Like I said, as a manager you have to make sure that you’re always looking forward. That’s the only way you’ll see that next opportunity when it arises.
That’s how I made it as a professional footballer in the first place.
I was 16 when Tottenham Hotspur – the club I’d been at since I was 13 years old – decided that, while they felt I had a chance of making it, I hadn’t done quite enough to warrant them offering me apprenticeship forms.
There was still that chance, though – a small window of opportunity. So, while I started a four-year apprenticeship as a lift engineer, I stayed on at Tottenham as an amateur.
That meant working all day, then on two nights a week getting the bus or train to the training ground – apart from those days when I ended up working late and just couldn’t get there in time. Then, on Saturdays, I’d play for the youth team. I lived that life for two years.
“When I look back at my coaching career, it all stems from that initial time at Tottenham”
Then, at 18, I had a big decision to make.
Tottenham asked me to consider signing as a full-time professional. That would mean cutting my lift-engineering apprenticeship short – something I didn’t really want to do.
So I said no, continued playing for the club as an amateur, and finished what I’d started.
I was fortunate. My window of opportunity stayed open, and at 20 I finally became a professional footballer for Tottenham… as well as a qualified lift engineer.
During the 13 years I played there, Tottenham had some great success, winning two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup. It was a period that had a big impact on me, and on who I became.
When I look back at my coaching and management career and the aspirations that I’ve always had, I think it all stems from that initial time – and from the people I was surrounded by. The likes of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who had won World Cup winners’ medals. Glenn Hoddle, who at that time was regarded as one of the most gifted players not only in the country, but also in Europe. Steve Perryman was the best captain I played under; we had a world-class goalkeeper in Ray Clemence, and many others.
An array of players who were all so different.
And, in Keith Burkinshaw, we had a manager who was able to bring all those different characters, personalities and strengths together and turn them into a very, very good side (below).