Sunday, 13 March 2011


I am a 47 year old man with two children Molly and Kitty. I have been married and now separated. In the past years I have delivered catalogues, been a telephone engineer, a chauffer, studied equity and index options on the stock market, a football manager, have run my own football academy and I am currently a Fire Fighter in West London. That’s where I am now but for the majority of my life I have been involved in football one way or another.

I have played in all the divisions of the football league. Played at the highest non-league level, played abroad, been a qualified coach and manager.  I have had my fair share of major and semi-major injuries and operations and have had some great lows and some great highs. I never earned bundles of money out of football but I earned a living. I didn’t save any money nor set a pension plan up for my football retirement so now I am finding my way outside of football with hopefully the energy and enthusiasm I had when I was on the inside. 

This is a real football story dedicated to the majority of players who are not household names and earning film star money. This is the truth about football on the inside at all levels. This is about the heartache of rejection and injury. This is about great passion and uncontrollable love. This is about despair and mental torture but also about joy, happiness and relief. This is about taking what football gave me and using it in the real world. Finally, I hope it’s a story that exudes confidence, principles and a healthy rebelness. This is for the LOST BOYS... this is SKD.


Like most footballing kids, I ate, slept and played the game. It seemed that anything there was to kick, you kicked it. From matchboxes to stones and every spare minute seemed wasted if you weren’t thinking about football. My dad was the icon in my life and whatever he said to do I did and whatever he thought, I thought. School and lessons were an interruption between break times when I could really learn about life with a wall and a tennis ball.

Up until the age of 13, I had always played for the school and district and then one day it happened. After one district game at the age of 13, I was approached by a man in a waterproof jacket and flat cap called Fred Ricketts and asked if I wanted to train twice a week after school at an unknown place called WHITE HART LANE. ‘I’ve made it! I’m going to be a professional footballer at a top (old 1st Division) Club’. I needed some new boots, trainers and kit for Tuesday evening.

Tuesday came and being at school was a place to kill time. The bell went at 4pm and I ran to meet my Dad at the school gates where he was parked to take me to North London. Arriving at Spurs through the old iron gates with a giant cockerel on, I remember feeling sick with nerves. Where do I go? Who do I speak to? What are the other boys going to be like? An old gate man with a fag on told me where to go and we walked through some wooden doors under the old West Stand and was showed to the changing rooms. Inside there were about 25-30 lads all changing. The silence was daunting and undressing in front of older boys with my washboard tin ribs and just-turned teen legs was frightening enough without worrying about acne and puberty.

We were split up in to 2 groups with under 15s upstairs in the big ball court and under 14s downstairs in the smaller gym. Robbie Stepney was our coach with the most energy and enthusiasm I have ever seen in football. In the corner there were tennis balls with which we warmed up and learned our technique. After that we paired off and religiously went through passing and control skills followed by keep-ball and finishing off with a game. After we showered and changed we went into a side room and collected travelling expenses from an old boy called Jimmy Joyce. What an insight into pro-football, great training, the quickest 2½ hours of my life and then being paid money for doing so. This was a different world.

After a few weeks, I was good enough to be selected for the under 14s on a Sunday morning and for the next 18 months I played for Spurs and trained at Spurs, ate and slept Spurs and was even good enough to play out of my age group for the under 15s. Everyone seemed happy with my progression and even at the tender age of 13 I knew I was playing really well AND, then one Sunday morning it all changed.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I came round after the operation and my mouth was so dry I couldn’t talk properly. I had a blinding headache and the feeling of nausea was brewing. I was numb down my left leg and I couldn’t move it. My Dad was sitting next to me and must have been nodding off. I was alone for the first time, I mean I felt empty in the pit of my stomach and mentally insecure. For the first time in 15 years I knew something was terribly wrong and then it all came flooding back. To this day it is as clear in my thoughts as the birth of my children.

