and I like to get on the ball and make passes, and create chances and also tackle. So that’s what I am about on the pitch.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Laste: So in terms of coaches there were three coaches, and they were Brad, another coach called Ose and also John McDermott. Those three were I would say my main in terms of influences. If we’re talking football and teammates then it would have to be Kevin Stewart and Nabil Bentaleb, as those two really pushed me and me and them two always used to have competitions, and we always used to push each other. 

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

Laste: Yes I did, and I used to look at Luka Modric and also Etienne Capoue when they were there.

 Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Laste: I remember when we played West Ham at their stadium in the reserves, and we were losing 2-0 at half-time and then Tim Sherwood spoke to us and was basically saying that we weren’t doing well and weren’t running around enough. But the game itself was so tense that it was a good game, but then we just came out in the second half and won 4-2 but I think that the game itself was one of my best memories, and personally I don’t think that I can forget that game. I also traveled with the first team and I was on the bench in the Europa League, but also just after I had turned 15 I got called into the office a couple of months after and I got told that I was getting my scholarship in October. Usually people get the scholarship in like April or March, but I got my scholarship in October which was way earlier than people get it, so that was probably my best earliest memory at the club.

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

Laste: I wouldn’t change anything as it was great and the whole club itself and the players and coaches were great, and it was just a fun experience. I could not say a bad word about it.

 What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites (so far)?

Laste: To be fair it was hard because I was at Spurs for so long and I played with the first team and was on the bench for the first team. But then there was a change of manager but when AVB was there I was training with the first team everyday, and I was on the bench in the Europa League. So in my head I was thinking that I’m a step closer to actually becoming a first team player, and so I spoke to AVB and he said that within three months if you carry on the way you’re playing then you will strictly be with the first team, and you will move into the first team changing rooms. I carried on doing what I was doing but then he got sacked and then Tim Sherwood became the manager and then from there it went downhill to be fair, and so I don’t know why it went downhill but it just went downhill. I don’t know if Tim Sherwood didn’t like me as a player or that he thought someone else was better, but yeah it was just weird that I was this close with AVB and then a change of manager happened, but I guess that it happens in football but that’s my experience. Then after that I went to Millwall and I went to Watford on trial and both of them said that they wanted to sign me but it didn’t happen. After that I went to a club in Sweden for six months called Östersunds before coming back and going into non-League. That’s when I went to a team called Hadley Town and the manager was Micky Hazard and I played with him for a while and I liked him as a coach and he liked me as a player, and so I played with him for a while. Then I made the step up to East Grinstead and then Hayes & Yeading, and then Maldon & Tiptree for about two or three years, and I liked Maldon to be fair and that is a good club and we beat Leyton Orient in the FA Cup. But now I’m currently at Haringey.

 What has been the greatest moment of your footballing career so far?

Laste: I think that it would be being on the bench for the Spurs first team in the Europa League. And it’s funny because I was about to come on literally within 13 minutes of the game starting, because Moussa Dembele got injured because he got a knock, and then AVB called me to go and get warmed up. So I was warming up and I was nervous but nervous in a good way as I was thinking that I’m going to make my professional debut. So I’m warming up and I was thinking please Dembele stay down or come off so I can make my debut, and then AVB called me back and I was just talking to him but then after that Dembele was ok so I went back and sat down. So I think that was my best experience. 

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

Laste: That’s a very, very hard question but I would probably have to say either Gareth Bale or Luka Modric.

Who has been the toughest player that you have come up against?

Laste: That would be Kingsley Coman of Bayern Munich when we played PSG in the NextGen Series and he had me running around to be fair, even though we won the game. 

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

Laste: There were many to be fair but I would say that the two main ones were Nabil Bentaleb and Kevin Stewart. We were like the trio.

 What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Laste: I would just say to keep your head down and don’t get influenced by anyone, and also eat right and drink right and just stay out of trouble. Listen to the coaches and also do extras, and that’s the one thing that I would say to the youngsters, but before it was different because when we wanted to do extras some of the coaches would say no don’t do this as you’ve done enough, but the more extras you do the better you become. So I would say work hard doing what you’re doing but at the same time also do extras. 

 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?

Laste: 100%. They’ll always be close to my heart as I spent over a decade at Spurs and my time there was a great experience, and I loved every second of it. 

My interview with Spurs’ former Republic of Ireland scout John Fallon:

John Fallon was Spurs’ Republic of Ireland scout from 1984 to 2015 (for a relatively short time during that period John joined Roy Keane at Sunderland when he was the manager there), and during that time the Dubliner who was also a kit man for the Republic of Ireland Senior Team during the 2000s (for 12 years), would recommend many a player to Spurs. Fallon recommended the likes of Stephen Carr, Stephen Kelly, David McDonald and Mark Yeates to Spurs, as well as many, many more players, and recently I had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to John about his long association with the club as their Republic of Ireland scout.

What is your earliest footballing memory?

John: My earliest one would have been the Spurs double team and you tended here in Ireland to the follow the teams that were successful. But when I grew up in Dublin it was very similar to Gerry McKee, so it was Man United, Liverpool and Celtic fans, but there were a few people my age as well as their children who supported Spurs, but in the last few years I’ve noticed quite a lot of Spurs supporters around. I was from a place in Dublin called Cabra and it was a great footballing place and loads of footballers came from around there such as Liam Whelan who was from only down the road and also Jimmy Conway and lots of other players. We used to call it the home of football. 

 Did you play the game at any level?

John: I did and I played during my schoolboy years with a club called Stella Maris which was Johnny Giles’s old club, and we had a really good side. I went away to Blackburn on trial when I was 15 and then I came back and I played with Shelbourne and then I went to Athlone Town, and I also played for Shamrock Rovers for a season but only in the reserves. I then dropped out of football because of some personal troubles and I managed schoolboy teams when I was about 20/21 but then I got lost a bit and then after that I asked if I could have the Spurs job (Republic of Ireland scout) out of the blue. So I just picked up the phone one day and rang Tottenham and said are you looking for a scout? And they said I don’t know and you’ll have speak to John Moncur, and this was on a Wednesday and it was hard to get a job because it was a random person ringing you up, and you know what I mean it could be anyone. So I rang back the next day and he (John Moncur) said that yeah and that he’d be interested, and so at some point when you’re over we’ll have a chat. I turned up on the Saturday for a game which was two days later, and I think we were playing Nottingham Forest. I knocked on the front door and said can I see John Moncur and John gave me the job and we went on from there. Tommy Fitzgerald might have been the first player that we signed and it just went on from that and it was just a dream come true, and I couldn’t describe what that done for my life going to watch eight or ten matches a week, and we signed quite a few lads during that time. I think I had four/five players who played for the Spurs first team, and they were Mark Yeates, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Carr. And then in the early days when Terry Venables was there (Spurs paid money for him) we signed David McDonald, and I think that he only played two or three games but then he ended up playing about 400 for Barnet. 

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

John: Jimmy Greaves. I loved Jimmy Greaves and also Bill Nicholson, and then in relation to Ireland Johnny Giles, but Jimmy Greaves was the biggest attraction to me. But I also loved Dave Mackay for what he was and for what he stood for in the club, and then I think the next big one that I remember was Spurs winning the FA Cup final in about 1962. Then in the 1967 FA Cup final I remember being so nervous about the result and worrying whether they’d win it, and then little did I know I’d actually be on one of the buses for one of the cup finals with some of the staff going to Wembley in the match against Nottingham Forest, and the club treated us brilliantly that day, and it was just unbelievable. John Moncur was the biggest connection and he was brilliant, and I can’t talk highly enough of John and we’re still friends now and I hope that we always will be. I used to go over to Spurs regularly because I loved the atmosphere of the place, and I used to get over maybe six to eight times a year. At that time a lot of the offices were based in White Hart Lane and I’ll never forget this day when I went to go into John Moncur’s office, and I opened the door and the door kind of banged against a chair, and there was Bill Nicholson in the office working away. Talk about starstruck I nearly cried and I couldn’t believe it, he was such a nice man and every time that I used to go over he would say how’s John and how’s things in Dublin. And what a gentleman and what a lovely, lovely man, and for what he was and what he achieved. So many things that were beyond belief happened to me working for Spurs that it was just unbelievable, and meeting these people day in day out. Such as working with Terry Venables and having tea with Ossie Ardiles and Chris Hughton, and meeting Glenn Hoddle was just unbelievable.

What is your earliest memory of being Spurs’ Republic of Ireland scout?

John: The first one was travelling over with Tommy Fitzgerald for the trial and then also Curtis Fleming who played for Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. I think that Curtis was the first player that I actually sent over but they didn’t sign him and he was a brilliant lad, then when they signed Tommy who was the first player that you’d sent to the club that was great. I think at one time that in one of the teams at Spurs we actually had nine Irish lads, and I think that four of them were UK born like Peter Gain and Kevin Maher, but I think that there was Alan Mannix, Ross Darcy and Simon Webb, and so you were looking at half the team that were Irish and so that was brilliant, but there were just so many highlights. Terry Venables was a football genius as John Moncur said but what a man he is, and the first time that I met him we shook hands and he said how’s it going, and are they looking after you and are you getting your expenses, and small little things like that which are huge for somebody who was doing the job that I was doing. It broke my heart when Terry left Spurs.

