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.