It was a crisp January morning at Cheshunt (Spurs Training Ground). Twenty five minutes had passed in the first half and I was in the best run of form of my life - well on my way to signing apprenticeship forms. The ball was slowly running out towards the corner flag and I had put myself between the Centre-Half and the ball. Shielding it at walking pace I felt a nudge in my back and started to lose my balance. As I toppled forward I could feel more and more weight on my back. My body half-twisted and I fell over the top of the ball with the Centre-Half landing on top of me. I heard a snap then a crunch but did not take much notice so I naively stood up slowly and began to run off and then I was shot by a sniper. My left leg gave way and crumbled beneath me and then there was a pain so alien to me that I started to panic. The game immediately stopped and the first person to me was Peter Shreeves (Reserve Team Manager) who reassured me and called the Physio. He put an inflatable splint on my leg not before I noticed that below my knee was pointing in a different direction to normal. I wasn’t moved and an ambulance came on to the pitch to take me to Chase Farm Hospital (Enfield). On arrival I went in to a cubicle and had an injection in my quad to relieve the pain. It wasn’t enough so I had another. After about 10mins there were 4 white coats surrounding me, asking questions and examining my leg. My splint was carefully removed and the horror of my injury greeted me for the first time. This was not my leg. It was only recognisable because I still had on my football kit and I saw my white and blue Admiral Spurs sock ruffled down my shin. My eyes shot to my Dad and he did his best to conceal his fears but even he looked slightly pale. My patella knee-cap was more towards my thigh and my tibia and fibula were at right angles. The nurses washed me down and removed my muddy kit and then a doctor examined me and asked me to lift my leg. At the time I thought that if I could lift my leg I might have a chance of playing next Sunday and proceeded to attempt to achieve the impossible. How sad! but sometimes that naivety is refreshing. The nurses and doctors disappeared with Peter Shreeves and my Dad attempted nervous jokes. By now the shock was wearing off and pain started to kick in. Peter returned with the doctors and it was explained to my Dad that an operation was needed and Spurs were going to fly in their specialist surgeon from Holland in a few hours. Lastly, I remember laying on a trolley with a needle in my hand and being asked to count to ten and getting to three.

On Monday afternoon, Peter Shreeves and the then Spurs Manager, Keith Burkinshaw visited me with a basket of fruit, flowers and some Tottenham books. I felt like a superstar that the Managers would give time to a skinny kid in their busy schedule and make me feel so wanted. I grew ten foot tall in my bed with so much confidence but that confidence couldn’t be used where it mattered and that feeling didn’t return on a football pitch until much later in my career.

I remained in hospital and in traction for 2 weeks and then I was released to go home. My leg wasn’t in plaster but I had a heavy lead back slab running the length of my leg and then covered with layer upon layer of bandaging with my foot free. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on the floor and I didn’t have any crutches so when I got home I was carried upstairs to my bed. My Mum propped my pillows and brought me my favourite cheese and pickle sandwich on crusty white and a cup of tea and suddenly as I blew the steam off my Typhoo I cottoned on to the fact that I was bed-bound.

Friday, 11 March 2011


My next appointment at the hospital was in 8 weeks time so i sat back and turned my bedroom into a place of self indulgence. Easy to reach books, magazines, remotes were not heard of so a snooker cue came in handy and a table with all my favourite sweets and crisps. Absolute bliss for the first few days and then some questions had to be answered. The most important one being my schooling and in one of the most important years as well. As a fifteen year old who was used to being physically and mentally active it was so difficult to come to terms with a day to day existence in bed where the nagging pain in my leg when the painkillers wore off, in the end became a relief to the boredom of the day. I had homework delivered to the house on a weekly basis but the motivation dried up and I knew I was falling behind.

Six weeks later I was looking forward to getting out of my “prison” with a trip to the hospital. Over the last weeks my strength had gone, wastage was setting in and bed sores on my bum and heels were uncomfortable. I had to be carried down the stairs by my Dad and Uncle George and put length ways into the car. At the hospital I had the slab and bandages removed which gave me a great opportunity to scratch away the dead skin and those of you that have experienced this will know what an euphoric pleasure that is. I had a full length plaster of paris put on but still with no heel which meant I still couldn’t put any weight to the floor. I forgot to mention that when they removed the bandages I was privy for the first time to see my leg once again in its original condition, straight. The only real change was the six inch “S” shaped scar under the knee and a round scar on the patella. The ligaments were being held together with half a dozen oversized staples and I remained unable to lift my sparrow leg in the air. 

        After six months I had my second op to see how the knee was and to remove the staples.

       Over the next eight to nine months I stayed at home which must have been stressful to my family especially when I lost the plot a couple of times and demolished my bedroom. I continued to not take much notice of my school work and all I could think about was my final appointment at the hospital to remove the plaster. Anyway who cared about school when you could do 200 headers against a bedroom wall. 