Having told me some of your early memories of being a Spurs scout could you talk me through the rest of your career as a scout for the club?

John: It was all Spurs related at that stage and I remember Spurs paid a fee for David McDonald from the League of Ireland even though he was only 16, early on. Then Bobby Arber got involved and he had a great eye for players, and he really spotted Mark Yeates and Stephen Kelly, and we were there together scouting and he liked the both of them and so both of them signed and got into the first team. Things changed over the years and it depended a lot on the manager, so Terry Venables wanted to be really involved and also Ossie Ardiles and Steve Perryman, and actually Steve Perryman was another idol of mine. I remember when Stephen Carr signed for us and six months later he made his debut and he (Steve Perryman) said that if you have a house then bet it on Stephen Carr playing international and Premiership football. I think at the time that Stephen Carr was one of the youngest ever players for Spurs, and Stephen missed out on that record by eight days, and Steve Perryman said that it would have been great if he had broken that record. I think that Stephen made his debut at like 16 and eight months, but that’s been passed now and some of the lads like Dane Scarlett have broken it. But look you would have had to have woken me up and said that you work for Tottenham as I just couldn’t believe it. The prestige that it gave you and the confidence that it gave you was great and I don’t mind saying that. I used to go to say 50 internationals a year and I don’t think that for four or five years I missed any age group matches of internationals that were played in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, that involved Ireland. 

Terry Venables used to always tell me to make sure that we know about players otherwise we can’t sign them, but probably my biggest miss was Roy Keane even though we knew about him and he was due to go to Tottenham the week after, but Nottingham Forest offered his club £15,000 and we hadn’t seen them. In them days you wouldn’t sign somebody if they had come to the club and had a trial as such and that was one of my biggest regrets, but you can’t sign them all either. There were loads of lads that we missed out on and I seen that John Moncur mentioned Ole Gunnar Solskjær in your interview, well I remember watching Norway playing Northern Ireland in Belfast and Ole played centre-forward, and I sent in a report and I know that John got it but I don’t know what happened to it after that, but there was also another player who was a left-back called Bjørn Tore Kvarm. Going on I got the job working with the Republic of Ireland international side because I’m involved in the sports business, and going to the World Cup with Ireland was a dream come true and I had twelve great years. Then Chris Hughton came in as assistant manager and that was great and then also Stephen Carr was there, but I was good friends with the vast majority of that squad like Gary Breen and Kevin Kilbane, and the whole thing was just great. 

Would you be able to tell me some interesting players who would go on to make it in the game that you recommended to Spurs?

John: I didn’t recommend this player but we went to see a League of Ireland selection play Man City and James McClean played at the time and I think that we should have signed him. We had a chief-scout at the time and they were thinking about it but then he signed for Sunderland two days later for £300,000, and James has had a great career in the game. Damien Duff was tied down to his club and John O’Shea had agreed a deal to go to Celtic and I did ask if he would like to go to Spurs but he didn’t really, and I think that Alex Ferguson maybe flew over to John’s home. But it was players like that who you would maybe be kicking yourself that you didn’t get them to Tottenham, but there was very few players that we wouldn’t have known about even if we didn’t sign them. But probably Roy Keane is my biggest regret if I’m being honest and I probably should have pushed it a lot harder but I don’t think that anybody knew how good Roy was going to be, nobody! Robbie Keane was another one and he went to Wolves and a friend of mine had been scouting him and that deal was done from pretty early on. Another player was Ryan Manning who was a player who I recommended to Tottenham, but they didn’t think that he was quite good enough. Richard Dunne was another one but he was away with Everton early, but once I had reported the players to Terry Venables and he knew about the players, then it was in my hands to try and get them over. But it was up to the club then as I didn’t have the say in who signs and who doesn’t, and John Moncur would always back you to the hilt but you didn’t always get it right, no more than anybody. Going off topic probably the greatest schoolboy player that I ever sent over to Spurs who signed for them was a lad called Darren Grogan and he had a bad ankle, but he was the best schoolboy player that I ever seen, and still is. He was only 15 when we signed him and he came home and he played against the Dublin Schoolboys against Manchester United and I was one of the sponsors so I was there. 

Alex Ferguson was jumping up and down wanting to know how they didn’t sign him, and so he was one player who we signed but didn’t come through, and there are plenty of lads that you thought were really good players but one thing or another meant that they didn’t make it, even though they might have made a living out of the game. 

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

John: I loved every second and it’s not that you took it for granted but I just loved it, and going over to the club and just being recognised when you were there by Gerry at the gate and saying how are you doing and how’s it going and then getting you a cup of tea, that was just great. As was knowing all of the lads in the cloakroom on match day and also Terry Venables and John Moncur treating you as an equal and not talking down to you but listening to you, and you’ve got to earn that respect. When I first started at Spurs I was young and only just in my thirties and I was winging it a bit as it’s something that you learn through watching players, and unless it’s Pelé or Maradona you need to watch it and back your judgement, and that comes out of experience and it doesn’t just come to you, if you know what I mean. It’s different now with all of the analysts as they can put out anything they like but there’s nothing like actually seeing a player. When I went to work for Roy Keane at Sunderland I got a lad called David Meyler who wasn’t even training with Cork’s first team, and if not for his injuries I think that he would have been a top, top player, and I wasn’t working at Tottenham at the time. But I loved every minute of working for Tottenham and I loved the club and still do now, and it still breaks my heart every week or every month when we lose a match. So I just loved every part of it and I loved people saying that I worked for Tottenham, and it’s just so hard to explain. It’s a bit like when I was working for Ireland and it was just for me the pinnacle to be working for your country, but Spurs the club that you love and still do are up there with that. You forget how managers that you worked for, and stuff like having tea with Steve Perryman and Ossie Ardiles, and Ossie telling you about the World Cup and Daniel Passarella as if he knew me all his life. 

I remember when Spurs played Shamrock Rovers in Dublin when I was still working for the club, and I went out to drop a friend of mine off to meet Harry Redknapp who knew him better than me, and he (Harry Redknapp) said how are you John and we’re going into town and would you like to come with us? And he was asking me what I thought of this and that, and so that was just brilliant. There’s probably not enough words to describe the way it was with Spurs 

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

John: John Moncur and Terry Venables, without a doubt. David Pleat was great I have to say and his football knowledge was frightening, also Steve Perryman and Chris Hughton were brilliant at the time but John Moncur was just brilliant. I probably wouldn’t have lasted as long without John, mainly because he was honest, backed you to the hilt and trusted your judgment. But at the end of the day John made the decision and you respected it because you kind of knew that he had the knowledge even if it was a super player that might be better than what he had, then John would make that decision, and they weren’t easy decisions to make as they are anything but simple decisions to make. John was a great man for negotiations and a great man for signing players, and he just knew what to say as he knew what was what.

 What do you feel was your greatest contribution to Spurs as a scout?

John: The fact that I’m able to sit down and know that four players that I sent away to Spurs were signed by them and played in their first team, and I have to tell myself that. Stephen Carr was sold for two and a half million or whatever and Stephen Kelly for a million, and the moneys not important but it was more the fact that they actually played for the club that you supported and that you actually had a big hand in that, and they are probably the proudest things ever. Especially watching Stephen Carr make his debut and watching him progress and become maybe the best right-back in Europe at one stage before his injury. Plus I liked the friendship with the lads that you sent away to Spurs and the fact that you might still be in contact with them, even though they might not be superstars they’re great lads and they’ve still made a living out of the game, and when you still meet them now they still have a bit of respect for you. There was no downside to working at Tottenham, none whatsoever and you’d wake up every morning and count your blessings.

 Are there any memories from your time as Spurs’ Republic of Ireland scout which stand out to you?

John: I think the main memories is when the lads made their debut, such as when I realised that Stephen Kelly, Stephen Carr and Mark Yeates were going to start. Not being selfish also the fact that you knew so many people at the club and they knew you was nice. I remember travelling up to the FA Cup final in 1991 and the party afterwards was brilliant and that always sticks in my head as well as the way that you were treated by people. I mean Bill Nicholson asking me how’s things in Dublin and asking me if I wanted a cup of tea, that is about as unimaginable as anything. You can have all the money in the world but you just can’t buy them memories.

 What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to make it in the game?

John: I know it’s a cliché but never give up and if it’s not Spurs always think it will be somebody else. You get a manager who really likes you and he works with you for a year but then he leaves and the other manager comes in and he doesn’t fancy you, so there’s so much luck involved in it but never give up. You’ve got to be a bit obsessive and singleminded that this is what I want, and I did about 160 full internationals when I was away on international duty and about 100 youth internationals as a kit man. You’d be away at times from your family and someone might have died, there might be a wedding or a birthday and you’re not there for it, so that’s what goes with the territory but surround yourself with good people. Surround yourself with winners is an old saying and listen to the ones that matter, but never ever lose your focus, not in an arrogant way but in a humble way, and always believe in yourself. 

