Search icon


02nd Dec 2016

“I got disillusioned with English football” – Spurs’ £450k 14-year-old Owen Price talks to JOE

Now 30, the record-breaking player is looking to make his mark as a coach.

Tom Victor

“It’s crazy how it was nearly 17 years ago,” Owen Price says, reflecting on the goal which saw him hit the headlines.

That strike, just 4.2 seconds into the final Heinz Ketchup Cup – a match between the best schools in the country – saw Price’s name written into the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest ever cup final strike.

It also brought him to the attention of Tottenham Hotspur, who signed the then-14-year-old from Charlton Athletic for a fee which had the potential to rise to nearly £450,000. But things didn’t work out for the prodigy and he left White Hart Lane without playing a senior game.

Now 30 years of age, Price is has returned from a short spell out of the game to play non-league football for Greenwich Borough and looking to get his feet on the first rung of the coaching ladder.

He sat down with JOE to reflect on a career that took him to places as diverse as Sweden, Finland and Farnborough.

When I meet Owen Price, in a cafe in Croydon, he has the kind of relaxed demeanour you only ever associate with an off-duty athlete.

He has arrived straight from a one-to-one coaching session, and it’s clear he’s enjoying immersing himself in football once more after taking some time away from the game.

“My goal, well my middle-term goal, is going round clubs and picking up stuff off loads of different coaches and seeing how they do it, trying to take the best and worst of all of them and try to put the best things into one,” he says.

“That way you’re going over things that don’t work because you’ve seen they don’t work, rather than you trying them and them not working.”

Price is still in touch with a number former coaches and teammates and plans to shadow them where possible, counting Manchester United Under-18 coach and former Tottenham youngster Kieran McKenna as a good friend.

“I’ve spoken to him and a couple of others to go and shadow them as I progress in my coaching. 

“It’s all about picking up knowledge at the moment, you never know enough, do you?”

IMG_0078Price during his Tottenham days

The positivity shown by Price shows his love for the game, a love which showed signs of disappearing completely when he left Tottenham shortly after the club parted ways with Jacques Santini – the manager who showed faith in him in pre-season.

“Martin Jol came in, then they signed Aaron Lennon and Wayne Routledge so I thought I was going to slip down the pecking order,” he explains.

“If they’re paying that kind of money for them, what they paid for me was a lot but it’s even more for them so you’re like ‘they’re going to have to play’.”

However, while seven-figure fees helped Lennon and Routledge gain the first-team chance which Price never got, big-money moves and wages had the opposite effect lower down the academy system.

When discussing some of the more forgettable times in Spurs’ academy – a situation which ultimately led to him getting “disillusioned with English football”, he remembers how money was used as a stick to beat him with as far as lower-paid coaching staff were concerned.

His fellow players had no problem with a teenager commanding a six-figure fee without having kicked a ball at senior level, he recalls, but it was a different story when it came to those taking the training sessions.

“I was earning quite a lot of money when I was younger, the kind of money the managers don’t even get, but that isn’t my fault – if someone offered you that you’d take it as well, but they didn’t see it like that,” he says.

“There were times where I had my friends in the team – say if they were on the bench and I’d done something, the manager would turn to them and be like ‘he shouldn’t be getting that kind of money’.

“At the time it was more like ‘you’re an adult and I’m however young I am, should you really be making them kind of comments?’

“It was like they had it in for me more and I took the bait, I rose to it.”

He admits that the same sort of thing goes on at every level, with Raheem Sterling’s treatment after he left Liverpool one of the more extreme examples.

“People forget if he was in any other walk of life and a better job offered him more money, you’re going to go for that.

“And you’re going to win things so there’s no comparison, you know what I mean? It’s not like you’re going to a worse club to get more money, you’re going to a better club. I think they just tried to make an example of him.”

GettyImages-543314666Sterling has got a rough ride from England and Liverpool fans since the summer of 2015 (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Price still had more than a year left on his contract when Lennon and Routledge arrived at White Hart Lane, but rather than wait it out, he opted to move to Sweden where he began enjoying his football once more, playing under Scottish manager David Wilson.