       Weeks before my final appointment my ankle had swollen and locked and to put a sock on was painful. When I arrived at Chase Farm I was wheeled into the doctor’s office and he cut off the plaster while I explained about my “Hans Krankl”. My leg was just a bone but he was pleased with the healing of the knee and the scar looked clean and healthy. He examined my ankle which was now a problem because of its lack of movement over the year and proceeded to manipulate it up and down and backwoods and forwards. Did I scream with pain and shout you “Fxxxxxx Txxx Doc!” or what, but it was the only way to get some movement back. To this day it still cracks all the time and I get more pain from the poxy ankle than my knee.

          I was led out of the room while the specialist spoke to my dad alone and when they came out I was told that everything was fine and a programme of rehabilitation could take place. In latter years I learnt that some of my growth bone was removed and my injury would not stand up to professional football but because I was so young I had a lot of growing left to do and a better assessment could be made when I was 21. My dad kept that from me but obviously Spurs must have known the truth. That’s the indelible thoughts of injury AND now the real hard work begins.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


When you digress in life you see clearly the great influential experiences and one of mine took place in a rehabilitation centre in Camden.

Once again Spurs arranged my admittance and again Peter Shreeves took me and my dad on my first day to the work house. Peter gave me great praise and confidence in my early days and in contrast took it away as I got older, I think we both changed s people.

I was on crutches as I entered through the automatic doors of the rehab centre at 8 o’clock in the morning. I was checked in and shown around the sweat shop. It was unbelievable, there were paraplegics, quadriplegics, people with stumps everywhere, car accidents, bike accidents, sports injuries, men and women with every ailment, accident and injury you will ever see and it looked to me that I was one of the better off ones. People were on stationary bikes, playing basketball and badminton, running, walking or lifting weights in the gym, upstairs doing woodwork or in the hydra-pool. The place was pumping with people sweating, straining, grunting, groaning, laughing and crying. It was a “gaff” to get fit and recover no matter how big or small your targets were. It was a “gaff” where 1 step for 1 person was just as important as a mile was to another. It was as great an achievement to lift your arm in some cases as it was to lift 50lbs. This was a “gaff” where I knew I was not only going to recover but a place where I was going to achieve great fitness and be inspired by great people, this was SKD!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


My fitness programme was worked out for me and from 8.30am unti 5pm you had certain classes to go to and work exactly the same as school except THIS was an exercise regime. I was in an unbelievable situation where my schooling became irrelevant because I either had the choice of going back to school on crutches and making a very slow recovery or go in to rehab and work for 8 hours to maintain any chance of becoming a professional footballer. There wasn’t a choice! We didn’t even discuss it as a family; as far as everyone was concerned I had to go to rehab to stand any chance of chasing the dream.

This centre was AMAZING, in 2 weeks I was off crutches and walking, all bar limping. I had to learn how to walk all over again through building up my muscles and spending hours in front of a mirror on a treadmill correcting the limp. I didn’t mind this too much because a mirror to a footballer is an essential piece of equipment as we all know. The people there were as a diverse a group of folk as you will ever meet - young and old, fat and thin, rich and poor. Accident and injury knew no bounds or prejudices and I watched and listened and realised that it wasn’t just about recovery - it was about education and better than any learning experience at school. I was in people heaven!

I was 15 nearly 16 and my closest mates there were a 21 year old motorbike accident that injured his spine and achieved 12 steps a day out of his wheelchair and believe me to watch him walk was something else. My other mate was a 40 year old Indian ex-badminton player who lost his arms but still managed to grip a bat in his stump and whoop your arse in a game of table tennis. These were the sort of inspirational people that you fed off to achieve your own goals. The classes were hard work but interesting. Upstairs you had wood work classes where you rode bikes that make a saw go up and down to cut wood where I produced a “rank” chopping board for my mum. Downstairs were two gyms, one for playing all sports and the other for circuit training and the large hydro-pool was for swimming and massage. All my exercises were designed round the building up, strengthening and range of movement for my quads, hamstrings, calves and knees.

After two months full time work at the rehab I wasn’t limping, I was running normally and my legs were as strong as Roberto Carlos's. My knee felt great, the scars had healed nicely and my only apprehension was a fear of the next step back into football. I can only admire and appreciate how hard the staff at Camden worked. The spirit and patience were great qualities and my education in life from them and the other patients has carried me through to today whereby I don’t really suffer from “bad day blues”. Sadly Camden Rehab Centre is no more but holds a very special place in my heart so if anybody knows anyone that worked there or attended “God Bless You”.

