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.

Spurs under 18’s versus AFC Wimbledon: (match preview)

Spurs’ under 18 side return to FA Youth Cup action on Wednesday evening when they take on AFC Wimbledon in the fourth round of this seasons competition, at Plough Lane (the game is being shown live on AFC Wimbledon’s YouTube channel). Matt Taylor’s team beat Chelsea 6-1 in their last competitive game and that was back on the sixth of March. Wimbledon overcame category one Academy side Burnley in the third round of this seasons FA Youth Cup, while Spurs beat Newport County 6-2 in the third round despite going two goals behind. While I can’t say I know very much about Wimbledon’s under 18 side because of the fact that they play in a different league to us, the fact that they managed to beat a category one Academy side in the last round of the competition does most certainly mean that Spurs cannot underestimate their opponents. Obviously there won’t be any fans inside Plough Lane on Wednesday evening, but playing at a stadium will be a great experience for both sets of players. Spurs will be without centre-half Maksim Paskotši on Wednesday as he is away with the Estonian senior national team, and they are playing Sweden in an international friendly on the same day. I would like to wish the Spurs team all the very best of luck in this most prestigious of English youth competitions for Wednesday’s game, and I’m sure that it will be a very competitive game of football. 

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Lo-Tutala (c), Lusala, Muir, Matthew Craig, Hackett, John, Michael Craig, Mundle, Devine, Mathurin, Scarlett.

Subs from: Hayton, Cesay, Kyezu, Cassanova, Davies, Robson, Whittaker.

Injured/unavailable: Maksim Paskotši (on international duty with Estonia).

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: N/A.

My score prediction: Spurs 4-1.

My one to watch: Wimbledon’s Paris Lock, who came off the bench to score the winner for Wimbledon in their round tie against Burnley.

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.

Some notes on Spurs loanees Jubril Okedina and Shilow Tracey’s performances against Carlisle United: 

On Saturday afternoon Spurs loanees Jubril Okedina and Shilow Tracey were in action for Cambridge United in their League Two game against Carlisle United, at Carlisle’s Brunton Park ground. Cambridge won the game 2-1 and defender Jubril Okedina impressed as he completed the whole of the match at centre-half and put in another solid defensive performance, while Shilow Tracey came on in the 63rd minute of the game, and he was lively and direct during his time on the pitch. 20 year old Jubril Okedina who was starting his second consecutive game for Cambridge United started the game as a right sided centre-half, as Cambridge played with a back four. A good early challenge from Okedina on the edge of the Cambridge penalty area prevented Carlisle forward Offrande Zanzala (Okedina defended really well against Zanzala throughout the match) from entering the Cambridge box, following a good forward run from him. Zanzala’s side had started the game well but the 23 year old was being defended against well by Okedina, who a couple of minutes after making his first challenge on him he made another one to stop Zanzala from turning with his back to goal on the edge of the Cambridge box. Jubril cleared away a cross from Jonathan Mellish, and as he continued to look good in his defending the Spurs defender did well to step out of defence and intercept a fairly promising forward pass from a Carlisle player, before passing the ball to a teammate to get Cambridge moving again (the away side took the lead in first half additional time). Having grown in to the game Cambridge started the second half with a deserved lead, and Okedina’s first real involvement of the second half was to once again step out of defence to cut out Joe Riley’s forward pass from deep.

22 year old winger Shilow Tracey came on in the 63rd minute of the match and he went straight out to the right flank. Tracey’s first real involvement in the game came not long after he had entered the pitch, after the former Ebbsfleet United player had picked the ball up on the right flank before surging forward with the ball at great pace (no Carlisle players were able to keep up with him) all the way to the byline, but his resulting cross into the Carlisle box was unable to find a teammate. At the other end of the pitch Okedina did tremendously well to block off Carlisle substitute Gime Toure in a dangerous area inside the Cambridge penalty area, to thwart what could have been a very chance for Toure. Lewis Alessandra equalised for Carlisle from a corner kick in the 78th minute of the game, before Gime Toure managed to get past Jubril Okedina before entering the Cambridge box and powerfully putting the ball across the face of the goal, with Carlisle’s Omari Patrick not far away at all from making contact with the ball from just outside the goal. In the final minutes of the game Shilow Tracey (he had now switched flanks) did really well to keep the ball in play out on the left flank after advancing forward down that side of the pitch. He then passed the ball to Wes Hoolahan who cut the ball back for Alfie May to convert from inside the Carlisle box. This was another very impressive performance from Jubril Okedina in defence, while substitute Shilow Tracey made a good impression on the game during the second half as he was very direct in his play.

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.