 After all these years how do you look back on your time with the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who still hold close to your heart?

John: I cherish every memory and it was just so simple that at the time I just couldn’t believe it that I got the job in the first place. I just wanted to hold onto it and I just loved every minute, and there was no downside to being at Tottenham as it was all a plus and I just loved it. Just the whole club, the place, the feel around it and the people was just great, so the people who were not involved in the football club like the secretaries and Gerry the security guard on the gate and just being greeted by him was great, and also people knowing you. I can remember going to Man City and they forgot to leave a ticket out for me and I was just standing there and then Vinny Samways came over to me to see if I was ok, and then he came back from inside with a ticket for me. Being at Spurs was like being part of a family that you loved, and I just loved every part of it.

My interview with former Spurs player Roman Michael-Percil:

Roman Michael-Percil was a versatile player during his time at Spurs as an Academy player, but his main position was as a winger. Born in London but a former Republic of Ireland youth international, Michael-Percil joined Spurs from Leyton Orient as a schoolboy and he signed scholarship forms with Spurs in 2011, and he stayed at the club until the end of the 2013/14 season. Roman later went on trial with Ipswich Town and Southend United before starting to play in the non-League after taking a break from football. Since then the Londoner has played for the likes of Concord Rangers, Dulwich Hamlet, Braintree Town, Wingate & Finchley and Haringey Borough, the team that Roman currently plays for, and he is still only 26 years of age. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Roman about his time at Spurs.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Roman: Literally going to the park (Clissold Park) at like five years old and my dad taking me there for some football sessions. So that is my earliest memory.

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

Roman: So I was at Leyton Orient from ten until I was 14, and then Tottenham enquired about purchasing me and so then I went to Tottenham when I was 14, all the way up until I was 19. So my earliest memory was when I was 14 at Spurs Lodge, so I was there before they moved to the new training ground.

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

Roman: Like all kids mine was Thierry Henry, because obviously I’m an Arsenal fan.

Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Roman: I was a winger and I was always a wide player but Tottenham played me a bit up front, and then for a while they played me at right-back and at one stage I think they were going to try and convert me. But because I’m not the biggest they thought that they’d move me back to the wing, so I was always really a winger.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Roman: John McDermott was probably the biggest and he was with me the whole way from the start until the end. Also there was Alex Inglethorpe, so John and Alex Inglethorpe were the two biggest, and they were the two that in my opinion cared about the players that were under them.

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

Roman: There were a few seasons when Aaron Lennon was like my direct influence and everything he did I tried to replicate.

 Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Roman: Personally when I was a youth team player and I was doing quite well at like under 17’s when I was 16/17 I kept on getting brought to the under 21’s at the time. I kept getting taken on trips with the under 21’s and it was a big difference because I was obviously playing with players at the time who were like four years older than me, so that was good for me personally. I scored an equaliser in the NextGen tournament in like the last kick of the game against Sporting Lisbon, but we ended up losing the game but I made it 3-3 and that was personally great because not everyone gets to score a last minute equaliser. 

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

Roman: If I’m being honest it was quite disappointing but it started off well obviously because me and my dad had actually chosen Tottenham, as they weren’t the only team that I could have gone to. We thought that it was the best idea at the time and it started off well as I think that they had a good plan for me, but me the person I am I think that I was quite misunderstood by a lot of the coaches in terms of how I carried myself. I’m quiet and I don’t say much, and I don’t really smile for no reason and so some people took that as if I was just moaning but really I was minding my business. Then certain coaches took a dislike to me which in the end was my downfall, and they took a dislike to me for no reason to be honest because I was never rude to any coaches or anything like that. So it was a bit underwhelming to be honest and it could have gone a lot better than it did.

 What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites (so far)?

Roman: So I was 19 and Tottenham actually had the option of giving me a one year extension but the manager at the time had been the development team manager, so he was the development coach/manager. He was the coach that really for whatever reason took a dislike to me and I don’t know what it was or what I did to him but he became manager, and so at that point I knew that I might as well go out and try and find something new. So I’d gone on trial at Ipswich but didn’t get anything there, but to be honest I was never actually formally told that I’d been released by Tottenham and I didn’t get no help from the club or any support. So I basically found out that I’d been released by that list that came out with all of the released players and so that’s how I found out, and I was never told or got a phone call or anything. So in pre-season of the next season I’d gone on trial at Southend and I did well there and I played Tottenham in a friendly, and the manager at the time who was Phil Brown said that he was going to sign me. The game was on a Thursday and I was told that I was going to be signed, and I left that meeting and I wasn’t happy and it was weird because I didn’t feel overjoyed as I had a weird feeling about it. Then there was another game on the Saturday against Braintree and come that game Phil Brown came to me and was telling me so many excuses like I haven’t got the budget, and I was just thinking that’s a lie because I’m at an age where I will take anything as I just want to play football. You could have given me a terrible deal and I’d just have taken it just because I want to play, and so my thinking was that he had spoken to the aforementioned person and got a bad referral of me. 

That’s what I think happened to be quite honest because I’d ripped up pre-season at Southend and I had done so well and all of the fans on the blogs were buzzing off me. So that could have been the only logical thing that could have happened, and since then I stopped playing football for a bit because my head was so gone with that and I thought that there was no point. Then eventually about two or three months later another agent got in contact with me and told me about going into the non-League, and to be honest it was probably the worst thing that I could have done at the time because I could have really gone on trial at other full-time teams and got something. But I just fell into the non-League bubble you could say and since then I’ve literally been in that, so it’s been six years of that. So I’ve played for loads of non-League clubs but I’m at Haringey now and I’m settled for the first time in like six years. I don’t really plan on moving now as I’ve got a manager that understands me and my character, and how I am. And to be honest I’ve worked out now that in football money doesn’t really matter to you much and you might as well just enjoy football and just play with a manager that appreciates you as a person first, and so I’m happy with that.

What has been the greatest moment of your footballing career so far?

Roman: I’d say signing my pro for Tottenham and at the time I didn’t realise how big of an achievement it was because you’ve got to remember that I was 17 when I signed it, but I knew that it was kind of coming so I basically had a pro contract from when I was 14 years old. So where everyone else was working towards that it would have been an even bigger thing at the time, but for me it was just like I’m signing my pro but looking back that’s a very big thing because there’s so many people that would want to do that, and I managed to do that. So it was probably that or representing Ireland as that was a big thing for me as well because obviously not everyone gets to play international football. 

What was that like to represent the Republic of Ireland at youth level?

Roman: It was good and it was a different experience because obviously I’ve gone to Ireland being an English boy and I’ve gone over to Ireland with all of these Irish lads with all there Irish accents. I think that the only other English boy there was Jack Grealish actually, so I think that it was only me and him. So it was great and I love Ireland and I like Irish people, so I liked it a lot and I just wish that I played for them more to be honest.

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

Roman: Obviously now we can say it’s Harry Kane because of what he is now but at the time when I used to play with Dean Parrett and John Bostock I used to just think that you two are ridiculous. I thought that Dean Parrett was unreal and also Alex Pritchard was ridiculous.

Who has been the toughest player that you have come up against?

Roman: I honestly can’t think of anyone to be honest. 

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

Roman: There was the two McQueen’s and they are still like two of my best friends today, also there was Shaq Coulthirst and Laste Dombaxe and so I’m probably closest to them. But everyone in my age group was kind of close to he honest and we always used to be with each other.

 What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Roman: Part of football is acting the part and people forget that but that’s something that I learnt and so you’ve got to play the part. If you’re told that you’ve got to fix this part of even your personality then change the way you act away from football, as that’s key as well. If you’re told to carry yourself differently even if you don’t agree sometimes you’ve got to do it to get yourself ahead of where you’re at at that time, because some of these coaches have got power just to ruin you. So that would be my honest advice to be honest with you, and it’s unfortunate but it’s just the truth. 

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?

Roman: I look at my time there as a time where I made some good friends and had some good experiences, and I went abroad a lot and went on so many tours and everything that some people will never get to go on in their life, and so I’m fortunate for that. I don’t think that I fulfilled the potential that I had or have even because I can still play but I don’t think that I fulfilled that, and to be honest that’s partially my fault and partially not, but I’m thankful for some of the coaches that took their time to help me as much as they could. I’m unthankful for others and I wish that I didn’t cross paths with some of them, but do I hold Spurs close to my heart? I care about Spurs but I hold a certain feeling as well because I feel that the certain individuals that represented the club at the time didn’t treat me correctly, so if I’m being honest I hold a certain level of unhappiness with Spurs at the same time.

My interview with former Spurs First-Team Chief Scout and Head of Youth Development John Moncur Senior:

John Moncur Senior spent 25 years at Spurs, and in that time he held a variety of positions at the club. A man who is greatly respected within the game and by the former Spurs players who he came across, John Moncur Senior (his son who is also called John played for Spurs’ first team after coming up through the ranks at the club) held the positions of First-Team Chief Scout, Youth Development Officer, Head of Youth Development and Head of Youth Scouting at Spurs. Moncur joined Spurs when Keith Burkinshaw was still the manager, and he stayed at the club for many years more until leaving them in 2005. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking with John about his long association with Spurs.