The Return to the Lane N17...........................................

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Return to the LANE N17.......

I left Camden and the following week I was back at school and back to training twice a week at Spurs. In the next few months I had my O’Levels to take and the Spurs coaching staff were making decisions on apprenticeships. I was over a year behind with both and I didn’t want to fall between two stalls. What shall I do? I would run the 2 miles home from school as quick as I could so me and my Dad could get up the park and do some ball work and I was back at my beloved Tottenham training on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. At Spurs I wasn’t involved in any games or competitive situations yet, just getting back my technique, fitness and ball skills. My knee felt fine apart from a heavy feeling from the scar tissue. After a few weeks I was told I could join in an 8-a-side in the gym and within the first five minutes I was involved in a fifty-fifty. I went in a bit tentively and my knee jarred, but there was no reaction and what a massive relief I felt. You know when you have that split second doubt between good and bad, similar to when you drop toast and will it or won’t it land butter-side up. I played for about an hour, got a good sweat on and that lovely ‘kiddy’ football feeling of doing something you love returned to me after such a long time.

Time was moving quickly now, my O’Levels had come and gone and I just sat in the exams having done absolutely no revision and even getting a mark deducted for putting my name in the f******  wrong place.  I think I used my injury to fail and anyway football was the REAL passion in my life.

My 1st game back for Spurs was in the South East Counties V West Ham at Cheshunt (The old training ground). Players will tell you that the 1st game back after a long lay-off is a concoction of mixed emotions. The adrenalin pumping through the body with excitement and trepidation is a real “buzz”. You can’t wait for the match to start, you can’t take in a word anybody is saying because you have a thousand thoughts rampaging through your brain and you hope that all the extra training will get you through unscathed. My best position was centre-midfield but they played me on the right to give me a bit more time and space. I managed an hour and was then substituted whereby which time I had played OK, had some good touches but felt absolutely shattered, but I was back and that’s all that mattered.

Weeks passed and I was playing regularly, but my game wasn’t back yet. I was doing alright but not setting the world alight. People seemed to forget how long I had been out and Apprentice decisions were imminent. A player knows instinctively what’s happening to him and I could feel a lonely cold shoulder breezing over me. Management stopped asking how I was feeling and I could understand that full time contracts were being discussed and could they really take a RISK with my injury?

The trouble with a lot of managers is their people skills and rapport with individuals is not good enough and really all players want to know is the truth whether it be good or bad. Players and their Dads were being spoken to about contracts or their release and it’s hard to see that traumatic rejection at such an early age. Lads that were getting apprenticeships were not in my league as schoolboys but time had moved on and I hadn’t. My Dad and not myself was called into the office (this bloody waiting outside THE OFFICE is a bit like that sweaty feeling before you go into the dentist with toothache) and explained the situation and till this day I do not really know what was said except that an agreement was made for me to work with the Ground-staff and train throughout the summer break in the afternoons. I worked with the Ground-staff in the mornings around White Hart Lane helping ‘Chalky’ White with the bowling green pitch, painting the stands and general maintenance of the stadium and in the afternoons I would train in the gym, on the weights or around the track surrounding the hallowed turf. I think Spurs were training me up with other jobs in the event of my leg giving way. My aim was to be the fittest and strongest I had ever been for the new pre-season so at home I was working with an old ‘Charles Atlas Bullworker’, eating raw eggs in milk and drinking ‘Makeson’ stout all in an effort to build up my body to compete at a man’s level. How diet and training has changed now!

Pre-season came along and I knew I had to prove myself. My upper body was transformed and I was super fit. No one could believe my metamorphosis and my confidence was growing. I was training full time and loving it. I did everything an apprentice did but was still really a member of the ground-staff. When they went to college on a Monday to study another job in case they never made it in the game I trained all day with the pro’s and a brilliant coach called Pat Welton (R.I.P).  I never went back to school; I never thought of anything else, it was 100% football.

I was sixteen nearly seventeen and my football was back to its pre injury form. I was a regular in the Spurs Youth Team and had been sub a couple of times for the Reserves. I can’t think of any footballer who has taken this route into the game and still being paid as one of the painters, decorators and pitch mowers of the fantastic ground-staff. A couple of days after my 17th birthday I was asked to see the manager Keith Burkinshaw in his OFFICE (not the dreaded OFFICE again). My heart was in my mouth, I had worked my B####### off and Spurs were going to release me. I couldn’t believe it, F### football, F### Spurs, F### life. I was too old to sign Apprentice Forms, what else was left?????


