new kid on the block

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Vol.2 Issue 14 - April 2000

A new young Spur plays his early games in the side as a dashing teenager bombing forward at every opportunity. He is energetic, highly capable and reliable. Not a striker, but he notches the occasional goal here and there, but he is more a contributor to the general play, rather than one of the big name stars that grace the Spurs team. His dark hair on top his short frame mark him out as a dynamic player who will be a big part of the club’s future. Yes, Stevie will really become a cog in the side for many years to come.

This was all in 1969 and the early Seventies. It’s Stevie Perryman and not Stephen Carr, but you could be forgiven for making that error. The young Irishman could become as big as the man who was synonymous with Tottenham through the 70’s and 80’s. The man who became the captain of Tottenham and achieved the record number of appearances was the cornerstone of the club throughout his career. Even when he started as a youngster among the big names of Chivers, Peters, Mullery, England, Jennings and Knowles, he immediately made his mark and looked at home amongst these stars of the game. The all-action style of the midfielder impressed team-mates, fans and the Press alike and a big future in the game was predicted for Perryman. That he had with his club, but his versatility (like other Spurs players through the years) meant that he wasn’t picked for his country until 1982, when a seemingly B international was upgraded to full England status. Even then it was only 20 minutes as a substitute. It was scant reward for a marvellous career, when lesser players were winning caps for their country who wouldn’t have borne comparison with Stevie P. It was obvious that he was destined for greater things, as at the time he was the record cap holder at Under-21 level, but when Alf Ramsey was sacked and Don Revie took over, things changed for the worst for Steve’s international career.

Perryman was the sort of player that every side needs. One who worked for the good of the team and not for his own personal glory. He even missed out on the second leg of the 1984 UEFA Cup final because of his tenacious attitude in the first game, when a 1-1 draw and the away goal were the important things. In many ways he embodied the “push and run” style of earlier Spurs sides and his link play with Glenn Hoddle when he came into the team was terrific. Perryman won the tackles and did the hard work before providing Hod with the ball to carve up the opposition with laser precise passes or rasping shots. Steve also ran on to give Glenn another option should the killer ball not ball possible. In many ways, Steve was the protector that Hoddle never had at international level. There it was every man for himself and he was often left to fend for himself, rather than have someone to work with him. Perryman was always the one who balanced things up when the referee made a mistake in his eyes. Unjust decisions were often followed by the captain making a strong challenge to let the perpetrator know that it was now all square. It used to be called “letting him know you were there”. But the example he set was excellent. He was sent off against Watford once after a ludicrous incident involving Wilf Rostron and again against Real Madrid for a hack at the Argentinian Jorge Valdano, when a number of decisions and dubious “challenges” on Tottenham players had been let go by the ref. But that wasn’t the real Steve Perryman. His tackles were excellently timed so that he could bring the ball away with him, his challenges normally hard, but fair and his temperament was as level headed as the playing fields he performed on.

He was also the nicest of men off the field. Once in the Eighties, we were returning home from an away game at Nottingham Forest and stopped at Toddington Services for something to eat. When we went back to our car the Spurs coach was just leaving the car park and Steve was loading his stuff into the boot of his car. My good friend Pat Stonrode, went over to speak to the great man and he was just like an old friend. No airs or graces, just happy to spend a little time with a supporter. It is a story that I have heard from other sources too, so it obviously wasn’t a one-off after a good away win !!

Despite being a predominately defensive player, he loved nothing more than to join up in attack and indeed he scored at least one League goal in each of the seasons he played for the club. None were more important than the two he grabbed in the semi-final of the 1972 UEFA Cup first leg. Playing AC Milan at home, he gave Tottenham the lead in the tie when he hit two unstoppable shots from the edge of the box to surprise the Italians and take Spurs effectively through to the final. Never a prolific scorer, he did manage 39 goals, which was not a bad return. His loyalty was never in doubt and only once did he come close to leaving the club, when a deal, which would have seen him sent to Coventry, fell through in 1974, when Bill Nicholson resigned. He was captain when Spurs were relegated in 1977, but despite Liverpool’s tempting offer to join them, he decided to remain with Tottenham and get them back where they belonged – which he did. His sterling service given to Tottenham was recognised in 1982 when he won the Football Writer’s Player of the Year trophy, when Spurs came so close to winning three major trophies (FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup). This was followed in 1986 by royal recognition and a MBE for the man who played over 1,000 games for the club.

As captain, he took great pride in the honour of leading his side and when he lifted the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982, he looked the happiest man you could hope to see. His disappointment when Spurs lost the Milk Cup final in 1982 was plainly evident. He seemed set to follow his playing days by going into the management side of the club, but nearing the end of his career, he was sold to Oxford United for £50,000 in March 1986. He started his managerial career at Brentford, before going on to Watford. In 1992, he was asked to join Ossie Ardiles as the ex-Spurs dream team in charge of the club, where he was to be the defensive counter-foil to Ossie’s attack minded “Famous Five”. As we all know the team was exhilarating to watch going forward, but the goals flew in at the wrong end too. It was the 0-3 loss at Notts County in the League Cup that ended Ardiles reign as manager and Stevie was used as caretaker manager for the defeat at Blackburn Rovers before Gerry Francis was brought in to take over. He was dismissed in an unseemly manner, which did little to enamour him with the regime in control.

Perryman has been outspoken on the subject of the board at Tottenham in recent times and echoes some of the complaints made by fans. But he has little to worry about these days. His wife and young family have followed him to Japan, where he has taken Shizimo S-Pulse into the J-League Championship play-offs, where they lost on penalties (surely not an English disease then ??). He was also voted as the most valuable coach in Asia, which is a big area to be the best manager in !! Nothing could be further from the young spiky haired teenager who upset so many players with his tigerish tackling and unforgiving hassling. But if ever a man deserved to be successful in the manager’s role after the service he gave to the game as a player, it must surely be Steve Perryman.

SAM LOWRY

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