As the young Lions prepare for Iceland, Tony Parks looks back on his playing days with Spurs.
UEFA Qualifying Tournament
7.45pm, Friday 12 October 2007
Doncaster Rovers FC, Keepmoat Stadium
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As England U19s prepare for their UEFA Qualifying Tournament, TheFA.com spoke with Assistant National Goalkeeping Coach Tony Parks, who is currently with the team in Leeds, about his career in football.
Today we focus on his playing days, from starting out on Hackney Marshes to making his professional debut with Spurs and winning the UEFA Cup. Tomorrow we look at his life coaching the best young keepers in the country...
For English footballers, penalties often end in glorious failure - but Tony Parks is an exception to the rule.
The former Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper is a legend at White Hart Lane for his two penalty saves against Anderlecht when Spurs won the UEFA Cup in 1984.
His fellow team-mates mobbed him as Spurs clinched a dramatic shoot-out victory, but winning one of club football's biggest prizes must have seemed a distant dream when Parks started out as a budding young keeper.
"I went to a trial for a team on Hackney Marshes when I was eight," recalled Parks. "The guy put down a couple of posts at either end, a load of kids turned up and for some reason I walked in goal.
"I always played in goal. I never thought of anything else. I loved it."
As well as having a passion for the game - something which still burns bright - Parks discovered he had an aptitude for goalkeeping.
From being chosen to play in goal at school - "I became a bit of a cult hero in the playground" - to being selected to represent his county, Parks continued to climb the ladder, culminating in a trial at Spurs when he was 12 - a club he holds close to his heart despite being an Arsenal supporter.
"My dad was an avid Arsenal fan and used to take me and my brother to Highbury," he said. "But I have a real affection for Tottenham, I love the club."
West Ham is another club Parks has a fondness for - he had a short spell there in the early 90s - and it was at Upton Park where he made his league debut for Spurs.
"I played my first league game in 1981 at West Ham," he said. "I was only 17. Sir Trevor Brooking, who is Director of Football Development at The FA, was playing. It was a great debut to make – London derby, great stadium. We drew 1-1.
"I was really nervous and my parents were there. Being on the same pitch as Trevor and Steve Perryman was a real big thing for me."
But Parks had to contend with a rather sizeable object which blocked his route into the first team - Ray Clemence.
The former England keeper had won everything in the game before joining Spurs in 1981 - five League Championships, three European Cups, two UEFA Cups, one FA Cup and one League Cup. Parks realised his chances might be limited.
"Keith Burkinshaw signed him and made him the number one but sold the other three keepers and made me the number two," said Parks.
"It was great in lots of ways but playing second fiddle to Ray, who was so brilliant, I was never going to play stacks of games. When you train with better players it rubs off on you. He was such a natural goalkeeper. I tried to take bits out of his game.
"I always tried to watch the best keepers – Phil Parkes, Jimmy Rimmer, Pat Jennings. He was the most gifted goalie I have ever seen."
Parks did establish himself as the number one, albeit briefly, during the 1983/4 season - a period which would see his name inscribed in the club's history.
After playing in the Quarter Final and Semi Final, Parks kept his place for the UEFA Cup Final against Anderlecht for what was then a two-legged affair.
"A lot of people still think the manager put me on as a substitute because he thought I was good at saving penalties," said Parks.
"But the truth is that season was the best I had in terms of first team football. I played a lot of games and it was a huge confidence boost that the manager choose me even when Clem was fit."
Spurs drew 1-1 in Belgium to set up a night of high drama in North London.
"I was very nervous," he recalled. "The best players handle their nerves, better than I did. That was a flaw in my character. I never relaxed and did not actually enjoy playing the games. I only enjoyed it afterwards. I found the games quite daunting.
"They played some fantastic football in the second leg. They hammered us. They had some fantastic players – Morton Olsen, Enzo Schifo, Frank Arnesen, Arnor Gudjohnsen. Their goalkeeper was excellent. I did not really see us getting back into the game after going behind, but we fortunately scrambled an equaliser.
"Extra-time flew past and then it was penalties. That was the only time I was not nervous. It’s a lottery. There is more study that goes into it these days. I was not a big believer in that – a professional footballer with a free shot on goal from 12 yards is favourite to score. The pressure is all on him. You can play with a level of freedom.
"I remember the shoot-out clearly. Olsen, Denmark’s World Cup captain, took their first penalty. It was quite obvious as he was walking up that he was going to put it bottom left. I managed to get a hand on it. It was quite a good save. The adrenaline from making that save kicked in and I ended up diving the same way for the next three penalties but with no success."
Spurs led 4-3 after Graham Roberts, Mark Falco, Gary Stevens and Steve Archibald scored from the spot but Danny Thomas, with one hand on the trophy, saw his shot saved.
Up stepped Arnor Gudjohnson, father of Barcelona striker Eidur, to keep Anderlecht in the game. It would be Parks' night, however.
"It came to the last penalty, which was taken by Arnor Gudjohnson," said Parks. "It was an awful penalty, it would have been difficult not to save it. I got mobbed by the players. Clem gave me a clothesline. If the players had not jumped on me I would have run all the way down Tottenham High Road to Seven Sisters.
"It’s a great memory. To be part of Spurs’ history is great for me. I don’t often look back on it though. I don’t have a DVD of the game while my son has my medal and shirt from the game. What is nice is when people come up to me and say they were at the game and how great they thought it was."
Log on tomorrow for part two of our interview where Tony Parks talks about coaching.