Wally meets Steve Perryman, the Tottenham legend who was fired by Alan Sugar


Badgers had been turning his immaculate lawn into a lunar landscape, and for a disciple of “pitch culture” it was driving Steve Perryman mad.

“It’s not Centre Court at Wimbledon or Wembley,” mused the Tottenham legend. “But I like to feel the grass beneath my feet. If I wanted our local nightlife to dig it up, I’d give them a shovel.”

When Perryman, who made a record 854 appearances for Spurs, took his first look at the club’s £1billion new stadium last year, it took his breath away.

But for all the top-of-the-range fixtures and fittings, the first thing he wanted to test was the playing surface.

“My first judgment of a club is always the pitch,” said the FA Cup-winning captain of 1981 and 1982. “Why? Because it’s our workplace. If it’s a proper pitch, it’s a proper club.”

Steve Perryman made a record 854 appearances for Spurs

Perryman’s other litmus test of standards is a cup of tea. On his arrival as Exeter’s director of football, he was offered a cuppa with powdered milk because it was cheaper than bottled semi-skimmed.

“Hang on a minute,” he said. “I’ve just driven 200 miles, past a million fields with 10 million cows and you’re giving me a spoonful of powder, not fresh milk?”

The episode was a flashback to the economies which accompanied Perryman’s unhappy departure from Tottenham in 1994, when Ossie Ardiles was sacked as manager and his assistant soon followed after one game in charge as caretaker.

Perryman’s new memoir is a largely joyous chronicle of the boy who became king of White Hart Lane.

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But his 15 months as No.2 to Ardiles tested Perryman’s love for the club to an extent he never imagined possible.

It is fair to say he was no fan of former chairman Alan Sugar, nor of chief executive Claude Littner.

Perryman, now 68, said: “That was the lowest point in my life, when I fell out of love – not just with Spurs, but football.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have felt it so strongly if I didn’t love the club and the people. But I could just see the club’s reputation sliding out of the door.

“It got so bad that I didn’t want Spurs to win a game while he was in charge. For Steve Perryman to feel that way about Tottenham Hotspur… grim times.”

He added: “In 50 years of football, all those years I have been in the game, the only person ever to have fired me is Alan Sugar. With the later success of The Apprentice, it’s quite a claim to fame!

Steve Perryman and Ossie Ardiles celebrating with the FA Cup in 1981 after a 3-2 win over Manchester City in the final

“Tottenham had always had a way of doing things right. That was changing. The daily milk delivery was questioned and then stopped. They stopped providing bottled water on the team coach.

“A report was requested to find out how many spoonfuls of coffee there were in a catering-sized tub, so that the club knew how much they were spending every time someone in the White Hart Lane offices had a cup of coffee.

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“There were so many examples that sound petty, but to me are very revealing. If the clerk of works wanted to buy four screws, he would have to wait outside Claude’s office to get a chit to go and buy four screws.

“And when he came back to say they only sell them in sixes, the answer would be, ‘Well, we don’t buy them then’.”

Perryman’s views on modern football are always worth a listen.

Steve Perryman talking to Mirror Sport’s Mike Walters

“I feel very sorry for Liverpool – they have to win the title,” he said. “As for the rest of it, I can’t see how you can engineer a finish to the season that is credible.

“If something is obvious, like making Liverpool champions, give it to them – but don’t discredit the game.

“This is a national emergency. Is it safe? Is it sensible? Is it credible? There is no perfect solution.

“And if it’s not safe, does football want the risk or possibility of extra deaths on its reputation?”

Let’s finish on a lighter note, because Perryman’s career as a standard bearer for the game in north London is worth celebrating.

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When he was 17, he got a ticket for speeding and the traffic copper who pulled him over recognised his prey.

“You know your problem, son? I’m an Arsenal supporter,” said the officer, who continued to call Tottenham’s fresh-faced kid “son” as he filled out the ticket.

Perryman replied: “You know, dad, that’s more your problem than mine.”

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A Spur Forever! My Lilywhite and Blue Life by Steve Perryman, published by Vision Sports

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