What is your earliest footballing memory?

John: That would be playing for the school I would imagine, as you can’t get much earlier than that. 

Did you play the game at any level?

John: No, not really. I played sort of non-League/amateur football but I got involved in coaching and that’s how Spurs took me in because they wanted to sign my son to be honest, but I was already involved in coaching the school district team at Harlow. I was offered a job by West Ham as well but my son loved it at Tottenham so I decided to go there and do a job for them, but that was only a part-time job to begin with and then after a couple of months they offered me a full-time job. It was still apprenticeships in them days (1980) but then the following year the YTS came in which made it much bigger, and that was how it all started really for me, and I stayed there for 25 years.

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

John: Players that I really loved were someone like Glenn Hoddle and for me he is one of England and Spurs’ best players along with Paul Gascoigne. For me I thought that Glenn was really special and I knew him for years and he was my manager for a time. I also loved Ossie Ardiles and he was a good player, also Steve Perryman in particular was a great club captain and a really nice guy to know and I still talk to him a lot now.

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?

John: I joined there in about September of 1980 and I was heavily involved right from the beginning with the Spurs youth team and in bringing in young players to the club, and I suppose that one of my earliest memories was when Easter time came around and we were on the plane over to Switzerland with the youth team for a youth tournament. That was a big thing for me in them days.

Could you talk me through your career as First Team Chief Scout for Spurs?

John: When I first went to Spurs they called me Schoolboy Representative as that’s what you did when you worked full-time for a big football club and went out to recruit young players to bring in to the club. Once the YTS came in I became Youth Development Officer which I was much more involved in because we had many more players and the idea then was to look over the development of the young players, as well as being responsible for my scouting network to bring them. It went on from there and I was then given the title of Head of Youth Development, and this went on over a number of years obviously. Then when Ossie Ardiles and Steve Perryman came in as manager in the early 1990s they asked me to be Chief Scout as well, so I was Chief Scout as well as Head of Youth Development, so doing two jobs was really difficult at the time. Then when Ossie left and Gerry Francis came in I stayed doing both of those jobs which was even harder under Gerry because he had me flying all around Europe a lot of the time looking at players, so I was away on weekends and away sort of midweek. Therefore I thought that the other side of it suffered and we had a bit of a lull in our youth teams and so I couldn’t really keep right on top of it, but then Gerry called me in as the academies were coming in and so he said that you’ve got a choice and you can do one job or the other. He knew how difficult it was for me but he said to me that he wanted me to stay at Spurs as Chief Scout but if you want you can go back to the youth team, and he was very honest with me and this was sort of in the summer in pre-season. So he said I might not even be here by Christmas because that’s how football was, and as it worked he wasn’t and so I decided to go 100% back to the youth development side, and that’s when all the meetings were going on about academies even though it hadn’t started then. 

So after two managers I came off doing the First Team Chief Scout for the first team and just went back to youth development.

Would you be able to tell me some interesting players that you recommended to the club as a Scout?

John: Ole Gunnar Solskjær was one and the story about that one was that Steve Perryman had left and gone over to Norway because Steve had good ties in Norway. Because we were always friends he phoned me up from there and said John you’ve got to come and see this young player over here, as he said that he was top drawer and he’s playing for Molde. So I said ok and so I went and told Gerry and Gerry sent me over but Norway were playing France on the Saturday in Oslo, so I could go from there up to Molde on the Sunday morning. So I watched the France game and he (Gerry Francis) wanted me to look for any young players who were playing for France who were making their debut and there were quite a few that I sort of recommended to the club. Then I went up to Molde and came back and put a report in and said that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy him and that I’d buy him straight away, and I had actually met the president of the club and so he told me what they were looking for which wasn’t a great deal of money at the time. When you see a player it’s what you see on the day and I won’t say who but Gerry then sent someone else over who was at the club, and he came back and said that he didn’t fancy him which is fair enough. So I said look Gerry I’m telling you, and so I went out again to watch him play Paris Saint-Germain in the Cup Winners Cup, and they (Molde) lost 3-1 and he scored and again for me he really stood out. So I came back and said look Gerry we’ve got to do something about this and so he said arrange a game for me to go and see him with you, but it can’t be on a Saturday. So the only game that I could find was a Norway Under 21 game and it was in Stavanger, and so Gerry said to book that. 

So I booked that game and we went but the Norway Under 21 side only played with one player up front and so they had Tore André Flo up front and Solskjær played out wide on the left. He didn’t get a lot of the ball because if you’re playing wide you’ve got to depend on the midfield players getting the ball to you, so Gerry couldn’t really say too much on that and that was about October time. And so that was the end of it and in the following pre-season an agent took him to Man United and he was there for two days and Alex Ferguson gave him a contract and so he did stand out there, but I’m not blaming Gerry or whoever went as it’s what you see on the day. I had seen him twice and I was really impressed with him and so that was one player, then we were looking for a right-back and so I went out to Metz to look at Rigobert Song and I came back and said that as a man marker he is very good, but I’m not sure where he could have played in a sort of back four, but as a man marker he was very good. So Gerry said alright well go back and have another look and so I watched him before going out again to watch him when he was playing in Monaco, and so I went out to Monaco. There was a young player playing for Monaco who really gave him such a hard game and so I came back and I put the report in about this young player, and I was actually lucky enough because when I was there I had met an agent there who got me a video of the game. So I took that back with me and I gave it to Gerry and said that this young player is something else, and so Gerry looked at it but he looked at it about ten days later. 

Gerry then phoned me up in the middle of the night and he said wow you were right this player is unreal, and to be fair Spurs and I think Mr Sugar was involved in that, and I think put a bid in or they went to Monaco to sign him. And Monaco turned us down and that player was Thierry Henry and Arsène Wenger was the manager then, and they said that he wasn’t ready and I think that he was only 17, but then a couple of years later they sold him and I think that he went to Italy and then Wenger brought him over from Italy and we know the rest. So I suppose that they were two real big players that I saw young but they would have caught anybody’s eye because good players find you if that’s what your job is. I suppose your expertise comes in on the way that you look at them and on the way that you look on the game, and if I went to watch a player then I would watch him for 90 minutes and I didn’t notice too much else unless somebody like Henry was up against the player that I was watching and he gave him a really, really difficult game and so that catches your eye. Going to Head of Youth Scouting I always had players in the first team and don’t forget I had scouts who worked for me but it was my decision on what we did with the players once they came in. One of the bigger players that I battled for and won was Nicky Barmby because Manchester United were very strong in the league and it was Alex Ferguson himself who was dealing with it, and so I had to beat Alex on that one which was quite a feat at the time, because everybody expected Nicky to go to Man United but he signed for us at Spurs, but Nicky was a good player. There were so many players that I’d have to look back at the history to see players that I was involved in bringing to the club who played for the Spurs first team.

I signed two goalkeepers that played in the first team which is very, very unusual at a First Division or Premier League club, and that was Ian Walker and Espen Baardsen. All of the top clubs signed goalkeepers and they very rarely produce them and I don’t think that they produce them today as they sign them from other clubs. Sol Campbell and Ledley King all came through me at Spurs when I was there and I thought that Ledley was a tremendous player and it was just a shame that he had knee problems which took him out of the game, otherwise I think that he would have been one of the best centre-halves in the world because he was such a good player.

What was it like to be Spurs’ Head of Youth Development?

John: Even though I didn’t have certificates to be Head of Academy when the academies came in I still ran the recruitment and the running of the place under the Academy manager. The Academy manager who I actually gave a job to (Peter Suddaby) was at Spurs to run the under 15 side and he took over because he had the qualifications that was needed to do that job. I could have got them but it would have taken me some time to do it.

 As Head of Youth Development at Spurs you helped to produce some really good players. What do you put that down to and how would you compare the Spurs Academy setup to when you were in charge to what it’s like at the club now?

John: Well I think that Spurs carried on, I mean when I left Harry Kane was there and Winksy was there and they were all there at the club when I was there. My scouts brought them in and we kept them and then those that took over carried on the coaching side, and I used to work very closely with the coaches and my youth team coach Patsy Holland did a tremendous job at the club for bringing through players and working closely with me. If I brought players in then I was held responsible for the quality of players that we brought in and so I made most of the decisions on whether we kept them or let them go. I would obviously work with the coaches and they would work on it with me as well, but if there was a split decision then I would make the final decision saying are we taking him or letting him go, because when you’re responsible for what you bring in then you’ve got to be responsible for what you keep. Then it’s the coaches job to do there job and produce the players and make players out of them.

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

John: It was tremendous and I mean I had 25 years there and I think that when they wanted to make wholesale changes to the medical side they did, and they made wholesale changes to the first team and the way they went about things. Then they decided to make changes on the Academy side which we all can say why mend something that isn’t broken, but that’s what happens and to be fair they carried on and what pleases me is that the players that have come through when I left earned them a lot of money as well, but they were all players that I signed when I was there. If they sell Harry Kane for 100 million look at that one, but we’ve had several like that like the Jamie O’Hara’s and loads of them of this world who were all sold for five or six million. So if you add all of that up then it adds up to a good revenue and plus they played in the first team, but my biggest regret was that we didn’t sell Sol Campbell because Sol wanted to leave and he knew that his contract was up and so he waited a year, but we could have got 20 million pounds for him which was a lot of money. I mean he turned down moves to Lazio because he knew that he was going to Arsenal but you can’t blame him because if he stays until the end of his contract then he gets a much better deal. 

