NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 39
Submitted by Norman Giller
Remembering yesterday, and 56 years ago Saturday
How often since the Premier League kicked off twenty-two years ago have Spurs been able to look down the table and see the Woolwich Nomads and both Merseyside clubs below them? So let’s enjoy the moment, and just for now push to the back of our minds that the next match is against champions Manchester City at the Etihad.
Let’s admit that Spurs “won ugly” against Southampton yesterday, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and those three precious points looked as good to me as a Clacton by-election victory to Nigel Farage. The positive points were a blank sheet, a further cementing of the Tottenham Triad of Lloris, Kaboul and Vertonghen, the midfield energy and enthusiasm of Capoue, Mason, Eriksen, Lamela and Chadli, and the prodigious work rate of Adebayor.
On the negative side is that it was a fits-and-starts performance that lacked fluency and what those conceited supporters among us (me included) call ‘football the Spurs way’ – playing, with style and guile. But we eternal optimists believe this can gradually come with increased confidence.
The engaging Mauricio Pochettino seems happy that he is on the right track and getting his players singing from the same song sheet, despite suggestions in the media that some of his “senior players” do not approve of his pressing style of football.
While he is winning there will be no complaints from the supporters, and we secretly smile to ourselves that some of the grumbles are because he works the players harder in training than they’ve ever worked before. They are actually earning their huge salaries, poor lambs.
I spent a lot of time on line yesterday defending Emmanuel Adebayor from sniping attacks. While I agree he often seems to show indifference and lethargy, I thought he put in a great shift against Southampton and continually had the Saints’ defenders wondering where he was going to pop up next.
He was involved in the smart build up to Eriksen’s nicely taken goal, and he provided the pass from which Chadli was unlucky to hit a post after doing everything right except finding the net. It would have been a perfect performance from Ade if he had managed to score. Let’s just hope he gets his goal touch back soon, before Levy hopefully opens the club wallet and brings in forward reinforcements during the January transfer window.
Bottom line, we can all relax through the international break dwelling on the fact that we are in the top six mix. Let’s not worry about the possible storm awaiting us at Manchester City. Look down there … it’s the Arse, Liverpool and Everton. I think I’ve been affected by the Farage factor. My vote goes to the Lilywhites.
It’s 56 years ago this Saturday that Bill Nicholson made arguably the most incredible debut of any manager in Football League history, and I am delighted to share the memories of that great day with you here in our cosy Spurs Odyssey corner.
On the morning of Saturday October 11 1958 – a date that should be carved into Tottenham hearts – Bill was officially promoted from coach to manager in succession to the fatigued Jimmy Anderson.
In the afternoon his team treated him to a banquet that left even the hungriest spectators completely gorged. Providing the opposition were Everton, struggling three from the bottom of the First Division, a point behind sixteenth-placed Spurs.
The first decision Nicholson made in his new role was to recall Tottenham’s impish inside-forward Tommy Harmer, known to the White Hart Lane fans as ‘Harmer the Charmer.’ But that afternoon Everton found him more like ‘The Harmer’ as he pulled them apart with an astounding individual performance. He had a hand – or rather a well-directed foot – in nine goals and scored one himself as Everton were sunk without trace under a flood of goals. The final scoreline was 10-4. It could just easily have been 15-8!
Harmer was the ‘Tom Thumb’ character of football. He stood just 5ft 2in tall and was a chain-smoking bantamweight who looked as if he could be blown away by a strong wind. But he had mesmeric control of the ball and when conditions suited him could dominate a match with his passing and dribbling.
Born in Hackney on February 2 1928, he joined Tottenham from amateur club Finchley in 1951 and over the next eight years played 205 League games and scored 47 goals.
For the record, Bill Nicholson’s first selection as Spurs manager:
Hollowbread, Baker, Hopkins, Blanchflower, Ryden, Iley, Medwin, Harmer, Smith, Stokes, Robb.
There was a hint of what was to come in the opening moments when Spurs took the lead through Alfie Stokes after an inch-perfect diagonal pass from Harmer had split the Everton defence. The Merseysiders steadied themselves and equalised eight minutes later when Jimmy Harris side footed in a Dave Hickson centre.
The unfortunate Albert Dunlop, deputising in goal for the injured first-choice ‘keeper Jimmy O’Neill, then suffered a nightmare thirty minutes as Spurs ruthlessly smashed five goals past him through skipper Bobby Smith (2), schoolmaster George Robb, Stokes again and Terry Medwin.
The foundation for all the goals was being laid in midfield where Harmer and Danny Blanchflower, both masters of ball control, were in complete command.
Jimmy Harris gave Everton fleeting hope of a revival with a headed goal to make it 6-2 just after half-time, but bulldozing Bobby Smith took his personal haul to four and the irrepressible Harmer helped himself to a goal that was as spectacular as any scored during this gourmet feast.
