Last Word on Football talks to Paul Stewart in the football interviews. In a football career spanning 22 years, Paul Stewart played for clubs including Blackpool, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. ‘Stewy’ has shown extraordinary courage to talk about the abuse he suffered as he began life as a young footballer and how football also saved him. His book ‘Damaged’ talks about those experiences and today in the football interviews, Paul spoke with Last Word on Football.
The Football Interviews: Former Footballer Paul Stewart Talks to Last Word on Football
Paul Stewart took time from his work with grassroots football and child abuse victims in sport to answer questions from Last Word on Football in this first edition of the football interviews.
Q: When Were You First Discovered?
PS: It’s a difficult one to answer that in terms of what has recently been in the press in terms of the historical abuse that I went through but I was discovered by a junior coach in Manchester. I was playing for my school and my town team and was excelling at football. He introduced me to Blackpool where I eventually signed as an apprentice. Big club scouts had approached my Dad from far and wide really. I played football at Blackpool and it was a great club to do my apprenticeship at. I don’t hold anything against Blackpool for what happened to me. I don’t regret playing for Blackpool in any way. It was a great apprenticeship and a great club to play for.
Q: Was Writing Your Book ‘Damaged’ a Kind of Therapy for you?
PS: When I was approached to write the book it was a case of, I am either going to write the whole truth, nothing but the truth or do half a job here. I am not someone who likes to go into things half-hearted so I made a conscious decision to write exactly as it is. I had blocked a lot out and was concerned that I wouldn’t remember an awful lot about happened. The guy who worked on the book with me was excellent and we worked on the book for 8 months solidly. It was a daily thing. I needed to get my voice coming through and I talk about it (the abuse) an awful lot now working with safeguarding. I think about the issue on a daily basis now and every time I talk about it does get easier. I don’t think everything is all rosy and I still have dark days but I manage it and deal with it better now than I could and did in the past.
Q: What Are Your Thoughts on the Current Tottenham Team?
PS: Speaking as someone who loves the club, I think it was my best spell as a footballer. We had a great result last night (27th August 2018) against Man United. Poch has been there five years. We need to step from being top four to, ‘are we going to challenge for the Premiership and Champions league?’ I questioned not doing anything in the transfer window. My concern is that we rely heavily on Harry Kane and he’s not had much rest. We need to see silverware and the Tottenham fans want to see silverware. I have been disappointed at the end of the seasons where we haven’t gone right to the end to challenge. We have a great manager and great players.
Q: Do You Think That it Seems Less Important Now to Win Trophies Compared to When You were Playing?
PS: When you look at the trophies available now, say the Carabao Cup is not taken as seriously as when I was playing. In the FA Cup, we know teams will put weaker sides out in the early stages. We look at the Champions League as a must due to the revenue it brings in, but are we looking at top four as a success because the players that are playing would want the trophies in their careers? For me, having been a player, success is when you win trophies. The two trophies to aim for though are the Premier League and the Champions League.
Q: What are Your Thoughts on Mauricio Pochettino?
PS: I like him. The lads he has brought through the ranks and the players like he has brought in are excellent. My only question now would be are we going to take the next step to win stuff. Are we still going to be saying in 7 years that he is the best manager but we haven’t won anything? I believe in him but we want to win something. I want to see this seasons start to turn into silverware and a real challenge for the Premiership. I want to see them going all the way and City looking over their shoulders.
Q: What are Your Thoughts on Spurs’ Transfer Policy?
PS: I don’t really know the policy to be honest. I don’t comment on Daniel Levy because I don’t know the gentleman. My honest answer is that I don’t know Daniel Levy so it wouldn’t be fair for me to say something about someone I don’t really know. I do know they are not in debt and have a great team and have good footings. I just want to see trophies.
Q: Who was the Best Player you Played with at Tottenham and Why?
PS: I don’t need to think about that. It’s Gazza. I joined the day before and we became friends and remain good friends. What he did on the pitch in that 90/91 season: I mean I would go as far as to say he was the best player on the planet until he got injured. I was fortunate as I got a gig to play alongside him in midfield and he made my job so much easier. I just needed to win the ball and give it to him. He had everything so without doubt Gazza is by far the best player to have played alongside. He single-handedly took us to that final ‘91.
Q: Who was the Toughest Opponent you ever Faced?
PS: I played against a lot of tough defenders but the best opponent I played against was Eric Cantona. His ability on the pitch was just head and shoulders above the rest. He was unbelievable on the pitch.
Q: Where do you see Spurs Finishing in the Premier League this Season?
PS: You can’t look too far away from the blue side of Manchester for the title. Personally, I feel that Klopp and Liverpool could really push City. I see Spurs then third and hopefully, they will push City as well. Ultimately whoever finishes above Manchester City will win the title.
Last Word on Football would like to thank Paul Stewart for his time for this interview.
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