Monday, 7 March 2011


I walked up the plush carpeted stairs and his secretary asked me to wait a minute. I sat outside his office and contemplated what I was going to do with the rest of my life when a head popped outside a door and in a broad Yorkshire accent the top man himself beckoned me in. By now nerves were replaced with anger and a tinge of arrogance at the thought of my release after I had worked my b******s off. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as he asked me to sit down and if I wanted a tea or coffee. I’m sure he just said ‘I was going to be a pro’. He did! Keith Burkinshaw asked me if I wanted to be a professional footballer for Tottenham Hotspur! He offered me a 2 year contract with more money than I had ever known. I didn’t know what to say or do so I thanked him and walked out. I was the youngest at the club to sign Pro, literally a week after my 17th birthday. There was a little jealousy and resentment from some apprentices but the majority were well pleased having known the journey I had been on. When I told my parents my Mum cried and Dad’s eyes were glazed because this was 17 years in the making and now to become a Pro at this level was my destiny and an opportunity to become 'Roy of the Rovers'.

At Spurs it was a great club to train at everyday and the Management’s forward thinking was progressive with the cosmopolitan squad of players. It really was a European-style environment with a South American influence. Growing up there had a massive effect on my football thinking. Watching and training with superstars was a privilege but as far as gaining access in to the first team that was a different matter. Tottenham had some highly talented youngsters but trying to leap-frog such legends as Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa, Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perrymen, Steve Archiblad, Garth Crooks and Terry Yorath was nigh on impossible. Older pro’s than myself such as Micky Hazard, Gary Brooke, Graham Roberts, Gary O’Reilly and Stuart Beavon were finding it hard enough but that didn’t matter because time was on my side and I had a lot to learn.

You really knew you were at a great club when one Pre-Season a long dark-haired, unshaven, tanned, tall, good-looking geezer walked through the car park with a gorgeous blonde on his arm. He was there to get fit and catch up with his old South American compadres. A few years after his Player of the Tournament and winning the World Cup with Argentina the one and only Mario Kempes was gracing the training ground!!! Having all these great players around you really instils your footballing principles and it was a dream to be on the inside.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


We had a really good youth team that got through to the F.A Youth Cup Final against West Ham in front of 15,000 people and my form was good. Others also thought I was playing well and I was fortunate enough to be selected for England Youth V Scotland at Roker Park (Sunderland’s old stadium) with my good mate Simon Webster in a few weeks time. Unbelievably we both fell foul of injury and illness. I had a nagging ache in my groin and as weeks progressed it got more painful. I saw the specialist and he diagnosed a hernia which needed operating. ‘Webbo’ was very ill from yellow jaundice and if he wasn’t as young and fit as he was matters could have been a lot worse, so  unfortunately, we both missed out on what really could have been a major stepping stone in our careers.

When my hernia op was complete and I started to train, I felt a similar pain in my other groin that ended up developing in to another hernia and the specialist operated for a 2nd time. Altogether I was out 5 or 6 months but my recovery was good and my groins felt supple and strong.

It’s hard to explain to people or players who haven’t experienced long-term injuries when so young. When you are growing up at a club, you are judged every day; your ability; strength; fitness; growth and personality are questioned all the time. People are forming opinions on you as to whether you will make it or not and at a time when you don’t even know yourself. You are trying to make it in the most competitive business at the top level while having all the normal teenage problems. Your body is changing from boy to man, boy’s acne becomes a nightmare, sex is constantly making your hormones do somersaults and discovering alcohol can be lethal. Now add serious long-term injuries to this and it all becomes a slight problem. Being injured is a prison term whereby you are forgotten and banished from normal service. Coaches and Managers forget you exist because you are a non-commodity and there are plenty of non-lepers to worry about. When you are fit, you are always in the frame to progress and when you are injured it is a backward step. So, as a footballer if you are fortunate enough to steer-clear of injury, you stand a great chance. The one thing injury does for you though is it gives you a chance to discover yourself to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and to develop an inner toughness to handle life better.