Bobby Collins lost possession just outside the penalty area, and the ball bobbled in front of Harmer. He struck it on the half volley from twenty yards and watched almost in disbelief as the ball rocketed into the roof of the net. It was the first time Tommy had scored a League goal from outside the penalty area.
Everton refused to surrender and the industrious Harris completed his hat-trick from a centre by dashing centre-forward Dave Hickson. Then Bobby Collins, just an inch taller than Harmer, showed that this was a magical match for the wee people when he hammered in a 25-yard drive as both teams crazily pushed everybody forward. It was like watching two hard-hitting heavyweight boxers with fragile chins slugging it out.
All the goals were scored by forwards until Spurs centre-half John Ryden, limping on the wing, scrambled in Tottenham’s tenth goal – the fourteenth of the match – in the closing minutes. Bill Nick, finding it hard to believe what he had witnessed, was close to speechless. It was years later when he told me:
“I’ve never believed in fairy tales in football, but this came close to making me change my mind. In many ways it was a bad advertisement for football because so many of the goals were the result of slip-shod defensive play. But I have to admit it was magnificent entertainment. Little Tommy Harmer played the game of his life. On his day he was as clever a player as I’ve ever seen, but he was too often handicapped by his small physique. When I went to the ground that day I had a good idea I’d be taking charge because the chairman had told me in the week that Jimmy was unwell and wanted to know if I would consider taking over as manager. The chairman called me into the boardroom and confirmed my appointment. I did not ask for a contract. I just agreed to take over and later in the day came the amazing game with Everton.”
Hero Harmer said:
“I had been out of the League team for the previous four matches and was half expecting to be left out again when I reported for the match with Everton. But Bill Nick told me I was in, and it became one of those games when just everything went right for me. I particularly remember my goal because it was about the only time I ever scored from that sort of range.”
As Tommy came off the pitch to a standing ovation, he said to Bill Nicholson: “I hope you’re not going to expect ten goals from us every week, Boss!”
Danny Blanchflower was even more pessimistic, but with his Irish tongue firmly in his cheek. “We can only go downhill from here,” he said. “How do you follow ten goals? Things can only get worse.”
The astonishing thing is that Bill did not tell his wife, Darkie, that he was being promoted to manager. “I never used to take business home with me,” Bill explained. “I was eaten up with thinking about tactics and which team to pick. Never had time for tittle tattle.”
Yes, Bill had tunnel vision but he could always see the bright light of a successful team at the end of it. The thought of winning games with style is what drove him. And he wanted to do it all with a minimum of fuss.
Only three players from the Spurs team that scored the knock-out ten goals survived as regular members of the Double-winning side of 1960-61– right-back Peter Baker, artistic right-half Danny Blanchflower and centre-forward Bobby Smith. The fourteen goals equalled the aggregate First Division record set in 1892 when Aston Villa annihilated Accrington Stanley 12-2.
This was just the start for The Team That Bill Built. The Glory-Glory days were around the corner.
You can read all about this match and much more in my Bill Nicholson Revisited book, all profits to the Tottenham Tribute Trust , which helps our old heroes who have hit troubled times. Full details at www.normangillerbooks.com.
THE GILLER TEASER
Each week here in my Spurs Odyssey home I test your knowledge of Tottenham. Last week I asked: Who played for Crystal Palace and QPR before joining Spurs, collected an FA Cup final medal in 1982 and won 20 international caps, including in the 1986 World Cup finals?
Many of you plumped for Clive Allen, but he did not play in the 1986 World Cup finals. The answer is Terry Fenwick, who played for QPR against Spurs in the 1982 FA Cup final, heading the goal in the first match that forced a replay. Terry must be sick to death of seeing the replay of Maradona’s magnificent second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, when he was one of the England defenders left for dead by the little master’s devastating run.
The first name chosen at random from the correct entries: Jim Gale, of St Albans, who wins an autographed copy of Lane of Dreams.
This week’s teaser: Who was the Bethnal Green-born midfielder who played 193 League games for Spurs and collected an FA Cup winners’ medal before joining Everton in 1994?
I have another copy of my best-selling Lane of Dreams book – including the autographs of Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman – for the sender of the correct answer whose name is randomly drawn first. Email your answer please to email@example.com.
If you would like a paperback copy of Bill Nicholson Revisited or a hard-back version of Danny Blanchflower This WAS His Life, please go to www.normangillerbooks.com. A donation goes to the Tottenham Tribute Trust for every copy sold.
Alternatively you can have either of the books delivered right NOW to your computer screen for NOTHING. If you like it, just please make a donation to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, this is really something for nothing! Thank you
Thanks for your company. COYS!
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