Spurs under 23’s 3-0 Manchester United: (match report)

Spurs’ under 23 side defeated a talented Manchester United side in the PL2 at Hotspur Way on Friday afternoon, as Wayne Burnett’s side won 3-0 thanks to goals from Jamie Bowden, Marcel Lavinier and Kion Etete. Spurs lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Josh Oluwayemi starting in goal, while a back four consisting of Marcel Lavinier, George Marsh, Tobi Omole and Dennis Cirkin sat in front of him. Michael Craig (first competitive start at this level) and captain Jamie Bowden teamed up in central midfield while Dilan Markanday and Romaine Mundle (first competitive start at this level) started out on the flanks, either side of CAM Nile John, with Kion Etete starting up front. Spurs got the game underway on a nice afternoon in Enfield, but it was the visitors who managed the first goal attempt of the game. Dillon Hoogerwerf curling an effort over Spurs goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi’s crossbar early on in the match from the edge of the Spurs box, and the opening stages of the game were even, with both sides having similar amounts of possession. A long clearance forward from George Marsh ended up coming to Kion Etete on the edge of the Manchester United box, but his effort on goal was blocked by a defender. After conceding a free-kick on the edge of the Spurs box George Marsh was shown a yellow card, with Ethan Galbraith curling his resulting effort over. Joe Hugill then fired an effort wide of Oluwayemi’s goal after going on a good run down the left, while at the other end of the pitch Dilan Markanday delivered a nice lofted ball towards Jamie Bowden, who had made a good run in to the oppositions box, but a Manchester United defender managed to get to the ball in time to get it clear at the vital moment.

A cross from Lavinier from the right flank ended up coming to Mundle at the back post, inside the visitors penalty area. Mundle passed the ball to Bowden but his effort was straight at goalkeeper Matej Kovar, before Nile John gave the ball to Mundle down the left side of the Manchester United box. Romaine Mundle managed to get around Mark Helm inside the box, but the full-back ended up tripping him from behind, and the referee spotted this and ended up pointing to the spot. Jamie Bowden calmly and cleverly stepped up to just roll the ball down the middle of the goal as Kovar dived to his right, 1-0. Shortly after the game got started again a through ball to Hugill sent the Manchester United striker through on goal, but Oluwayemi came rushing out of his goal and he spread himself well to save Hugill’s effort inside the box. A good run from the skilful Dilan Markanday ended in him having a shot blocked from inside the Manchester United box. A surging run from Reece Devine ended in him entering the Spurs box before passing the ball to Hugill who shot wide of the goal. A corner kick then came to Ethan Galbraith on the edge of the Spurs box but his effort on target was headed clear off the line by George Marsh, who was in the right place at the right time. Nile John was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Shola Shoretire before Markanday made a good and important tackle on Reece Devine in the Spurs box. A couple of minutes later Jamie Bowden had a free-kick and later an effort on goal cleared before Tobi Omole cleared Mark Helm’s cross at the other end of the of the pitch. Josh Oluwayemi then saved Ethan Galbraith’s effort from range, in what was the final piece of action from the first half.

Manchester United got the second half underway and it was Manchester United who initially started the half quite well. Marcel Lavinier did well to block Mark Helm’s effort behind inside the Spurs box before Hugill had an effort blocked by Etete. A long ball forward from Omole was headed back towards Kovar by Alvaro Fernandez, but Kovar slipped and in the end the ball went narrowly wide of the goal. After winning the ball Lavinier passed the ball to Bowden who then threaded a pass in to Mundle down the left side of the oppositions penalty area, but the wingers resulting effort was powered into the side netting. A clearance from Marsh then ended up coming to Etete who skilfully got past Reece Devine before slipping a pass in to the feet of Markanday inside the Manchester United penalty area, but his first time side footed effort was straight at Kovar who gathered the ball comfortably. Hannibal Mejbri shot wide from distance before Spurs doubled their lead through Marcel Lavinier. After receiving Michael Craig’s pass on the edge of the Manchester United box Lavinier decided to try his luck on goal, and his powerful effort deflected off of Reece Devine before going past Kovar and nestling in the goal after the deflection had beaten the goalkeeper, 2-0. A melee followed following a challenge after the game got started again, and this resulted in Kion Etete and Dennis Cirkin being shown yellow cards, while Ethan Galbraith was shown a red card for his involvement. A pass from Dilan Markanday was cleared away by a Manchester United defender, but only as far as Kion Etete whose effort on the half volley on the edge of the oppositions box went narrowly wide of the goal.

After George Marsh had caught Hannibal Mejbri off the ball the midfielder was shown a straight red card, while Michael Craig did well a couple of minutes later to block Mark Helm’s effort inside the Spurs box after a good run from the right-back. Kallum Cesay came on to replace Jamie Bowden while J’Neil Bennett replaced Dilan Markanday, and an early effort from Bennett from the edge of the Manchester United box was well saved by Matej Kovar. After picking the ball up in the middle of the pitch Nile John went on a good and purposeful forward run through the middle, all the way to the edge of the away side’s box when the ball came off of Martin Svidersky before coming to Etete whose powerful effort flew past Kovar and in to the back of the goal to secure all three points for Spurs, 3-0. Marcel Lavinier blocked an effort from Joe Hugill before Rafferty Pedder came on to replace Romaine Mundle, as Josh Oluwayemi then gathered Charlie McCann’s delivery in to the Spurs box. J’Neil Bennett saw his effort from the right flank, across the face of the goal gathered by the Manchester United goalkeeper, before Tobi Omole headed over a Spurs corner kick. Substitute Noam Emeran’s ball in to the Spurs box was met by Joe Hugill, but his looping headed effort on goal was easily saved by Oluwayemi who a couple of minutes later thwarted Hannibal Mejbri’s late free-kick, in what was the final piece of action of the game. Spurs’ next Premier League 2 game is not until the 12th of April when they travel to Leicestershire to face Leicester City.