Were there any people at Spurs who you looked up to during your time at the club?

John: There were several people such as the managers who you worked under and you looked up to them as they do a very good job. I had quite a few managers actually and I suppose that I had about 12 managers while I was there, and I worked with the likes of Terry Venables who was an absolute genius of the football side. David Pleat was another one and he knew a player did David Pleat and he was excellent at that but he had such a knowledge of players that he could name you Scunthorpe’s reserve team for instance, as he was so knowledgeable on that side of football. He knew what made a good player but there was loads of other people such as Ossie Ardiles who was tremendous and he just wanted to play with that flair which sometimes let him down because of the way that he wanted to play, which was that South American way, but he was a tremendous manager to be fair. Gerry Francis was as well and I really liked him when he came to Spurs, and also Peter Shreeves was one of the best sort of coaches that I’ve seen but unfortunately things didn’t work that well for him at the time. Keith Burkinshaw who was my first manager was excellent but he left because he felt that the board weren’t backing him. George Graham was another one who was very good although he was an ex-Arsenal man, but he knew the game backwards. In addition a tremendous manager and somebody who was my hero was Glenn Hoddle, but he was great on the management side as well but the trouble with Glenn was that even as a manager he could do a lot of things better than what the players could do, and that was Glenn as he was a genius. When I was at Spurs I got to know Bill Nicholson (I worked with him for 20 years at the club) which was very humbling and he assisted me even when he had retired but was still at the club, and he used to confirm where I wanted my scouts to go, and he was a tremendous help to me. I suppose that he is someone who you would always look up to 

As somebody who was at Spurs for such a long time and who held a variety of positions at the club what do you feel was your greatest contribution to the club?

John: My contribution to the club was I imagine running the recruitment and youth development for 25 years. That’s a long time and if you don’t do the job then you soon lose it.

Are there any memories from your time at Spurs which really stand out to you?

John: Going there in 1980 stands out because not long afterwards we won two cup finals on two replays, and I mean that was a fantastic time. You have more and more as you go on and I can remember going to Swaziland with the team and Peter Shreeves as the manager with Liverpool in 1984, and that was a massive thing at the time, but time does go on and obviously whatever you do each season is different. You have great times and you have bad times, and disappointing times. Another story is that I originally found the original part of the new Spurs training ground when David Pleat was the Spurs manager and we sold Cheshunt which was the training ground that we owned. After that we went just up the road to train but my under 15 side couldn’t play there because there wasn’t enough space and pitches and we couldn’t ruin the pitches that the first team trained on. So David Pleat said to me that you’ll have to go and find somewhere for the under 15s to play, and so I walked through the hedge of the training ground where we was on and I came into a place called Mydellton House where there was pitches all over the place. Anyway I saw this little clubhouse down the bottom and it was owned by a medical university in London and so I phoned them and my under 15 team started to play their games there, and we played there for a couple of seasons which was good. However, when Terry Venables came in we had room to play over there at that current training ground so that was ok but then Spurs needed a new training ground and they tried to get a site opposite Heybridge golf course but that didn’t work out. So I just happened to mention about Mydellton House as me and Peter Suddaby were sort of looking at places, and so we went down to Mydellton House which was the start of it. Although they obviously had to buy a lot more ground around it but that was the start of the current Spurs training ground. 

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to make it in the game?

John: I think that it’s a lot more difficult for them today, I mean Harry Winks is still in the first team squad and obviously the big man up front himself, but they are homegrown players. We’re getting more homegrown players now than we got through say five or eight years ago and so there’s more of them coming through now but it’s difficult for them and it’s not as easy as it was. What I feel for is the ones that don’t make like when I was there when I’d have clubs ring me to ask me who I was letting go, and so you had then Division Two and three and four clubs ringing you and asking who you’re letting go. But now it doesn’t work like that so much because the money in the game at the lower level is not there anymore not like it used to be, unless you’ve got players who can go straight in and play in the first team. Whereas as say ten years ago they would take them for a year or two to develop them before selling them on and making money out of them, but they haven’t got the time and resources to do that now. So that’s what makes it hard for young players plus the fact that with academies there’s far more young players in the game, but under the old system when you signed schoolboy forms you could only sign 16 schoolboys (when they turned 14) in three age groups and that was the total. So you signed players that you really felt that you knew yours were going to give a YTS to or an apprenticeship, whereas some of these squads today in each age group they’ve got 25 or 30 players, and that’s from under 9 to under 16 level. That’s an awful lot of players and an awful lot of disappointment and so what do you do with them all?  

Obviously the real top young players come through at least that’s what you like to think, but what do you do with the rest of them? Don’t forget that a lot of these kids have had great upbringings but there’s know room for them and a lot of them end up playing in the National League.

After all these years how do you look back on your time with the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who still hold close to your heart?

John: Of course I do and I was a Tottenham supporter anyway before I went in there, and it’s like everything else that you do. I had 25 great years there and when I went it was time to go, so I don’t hold anything against them by leaving as they didn’t sack me as such but we had a compromise agreement where I left. But like everything else you move on and so after that I spent 15 years running a players agency, and so that kept me going until I retired. 

My interview with former Spurs player John Collicutt

John Collicutt from Great Wakering in Essex was at Spurs as a youth player during the late 1950s. Collicutt joined Spurs after playing for their nursery club Canvey Boys and he would end up playing for a talented Spurs youth team of the time of which included future first team player Frank Saul. A versatile player who could play as an inside-forward or in a more central position, John Collicutt’s time at Spurs unfortunately came to an end mainly because of injury. He would later play for Southend United at youth team level and then Romford, where he played with Spurs great Ted Ditchburn. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to John about his time at Spurs in the 1950s.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

John: My earliest memories was of playing quite well in my school team where I was captain, and then I played for my district team which was Southeast Essex who I was captain of as well. I had done pretty well and I also got selected to play for Essex Schools and London Schools, and with London Schools I played with a few lads who did well and one of them who did pretty well was Terry Venables from Dagenham.

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

John: I played for Canvey Boys as it was known then and I was asked to play for them and that was not too far from where I lived and was brought up. At that time Canvey were a nursery club of Tottenham and I was playing for their under 18 team when I was barely 14, and that was the same team that Frank Saul played for so it was really through there that I ended up at Spurs. Whether it was the right decision or not I don’t know, because I could have gone to Ipswich which is still one of my favourite teams and also Southend who were my local team. However, I went to Tottenham when I was only 15 and I can honestly say that it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

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

John: I didn’t really have a lot of football heroes but I liked a lot of players and from my village Great Wakering there were a few lads who were a few years older than me who played football. One was Peter Sampson who played for Bristol Rovers and another was Les Stubbs who played for Chelsea and he won the Championship with Chelsea in 1955. So we had a few players who came from my village at the time and it was quite a hotbed of football was our village.

 Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

John: Most of the time when I played for Essex and London I played out on the left wing but for a start I really don’t think that that was my right position, as I was better playing in the centre of the field or playing as an inside-right/inside-forward. My career at Tottenham never really took off very well and it just never happened for me, put it that way. 

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

John: Most of the senior players were lovely lads such as Danny Blanchflower and Bobby Smith who was a nice bloke. Another one was the goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn.

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

John: There was actually and this player was still an amateur and an England international and he was George Robb, and I liked him as he was a nice man. He helped me a lot and he had plenty of time to speak to you and to try and help you, but most of them did but not all of them as some of them wouldn’t give you the time of day but most of the senior professionals were pretty good. The reserves, youth team and the A team used to use all the same dressing rooms at the time in the week, but my time at Spurs just never really took off for me. I went to Spurs in 1958 because I stayed for an extra term to play for London at school level, and after about two or three months there at Spurs I got quite a bad knee injury when we were playing against Fulham’s youth team. I had fallen over but another chap had fallen over me on my leg, and I thought that my leg was going to break but it didn’t although the knee broke really, and so I did all of my ligaments and everything else. So I had a couple of months out injured and to be honest after that it was never really the same again.

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

John: Well I really didn’t leave of my own decision as it was Bill Nicholson the managers decision, and I don’t know why but he never did seem to take to me much even if I was playing well. In actual fact it wasn’t him that signed me as it was Jimmy Anderson and by the time that I’d left school and went to Spurs he had gone and Bill Nicholson was in charge, and he never seemed to have a lot of time for not only me but most of the lads at the time. Although he did like Frank Saul and Frank had this terrific left foot which was a real talent and if he hit the ball and it was on target then not many keepers could stop it as it was a terrific shot, and that was his main asset really and it served him well. After leaving Spurs I went to Southend where I played for their youth team and I also played for Romford for a while when they were in the Southern League, and at that time that was the next league down from the Football League. There were upcoming and old players there and so that was quite good, but that’s when my knee went completely after I had run for the ball and I couldn’t really put my foot on the ground. And that really ended it for me as I just couldn’t get myself fit enough again to play at that level but I did play for quite a few years (three or four) for my local team Great Wakering Rovers and we were quite a force in our District League, and we quite dominated the local football scene at that time. I quite enjoyed my football there but I knew really in my mind that it should have been so much more, but it didn’t happen.

