This series of articles by GARY SAMPSON appeared in
MEHSTG Vol. 2, Issues 3, 4 & 5 during the 1998-9 season.
LOYALTY - A BONUS
|The summer release of David Howells and
Gary Mabbutt have seen the end of the longest serving Tottenham players
at the club. Now, the veteran of the side is Justin Edinburgh who is
approaching his magnificent seventh season here.
joined the club in 1981, coming from the relative obscurity of Bristol
Rovers to step straight into a Charity Shield match against Liverpool.
He took to Tottenham like a duck to water and seemed to fit seemlessly
into the side, whatever position he was asked to play. Like Steve
Perryman before him, his versatility probably cost him some England
caps, but he represented his country with honour and energy. His
diabetes was no hindrance to his development as a footballer and in
overcoming the horrific injuries he sustained at the hand (or should
that be elbow) of John Fashanu, he had an equally tough battle. Indeed,
it was on the opening day a couple of seasons ago at Blackburn, that he
broke his leg and came back once again. His dedication to Spurs was such
that even a tempting offer by Liverpool in the mid-eighties could not
prise him away from the Lane. His crowning glory as Tottenham captain
came at Wembley, when in 1991, he lifted the FA Cup aloft, erasing the
sad memory of 1987 in the process.
David Howells was a different case
entirely. Having come up through the ranks at
Tottenham, he was not afforded the respect shown to big money signings
and struggled to win over the Spurs crowd. His contributions to the team’s
cause were often overlooked for those of other, more overtly flamboyant,
players. But when the chips were down, Howellsy was a man you would want
on your side. His support for Spurs before he joined the club shone
through in games against The Arse and his rugged tackling was an
important element in allowing others to play their natural game.
Starting as a forward and scoring on his debut at Hillsborough, he
gradually moved back through the side as bigger names came in up front.
In midfield, his distribution was under-rated, he rarely gave the ball
away and he performed the role in front of the back four very well,
protecting them from being overrun from midfield. He was always ready to
get into the box (the striker in him coming out there) to notch a goal
here and there, but most of all, unselfishly giving 100% for the benefit
of the team.
It will be difficult to replace them.
Not just in positional terms, but for what they brought to the club.
There was a love of Tottenham in them that was not evident in some of
the signings made during the last few years. But, as we know, that
lilywhite heart is not always enough and players have to do it out on
the pitch. these two did that and more. For all the big names that came
and went, they stayed and provided some stability and continuity through
times of constant change at Tottenham. They have probably lost count of
the number of managers they served under, but they outlasted them all
and it was only the Gross/Pleat axis that severed their ties to
It is hoped that at some stage that
Mabbutt will return on the management or coaching side, but for Howells,
I’m not so sure. I think he could do a good job with the youngsters as
he would understand the pressures of having to fight to get a place in
the first team. He could instill in them the determination of proving
yourself against the players signed by the club and Mabbutt could
encourage players who have to get over injuries, as a living example of
what can be achieved if you want it bad enough.
Both managed to get a testimonial out of
the club to recognise their dedicated service and they were well
attended, which was what they deserved.
But, the loss of two such established
stars of the Tottenham squad raises other questions. Will they be
amongst the last of the players who have a piece of Tottenham in their
heart? And as Justin counts down the years to his big match, not many
will follow. These are things I will look at in the next issue of
WHAT PRICE LOYALTY ?
the last issue of MEHSTG, I looked at the departure of Gary
Mabbutt and David Howells from the club in the summer. Were they the
victims of some cost-cutting exercise or just their advancing age. While
Mabbs was a great reader of the game to compensate for his lack of
speed, not many would say that Howells should have been put out to grass
quite yet. There is nobody at the club who was able to play the role in
front of the back four as well as he. But whatever the reason, the
long-serving player may be a thing of the past. The Bosman Ruling and
the freedom of contract have ensured that it is positively in the
players interest to move from club to club, picking up signing on fees
as they go. The testimonial match used to be the club’s way of
thanking players for not cashing in on the big money moves in the past,
but now that benefit will disappear along with the one-club man.
