Chris Waddle reveals the club that missed out on signing him – because he couldn’t get time off work for a trial

Chris Waddle in action for Tottenham against Middlesbrough in 1988.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Former England winger Chris Waddle has revealed he missed out on opportunities as a youth player because he was unable to get time off from work in a sausage factory.

Waddle won 62 England caps in a hugely successful career which featured memorable spells at Newcastle, Tottenham, Marseille and Sheffield Wednesday, but he suffered some early rejections before making his big break in the North East.

"I’d been feeling a bit sorry for myself after failing to get an apprenticeship at Coventry. Waddle tells FourFourTwo now. "I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was nailed on to be taken on, but it didn’t work out.

"My parents said to me, 'You're not going to sit around on your arse all day doing nothing. Get yourself a job'. I went for a few interviews and ended up seasoning sausages in a factory."

Waddle was playing for Non League side Tow Law Town at that time and, as his reputation began to spread, scouts flocked over to watch him.

"Sunderland offered me a trial – I had to use my holidays to have time off work,” he recalls. "That was my summer holidays gone and the manager, Ken Knighton, told me I wouldn’t be taken on because they couldn't see much difference between me and the youngsters they already had coming through the ranks.

"Frank Clark was his assistant then, and he’s always admitted, 'Wow, didn’t we get it wrong?!' Other teams were interested, such as Carlisle. They all wanted me to go over for a trial, but I couldn’t – I had no holidays left to take. They had to either sign me or leave me where I was."

Barnsley, like many others, did the latter. "I met Allan Clarke at Scotch Corner," says Waddle of a Tykes tussle. "He was Barnsley manager and I’d been recommended by one of his scouts, who'd told Allan to just sign me, but he wanted to see me play himself.

"The scout had informed Allan that if they signed me and I turned out to be crap, Allan could sack him. Allan insisted on seeing me, so that one passed by. Newcastle had been watching me, but again I had to tell them I didn’t have time to miss work for a trial.

“Tow Law played Stalybridge Celtic in the FA Trophy and drew 2-2. After the game, Billy handed me a contract. My wages went from £3 to £5, and I was guaranteed the cash even if I didn’t play because I was under contract.

"I remember asking our captain, Ray Ellison, ‘Should I sign for £5?’ He insisted, 'Yes, do it'. Years later, he told me that he was on £7 and didn’t want anyone else at the club earning as much as him!"

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Chris Waddle also tells FFT why England are such a frustrating team to play for

Read more from Chris Waddle's interview in November's FourFourTwo magazine

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