Updated: May 10, 2020
At the launch of this book, as the evening embraced another round of drinks, Peter Shreeve was spotted engaged in heated debate with Paul Miller and Tony Galvin about the merits of the latest incarnation of Spurs on the pitch. The three of them were going at it hammer and tongs and, after talking at length to Shreeve for the final chapter of the book, we weren’t suprised at all by the passion or forensic analysis Shreeve displayed as he slugged it out. Aged 67 when we spoke to him, Shreeve – without an s – is every inch the Londoner of a certain generation – capable of robust engagement, valuing respect and doing things in the right way, tender and sensitive without being a mug.
What came out most strongly from conversations with Shreeve and about Shreeve thoughout this book was a feeling of love. Not a word that many of the blokes in the book would be particularly comfortable about using in the context of other men, but it’s very clear indeed that the bond between Shreeve and the players he coached was very strong indeed. He knew his job was to find the best potential and create the best players, but he was also sensitive to the crushing disappointment being told you hadn’t made it bought. He really did see his players as a finally, and his account of the events surrounding the tragic early death of Peter Southey and how the club rallied round brings a lump to the throat.
There’s plenty of humour too, you can picture Shreeve on stage at the Hippodrome with the crowd eating out of his hand, but the quote I’m choosing from his chapter is a straight football assessment from a proper football man, and one which was echoed by a good number of those we spoke to. “Ossie was the best player I ever coached or managed,” he said. “People think it would have been Glenn, but Ossie could do everything. He could run with the ball on his feet, make runs, get the ball back. If he was to be analysed by ProZone, it would be phenomenal to see the ground he covered. He was outstanding. Never went on the pitch to do a warm-up – he used to sit inside doing the crossword. He’d say, ‘Pete, what’s this clue, nine across?’ And then go out and be the best player on the field.”
• The Boys from White Hart Lane is available direct from Vision Sports Publishing in paperback for £6.99 or ebook on Kindle for £5.97.