I don’t suppose many of us have sat
down and thought how much money David Howells and Gary Mabbutt have
saved this club. It probably amounts to a few million and that was
before today’s inflated transfer figures got a hold of the market. How
many more will come through the ranks or will be brought to the club for
peanuts to maintain their place in the side for many years to come ? Not
many, I bet. With Pleat already saying that he is being quoted £8
million for a promising Nationwide League player, the prospects of lower
league youngsters coming to Tottenham are pretty slim. The club have
made no secret of the fact that they are looking at players further down
the ladder - Barry Hayles of Bristol Rovers, Gareth Ainsworth (Port
Vale) and Kieron Dyer of Ipswich, just three who’s names have been
linked with the club. Even Ipswich’s youth team centre-half, Titus
Bramble, who is yet to play a first team game. Some scouts have even
been looking around the non-league scene to see if there is any talent
to be had there.
The scouting network will have to be
very active, not only in this country, but also in Europe and beyond.
The battle for young talent will be fierce and every club will be on the
look-out for new names and faces. While Tottenham may have a lot of
money to spend at the moment, £20 million won’t go very far. The
establishment of the Academy is a progressive idea, but it needs to
bring players on. Players who will be able to step into the first team
and want to play for Tottenham. Players who are Spurs supporters at
heart and have the keen desire for the club to be great. Many foreign
stars are happy to come for the money and then move on. Some come and
like it so much they want to stay. Whatever happens, players who are
signed by the club must have the correct attitude to produce the goods
for Tottenham Hotspur.
It is hard to reconcile the fact that we
have a manager who once played and managed Arsenal. What were his
feelings when Tottenham ran out at Highbury ? It’s one of the things
you think about when you are little. If I became a footballer and had to
play against Tottenham would I score an own goal or let their players
through to score ? Well, I suppose that it is a profession and players
must approach it in the fashion where they do their best for their
current employer. Think of all the players who profess to have supported
Spurs when they were kids. Les Ferdinand, John Gregory, Dennis Bergkamp,
Jimmy Greaves. All players who were not averse to sticking one past the
Lilywhites when they were on the opposing side. We must hope that our
new manager will take the same stance and do his damnedest for Mr. Sugar
and the fans.
How players can be attracted to do well
for the club is hard to see. At the time Mabbutt signed, Tottenham had
just won the FA Cup for a second time and had a place in Europe. Howells
bided his time in the feeder teams until he made it to the first eleven
and put everything into his performances, that made it hard to be left
out (although both Ossie and Gross both failed to appreciate his
contributions). Their departure may have been to clear the way for a new
era. Out with “Old Tottenham” in with “New Spurs”.
For some, there is a love of the club
that will never fade. Sol obviously loves this club and is happy to play
for Tottenham despite the last few awful seasons. Others have also grown
up with Tottenham - Walker, Carr, and Clemence. But what of the next
generation and the pitfalls that may face them on the road to stardom?
More on those who were loyal and those who were not next time.
ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE
|There is an aspect of this loyalty theme
that shows that there may be something in sticking with one club for an
extended period. For every player that joins Spurs in a blaze of glory,
there are a dozen others who leave the club. Mostly because they cannot
get a regular first team place or think they can do better elsewhere.
But how many former Tottenham players can you name who have done well
after leaving the club ?? We all have a list of players who went on to
lesser things after leaving White Hart Lane.
One of the most recent is Danny Hill,
who after serving our reserves for so long, finally departed for Oxford
United, where he now rarely gets a look in and may only occasionally get
paid, because of their huge losses. Danny is only one of many promising
youngsters who have failed to make a mark at Tottenham and have had to
leave to find opportunities elsewhere. Many headed to East Anglia, where
Ipswich and Norwich took many of our youngsters, but others found
alternative homes - John Moncur at West Ham, Scott Houghton at
Peterborough, Kevin Maher (Southend), Mark Arber (Barnet), Jamie Clapham
(Ipswich), Guy Butters (Gillingham), Stuart Nethercott (Millwall) ... the
list goes on and on.
