WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: MICKY HAZARD
A cultured midfielder unfortunate to be at Spurs at the same time as Glenn Hoddle, Micky Hazard picked up winner’s medals in the 1982 FA Cup and 1984 UEFA Cup. Born in Sunderland, he played most of his football in London with Spurs and Chelsea. He was influential in Swindon’s promotion campaign under Hoddle and retired in 1995 in his second spell at Spurs.
“I became a cabbie by accident. I had retired from football and was playing a lot of golf during the day and coaching for Spurs four evenings a week. I had been at a loss for something to do and ‘the Knowledge’ gave me an interest. I found I had an almost photographic memory for the routes.
“Once I passed, however, I lost all confidence. The first day I drove around with my light off for two hours because I was so nervous. My first run was to Victoria Station and there is hardly a bigger place in London, but I was shaking with nerves. I just drove and somehow ended up at there. I pulled over and sat with my head in my hands thinking, ‘I can’t do this’. Then someone tapped on my window and said, ‘Can you take me to Waterloo?’.
“In the early days I used to go out in disguise because I had not long retired and was still a bit of a face. It wasn’t that I was struggling to come to terms with life after football – I moved on instantly and never craved to be back playing – but there was a period of transition. Maybe it was that I didn’t want people to know I was a black cab driver, or maybe I didn’t want people having a go at me, say an Arsenal fan getting in and having a pop because I’d played for Spurs.
“I eventually realised that disguising myself was stupid. I’ve often been recognized since and one of the first was an Arsenal fan. He told me what a good player I was and how I should have joined Arsenal. Of course, to get a big a tip I agreed – and he tipped me a fiver, which was quite astounding. I also once picked up five Swedish fans going to the Arsenal-Chelsea game at Highbury. They recognized me and even made me come to the game with them.
“As time passes you get recognized less – the curls made me easy to spot once, but these days I keep my hair short and obviously I’ve got my back to the passengers. But if I pick up a Chelsea or Spurs supporter, they can pick me out.
“Have I had anyone famous in the back of my cab? Yes, Geri Halliwell. She wouldn’t know who I was. I was just a cab driver, yet she treated me with the utmost respect. But if I see a footballer looking for a cab I drive past. Footballers are notorious for wanting it free.
“I’ve had one or two awkward customers, but that’s part of the job and 99 per cent of the people are very nice. I had a hard time off one woman though. She was non-stop at me all the way from the City to Knightsbridge and every time we hit a red light it was my fault. When we got to where she lived she was £2 short. I said ‘Listen love, I don’t care about the £2, but because you’ve been such a pain I’m going to drive you £2 away from here, and you can walk’. She was totally unpleasant.
“And yes, I’ve had passengers who have thrown up in the cab – and on every occasion they haven’t told me, so the next customer has found it. I have to clean it up myself and it’s disgusting – it’s only happened three times, mind.
“The beauty of taxi driving is that it’s a 24-hour job and that suits me. I love my golf and if I have a day when I’m coaching I just go out in the cab afterwards. Until 15 months ago I was boss of 13- to 16-year-olds at Crystal Palace, including all the youngsters who have come through to their first team, like Victor Moses, Sean Scannell, Lee Hills and John Bostock. I still coach some young players – I get them ready to report back to their professional club after the summer. It’s very rewarding work and the taxi-driving enables me to carry on doing that.”
MICKY HAZARD’S TRAFFIC HOTSPOTS
1. Piccadilly Circus
“Heading eastbound down Piccadilly is a nightmare. Do a right into Duke Street Saint James’s, left at the bottom into King Street, round St James’s Square, into St Charles Street, left into Regent Street, right into Carlton Street, left into St Alban’s Street, right into St James’s Market and then right into Haymarket. And if everyone heeds my advice, then I would be able to use Piccadilly Circus because there’d be no traffic!”
2. Trafalgar Square
“Never touch it”
3. The Strand
“Westbound – never touch it.”
“As you come through the underpass from Piccadilly – avoid!”
4. Kensington High Street
“Keep clear of the junction with Kensington Church Street.”
© Words copyright Chris Hunt 2009