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#Legends #Interview

81/82: 66 games, 10 in May - here's how Steve Perryman played them all...

Thu 19 March 2020, 09:47|Tottenham Hotspur

We played 66 games in 1981/82, including the Charity Shield. Chasing glory on all fronts, we also ended up playing 10 matches in May – the last two, the FA Cup Final and replay as we retained the trophy at Wembley.

Steve Perryman played in all 66, including those 10 in May.

How?

In this special feature, our legendary former skipper and record appearance maker with 854 in all competitions between 1969-86 recalls that incredible campaign – a campaign that earned him the prestigious Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year award.

It was a season we fought on all fronts. Starting with the Charity Shield against champions Villa on 22 August, shared after a 2-2 draw, we reached the final of the League Cup only to lose against Liverpool (eight games), the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup, where we lost out over two legs to Barcelona (another eight games) and finished fourth in the old First Division (42 games).

That left the FA Cup to defend - and thankfully, the team pulled through in games 65 and 66 (seven in the FA Cup) to beat QPR after a replay - the season ending on 27 May, 1982.

May, 1982 - the matches...

May 1 - Coventry 0-0 Spurs
May 3 - Spurs 2-2 Liverpool
May 5 - Spurs 2-1 Swansea
May 8 - Spurs 2-1 Leeds
May 10 - West Ham 2-2 Spurs
May 12 - Forest 2-0 Spurs
May 15 - Liverpool 3-1 Spurs
May 17 - Ipswich 2-1 Spurs
May 22 - Spurs 1-1 QPR - FA Cup Final
May 27 - Spurs 1-0 QPR - FA Cup Final replay

“Let’s put it into perspective,” said Steve. “Why didn’t I play for England more? Because I was two or three inches too short for my best position, also half-a-yard too slow. That’s my opinion. But I gained the ability to read the game, the anticipation that saves you that half-a-yard and the competitiveness that gives you a bit of that half-a-yard.

“If I’m at Anfield, and getting called all the names under the sun, guess what? That adds to your drive. I had those things in abundance. I was good at knowing what I didn’t have, good at knowing what I did have.

“It probably comes from your genes, but in terms of my robustness through my ankles, through my knees, the areas where you get injured, it was technique and also running on sandy pitches for the first seven, eight, nine, 10 years of my career. When a pitch was wet, they put sand on it, so you could be running through sand for months and months. You can imagine how strong you’d get, and muscles are protection from the hits, the tackles, and what protected me was technique and this background of fitness I had.

“So, there are a lot of things there that helped me play those 10 games in May. And it wasn’t like we’d had a rest before those 10 games! Probably the fact that I’d played in all the games beforehand, rather than taking away my ability to cope, added to my ability to play the 10 games.

“I come back to ‘less is more’. Bill Nicholson would walk into the changing room. Say I had a fat ankle. His eyes would go on the fat ankle. Then they would come up to you. Then back on the ankle. There wasn’t one word of care. Now, that’s not a criticism. It was tough love. The message was ‘if you’re injured, you’re no good to me’. It was as if his eyes were piercing rays to get your ankle better! But no, it was what he was doing to your head, saying, without actually saying it, ‘you’re injured, you’re no good to me’. That’s tough love, borne out of people who led Tottenham before my time, people who had come through wars. They weren’t going to fawn over you and a fat ankle!”

The captain's role

“Being captain, you carry responsibility as well. That particular season, when we were going for so much, and had so much hope, you’ve hundreds of thousands of Spurs fans everywhere behind us, but it looked like it was evaporating. We were in contention in the league for most of the season, the League Cup defeat (we lost in the final to Liverpool in March), semi-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup (lost to Barcelona over two legs in April) and it was ebbing away.

“We only had the FA Cup left. You could go into reverse or drive through it. And my education from the great Bill Nick, Eddie Baily (Bill's assistant), Cecil Poynton (trainer/physio), Johnny Wallis (kit man) and Sid Tickridge (trainer) was that you keep going, you don’t back down, you step up.

“Part of leadership is ‘come on, we’re going into battle, follow me’. Well, I don’t think I could have done any more of the ‘follow me’!

“I guess what I’m saying is that everyone has weaknesses, everyone has strengths. The thing about me is that I knew what I was, and what I wasn't.”

Steve Perryman - A Spur Forever - out now!

‘A Spur Forever’ documents Steve’s life at Spurs and beyond – from his arrival as a schoolboy training at the Club in 1966, signing as an apprentice in 1967, professional terms in 1969 to becoming our all-time record appearance maker with 854 between 1969-1986.

His book includes a foreword by team-mate and fellow legend Glenn Hoddle and is printed in full colour over 304 pages – including over 150 photographs – and has a wealth of memorabilia from Steve's career.