But some players left because they felt
they could do better at another club. One of the earliest I can remember
was Keith Osgood. A home-grown talent, he played at centre half, but
went to Derby, then Coventry, but failed to get any more success than if
he had stayed with Spurs. He was a solid player, but no great shakes and
seemed to have ideas above his station. Another who failed to stick
around was Nick Barmby, one of the most criminal wastes of talent ever.
At Tottenham, he came into the team after working his way through the
ranks and forged a great partnership with Sheringham, Anderton and
Klinsmann. He was in the same group as Walker and Campbell and could
have developed alongside them. When Jurgen left, little Nick saw the
forward position as his own and when Chris Armstrong joined the club,
this put Barmby’s nose out of joint. He started complaining about his
wife being homesick for Yorkshire and despite the pleading of his family
to stay at Tottenham, he decided to up sticks and move to Middlesbrough.
Unsettled by the fact that he could not get a regular place in the side,
he subsequently moved to Everton, where he has failed to do himself
justice. Leaving at around the same time was Paul Stewart, a striker,
who was successfully converted into a hard-working midfielder. He again
wanted to return to his roots and got a transfer to Liverpool, but
disappeared virtually without a trace before going on loan to many a
Nationwide side. He now plies his trade in the North-West Trains League
with Workington. I think that says a lot.
One of the biggest stars who left Spurs
to go on to bigger things was Paul Gascoigne. His knee injury, received
in the 1991 FA Cup final, was obviously a major factor in his future
career, but he had his best times at Tottenham and failed to recapture
that form at his other clubs. Whether in Gazza’s case things would
have been different if he had stayed, we will never know.
Others from the 1991 FA Cup winners who
wanted to try pastures anew were Steve Sedgley and Vinny Samways. Sedge
is still trying to help Wolves out (of the First Division) after going
to Ipswich, but poor old Vin thought he would set Goodison alight, but
has ended up even further in the Spanish backwaters with Las Palmas than
Andy Gray when he left Tottenham for a life in the sun with Mallorca
(who are now top of the Liga, with Gray currently at Millwall). Nayim’s
return home in a move to Real Zaragoza to try and break into the
national team, paid off with a wonderful, never to be forgotten goal in
the Cup Winners Cup Final, but since then, he too has slipped out of the
Some you can feel sorry for. When
the club gets the cheque book out to bring in new recruits, it must be
disheartening for the loyal squad player who has always been there and
now is pushed even further down the pecking order. But, for youngsters
who look like they could be useful, do they accept the first offer that
is made to them as they regard it as a ticket to stardom ? Or are they
politely told that their services will not be required and they may be
well advised to look for a new start ? What happened to Garry Brady ? A
sub who got into the first team and then suddenly he’s off to
Newcastle at the sniff of an agent’s contract. He’s not exactly been
prominent in the Toon team this season so far, has he ? Clapham was
always well regarded, as was Chris Day (Ian Walker’s understudy).
Having seen how well Baardsen has fared, perhaps Day is kicking himself
for not hanging around a bit longer.
Of all the players who did not feel it
appropriate to stay at White Hart Lane, only Jurgen Klinsmann (when he
left the first time), Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle have achieved more
away from the Lane. Of course, famously, Des Walker wasn’t taken on by
Tottenham when a junior and went on to become an established England
international, but all the players who went to find a better place say
that the best times of their careers were at Tottenham. Having seen Day,
Ronnie Rosenthal and Steve Slade in reserve team opposition recently, it
brings it home to you, that there are many, many players who may have
been better biding their time than jumping into the unknown at another
club too soon. There have been many in the past and will be more in the
future. Maybe some who headed for the door, for whatever reason, would
be looking forward to their testimonial now.