Martin Cloake, journalist and author of 61: The Spurs DoubleThe Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane gives his thoughts on where the current Tottenham full-backs rank against their predecessors. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. 

Full-backs get a hard time at Spurs. There’s been a fierce debate going on for a couple of seasons near where I sit on match days about whether Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker are up to the mark. Earlier this week, the Daily Mirror’s Martin Lipton referred to the “scapegoating of left-backs who did not live up to the legacy of Cyril Knowles”.

That got me thinking about the full-backs I’ve seen since I started watching Spurs live in 1978. I’ve always thought Walker and Benny were pretty decent, if not perfect (who is?). But am I just easily pleased? I tried to list the full backs I’ve seen in action, so I could work out where Walker and Benny sit on that list. So here’s that list. I think I’ve got everyone, although I’m sure there will be plenty of readers willing to highlight any I’ve missed. I’ve tried to keep it to players who were full-backs, rather than players who have been drafted into the position temporarily.

Walker

Rose

Naughton

BAE

Corluka

Hutton

Chimbonda

Lee Young-Pyo

Stalteri

Erik Edman

Reto Ziegler

Carr

Ziege

Taricco

Kerslake

Austin

Bergsson

Edinburgh

Clive Wilson

Mitchell Thomas

Van Den Hauwe

Hughton

Perryman

Of that list, I rate Hughton and Perryman highest. That’s possibly for nostalgic reasons, but I reckon there’s a strong case for two fine players there. The only other player who really gets up there with them is Carr, whose consistency over a number of seasons combines with his obvious abilities as a defender and going forward – the classic Tottenham full-back – to secure a high rating.

After that are a group of players who looked good for a while, but eventually faded away. Corluka and Lee Young-Pyo could consider that judgement harsh, and they were decent full backs who put in some substantial time for Spurs. I’d put them, along with Van Den Hauwe, at the top of this little sub group. They would be ahead of Stalteri – whose late, late winner against West Ham at Upton Park in 2007 ensures his place in our affections – Hutton and Chimbonda. Bringing up the rear of that group would be Mitchell Thomas and Dean Austin, who briefly threatened to become cult stars for positive reasons, before becoming cult stars for all the wrong reasons.

Somewhere in among that lot would have to be Taricco and Edinburgh. Both were around for some time and really did their bit for the club. Both were also more than capable of mistakes and of playing ugly.

Ziege was a player of great class, but was bought as a wing-back as Glenn Hoddle attempted to show football that 3-5-2 was the way to go. He adapted as a full-back, and gave us some great moments – that stunning free-kick against Arsenal in 2002 the best of them – but ultimately suffered as Hoddle’s tenure crumbled.

The rest of the list is fairly uninspiring. So I think it’s pretty fair to say that Walker, Benny, Rose and Naughton would sit pretty near the top of the list. Naughton suffers from being played too often on his wrong side but it’s difficult to see him developing into one of the greats. Rose looks promising but, again, seems to have limits. So Benny and Walker, in my opinion, sit in nicely behind Hughton, Perryman and Carr as two of the best full-backs we’ve had in the last 30 years.

It does, of course, raise the question of why we’ve loaned Benny out, but next time the debate about why ‘our full backs aren’t good enough’ comes up, it’s worth remembering what’s gone before.

Martin Cloake has been following Spurs since 1970 and is the author of a number of books on the club, including the award-winning 61: The Spurs DoubleThe Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. Adam Powley’s ebook Glenn Hoddle costs £2.68. 

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9 COMMENTS

  1. What about Ray Evans who played in the same team as Hoddle, Ardiles etc that won the cup against Man City. He was a good defender and had ability to attack.

    • Sorry but Ray who? Perryman was at left back in 1981 Cup Final . The above list is incomplete though……what about Shampoo Atouba? Ben Thatcher ? Gareth Bale? Wonder whatever happened to him? Bought as a full back till we realised he couldnt tackle, didnt mark his man and had no right foot!
      But seriously……the spurs crowd dont give walker as much stick as the bloggers do and is that because they see the whole game and not edited highlights or what the director focuses on? Walker does make the odd mistake and gets out of position but that is sometimes because he is looking to cover behind our rather slow centre backs. He is streets ahead of Naughton. Maybe just maybe Walker should do a Bale and switch positions? Not thwt we are short of right midfield options though.

  2. I know its going back some time now but by far the best Full back partnership that I can remember was that of Peter Baker and Ron Henry who were never satisfied with stopping a winger but building immediately from the back to feed the likes of Cliff Jones and Terry Dyson.

  3. Danny Thomas was a decent right back. But agree that Perryman Hughton and Carr were our best 3. Mabbutt was pretty decent but wasn’t a specialist full back.

  4. I rated Carr a lot, it was s hame his progress was hindered by injuries. Wilson did a great job for us for a brief period too, but he’s right about us being too harsh on our full-backs, even if there has been some real dross in there at times.

    Benny is a great left-back and I was gutted to see him go, he was just another player that didn’t fit into the AVB mould of mobile players who can keep the ball but can’t do much with it in the final third. Walker was great for us, but his form has taken a real nose-dive over the last 18 months unfortunately. Naughton is good cover at right-back but should be seen anywhere the left hand side ever again. Fryers would appear to be a waste of money, I don’t see what Ferguson was so upset about.

    With Walker signing a new contract, it’s clear AVB is a fan of his and would like to keep him there for the years ahead. Danny Rose will probably want to leave in January when AVB will no doubt upgrade in that position, probably with Coentrao but I fear his defensive abilities might cause a few heart-attacks amongst the fans and he’ll no doubt be on the receiving end of as much stick as Benny unfairly received.

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