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

John: It was alright and it wasn’t bad and I can’t say that I really got excited about anything really. We had a different coach for the youth team called Andy Thompson and he wasn’t there in the week and so the only time that we saw him was on a Saturday afternoon and so you didn’t know that much at all, whether you wasn’t playing and you didn’t know if that was his decision or a joint decision if your name wasn’t on the sheet. Nobody really taught you a lot and told you if you were doing this right or that right or if you weren’t training hard enough or whatever, so there wasn’t really any close coaching as I expected to get at Tottenham at the time.

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

John: It’s got to be before I really had a career I suppose when I was playing for the County and for London. As a starstruck kid from out in the sticks in a country village  to be playing for the County and for London was really terrific and I was quite proud of myself at the time, not knowing how my career would turn out afterwards. Funnily enough I’m not saying that I was better than Frank Saul but as a 14 or 15 year old most people I think would have considered myself better than Frank at that time, but he did well and got his head down and did the right things I suppose, and hitting the back of the net was the main thing. So I was pleased for him but very disappointed for myself.

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

John: As a youngster I knew all of the Spurs players but not personally and I’ve got to say that it was the goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn who I played with at Romford after his career was finished. And he was a really nice man and he would help you too, but at Tottenham I unexpectedly came across all of the England football team in the dressing room at Spurs as they were training there for a game at Wembley. There was Bobby Charlton, Nat Lofthouse, Billy Wright and all of the England players of that time, so that was quite a shock as a 15 year old.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which standout from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

John: I’ve got be honest that I didn’t have any outstanding moments in the Tottenham youth team and I don’t know why but it just didn’t seem to happen for me. I played with Roy Moss at Spurs and we were good friends and he was a nice man and when he turned 17 he did get signed on by Tottenham but he wasn’t there long before he went to Gillingham. 

 Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?

John: I only played practice games with him but I would have to say Dave Mackay as he was a really tough guy even though he wasn’t that big, but he was very stocky and strong, and as hard as nails. At that time he was like Tottenham’s enforcer.

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

John: There was one lad who played for the A team but I don’t know what happened to him after that and he was called Barrie Aitchison and he was a winger, and he played mainly in that time for the reserves or the A team. And I also got on well with Roy Moss who was from Maldon and also Frank Saul as well, and me and Frank used to travel back and forwards as he came from Canvey, but I would say that Roy was probably the best friend of mine really. 

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

John: The only thing that I can really say is to get their head down and work hard and to not get any false ideas about yourself or whatever, and you’ve just got to work hard at it.

 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?

John: I’ve got to be honest and my time at Spurs was not good for me and I rue the fact to be quite honest that I went to Tottenham. I wish that I’d have gone to a smaller club like Ipswich or somebody as I think that my chances would have been a lot better. I can’t really say that my time at the club was a happy time.

My interview with former Spurs player Thomas Dudfield:

South Londoner Thomas Dudfield played as a right-back for Spurs’ youth team during his time at the club in the early 1970s. Dudfield (his son is former professional footballer Lawrie Dudfield) would later combine work with playing semi-professional with the likes of Walton & Hersham and Wembley after leaving Spurs. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to Thomas about his time at Spurs during the early 1970s.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Thomas: That would be playing for the school team (the under 11s) when I was eight. 

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

Thomas: Well the postman used to come at half past eight on a Saturday, and I was waiting for a letter from Spurs to say yes or no. Half past eight came and there was no postman, half past nine came and there was no postman, half past ten and no postman, and then at half past 11 the postman came and I opened up the letter and it said that you’d been invited to an apprenticeship at Tottenham, so it was happy days! My earliest memory of my time at the club was going in every Tuesday and Thursday at the ground with John Pratt and Tony Want and also Ron Henry. So people like that were quite an influence on me, as I had seen people like that in the papers, but never in real life. 

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

Thomas: Just football generally as everybody who played professional football I wanted to be. To be fair I actually wanted to be Harry Cripps of Millwall as he was a stalwart at Millwall. 

 Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Thomas: I played right-back and I was fairly attacking and I had a good football knowledge and brain, but my confidence wasn’t that great although going forward I was good. Heading was my let down though as I was terrible in the air no matter how hard I worked at it, it just never came. 

 Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Thomas: John Pratt, Tony Want and Ron Henry were the ones that sort of mentored me but I also had a soft spot for Pat Welton, but they were the biggest influences.

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

Thomas: The best player that I saw at Spurs was Graeme Souness as virtually he had everything, but I was never going to be a Graeme Souness. I really moulded myself on Joe Kinnear really.

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

Thomas: I was playing really, really well and I went from the South East Counties League into the youth team with Souness where I made my debut against West Ham against a player called Johnny Ayris. He was a top, top player then and he was going to be the next George Best, but we played West Ham in a league game in the Junior League and Souness and Mike Dillon played as well as Terry Lee. I marked Johnny Ayris out of the game and I absolutely had him in my pocket and so that was a great day, and I had thought that I had made it then but unfortunately it was not to be. I had been playing really, really well until we had a Southern Junior Floodlit game at Aldershot and it had been raining for 24 hours and how the game was on I don’t know. Souness played in that game and we had a good team out against Aldershot but one minute in to the game I did a back pass and I got stuck in the mud and we were 1-0 down, and then three minutes in to the game I made another costly back pass, and my confidence completely went. Bill Nicholson said to me that you’re never going to make a professional footballer if you play like that, and at that time they had told me that they were going to sign me as pro but then my form just dipped after that and I had no confidence at all. After leaving Spurs I could have signed for Bournemouth and I played a trial for Millwall but then I just really decided to go semi-pro and I played for Walton & Hersham and Wembley, but I was earning a good living when I left Spurs because my granddad was a bookmaker. So he got me a job from Monday to Friday in the bookmaking trade and so I played football part-time.

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

Thomas: Absolutely fantastic. When we won the League Cup in 1971 that team was just unbelievable with so many great players including Alan Gilzean who was one of the best players that I’ve ever seen. The memory was I used to live in Southeast London and we lived six floors up on a council estate and on the morning of that final I went down in the lift all suited and booted to make my way to White Hart Lane which was where we met, and the next thing I know I’m going up in the lift at the Savoy. So it was just unreal and I wouldn’t swap it for a million quid, and they say that it’s better to have been a has been than a never was! 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Thomas: Probably that game against West Ham where I marked Johnny Ayris out of the game, and you had people like Ray Clarke playing that day along with Graeme Souness. When people like that come up to you and say that was great the way that you marked him out of the game, I felt a million dollars.

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

Thomas: On a pitch it was Graeme Souness but in regards to on a training pitch it was Alan Gilzean. He was a legend.

 Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Thomas: Obviously going to see that League Cup final and going to the Savoy was a fantastic memory. I can remember going in one Boxing Day when we had played badly on the Saturday and Pat Welton got us in for training and Danny Clapton was there along with Chris McGrath. Alan Gilzean was there and he was injured, but we did all our training and did a bit of sweeping up in the gym and then afterwards Alan Gilzean invited us for a drink in the White Hart pub, and we ended up coming out of there about four hours later a bit the worse for wear!

 Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?

Thomas: Graeme Souness. He had studs growing out of his feet and he was just a hard man.

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

Thomas: There used to be a group of us of which included Danny Clapton, Chris McGrath who went on to play for Millwall and Man United and also Kevin Worsfold and Phil Ward. Me, Phil and Danny Clapton used to go out all of the time.

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Thomas: Just work and also remember your background and who you are and that I imagine will put you in good stead. 

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?

Thomas: I always look out for Spurs’ results although I’ve not been to the new ground yet. It’s actually been 50 years this year since we were playing and I did actually try and get a reunion going but not too many people replied.

My interview with former Spurs player Wayne Cegielski:

Wayne Cegielski was a strong and commanding centre-half during his playing days. From Bedwellty in South Wales, Wayne Cegielski (former Wales under 21 international) joined Spurs in the early 1970s and he signed apprentice forms with the club in the summer of 1972. Wayne worked his way up the ranks at Spurs and the man who captained the Tottenham Hotspur youth team to winning the 1974 FA Youth Cup would also go on to become a regular for the reserve side, although he never played for the Spurs first team. Cegielski would later enjoy a very good career in the game, playing for the likes of Tacoma Tides, Wrexham, Port Vale and Hereford United. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing Wayne about his time at Spurs in the 1970s.

What are your earliest footballing memories?

Wayne: I used to train at Cardiff City on a Tuesday and a Thursday with the schoolboys, and I used to get a train from where I used to live in South Wales in one of the valleys, and then make my way to the Cardiff City training pitch. When I got to the age when Cardiff were choosing the apprentices they said that they didn’t want me as an apprentice. Then on the following Saturday I played in a game and unbeknown to myself there was a Tottenham Hotspur scout watching, and so he came up to my parents and asked if we (Spurs) could sign your son as an apprentice, and so that was how it first started.

