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Phil Beal

Posted on 27 July 2004  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Phil Beal cast his mind back to Spurs' UEFA Cup triumph in 1972, when he recalled: "I was talking to Martin Chivers recently and we were looking at the line-up from the early 70s - Jennings, Knowles, Mullery, England, Gilzean, Peters, Chivers, Coates and myself. We had a good team then, didn't we?
"We beat some good teams along the way and nothing was better than beating AC Milan in the semi-final. I remember walking out at the San Siro in front of 70,000 hostile people and an iron bar landed right by my foot.

"They had a midfielder called Bonetti who spat in my face. I hated that, so I chinned him. He laid down and Mike England said: 'You'd better get down Bealy'. So I went down and held my ankle.

"The ref came over and booked us, but he put Steve Perryman's number 10 down instead. I got booked later and didn't get sent off! Because they got beat they were rocking our coach on the way out."

Despite his actions in Milan, Phil was never a dirty player and one sending off in 417 appearances says everything about a man who was known for his calm, safety-first approach in a Spurs defence that provided the platform for the flair players to perform in the opposition's half.

"Nowadays I might have a few problems because if I ever thought I was in trouble I could find Pat Jennings from anywhere. Pat used to say that if safety was required, that's what he wanted.

"I never got flustered or panicked, even on the big occasions like the UEFA Cup final or the two Wembley games. I was always nervous before games, but as soon as kick-off came and I was involved, the nerves disappeared and it was just another game."

Born in Godstone, Surrey, Phil joined Spurs at 15 after impressing assistant manager Harry Evans while playing for Surrey schools against Kent at the Valley in 1960. In those days apprentice footballers were responsible for cleaning the senior players' boots as well as the balls, dressing rooms and gym. Phil remains grateful for the discipline those duties instilled.

It was a great time to be involved at Spurs as Bill Nicholson's side clinched that historic first double in 1961 and, as a 16-year-old, Phil felt part of it. He pays handsome tribute to the great Dave Mackay's influence on his fledgling career.

"The first team players involved the apprentices, and when they won the Cup to clinch the Double we were invited to all the functions afterwards. I had my picture taken with Jimmy Greaves. Also, because I lived so far away, John White used to let me stay at his place in Southgate after we'd played youth or reserve matches.

"The player who has always stood out in my mind however, on how to be a professional footballer and make it to the top, was Dave Mackay. When we used to train in the afternoons, Dave would always come and train with the youngsters. He'd train with the first team in the morning, have lunch and then come back.

"We'd have 5-a-sides and Dave was very competitive. He didn't stand any messing around - you had to win. He'd encourage, but if you did something wrong he'd have a go. His dedication really opened my eyes to what it would take to make it and, looking at the Double team, I knew how hard it was going to be."

Phil made a winning First Division debut when he deputised for Danny Blanchflower at Aston Villa in 1963, but it took a further two years before he earned the chance to establish himself at right-back after Maurice Norman was seriously injured at the start of the 1965-66 season.

Phil suffered a major disappointment himself in 1967 when a broken arm sustained against Manchester City denied him the chance of an FA Cup winners' medal against Chelsea.

"That was a tremendous blow. I went to the match and the banquet afterwards because I thought I should, but wished I hadn't."

Phil soon regained his place in the side and, having been switched to the sweeping role following Mackay's departure, began to forge an effective partnership with Mike England, who arrived from Blackburn a year earlier. The recruitment of Martin Chivers, Martin Peters and Ralph Coates completed Nicholson's rebuilding work and signalled three glorious years.

"We had some great success in the early seventies and playing in the League Cup final victories over Aston Villa and Norwich in 1971 and '73 was a great consolation for missing out in '67. I enjoyed them, especially the Villa game in which we played very well.

"The UEFA Cup final against Wolves was a strange game because we'd played all foreign opposition and then had to face another English side. We played better at their place than at home because it got a bit tense in the second leg.

Phil was known as something of a Mickey-taker. "I didn't realise how bad I was until people like Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman and Jimmy Neighbour told me. Steve said I used to crucify people and Glenn said he wouldn't even come into the dressing room because he knew he'd get so much stick.

Like many people, Phil was devastated when Bill Nicholson resigned in 1974, a move which hastened his own departure a year later. Along with Martin Peters he sought to persuade Nicholson to change his mind without success.

"He wasn't a man who would openly praise people and would just walk past and have a little word like 'well done Phil'. But that meant everything, and I liked him as a man. He respected us and used to listen to people.

"When he resigned Martin and I went to try and change his mind. He felt he wasn't getting respect from the players and thought it was time to call it a day."

Following the arrival of Terry Neill, Phil vied with new signing Don McAllister for a place in the 1974-75 team before opting for a free transfer to Brighton, a move he describes as 'the worst thing I've ever done'. He left a year later to joint he Los Angeles Aztecs in a league containing the likes of George Best, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.

After returning home three years later, Phil, now 55, dropped out of football and moved with his family to Cornwall. Still living in Newquay, Phil works for a car rental firm in East Grinstead during the week and attends all Spurs' home matches alongside Pat Jennings in his capacity as a corporate hospitality host in the Hotspur and Corner Flag suites.

"I enjoy my work at Spurs because I'm Tottenham through and through and enjoy going back. I've no regrets. I played over 400 games for Tottenham and enjoyed every minute of it. If I had my time again I would do exactly the same."

'Extracted from a Spurs Monthly feature by Neale Harvey.