This series of articles by GARY SAMPSON appeared in
MEHSTG Vol. 2, Issues 3, 4 & 5 during the 1998-9 season.



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.

Mabbs 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 Tottenham Hotspur.

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 MEHSTG.



In 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. 



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 limelight.

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.

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