Updated: May 10
We spoke to Tony Parks before he was brought back to Spurs by Harry Redknapp. He was coaching the England u14s at the time and was between trips. We met at his flat, a modest affair in a gated North London suburb. He makes copious amounts of tea. He knows his football. Really knows it.
He is remarkably honest about the fact that he didn’t realise what he had at the time he wore the Spurs goalkeeper’s jersey – “I don’t think I was blessed mentally to be able to deal with life at the highest level”. And he is extremely likeable.
When we said we were interviewing Tony Parks, quite a few people said “He just had the one game didn’t he, with the penalty saves?”. In the book we revisit Bob Goodwin’s quote that “Never can a man have become such a legend on the basis of just one game.” and there’s plenty here about that famous night in 1984 when Parks’s penalty saves won Spurs the UEFA Cup.
But there’s far more to Parks that that one game, and in many ways he is the spirit of the book, the London boy saved from who knows what by the eye of a talented coach and given a sporting route out of whatever life otherwise had in store for him.
He told us: “People wanted to be footballers because of the football, now they want to be footballers because of the lifestyle. I love the game,” he told us. “I wasn’t the brightest of kids and I didn’t like school. I just used to want to play football. Fortunately enough Peter Shreeve – most of the kids in my generation would have a lot to thank him for – realised there was no point in me bunking off to roam the streets and get in trouble, so he did a deal with the school – ‘we’ll take him Monday to Friday: he’s off the streets, you know he’s safe and he’s getting a football education’.”
There’s plenty more like that, and a very funny story about a dressing room bet with Steve Perryman and Paul Miller. For the authors, Parks will always be respected both for his penalty saves and the honesty of the interview he made time to give us.
• 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.