Player reviews:

  • Josh Oluwayemi: It was another fine performance from the goalkeeper following on from his good performance against Derby County earlier in the week. Oluwayemi made some good saves today including a very important one to deny Joe Hugill early on in the game from inside the Spurs box.
  • Marcel Lavinier: Solid and dependable at right-back, but also good at getting forward as he showed when he scored our second goal of the game in the second half, Marcel Lavinier did well up against Dillon Hoogerwerf down Manchester United’s left hand side. 
  • George Marsh: Playing at RCB George Marsh made an important headed clearance off the line in the first half as well as some other good clearances. However, he will have been disappointed to have received an avoidable straight red card late on in the second half.
  • Tobi Omole: It was another composed and impressive performance in central-defence from former Arsenal player Tobi Omole. The 21 year old stayed on his feet throughout the game against Manchester United and he put in another good defensive performance.
  • Dennis Cirkin: Strong both on and off the ball, 18 year old full-back Dennis Cirkin got up and down the left flank well and he was nice and involved in the game.
  • Michael Craig: Second year scholar Michael Craig (17) was in my opinion along with Dilan Markanday one of our best players on Friday. On his first competitive start at this level Craig looked assured in the middle of the park as he played as a four. He stayed close to Manchester United’s creative CAM Hannibal Mejbri on occasions and he did well at that, but he also used the ball intelligently (he got the assist for Lavinier’s goal) and he got stuck in too.
  • Jamie Bowden: The Spurs captain scored a nice penalty kick in the first half but he also had another solid game in the centre of the park, using the ball well and also moving well without it at his feet.
  • Dilan Markanday: My man of the match, see below.
  • Nile John: Playing as a CAM Nile John had some good moments in the game including a really good late surging run from deep which led to Kion Etete’s goal.
  • Romaine Mundle: Operating out on the left flank Romaine Mundle did some good things on his first competitive start at this level, including some nice skill to win our penalty during the first half. 
  • Kion Etete: Holding the ball up well and bringing others in to play, centre forward Kion Etete’s hard work off the ball was rewarded when he scored a well taken late goal. His tenth competitive goal involvement of the season at this level (eight goals and two assists).
  • Kallum Cesay: The late substitute made an important defensive intervention inside the Spurs box, late on in the game when the score was 2-0 to Spurs.
  • J’Neil Bennett: The substitute looked to make an impact on the game and he managed to have two attempts on goal.
  • Rafferty Pedder: N/A.

My man of the match: Playing out on the right flank Dilan Markanday (19) caused problems for Manchester United full-back Reece Devine, but he also tracked back tirelessly to help out full-back Marcel Lavinier defensively. Showing some really good skill down Manchester United’s left hand side, Markanday loved to cut inside from the right and use his left foot to try and make things happen. He was expressive going forward and could well have scored a goal during the second half, but his all round play including his defensive work made him for me our man of the match against Manchester United on Friday afternoon.

Spurs under 23’s versus Manchester United: (match preview) 

After losing their first league game in seven on Monday after losing 1-0 to Derby County, Wayne Burnett’s Spurs under 23 side welcome Manchester United to Hotspur Way on Friday in the Premier League 2 (the game starts at 12pm and I believe that it’s being shown live on MUTV). This will be Spurs’ last PL2 game until the 12th April because of the upcoming international break, and a fascinating game it promises to be. Manchester United sit in sixth place in the division one table with 28 points, one point behind fourth place Spurs, and in the reverse fixture earlier on in the season Spurs lost 4-2 to Manchester United, and the home side that day looked very good. It’s no surprise that with 45 goals scored this season that the club from Lancashire are the second highest scorers in the league this season, as they have such talented forwards such as Joe Hugill, Shola Shoretire and Anthony Elanga. Manchester United are a well rounded side who are capable of causing Spurs problems tomorrow, but Spurs’ fine recent form as well as the fact that they played well on Monday night against Derby despite the fact that they played the majority of the game with ten men will give them confidence. I wrote a report of Monday’s game against Derby and I also plan on doing one on tomorrow’s game, a game for which I would like to wish the team all the very best of luck for.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Oluwayemi, Marsh, Lusala, Omole, Cirkin, Bowden (c), Thorpe, John, Devine, Markanday, Bennett.

Subs from: Lo-Tutala, Paskotši, Michael Craig, Pedder, Mukendi.

Injured/unavailable: Brooklyn Lyons-Foster (suspended), Marqes Muir (suspended).

Doubtful: Kion Etete.

Previous meeting: Spurs 2-4 

My score prediction: Spurs 3-2.

My one to watch: Manchester United’s 17 year old centre-forward Joe Hugill. The former Sunderland Academy player has scored ten goals from 16 PL2 appearances for Manchester United’s under 23 side this season.