I moved nicely from Youth Player to Reserve Team in the Combination League and was really enjoying my football on a 6 month injury-free run. I had just turned 19 and for the first time in years everything was gelling together as it does when you play consistently week in and week out. I was at my strongest, fittest, my touch was spot-on and my mind was as sharp as ever. My Coach gave confidence to me which was the main ingredient to playing well and now I was experiencing a feeling that players get a few times in their career. I will try and describe this feeling as best for people who haven’t felt it.

It’s almost euphoric whereby your whole being combines with itself to produce exceptional things. Your mind and body become one and you don’t think about what you are doing, it’s just automatic. You are a yard quicker in legs and brain and everything you attempt seems to come off. You could strike a ball over 50 metres to feet or score outrageous goals, so when you are in this rich vein of form you must make the most of it because in my experience this seems to be when injury occurs. It is because your body is so finely tuned and running at its peak that you tend to do more things, similar to an athlete at his/her prime pulling muscles in major events. It is a great sensation to feel in total control and your mind is so alert to its environment that this becomes euphoric.

At this time i was being included in trips away with the first team and getting a feel of First Division (which is now the Premiership) football. If my career had finished then I would have been happy but there was more to come just after New Year’s Day 1983.


Christmas time was a classic, I had been out clubbing because the reserves didn’t have a game the next day, just some light training. A few of us went to the Camden Palace and couldn’t get a cab home so ended up walking and jogging six miles home to Kilburn arriving at 5am. We got up for training after a couple of hours zzzzzzz’s feeling the worst for wear and on arrival at our training ground Keith Burkinshaw pulled me and said I would be travelling to Upton Park (Boleyn) as sub for the 1st team versus West Ham that afternoon (oh! Sh##).

I dashed back home to get suited and booted and met up with the squad at the Team’s Hertfordshire hotel. I do not remember too much of the day except nodding off on Ricky Villa’s shoulder on the coach. I sat on the bench praying that i wouldn’t be called upon to play and that evening the game was highlighted on Match of the Day. When the camera shot to the bench, there I was wrapped up in a massive padded sub’s suit and looking like s###. Football then taught me to act like a boy scout and ‘Always be Prepared’ because you never know where or when your time will come.

I was just 19 and in the squad for the New Year’s game against Watford at White Hart Lane. We all met in the club restaurant for the usual pre-match meal and then went to the changing rooms for a team talk. There was about 18 players sitting schoolboy-esque listening to tactics and advice and then there is a real concentration when the team is being read out because on the whole not many players  listen to team talks because of their repitative nature.  ‘No1. Ray Clemence... No6. Steve Perryman.... No.7 Ossie Ardilles... No. 10 Glenn Hoddle... No.11 Allan Cockram’. I couldn’t ‘Adam and Eve it’. My debut for Spurs was 2 hours away so I phoned home but my Dad had already left for the game. Mum ended up getting a lift from my Uncle George who was still in his illuminous British Telecom uniform having rushed straight from work. Dad didn’t have a clue about my debut so it must have come as quite a shock to hear your son’s name being read out over the tannoy system in the starting line-up. I would think that it must have been a very proud moment for him. When you are young, moments tend to wash over you and recollection becomes difficult but I will let you know what I remember of that day.

It was a cold, rainy and windy afternoon and our opponents were Watford who were doing reasonably well under Mr Graham Taylor’s whack-tastic philosophies. In the changing room everyone was wishing me all the best and telling me just to relax and enjoy the occasion but one man took more time than most to take me under his wing for every moment before the kick-off. Steve ‘Top Man’ Archibald was fantastic and didn’t stop talking to me even if i didn’t even understand a lot of what he was saying in his broad Scottish accent.  He then picked up a couple of footballs and asked me if I would like to join him for a warm up on the pitch. I remember walking down the tunnel with my stud’s tap dancing on the concrete floor with my heartbeat not far behind. The narrow tunnel of the West Stand suddenly broke open to reveal the rest of the stadium and the bowling green playing surface. The wind was quite strong with light rain drifting from left to right. There was one thing i hated as a player and that was the wind because it made the game a bit of a lottery and messed up my long locks at the same time! The house was packed but I didn’t notice the 30,000 crowd too much. As you get older you tend to take ‘great occasions’ in better and you are more in tune with what is going on.

