Steve Perryman became a player who was a true Tottenham Hotspur legend; not just for the amount of silverware he lifted above his head, but also the number of games he played in a career spanning 17 years with the club.
Attended Eliots Green School in Northolt, Middlesex, where he was only playing friendlies with the school team, but the school recommended him for the Ealing District team. He was spotted as a young player in West London, where he represented Ealing Schools, Middlesex Schools and London Schools. Steve also made five appearances for England Boys (including a England v Scotland Boys match at Wembley in July 1967), Perryman was the target for a lot of clubs, who offered his parents all sorts of inducements to turn their son over to them. However, Spurs offered him seats to watch them beat Chelsea 2-1 in the 1967 FA Cup Final at Wembley and he was so impressed that he signed on with the club on schoolboy forms when he left school.
A competitive midfielder, Perryman formed a great partnership with Graeme Souness in the youth side and reserves, before the Scot left for Middlesbrough. Together in midfield, they were part of the side that won the 1970 FA Youth Cup beating Coventry City, but by this time Perryman had broken into the side with some outstanding performances for a 17 year old and he had pushed ahead of Souness.
He quickly became a regular in the team and had a knack of appearing in and around the penalty area to hit powerful shots into the net. His game was to upset the opposition's midfield and get the ball off them before passing it on to the more experienced Alan Mullery or Martin Peters alongside him. However, he soon was comfortable taking the ball forward himself and playing one-twos with Gilzean and Chivers. His presence as a busy worker blossomed into one where he had his own role rather than being a subsidiary to others. When Bill Nicholson thought it was time to rest Perryman in his first season, the team failed to function as it had with him in the line-up, so he was quickly brought back into the side. It was in 1971 that he became Spurs captain at the tender age of 20, by which time he had been involved in several trials for England Youth.
Steve's first winners medal soon came with a vital part in the 2-0 win over a dogged Aston Villa side in the 1971 League Cup Final (helping out with a never-say-die chase to clear a seemingly goal-bound shot by Andy Lochead off the goal-line) and with the UEFA Cup place that win secured, he was a star in the team that went on to win the trophy in it's inaugural season. None more so than in the semi-final first leg, when Tottenham faced crack Italian side AC Milan at the Lane. Being a goal down did not deter Spurs from pressing forward, but it was two long range drives past the keeper from Perryman, latching onto loose balls outside the area, that set up the victory and a place in the final.
The determination that was an integral part of Steve's make up often saw him carrying on when injured and the huge egg that swelled around his eye in a derby game against Arsenal at White Hart Lane was not enough to take him off the pitch, staying in amongst the action to fire another fierce shot to ensure Tottenham took the points from that encounter. Perryman also disliked referees who did not award free-kicks when they were due to Spurs. His later position as captain allowed him to question this, but often it would re-double his efforts to right the supposed wrong.
Away form the game, he had opened a sports shop bearing his name, which his brother ran on a day-to-day basis, with Steve helping out whenever he could after training.
Having been part of the League Cup winning team of 1973 (by which time he was vice-captain behind Martin Peters) and the UEFA Cup losing team of 1974, the team was broken up by Bill Nicholson, as he tried to build a fourth great side, but the game and it's players had changed. The team found it difficult to maintain the high standards they had instilled in the early 1970s and players drifted away, with the replacements not being of quite the same calibre. Perryman, having the armband at the age of twenty, was reinstalled as captain when Peters left and led the team in his inimitable way, but Nicholson and Neill could not save Spurs from slipping away over a couple of seasons and when Keith Burkinshaw took the reins, it was of an almost sunken ship. His idea to take Perryman from midfield into the back four to bring some stability alongside young defenders almost worked, but it came too late and a relegation to the Second Division was reality at the end of the 1975-76 season.
Nobody at the club would have blamed Perryman for taking his fighting spirit to another club in the top flight, but he decided to stay with Tottenham and captain them through one season in the second tier and automatic promotion, albeit on goal difference, but his guidance in regaining the club's First Division place came as a real bonus for Spurs.
In the first season back, the club made a world scoop by signing Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa from Argentina to boost the team back in the top flight. Perryman was a welcoming presence to the two World Cup stars and developed a lifelong friendship with them both. In Ardiles, he found a like-minded soul-mate and they enjoyed playing in the same team with their short passing game and ability to cover a lot of ground during the 90 minutes. Both honed the talents of Glenn Hoddle alongside them and there was an understanding between the three of them almost immediately.
