Tottenham legend reveals how Bill Nicholson almost ended his Spurs career

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Steve Perryman is one of Tottenham’s most revered legends having made a club record 854 appearances for the first team after coming to the club as a 15-year-old (Wikipedia).

The former midfielder went on to captain the side and won several honours during his career at Tottenham including the one UEFA Cup, two FA Cups, and two League Cups.

Perryman also won the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year in 1982 and went on to be a part of Ossie Ardiles’ coaching staff in the mid-90s.

However, the 67-year-old has now revealed that his Spurs career could have come to a premature end just two years after he broke into the Spurs first team.

Speaking to Football.London’s Alasdair Gold, Perryman revealed how an ankle injury he picked up hugely affected his confidence and how the legendary manager, Bill Nicholson thought his legs had gone as a result.

Perryman, who recently released his autobiography ‘A Spur Forever’, said, “I nearly left once. For two and a half years I didn’t put a foot wrong. It ended up with people thinking I was going to play for England and I’d do this and that.

“All of a sudden I jumped for a ball in midfield against Liverpool at home and I came back down heavily on my ankle which can happen and I rolled it. It just affected my confidence.

“It led to about six months later the chief scout Charlie Faulkner, who had signed me for the club, calling me. He lived in our area and happened to come and watch Ealing vs Harrow on a Saturday morning because he had nothing else to do. He saw me play my first ever game for the district team as an under 15.

“Anyway, he phoned me up and said ‘I’m sorry to say Steve but I’ve had an argument about you in the office this afternoon. They’ve decided that your legs have gone and you’re running out of steam. They think that you’re finished so I had a bit of a row with them about it and I’ve said I’ll show you how much he’s finished by how much I can go out and get for him’.

“So, he said ‘Bill Nick is going to call you in tomorrow, this is a bit of treachery by me but I’m so angry about what they’re saying that I’ve decided to tell you, so please don’t let on’.

“Bill called me and said ‘Steve, I’ve never ever thought about letting you go, but I’ve asked a club for two players and they’ve come back and asked for you. So what do you think?’

“I asked what club it was. ‘No, no, I’m not prepared to say that’. I explained that that made a bit of a difference. I’m a home bird, I signed for a London club because I didn’t want to go into digs. I couldn’t handle them and it led to me having a four-hour round trip to Spurs every day as a young lad.

“Bill wouldn’t tell me which club it was but Charlie had already told me it was Coventry City, who were then in the top flight and I had played a lot of games against them and had won the FA Youth Cup against them, so they knew a lot about me from a young age.

“I said ‘Well Bill if it’s not too far up north and it’s reachable from London, yeah I’ll go’. He just looked at me and said ‘Are you sure about that, what you’ve just answered?’

“I said ‘With respect Bill, you’ve just asked me’. He said ‘I know I’ve just asked you but are you sure about that answer? I suggest you go home and talk to your influencers, whether than be your wife, your brother or your dad and just run it by them’.

“I said I would, even though I don’t think I actually did run it by anyone, and I went in the next day and said ‘Yeah, I’m up for going’. He said ‘I can’t believe what you’re saying’ and then after a moment he added ‘go and train and I’ll be in touch with you’.

“I did train. He didn’t speak to me after training and that night he resigned.”

Nicholson reportedly resigned as he was burned out after being at the helm of the club for a sustained period and his sudden resignation shocked not just people at the club but also English football at the time.

However, it turned out t be fantastic news for Perryman. The 67-year-old added, “So I was probably a day or two away from leaving Spurs. It just shows you how fate works.”

Spurs Web Opinion

Who knows if Nicholson would have actually let Perryman leave for Coventry as he still didn’t seem convinced about his sale based on Perryman’s own account. However, Spurs fans who enjoyed watching Perryman play for the subsequent decade and a half were perhaps quietly thankful that Spurs’ greatest ever manager resigned before he could get rid of Perryman.

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