The Boys From White Hart Lane

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What was the last great Spurs team? According to the authors of The Boys From White Hart Lane, a recently(ish) published book written by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley, it was the double FA Cup and UEFA Cup winning side of the early eighties. Whether or not you are old enough to have been at Wembley to see Ricky Villa’s famous goal or at White Hart Lane to witness Tony Parks’s penalty save in person I’d recommend it as a good read.

The book consists of recently conducted interviews with ten members of the Spurs team and squad of that era. Each of the players is given their own chapter and the authors let the interviewee tell it like they saw it with little interference. Steve Perryman kicks things off and that’s fitting as by the end it’s clear that he’s still regarded as their leader by all the players. You’re left wondering why a man with his strength, experience of football & passion for Spurs hasn’t been part of the backbone of the club since the day he hung up his boots. The answer lies in his and other players responses to questions about the immediate post Keith Burkinshaw era. Few of them have a good word to say about the way the club was run after Irving Scholar took over and in the way certain managers dealt with the breaking up of the team that had delivered all the success.

Burkinshaw himself is missing as a contributor but Peter Shreeve is there and as well as being interviewed he emerges as something of a hero in that all the players heap praise on his influence on them as a coach and on the tactics and playing style of the team in general. Again you leave with the impression that he’s a man who could’ve given much more to Spurs if he’d been allowed to, particularly on the coaching side. Shreeve it was who dealt with a still brooding and lacking in confidence Ricky Villa by convincing him to chip balls over the marching band during the kickabout before the 1981 Final replay.

As I say, the authors give the side the epithet ‘the last great Spurs team’ which clearly sits uncomfortably with all the players, and so it should as it was a long time ago. They also say that this was one of the last teams that fans could connect with properly and this is true. All of the players interviewed needed to find employment after their footballing careers were over, you didn’t become a millionaire after the signing of one contract in those days. They lived in houses, owned cars and went on holidays that normal supporters could realistically aspire to. It was clearly a team that Ledley would’ve fitted into well as they also drank in volumes and there are many recollections of late nights and parties. There’s a constant theme of sticking together and appreciating each other’s value to the team. The story of the great night at Highbury in the cup semi final replay of 1981 is repeated a few times but also told is the tale of how Paul Miller almost single-handedly dragged his exhausted and deflated teammates through extra time at Hillsborough in the first game following Wolves’s last minute penalty equaliser. Without his efforts there would’ve been no Ossie’s Dream.

Miller and Graham Roberts each tell their stories (Miller’s not a fan of David Pleat) as do Villa and Ossie Ardiles (who was apparently smoking a ‘hubble bubble’ pipe whilst talking!), but lesser lights like Tony Galvin, George Mazzon and in particular Gary Brooke talk interestingly about their time at the club and also what they’ve been up to since. There’s enough material in Gary Brooke’s chapter to fill a complete book by itself.

So if you get the chance to get hold of a copy I’d suggest you do so. There’s some great nostalgia, some marvellously cheesy photos and a host of entertaining stories, certainly you’ll never think of Milija Aleksic in the same way again.


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