With Graham Roberts brought in from non-league Weymouth, Perryman found a full back role to his liking, as Robbo adopted Steve's former ball-winning role in midfield. This allowed him to play behind Hoddle and win the ball, playing it to the England midfielder to do the damage to the opposition. The pairing was a successful one, as they worked the right side very well and with the rest of the team functioning like a well-oiled machine, they went on to win FA Cup finals in 1981 and 1982, reach the 1983 League Cup Final and the semi-final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1983 as well.
It was in 1982 that his star was firmly in the ascendancy. He had won his one and only full England cap in June 1982 in a game in Finland which was first deigned to be a B international, but was upgraded later to full status, giving Steve some international recognition, but scant recognition at that, as he was often the better of the players selected by Alf Ramsey in his position. But it allowed Stevie to concentrate on his club career, where he probably found (like Glenn Hoddle), that he was surrounded by better players at White Hart Lane than in the England set-up. Having won two FA Cups, lead the team to near success in the 1983 League Cup and in Europe the same year, Perryman was named as Footballer of the Year by the Football Writer's Association for 1982.
The 1983-84 UEFA Cup campaign turned bittersweet for Steve, as he helped Tottenham get through the first leg in Brussels with a 1-1 draw with Anderlecht, but picked up a yellow card that ruled him out of the second leg, which saw all sorts of thrills and spills, but was won on penalties by Tottenham. he was eligible for a winners medal, but it was Graham Roberts who picked up the trophy in front of an ecstatic White Hart Lane crowd. It was his friend Ardiles who insisted that Perryman receive a winners medal and handed his over to his good friend.
Things started to change after Keith Burkinshaw left and the manager Perryman had such a good relationship with left a hole that could not be adequately filled. It was sadly ironic that his attempt to stop a cross into the Spurs penalty area in the home UEFA Cup tie against Real Madrid in 1985 ended with him deflecting it past Ray Clemence to condemn Tottenham to their first European home defeat. It was typical of his resolve to keep Spurs in the game for every second he was on the field, that he strained every sinew to stop a goal. The second leg saw him dismissed for a bad tackle, which might have been in revenge for an earlier cynical foul on him by Valdano.
The time and dedication that Steve Perryman gave Tottenham cannot be measured. A true Tottenham man and true Tottenham legend has played more games than anyone else in the club's history and the figures speak for themselves, but it is the nature that Perryman carried himself and the meaning of what Bill Nicholson taught him as a Spurs player that made him such a hero to generations of Spurs fans. He believed in the Tottenham Way and in playing for the shirt and spurned moves away from the club to stay and restore them to where they belonged.
His career came to an end in March 1986, when he was allowed to leave to join Oxford United, who were battling against relegation. His stay at the Manor Ground was short - lasting only two months - with a move to his native West London with Brentford following. The lure to this move was offering him the opportunity to take on a player-manager role, but gave up playing in 1990.
When Peter Taylor left the manager's post at Watford, he advised that Perryman take over from 1990 to 1993, when he returned to White Hart Lane under Ossie Ardiles as his assistant in July 1993, but the lack of defensive resolution in a side set up for attacking left the pair exposed and Ardiles was sacked in 1994, with Stevie staying on for one game as caretaker before being dismissed himself.
Steve continued his managerial career in Norway at IF Start, where he stayed until 1994, then his next port of call was Shimizu S-Pulse, where he replaced Ardiles as boss in 1996. His stay saw them win the J League Cup in 1996, the second stage of the 2000 J League championship, thus presenting them with the opportunity to represent their country in the Asia Cup, which they won for the first time. His stay ended in 2000 and in 2001 he returned to Japan for a year in charge at Kashiwa Reysol. Well respected in Japan as a manager, Perryman had won the J League Manager of the Year award in 1999.
After leaving Spurs, Steve was offered the position of Director of Football at non-league Exeter City, where he has dedicated his time, although he has been a regular visitor to White Hart Lane in recent years since the Alan Sugar regime relinquished charge at the club. In 2012 , Steve suffered a heart problem, which left him fighting for his life, but just as in his professional capacity, it was a fight he won and he was restored to health. Another scare in 2013 was overcome, as Steve showed the on-field battling qualities replicated off it.
Perryman was awarded the MBE for services to the game in 1986.
Steve Perryman was a player who always found time for the fans and would happily chat about the club, even when he had just finished a game or was on his way home after a match. Having met him since, he has not changed and said that the game was always about the fans, as they gave him the opportunity to play the game, so he was happy to give something back.
A true hero. A true