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Steve Perryman: "The Lane will always be a treasured memory for me, a Spur forever"

Posted on 13 May 2017  - 10:15

The hours are now ticking away to 'The Lane, The Finale' and the final match at our famous old stadium against Manchester United on Sunday. To mark the occasion, we've spoken to a number of legends for their memories of White Hart Lane. Next up - the man who played at the Lane more than anyone else, legend, captain, Steve Perryman...

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STEVE PERRYMAN

- 436 appearances at the Lane, over 100 more than anyone else
- A Club record 854 appearances between 1969-1986
- League Cup winner (1971, 1973), UEFA Cup (1972, 1984)
- Captain of Spurs 1975-1986
- Lifted FA Cup in 1981 and 1982
- FWA Footballer of the Year, 1982
- One England cap v Iceland, 1982
- Awarded MBE in 1986
- Director of Football at Exeter City since 2003
- Inducted into Hall of Fame, 2016

'I was like a kid in a sweet shop' said the one and only Steve Perryman, 'Stevie P', as he looked back at his first days at Spurs, and at White Hart Lane.

It's approaching 50 years since this young man who would have such a huge impact at Tottenham Hotspur first walked through the black iron gates at the Lane.

"We spent most days at the stadium under Bill Nicholson, and those are my earliest memories," he added.

"It’s the place where I grew up and I had great people to help me do that during my time at Spurs. However, as wonderful as the place is - a stadium of excellence, talent, brilliance and, of course, despair as well - it’s the people inside who made it.

"The people who work there, the supporters who come to the games and create the atmosphere - that’s what makes White Hart Lane so special. The stadium will always be a treasured memory for me, a Spur forever."

Below: Steve back at the Lane for the win against City earlier this season

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Were you aware of the history of the club and White Hart Lane when you first arrived?
Steve: "I joined in 1967 and the history was all around you, hanging in the air. You could feel the tradition and that was something to aspire to. Dave Mackay was captain when I joined as an apprentice, along with the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Cliff Jones. Ron Henry was part of my upbringing at Spurs, he helped me when I played in the ‘A’ team. Then of course we had Bill Nick and Eddie Baily, they were ordinary people but giants of the game. I was like a kid in a sweet shop."

What were your first impressions of the Lane?
Steve: "I just remember how down-to-earth and solid the place was. It wasn’t flash, it was just eye-catchingly spectacular. The stadium was ordinary without being ordinary because how could it be with all that history. Everything was serviceable and dominated, I think, by Bill Nick’s common sense which meant it was good without being flash, which is exactly what Bill was. We spent most days at the stadium under Bill in my early days and those are my first memories. What a theatre to visit every day and learn your trade. It was magnificent."

Below: Steve in typical all-action style against Leeds at the Lane, 1972

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You mentioned the people playing their part in the stadium’s history...how important are they to you?
Steve: "We were all part of a big family and we all paid homage to this wonderful stadium. There were the everyday people in and around Tottenham Hotspur - and I’d include Tony’s Cafe, the White Hart pub, the Bell & Hare, the fruit shop opposite and the cake shop. Of course there were the staff, too. You had the banter of the groundstaff telling me ‘you’re so over-rated Steve’ and that I was a west Londoner. But I responded to the north London honest opinion, the desire for their club."

What are your memories of your first match at White Hart Lane?
Steve: "My first team debut was at home to Sunderland in September, 1969. We lost 0-1 but this was my chance to show what I could bring to the team.  Of course I was nervous and needed an early touch but didn’t get the ball for seven or eight minutes and when I did, I gave a poor back pass to the great Pat Jennings who saved it, to my relief!  I then settled down, won some tackles, passed the ball well and the crowd’s positive reaction to my energy lifted me to a decent performance that lead me to a place in the team."

Below: Steve is mobbed after his second goal against AC Milan in the UEFA Cup semi-final, first leg - 1972

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And what would you say was your best memory of a match here at the Lane?
Steve: "From a personal perspective, it would be the UEFA Cup semi-final, first leg against AC Milan (1972), when I scored twice, after we’d gone a goal behind against a very good but defensive Italian team.  From a team’s point of view, it would be our home victory over Leeds United at the end of the 1974-75 season, a match we needed to win to avoid relegation.  We won 4-2 with not only the majestic Cyril Knowles scoring a wonderful goal, but also we played with a passion and energy which typified the whole team performance that night. Personally though, I feel my greatest achievement is that I survived at the club for 19 years and carved out my own niche in its history, whether that be the most games played or rated most loyal by the fans. There is only one Mr Tottenham and that’s Bill Nick, without question, but I also think the supporters look at me as a proper Tottenham person."