Garth Crooks broke through at Stoke before forming a feared partnership with Steve Archibald in our glory days of the 1980s.
From playing for his boyhood heroes to joining Spurs, a debut goal against Peter Shilton, two FA Cups and a League Cup Final appearance, leaving us for West Brom and onto Charlton, where he had to retire aged just 32, Garth has experienced all the highs and lows football has to offer and is now .
The memories of his time at Spurs are still vivid - his partnership with Steve Archibald, his double in the FA Cup semi-final at Highbury, his goal in the FA Cup Final replay of 1981 and having the best view in Wembley of Ricky Villa's famous goal.
Now a highly-respected pundit for the BBC, Garth stepped into media work after retiring and was awarded the OBE in 1999.
Before we talk about your Spurs memories, tell us how you broke through at Stoke.
Garth Crooks: "I broke through at Stoke courtesy of some fantastic professionals and people who, quite frankly, were ahead of their time. The most important man in football for me was Tony Waddington, arguably the best manager to have ever run Stoke City Football Club. To give young black players a chance to play the professional game during such an early period in our development portrayed a quality few possessed. The greatest goalkeeper I ever saw, and my youth team coach at the time, Gordon Banks, put me through and extraordinary regime. He went to great lengths to produce a work ethic that never existed before and one that has stayed with me all my working life. I would also have to doff my hat to the likes of Denis Smith, my first ever captain, who was a giant in so many ways as far as I was concerned. The likes of Terry Conroy and Jackie Marsh who became lifelong friends and later Adrian Heath and Lee Chapman both of whom went on to win trophies with Everton and Leeds United respectively. All of these individuals played a role in my development in one way or another at Stoke."
What do you remember about those early days at the old Victoria Ground?
Garth: "The most valuable memory for me playing at the Victoria Ground was making my debut. The transition from being a Stoke supporter to becoming one of their players was just amazing. I spent the first few moments just staring at where I used to stand in the Boothen End. No-one can imagine what a thrill that was for me, not to mention the most extraordinary feeling. To pull on that red and white shirt and run onto the pitch as a first team player was electrifying. I’ve played for four other clubs since but none of them ever quite matched that feeling."
Below: Scoring on his Spurs debut against Forest - August, 1980
When did you first get to know about Spurs’ interest?
Garth: "I first knew of Tottenham’s interest when my team-mate, and former Spurs player Ray Evans, told me that he had spoken to Steve Perryman and that the club were interested in taking me to White Hart Lane. I was very flattered because Spurs have always been a big club. I guess Ray understood that to generate a move from Stoke to Spurs would require one hell of a season from me and Stoke would be the beneficiaries. It worked because I did knuckle down and had a good season."
What do you remember about your debut? A goal in a win against Forest at White Hart Lane...
Garth: "It was a red hot day. I remember I had a good pre-season and I was in great shape so I wasn’t overly concerned about the heat. I felt very confident because Glenn, Ossie and Steve Archibald were also in tip-top condition. My only concern was how were we going to beat Peter Shilton who was, at the time, the best keeper in the world. The only thing that dominated my thoughts was when I did get a chance, I would need to produce something out of the ordinary to beat Shilts. I had played and trained extensively with Peter during his short time at Stoke and knew just how good he was, but I had also worked out how to beat him. That was provided I kept my composure."
Below: With Steve Archibald
You immediately formed one of the club’s best strike partnerships with Steve Archibald - 47 goals between you in that first season - did you just click straight away?
Garth: "No, not at all, we had to work at it and like all good partnerships the relationship was built on mutual respect. I knew about Steve’s accomplishments at Aberdeen with Alex Ferguson and played against him at Under-21 level without appreciating just how good he was. I’m absolutely convinced that we would never have achieved any success had Steve and I not discovered a way to play with Glenn and Ossie. These two world-class players had to stop lending us the ball and actually give us the ball. In other words, allow us to take charge of the situation in and around the box. It seemed to work."
The early 80s were one of the club’s most famous and prolific periods – two FA Cups, League Cup Final, the 84 UEFA Cup – what was it like to be part of that team?
Garth: "In a word - magical."
What was your favourite moment at Spurs? I’m sure many would go for the semi-final goals against Wolves at Highbury, not forgetting an FA Cup Final replay goal in 1981!
Garth: "Yes you are right, my second goal for Spurs against Wolves at Highbury. The occasion, the venue, the ball from Glenn, the celebration with the fans, the whole thing was just sensational."
Below: Garth strikes against City in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay
You were closest to Ricky’s famous goal in the FA Cup Final replay against City. You actually got out of the way as he ran through and famously mimicked a shooting action as he slotted home! What do you remember about that night?
Garth: "I never knew what Ricky was going to do or where he was going to go. I just thought stand still and let him negotiate his way around you. Can you imagine if I had bumped into him and ruined that phase of play? The older I get the more people remember me for that ‘air shot’ that signalled Ricky’s goal. I see loads of managers make the same spontaneous reaction and nod the ball into the back of the net just as the player is about to score."
You eventually moved to WBA in 1985. How would you sum up your five years at Spurs?
Garth: "The best days of my life."
Below: Celebrating our 1982 FA Cup win
Many fans may not realise that you retired in 1990 aged 32 due to back problems. How tough was that?
Garth: "Having had discs removed I had spent two years coming to terms with the fact that I couldn’t play at that level and with the same intensity any more, so what was the point? The grown up thing to do was not to dwell on something you couldn’t change and move on."
Below: Garth talks to our Academy players in a visit to Hotspur Way - November, 2013
How did you get into your media work?
Garth: "I fell in love with the media when we got to our first Cup Final in 1981. I knew then it was what I wanted to do when playing professional football was no longer viable. Talking and writing about football for a living has been a wonderful journey. Although my dad, who had worked shifts all his life, could never get his head around it."