What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs?

Wayne: Going back to the beginning that would be cleaning the gym and the changing rooms which were the early memories of what we used to have to do. I also remember being amongst all of the famous footballers which was an amazing thing, and to be part of that family was wonderful. Of course I remember playing in the reserves when I was a young professional and playing with the so called stars of the Tottenham Hotspur side was fantastic, and you would make your friends and as apprentices we were all pretty good friends, and then also when we became professionals as well. 

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

Wayne: Funnily enough they were mainly Leeds United strikers as well as the centre-half Mike England, as he played in the position that I played. So they were the type of players that I used to think of as a youngster and then all of a sudden you’re in London and you’re amongst all of these famous people. All of the first team footballers at Tottenham were all wonderful, wonderful people and they would do anything to help you. 

 Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?

Wayne: I was a centre-half and I was a type of man marker and so if there was a centre-forward who was playing then I would obviously mark them. In those days when the goalkeeper kicked the ball long you had to head the ball or what have you, and you would have to win the ball when a centre-forward came up against you, so that was my job really as a centre-half in them days, which is completely different to today. I learnt off the stars of the Spurs first team as I went through the ranks at Spurs and became a professional.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Wayne: To start with it was Mike England as obviously he was a centre-half, but there was also Alan Gilzean, Cyril Knowles, Martin Chivers and Phil Holder who would always ask us if he could do anything to help us. Pat Jennings was wonderful and he was always very fast, and all of the sprinting competitions he would win, but also there was Martin Peters and Joe Kinnear, so they were all very, very nice people. There was always a bit of animosity if someone didn’t make the reserve team but that happens in all football teams, but going back those were the people that I looked up to.

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

Wayne: Cyril Knowles was one and he was a great attacking footballer and I used to think to myself that he never used to get caught out. There was also Terry Naylor when he got in the first team and he was somebody who would always let you know if you had done something wrong, and so players would come up to you and say that you should be doing this rather than doing that, and they were the things that you had to learn. 

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

Wayne: I was due to make my first team debut for Spurs against Coventry City on Boxing Day one year, and apparently my name was on the team list. Mike England had got injured with an ankle injury, but when I got to the ground at one o’clock on the Saturday I was told that Mike England had had an injection and that he was going to be playing. Within three weeks I’d been sent out on loan to Northampton Town and so basically that was it and that summer I was going to be leaving the club. Obviously we had a knew manager (Terry Neill) and he didn’t fancy me being in the first team but that’s football and I would get used to that over the years when the manager doesn’t think that you’re going to be in his team. After I left Tottenham I went to play in Germany, and I played for six months in Germany before coming back to the UK and then went out to America to play there for that summer. When I came back from America I went to Wrexham and I played for Wrexham for six years and we managed to get to the old Second Division, but after that I went to Port Vale and stayed there for three seasons. Then from Port Vale I went to Blackpool on loan, and then from Blackpool I went to Hereford where I stayed for two years, and after that I decided to finish playing football when I got to the age of 31.

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

Wayne: I had a wonderful time and to be captain of the FA Youth Cup winning team was absolutely wonderful, and you can’t ask for more than that really. I can always say that I had a wonderful time at Spurs and I still think about them all of the time, and I make sure that I watch them play on the television when I can. When the scores comes on on a Saturday Tottenham Hotspur is one of the clubs that I look at to see the scores. 

What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?

Wayne: I think winning the Third Division Championship with Wrexham was the one, and the team that we had there was absolutely fantastic. People say that they have never had such a wonderful time watching Wrexham because of the way that we played, and to win so many matches in the FA Cup made other teams be afraid of coming to the football ground at Wrexham because they knew that they were going to be in for a tough game. We even played Tottenham down at Tottenham and we won there, but all of the First Division clubs used to hate to come to Wrexham because they always knew that they were going to have a really, really hard game. However, winning the FA Youth Cup with Tottenham was another wonderful thing and you can honestly say that not a lot of people do that, but the football team that we had at that time saw all 11 players go on to play in some part of the Football League, and you can’t say that very often for a lot of teams. And a lot of that team played over 200 football games which is a wonderful thing, and it shows just what great scouts Tottenham had at that time. 

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

with? 

Wayne: I would say Martin Chivers because I looked at him and thought that he had everything that a football player wanted, as he was just such a wonderful player, and everything seemed so easy for him. When I was at Spurs Martin was always very nice but in my eyes he always stood out.

As captain of the Spurs youth team which won the 1973/74 FA Youth Cup could you talk me your memories of that campaign?

Wayne: It was up and down really because most games were very, very difficult through to the quarter-finals and then when we got to the semi-finals we were playing Arsenal and unfortunately I had two bookings. That took me over the number of bookings that you could have, so I had to go in front of the Football League and ask if it was possible to have one of the yellow cards taken away (I had been booked for arguing with one of the linesmen) and fortunately they agreed to take one away, because at that time I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play in the final. But the games were very, very difficult because you were playing against teams who wanted to beat you because you were Tottenham Hotspur, but we had the players to deal with all of the different prospects of how the game went on, and at the end of the day we won, and I can still remember the team now.

Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time in the various Tottenham youth teams?

Wayne: The FA Youth Cup game against Arsenal stood out because that was a very important game and then also in the final when we played Huddersfield Town. Funnily enough many years later when I was at Port Vale I actually met Bob Newton who was the centre-forward for Huddersfield in the final, and he always used to say to me that Spurs shouldn’t have won the FA Youth Cup because Huddersfield were the better side, but my response was that at the end of the day we won it. Playing in the reserves with the first team members who were coming back from injuries or who were on the sides, those times were great times and wonderful experiences which obviously came good for me later on in my footballing career. So I’ll never forget playing in the reserve side for Spurs.

Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?

Wayne: Sam Allardyce. I’ll always remember corners with big Sam because he was one to worry about because of the way that he played. There was also an Everton centre-forward whose name I can’t remember, but that was the beauty of playing at that time against a centre-forward as it was like a battle between the two of you and whoever would come out on top would be the one who would win the game. So in every game that you played you had to make sure that the centre forward who was playing didn’t have any chances to score goals, and that was the hardest part of being a centre-half in those days. I had some wonderful times in my career, such as playing in Europe with Wrexham and making the FA Cup quarter-finals, and now hopefully they can get back in the Football League, because the Wrexham supporters were fantastic.

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

Wayne: Chris McGrath was one who I was very close with as well as Andy Keeley, and also Bobby Scarth, but we used to be all good friends being in the youth team at Spurs. We all sort of stayed together after football training and went out together to wherever in groups of five or six, but because myself, Andy Keeley and Chris McGrath all lived together in the same household we all sort of tended to do our things together. Chris and I obviously couldn’t get down to South Wales or Ireland at the weekends, so we were good friends.

 What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?

Wayne: I’d say to keep training, always give your best on the football pitch and always remember that there are other players around you that are going to help you, and you can help them also. By doing that everything on the football pitch should run right, but at the end of the day if you give 100% then the supporters will always want to see you because you’re always giving 100%, or 105%, or 110% on that pitch. That is all that they ask of a football player that when you step over that white line that you give your all on that football pitch, but I would never want to be a footballer of today I don’t think, because number one everyone wants to know what you’re doing or what you are about. We didn’t have that in our day, and I would hate if I was walking down the street if somebody would come up to me with a camera and just take my picture with a mobile phone, and that’s something that you don’t want all of the time, but that’s life today as a footballer.

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?

Wayne: Of course I do. I was a young lad at 14 when I went to London from one of the valleys in South Wales, and just to be in a big place like London was a massive thing for me. The people around the football club made my time really good and comfortable, and I’ll always have that in me that Tottenham Hotspur looked after me as a young player, and for that I am so grateful. I will always have them in my heart as they gave me the first opportunity to do something that I always wanted to do, which was to play football and they gave me that opportunity. So they will always be there with me until the day I die.

My interview with Spurs’ former Northern Ireland scout Gerry McKee:

Gerry McKee was Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout and has had an association with the Club Academy for over 25 Years in an employed and voluntary capacity. During that period, the man with a great knowledge of Northern Irish youth football would recommend players to the club. From a village in County Armagh, Northern Ireland called Keady, McKee was a boyhood Spurs supporter, and he was delighted to be asked to become Spurs’ scout for Northern Ireland in 1994. A man with a great eye for talent, Gerry has continued to recommend players to the club although no longer formally employed by the club. I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking at length with Gerry as he looked back on his time as Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout. 

What is your earliest footballing memory?

Gerry: I remember the Cup Winners Cup match v Manchester United in 1963 and for some reason I just took to the team at that time even though they lost. My next memory was John White being killed by lightning I had never heard of anything like that before, that coincided with Pat Jennings signing for the club and over here that was big news. Pat later told me his first official function for the club was to attend John’s funeral. I would have listened out for results in the intervening years but my first real memory of an actual match would have been the ‘67 Cup Final v Chelsea, after that I was hooked.