I warmed up with Archie and then Steve Perryman and Glenn Hoddle joined in doing his famous flicks and tricks. The referee blew his whistle to call the Captains together and I also knew there would be a minute’s silence.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Peter Southey, a young Pro and my mate died from Leukaemia a few days earlier. He returned to pre-season training very much struggling to breathe properly and came last in all the running. His attitude was questioned by Management and Physio but those of us who knew Pete knew there was something radically wrong because he was such a professional in everything he did. After loads of tests, he was diagnosed with Leukaemia and after a lengthy battle, he sadly passed away leaving a great future ahead of him, aged just 21. All credit to Keith Burkinshaw who spoke at Pete’s funeral and apologised very emotionally for doubting his commitment for one minute.

We gathered around the centre circle and with my black arm band feeling tight. The minute’s silence was so quiet I could hear the blood running through my veins. A lump grew in my throat but I was a proud man that day and Pete’s great influence to me was that he never crawled nor sucked up to people. He was very much a REAL man. I still think about him all the time.

So the game kicked off with us taking possession and I remember Ossie giving me an early touch. The conditions suited Watford’s style better and I did alright for what I can remember. The second half was clearer and I played well and had a couple of good efforts on goal. With about 5 minutes left I was taken off because I couldn’t run another step due to the emotion of the occasion and was applauded by the fans. We lost 3-2 in an exciting 90mins and most people shook my hand and said I had done really well. Tony Galvin (the socks down Northern Winger) even took the time to come in to the changing room before the end of the game and praise me while I was having a bath.

For the next game, I was in the squad but not in the starting line-up and I was now learning that the youngsters were just filling in for injury and was given a sniff of the big time but you were never going to keep the Superstars out for long. Tottenham seemed to always deal in the market for big time names and never really concentrated on a youth policy the way Manchester United have. Maybe that’s reflective in their success.

After my debut, I was buzzing because you had moved up another level again and when you returned to reserve team football your confidence is in abundance and you feel better than everyone else and the other players view you in a bigger light. Peter Shreeves replaced Keith Burkinshaw after his resignation as Manager and he and I both changed as people. I was becoming a bit cocky and flash but I was a teenager and it was my way of expressing myself. You know that rebellious streak teenagers have where they know it all and think they are just great. Deep down I was very unconfident and insecure and I suppose I was just trying to establish myself and on the surface it came out the wrong way. The real me was quite a nice guy and pretty harmless. I was discovering women and alcohol which I was very partial to and obviously these 2 subjects can have a detrimental effect to ones chosen career. At an early age, when so many distracting niceties are easy to come by and smashing you straight in the face it’s easy to become ill-disciplined and walk the crooked path. But I must admit whenever I saw shapely legs especially when drinking a cold lager the temptation often got the better of me. I make no apologies for the fact that I was a horny geezer and being quite well known around the North London area made it all the worse.

Peter was made Manager and in my younger days he was fantastic and a great Coach. He was always arrogant and hard to fathom out but when he made the step up you really didn’t know how to take him. Some mornings you could walk past him and say ‘Good Morning’ and he would totally blank you; the next day you didn’t know what to say so you didn’t say anything and he would get a yard past you, stop, call you back and question why you hadn’t acknowledged him –what was that all about?

He made you feel quite intimidated and he had his favourites. I was being caught by him doing schoolboy pranks, nothing serious but I knew I was falling from favour. I seemed to always be bumping in to Peter at the wrong time. Once, a couple of us decided to soap the floor of the away changing rooms and slide naked from the doorway through the changing area and in to the showers. Me being me decided to reverse the slide and go from the showers to the door way. It was much quicker and I didn’t stop at the door and carried through in to the tunnel. All of a sudden I took someone’s legs from underneath them and they landed on top of me in their crisp white shirt and newly dry-cleaned lemon trousers. When I finally stopped sliding the Spurs Manager Peter Shreeves was winded and on top of my naked body.  It’s absolutely hilarious now but that bad timing got me bang in trouble. On a second occasion, I was upstairs in the main West Stand and clipped my mate Dave ‘Burger’ Leworthy around the ear and legged it down 2 flights of stairs bursting in through a door and got down on my belly to look for him back up the stairs. I was peering through the crack in the door when I heard ‘young Allan, what do you think you are doing?’ and as I turned round lying down on my back there was Irvin Scholar the Chairman and all the Directors with Peter Shreeves around a giant oak table with Chianti on it having a board meeting. I got up, fumbled my apology and cowered out. I suppose these are factors that don’t go down too well. 

I played one more first team game away at Southampton and then the day came that all Professionals dread.