Spurs’ Cult Heroes features profiles of 20 Tottenham Hotspur greats who were adored by the fans at White Hart Lane and is an entertaining and informative read that any Spurs fan will devour.
Michael, welcome to TottenhamBlog and congratulations on having written a book that any Spurs fan will enjoy. What is your definition of what makes a Spurs’ cult hero?
My pleasure, thanks very much. I know some consider that “cult hero” ought to mean being a rebellious maverick, and some of them were, but I went for two other key criteria.
One was that the players had to be popular at the Lane – which may seem pretty obvious, but it guards against high-quality players who now leave us shaking our fists in rage, such as Campbell or Berbatov. Another key factor was players who have made a significant contribution to Spurs’ history – club legends, as opposed to those who are regarded affectionately but perhaps not of the very highest quality we’ve ever had.
In my own time as a Spurs fan I’ve been proud to see the likes of Hoddle, Waddle, Gascoigne and Ginola. Why do you think we’ve had so many great individual talents on our books over the years?
I think players are probably aware of the playing tradition of the club, and know that the team is expected to play a certain, attractive brand of football. For example, I mention in the book how Hoddle was not properly appreciated by the England national team, but there was no such problem at White Hart Lane.
I don’t doubt that players like those you’ve mentioned – Hoddle and Waddle, Gazza and Ginola – would have felt warmly received at Spurs, and felt it the right place for their talents. Spurs have had managers who have insisted on playing that certain style, and of course, perhaps most importantly, we fans love it and make our appreciation known. As I found out in researching the book, this has been the case one generation after another.
You’ve profiled 20 different players in the book. Was there anyone else that came close to inclusion?
There were a huge number of candidates. In fact, I started writing before I had compiled the final list of 20. There was a lot of popular support for John White, a key member of the Double-winning team of 1960-61 and European Cup Winners’ Cup Winners of 1963, before being tragically struck by lightning and killed, aged just 26.
I think another who might well have been included was Lineker, and it basically came down to a straight choice between him and Clive Allen. In the end, given Allen’s ludicrous feat of 49 goals in one season, and his continued association with the club – both as a coach and in terms of his family connection (his father Les was a member of the Double-winning side of ‘61, and of course cousin Paul also played for Spurs) – I went for him. There were heaps of others from various decades – Dimmock, Grimsdell, Baily, Ramsey, Coates, Archibald. The book could have been twice as long.
There are only two players included that played for Spurs pre-Double. One is the manager of that 1961 side, Bill Nicholson, while the other is the less well-known, ‘Sandy’ Brown. What made you choose Brown over other players from Tottenham’s early days?
In order to reflect popular opinion, the list of 20 is naturally weighted towards more recent players, but at the same time I did want to make sure that the book conveyed some of the history of the club. We have a glorious tradition, something that does not just come from a foreign investor’s chequebook ten years ago, but has been developed through well over a century. Sandy Brown was a key member of the 1901 FA Cup-winning side, the first Spurs team to win a major trophy. The FA Cup plays such an important role in our history that it seemed most appropriate to pay deference to this first Cup-winning team. In 1901 Sandy Brown contributed 15 goals in that season’s FA Cup, in just eight games, over five rounds.
Covering Sandy Brown also allowed me to introduce another important part of our history – the lethal goalscorer, a tradition that continues to this day. Others from the early years made massive contributions to the club’s formation and early years, but Sandy Brown was headline-grabbing and critical to our first major success.
You used your website All Action No Plot to canvas opinions about the players profiled. How helpful did this prove in the writing process?
I’m not sure the book could have been written without them. I knew a lot of the famous names of Spurs’ history (thanks largely to my Dad, a Lane regular from the ‘60’s onwards), and old match reports and footage gave an idea of the players’ skill and contributions; but when I asked AANP readers for suggestions of their favourite players, and memories of those players, the responses gave me a fantastic sense of how the players were seen from the fans’ point of view.
They have offered unique memories, such as the first reactions in the terraces to a new player, the songs, even personal meetings with players, particularly useful for those players from before my time. Ideally I’d like to thank them all personally, but surreally most of them are complete strangers to me. I have cited a lot of these individual memories in the book, which hopefully makes it that much more appealing to Tottenham fans. Hopefully the book does justice to those fans older than me when they read about their favourite players.
Of the players that you have profiled, my all time favourite would be Glenn Hoddle. Who would be yours?
Gazza. As a wide-eyed, impressionable schoolboy, he captured the imagination from the moment he arrived. A real cult hero, both in his performances on the pitch and his madness off it. I absolutely worshipped him, always tried to mimic him in the playground and even now love watching old footage of him at Spurs. It is desperately sad to see how things have turned out for him in recent years, when I think back to him in his pomp.
Do you think that any of the current squad could eventually merit inclusion in such a book?
They could do, if they show loyalty and maintain their high standards. I guess Ledley could be a nominee, having maintained his high standards for so long, but several others have the potential to become true club legends – Lennon, Defoe, Bale, Palacios, Gomes. Popular guys and excellent players – if any of these guys stay at the club for the best years of their careers, and help bring the glory days back to the Lane, they too could be talked about with the same reverence as some of those in the book.
Final question. If you had to pick one of the cult heroes to compliment our current squad, who would it be?
Cracking question – excuse me while I go misty-eyed for a moment… I’d go with Dave Mackay. For years we have seemed to lack a born winner in the team, someone willing to sweat blood for the club. Wilson Palacios seems to be filling that role of midfield enforcer, but Mackay, by all accounts, was the original and the best.
A bone-crunchingly tough (but fair) tackler, skilful ball player – something often overlooked – and equally capable in midfield or defence, I think his style of play and winning mentality would be a huge asset to the current squad. It would be wonderful to see Gascoigne, Hoddle or Greaves line up alongside our current team, but attack isn’t really an area in need of huge improvement at the moment.