Updated: May 10, 2020
Tony Galvin wanted to meet in his office after work. The office was the very definition of ordinary, the sort of grey, strip-lit workspace that formed the backdrop to Ricky Gervais’s sitcom The Office. As the working day ended, night was closing in and the security guard was already starting to look bored as he was asked to look up the name Tony Galvin on his staff list so that he could call and say we were here.
When Galvin emerges from the stairwell that familiar firm stare is still there. He’s filled out and thinned out, but this ordinary office bloke with the untucked shirt, dark trousers and soft brown boots, whose opening remarks lead us to a conversation about employment training in the UK, is un-mistakeably the Spurs winger of the early 80s, the man who every team-mate we interviewed described as the only irreplaceable member of that team.
While many of that team were the kind of confident Cockney boys who tend to wind up non-Londoners, Galvin is a blunt northerner, disdainful of what he terms a “Billy Big Bollocks” attitude but also not one for false modesty. In this media-managed age it was a pleasure to talk to the man whose degree in Russian Studies is one of those ‘little-known facts’ well known to every football statto. Meeting just before Spurs played Chelsea in the Carling Cup Final, Galvin really got stuck into the west Londoners – “I hate them. If they have five years with no success [the crowds] will be back down to 15,000” – and had some interesting observations about the revered status of the team he played in when talking about attending a recent Hall of Fame dinner.
“I still feel a connection, ” he said, “and when you see how passionate the fans are you think, ‘My God, please let them just win something so we can all move on with our lives.’ What Tottenham need is some new heroes.” At the time we knew what he meant. Tottenham did win the Carling Cup, and since that interview have gone on to knock on the door of the great teams of the past. But what’s even more evident from the 2011 perspective is that, however successful modern Spurs may become, Galvin’s generation is destined to carry the burden of history for much longer not because of what they achieved on the pitch, but because they remind so many of an age now lost but widely mourned, when footballers and fans could identify with each other and when club loyalty meant something.
• 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.