He then followed Wilson – who is now working as a Scandinavian scout for Chelsea – to Finland, before returning to England with Northwich Victoria and Farnborough Town via a trial with former Champions League semi-finalists Deportivo de La Coruña.

Some of Price’s contemporaries also tried their hand overseas – he mentions former Millwall prodigy Cherno Samba by name – and he says he’d recommend playing overseas, and especially in Sweden, to anyone.

“I’ve got a few friends who are younger boys at Chelsea, and the way they get taught is total football but if you get released from there then there’s not a lot of other clubs who play total football in England, so where are you gonna go?” he says.

“The way you’ve been taught for the last 10 years often doesn’t apply and there are only a few players that can adapt. I think that’s why some of the boys like Lewis Baker have gone abroad.”

He has a lot of time for Joe Hart, who has taken to life in Turin like a duck to water, and while he appreciated Jack Wilshere’s decisions for turning down a Serie A move over the summer he thinks there certainly would have been positives.

“Hart was brave and went, and I don’t think he’s doing too bad – I’ve noticed when he’s playing for England he’s trying to pass the ball out more, I think he’s trying to prove a point.

“Maybe Wilshere should have gone abroad but I think [turning down Serie A] wasn’t for footballing reasons, it was more for family reasons.

“But I think Wilshere’s probably made the best of a bad situation because he’s playing every week and it’s a similar style to Arsenal.”

Stoke City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier LeagueWilshere has impressed at Bournemouth so far (Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

He remains in touch with a few teammates from that cup final back in 2000, as well as a couple of opponents from the same game, but he laughs when I ask if the opposition goalkeeper was one of them.

One of the Ernest Bevin College alumni to go furthest in the game was in the year above Price – former Millwall and Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott – while Darren Blewitt, part of the Barking Abbey players, came through West Ham’s academy with Mark Noble and played in the Hammers midfielder’s testimonial earlier this year.

And this is something he feels will help as he looks to make connections and embark on his coaching career in earnest, admitting English football remains in a place where the more people you know, the better your chances are.

But he continues to look at the football pyramid with a critical eye – particularly when it comes to youth football, the area where he’s keen to get started.

I like working with younger players and seeing them learn – I prefer to see someone develop and seen them improving as a player,” he says.

“It allows you to work at any level. If you’re going, just let’s say from Tottenham to another club then you’ll only know the top level, you don’t know the whole way down.”

He commends England’s appointment of Gareth Southgate, a man who has worked with a number of the squad members in younger age-groups, and thinks the quicker English football moves away from what he considers some current flaws – not least the Under-23 system – the quicker things will improve.

“I just think the way they do it, they’re trying to copy the Spanish or German model but they need to be more competitive.

“Barcelona B won the equivalent of the Championship but Chelsea Under-23s couldn’t even compete in the championship.

I understand what they’re trying to do but if you put [Under-23 teams] in the league like you do with Barcelona B, our leagues are too strong – the championship is probably the 4th strongest league in the world really.

“If you’re not ready for the first team at 21, 22, 23 you’ve got to leave.

“Chelsea run the entire youth academy as another club and that’s why their young players are developing quicker – their 16, 17, 18-year-olds are playing 23s so they develop just as quick. And they’re competing as well, they’re not just getting spanked every week.”

IMG_0079Price played in Sweden and Finland after leaving Spurs

While there are some things Price would have done differently with another chance, a fair few of these are things he’s keen to improve from the outside as a coach.

And the most important decision from his younger days is one with which he’s very pleased, namely putting some of his early earnings away for later in life.

“[Getting paid up by Spurs] was kind of a blessing for me as it left me enough money to put some foundation down for the future.

“It’s only because I had good family around me. At that age it’s not that glamorous a thing to do but now thank my lucky stars I did.”

Plenty of top managers have flourished after seeing their top-level playing careers end prematurely, with José Mourinho and Eddie Howe doing just that in the Premier League this season. Could Price ultimately be the next?

FFL new