Did you play the game at any level?

Gerry: I grew up in a town in Northern Ireland which was predominantly Gaelic orientated and at school we only played Gaelic Sports so there was no opportunity to play soccer apart from informal street leagues, it was not until my late teens/early 20s when I started to play works league football but nothing of any significance. However, I was always involved in the administration or organisation of games and competitions, so I always had a love for the game.

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

Gerry: At that stage it was predominantly always goalkeepers even though I am only about 5’6”! That was probably driven by Pat who would be my ultimate hero, I always collected photos of Keepers Lev Yashin, Peter Bonetti, Harry Gregg, Ron Springett, Gordon Banks etc and then Spurs Players, Steve Perryman and latterly Ledley would have been top of the list.

What is your earliest memory as a Spurs scout and how did you come about joining the club as their Northern Ireland scout?

Gerry: In 1991 Tottenham were bringing a team over to the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland and the guy who was head of recruitment at the time was John Moncur, I happened to get in contact with John. I was managing a team at the competition which was a select of the Youth Training Programme (YTS in England). Through that contact I became acquainted with John and Head of the Academy Peter Suddaby and over the following two or three years I brought a couple of teams across to play games in England and had coaching sessions arranged for the boys at the club. The first group that were over was in 1992 when we were based at Mill Hill and Patsy Holland took the session and again in 1993 we had a session at the ball court at White Hart Lane and Chris Hughton took that. Both coaches were terrific with the kids and they were memorable trips. Then in 1994 Robert Walker who had been the club scout in Northern Ireland stood down. I was in contact with John Moncur on another matter and he said he knew I was heavily involved in Youth Football in Northern Ireland and asked me if I would like the role. I could have walked from here across the Irish Sea to London that was the way that I felt, to grow up supporting a club and then being offered the opportunity to physically do something for them was to me the greatest thing ever. 

One of the first players that I recommended to Spurs was the goalkeeper Roy Carroll, and at the time we had Chris Day and Simon Brown at Spurs who were England internationals. I think that the club just thought that they did not need another goalkeeper and so Roy signed for Hull, within a short space of time he had signed for Wigan and then Manchester United. I really thought that signing Roy was a missed opportunity for us as neither Chris or Simon really played for us, but that’s the way it was. Then Ciaran Toner and Ciaran Duffin went to Spurs at the same time, they were followed by Jonathan Black, Mark Hughes and then Kieran McKenna who is now the first team coach at Manchester United. There were other lads too and to be fair most of the lads who had gone across have signed for some club or another. While those players did not make the ultimate breakthrough at Tottenham Ciaran Toner and Mark Hughes went on to have successful careers in the game in the lower divisions. Little twists can have a major impact on a player’s career and George Graham liked Ciaran Toner and was in his plans but just as that opportunity was opening George left, and Glenn Hoddle came in and suddenly all changed. Mark Hughes was featuring in pre-season under Jacques Santini but again that was another opportunity that did not get the chance to develop. A lot of it is about being in the right place at the right time.

 Injuries also play a part as in Kieran McKenna’s case, so there is a lot of luck that goes with making that final breakthrough. In Kieran’s case he did come back to the club in a coaching role at the Academy and Ciaran Toner and Mark Hughes also have taken up coaching roles at clubs, Jonathan Black is now coaching in the USA. I believe that shows the boys who did go over were driven and committed to succeed in football. At the time when you’re 16, 17, 18 you think that you’ve given everything to football but it’s only when you come out the other end that you realise what more you possibly needed to do to convince the guys at the club that you warranted more effort or commitment. Back in those days If you were a kid going over from Ireland the coaches would generally give you an extra year or more time to develop that physical and technical ability, but that has now changed and so players have got to hit the ground running when they go over to England and that’s very, very difficult. In 2005 that all changed because the guys who were running the Academy at Spurs left and when John McDermott came in his philosophy was probably to have more of a London based club. If you look at the makeup of the Academy since that time it is predominantly London based players.

Having told me some of your early memories of being a Spurs scout could you talk me through the rest of your career as a scout for the club?

Gerry: When I was a scout it was a lot of hours a lot of miles, and a lot of watching football for the one person who you think may have the opportunity. My preferred way of doing things was after six months or so of watching games and watching players I would get a representative team of those players that I thought had a chance. I would then speak to John Moncur and he would either come over himself or send someone from the club who knew the standard, and it meant then that if they were picking someone out of the group that I had preselected then it meant that when they would then take across someone on trial they had a foot in the door. They had come, they had looked at them and assessed them and said that they could be possibly better than what we had at the club. You knew that you were getting a positive second opinion on the player and the player had confidence then in going across. The other option then was of just sending a player in, I found that when that happened that they were probably not sleeping the night before the trial and were nervous/excited, and they were probably being asked to do things that they weren’t doing with their club. Maybe the coaches in some cases were over assessing how they were doing in one-on-one situations, where as their club might have been discouraging that and asking for pass and move and that type of movement, so I found the former approach was more successful. 

When you went down the line and the Academy people changed then that all changed but being a scout for Spurs was a labour of love and I would basically get out two, three or four times a week if there were youth games on, and I would just watch and observe. Then one day someone like Kieran McKenna would do something and just show a flash of something that was over and above the norm and you knew that the lad had the intelligence and potential to go and take his chance. The understanding of the game that Kieran had is very, very important now because so many lads have talent, but they don’t understand the game and don’t understand where to run to or where to be. However, my one regret is that none of the players that I scouted for Spurs played for the first team (in a competitive game). The difficulty now is that clubs in England have programmes for young players in the community, and so recently you have players like Dane Scarlett who have been at the club from 6 years of age. Our lads can’t go over to England until they’re 14 so you are potentially eight years behind in that development association with the club and coaches.

Would you be able to tell me some interesting players who would go onto make it in the game that you recommended to Spurs?

Gerry: Roy Carroll was the obvious one, but I was also very interested in Paddy McNair and he was the best player I saw in that time however, he was always destined to go to Manchester United, that was a familiar path for young players from here. The support is predominantly for United, Liverpool, Celtic & Rangers. Darren Gibson was another who finished at United and then Everton. Darren always seemed to score against us! 

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

Gerry: I loved it and I loved being able to do something for the club, it was a privilege to represent the club that I support and that was it. I have made friends at the club and know that I can always go back to watch the youth games. The head of the Academy Dean Rastrick is a gentleman and others that I’ve known from years ago like Perry Suckling and Jason Hogg as well as the kit man Stanley White, so those are the people that I would look to meet if and when I can get back.

I also had the U18 Youth Team under Peter Suddaby and Patsy Holland over in Northern Ireland for their pre-season and had set up the training camp and two friendlies against a NI Counties Select and then against the Northern Ireland International team and both of those games were at Glenavon FC.

Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?

Gerry: John Moncur without doubt, I will always be grateful to John for the opportunity to work for the club. Patsy Holland, Chris Hughton and Bob Arber were also very generous with their time. Later on Richard Allen and Dean Rastrick were always available if you needed advice.

What do you feel was your greatest contribution to Spurs as a scout?

Gerry: I hope honesty. I always went out with the intention of trying to deliver something for the club. Everything that I did for the club I tried to do it honestly and in the best interests of the club, and to represent the club in the best way possible.

Are there any memories from your time as Spurs’ Northern Ireland scout which stand out to you?

Gerry: After I had managed the YTP teams for four years at the Milk Cup tournament I was appointed manager of the County Armagh team that would participate in that competition and held that post for the next 21 years. In 1996 we played a Tottenham team that contained Peter Crouch, Ledley King and David Lee (Ciaran Toner and Ciaran Duffin also played), and Bobby Arber was the manager at the time. We (County Armagh) played Spurs in the opening match of the tournament at the Showgrounds in Coleraine and recorded a 0-0 draw. Tottenham were really fancied to win the tournament and in the end they did, we also had Hearts and a team from Canada in the group stages. The nerves I had before the game of possibly being embarrassed by the result but at the same time the excitement of being able to play against Spurs in competition. So just to play against Spurs was probably one of the most memorable moments of my involvement in youth football. 

What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to make it in the game?

Gerry: Listen! The coaches and mentors at the club know their job. Just look at the record the Academy has over the last 30 years. Above all the talent you must have the desire to succeed. Never give up. If you are at the Tottenham Academy you have talent and there is a pathway in the game for you at some level even if that is not ultimately at Tottenham. Finally, keep on top of your education. Football is a short career and injuries can restrict it even further and it is important to plan for a future without football.

After all these years how do you look back on your time with the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who still hold close to your heart?

Gerry: I love them! I was a supporter before I had the privilege to work for them and I will always be a supporter. That goes right from following the fortunes of the Academy from the 16s, 18s and 23s through to the first team. This season at the time of writing Spurs have played 42 matches and including the pre-season friendly away to Watford I have not missed a minute of any one of those games, some better than others! Lockdown has helped with that. All being well when we are allowed spectators into the games I will be back over. I was at the last match at White Hart Lane against Manchester United with my son Simon and we stayed at the ground until late into the evening and the emotion was just unbelievable. Spurs are my club and always will be.