Pleat relishing Luton return
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).
David Pleat is looking forward to returning to Luton Town for Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly at his former club, a club he still holds great affection for.
David enjoyed two spells at the Kenilworth Road outfit, and it would not be an exaggeration to describe him as Luton's most successful manager.
"Everyone there, from the receptionist to the chairman, is very friendly and I’ve always felt part of the family there — it won’t ever change," said David with a fondness in his voice talking about a former club who, sadly, have plunged into bottom division of the Football League.
"It’s just a shame they can’t get back to former glories. They had a spell in the fifties in the first division, as it was then, and another very brief spell with Harry Haslam in the mid-seventies.
"Then I took over in 1978, and in 1982 we went up as champions and they had nine glorious in the top flight."
Luton’s top-flight trail ended just as the Premiership gravy train was about to leave the platform. As the surviving clubs prepared to be re-branded and marketed on satellite TV as part of the Premier League, Luton were left to pick up the pieces after suffering relegation on the final day.
"It was just as the Premiership was being launched in 1991 that Luton came out," recalled David. "Beaten in the last game at Notts County having taken the lead, needing Coventry to lose at Aston Villa, which they did do. But the 2-1 defeat was enough to send us down.
"Was it going to be recoverable? We developed another very good group of players. I went away and came back a few years later and some of the players we signed as kids like Mark Pembridge, Paul Telfer, Ceri Hughes and John Hartson were beginning to develop into very good players, but, of course, we had to sell them all off.
"We got good money. Hughes went for nearly a million, Pembridge went for £1.5m, Hartson went for good money and there were others — Luton were always a selling club.
"They appreciate good football, they were certainly bought up on good football, certainly in the eighties era — that is back almost 20 years now which seems incredible.
"They had a very fine team of footballers, which I enjoyed coaching and managing massively."
Joe Kinnear was drafted in by Luton to perform a rescue act last season, but even his fabled motivational powers were not enough to keep the club out of Division Three.
"Joe came and gave them a brief little whoosh, but they were unable to maintain that whoosh," reflected David, who suggests that clubs such as Luton should look upwards, to the big boys, for potential transfer bargains.
"They haven’t got the same quality now, they’ve gone done the leagues and have got to start again. I think there are tremendous bargains to be had now if you have got a little bit of money in the lowers leagues because players have drifted down because of the mass of foreign players drifting into the country.
"Now you have 18, 19, 20 players at the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, who have become displaced people or are just not going to get the opportunity. They are the boys to go and buy, they obviously have pedigree because they must have been good enough at 15 for those clubs to go and get them."
"I think Luton will have a steady policy, they sold a decent player, Paul McClaren to Sheffield Wednesday, but they’ve taken back a boy, Aaron Skelton from Colchester who I had as a kid but was injury-prone at the time.
"Whether they’ll have enough up front with Steve Howard and Carl Griffiths remains to be seen. Howard is a big, strong boy, Griffiths has a goals record at places like Manchester City, Wrexham and Orient.
"Joe is looking for a centre-back at the moment, a little bit like us. He still has one or two promising players within the club, one of them who is injured, Matthew Spring. A lot of clubs have looked at him, he has good feet. He was outstanding in a game I saw, the first game when I returned to Tottenham, a Youth Cup tie at Luton that finished 2-2.
"Ledley King was playing for us along with John Piercy and Ian Hillier. In the replay we won 4-2 and had the rub of the green. Spring’s come through well and he is probably Luton’s best talent.
"I will be very interested tonight to see the young left-back Matthew Taylor, who came from Oxford. He played as wing-back last year, but will be tested this season playing in a flat back-four.
"He has a hammer of a left foot and is very powerful on free-kicks and corners. He’ll become a very strong boy and will be interesting to look at.
"It’ll be a very good game hopefully and the Luton people will be looking forward to seeing our players. I hope they will get 7,000 there, it is the most glamorous of their three pre-season games."
While David will hopefully be purring over the sweet left foot of Christian Ziege, he won’t be without a sweet or two of his own.
"The man who always used to give me sweets when walked to the director’s box before every game at five to three, he’s still there and gives sweets to the opposing manager as well."