NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 130
Submitted by Norman Giller
The Managing Game (6) - Billy Minter
Now what were we talking about before being rudely interrupted by that dratted Referendum? Ah yes, football, a subject on which we can all agree without divisive opinions! So here we are waiting and wishing for England to stay in the Euros by beating Iceland, while in contrast trying to digest the likely consequences of the UK voting to leave Europe. As my old mate Greavsie always says, “It’s a funny old game.”
I will not bore you with political pontificating, but Europe is going to be on the mind of all we Tottenham disciples. First there’s the second phase match against Iceland with five of our young Spurs lions likely to be playing key roles, and then there’s the challenge next season of the Champions’ League when we mix with the elite of Europe.
Our thoughts in particular will be with Our Harry Kane, who will be carrying the weight of expectancy on his powerful shoulders into the Iceland match. He is a sensible young man, with his feet on the ground (unless rising to meet crosses).
He has taken unfair stick from the media and the on-line couch coaches, who quickly seem to forget that he was the Golden Boot winner as the Premier League's top scorer last season.
I listened in on his Press conference in France when it was suggested he has come into the tournament worn out by his Herculean physical efforts of the previous nine months.
"I feel sharp and ready," he told the prying reporters. "I'm not tired, I'm 100% fresh. I don't think burnout is a worry. I think to progress in major tournaments and be at your best you need a big squad and need to rotate it. The gaffer (Roy Hodgson) makes his choice and we all stick by it. He chose to change a few players, but that's tournament football. You can't read too much into it, other than it was to help the team. We knew he would rotate, and that he'd chosen to do that. You have to take it, move forward and take it in your stride.”
Wise, mature words from a 22-year-old, who we hope silences his critics by helping fire England through to the quarter-finals against hosts France (and Hugo) in a wide-open tournament. But let’s not write off the Icelanders. I am trying hard to keep the vision out of my mind of Siggy standing over a free-kick 25 yards out. I hope somebody has warned Joe Hart!
Eric Dier is the Tottenham player emerging in France with an enhanced reputation as a midfield anchorman, showing a good tactical brain and a composure and control that you cannot teach. He is a natural, a born leader who I personally think should wear the Tottenham captain’s armband next season. The gossip is that Bayern Munich have taken a strong fancy to him. They are good judges, but I am sure there will be chorus of “Hans off” from Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy. Have a look at this infographic of Eric Dier and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who play in tonight's England v Iceland game.
I cannot wait to see Dier line up in harness with Kenyan warrior Victor Wanyama. Together they will ride shotgun for the likes of Eriksen, Lamela and Dembele, making Tottenham’s midfield the perfect mix of power and invention. There are also whispers that Tottenham are strengthening their interest in Michy Batshuayi, who helped Tottenham pair Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld hammer Hungary 4-0 in Toulouse last night.
Biggest challenge for Tottenham fans next season will be trying to re-create the White Hart Lane atmosphere at Wembley, where we will be pitching tent for the Champions League matches.
Cavernous Wembley takes some filling, and any attendance below 50,000 gives the stadium an atmosphere like, dare I say, the Emirates library.
Even with all the building work going on might it have been wiser to play those European games at the Lane? Perhaps we should hold a Referendum.
England play tonight in the final Euro16 Round of 16 match. We are guaranteed to be in the last 9! At the time of writing, there are still 9 games to be played in the tournament and you might be interested in accumulator tips for the Euros and for the coming football season.
BEFORE focusing on Tottenham’s great past, a little personal note on behalf of this hungry writer. My 1966 World Cup final book (July 30 1966 Football’s Longest Day) is now off the press. Just for Spurs Odyssey followers, I am offering it at a virtual half price £10 post free. You can order it here by clicking on the Spurs Odyssey link:- http://www.normangillerbooks.com/july-30-1966/4591562026. Ssshh, don’t tell anybody else. You can read just how close Bobby Moore came to joining Spurs. Imagine if he had been playing alongside Mike England at the heart of the defence, with Greavsie and Gilly up front, Big Pat in goal and Dave Mackay driving everybody from midfield. Great holiday reading!
We reach manager number six as I continue my history odyssey on the men who have carried the baton as boss at White Hart Lane. For one in particular it proved far too heavy …
BILLY MINTER (1927-29)
Born Woolwich, South East London 16 April 1888
Died Edmonton, North London 21 May 1940
P124 W49 D24 L51 F223 A244 Win% 39.52
BILLY MINTER gave heart and soul to serving Spurs to the point where it affected his health. Almost reluctantly, he stepped into the shoes of Middlesbrough-bound Peter McWilliam in 1927, and during his three years in the stress seat Tottenham went into a worrying decline that took him to the edge of a nervous breakdown and the club to one of the most astonishing and devastating relegation nosedives in League history.
Born in the then Gunners territory of Woolwich, Billy started his playing career with the Arsenal but failed to win a regular first-team place, and in 1906 he joined Reading. Eighteen months later he arrived at Tottenham for the start of a thirty-two year association with the Lilywhites. He scored 101 goals in 334 first-team games and was a fleet-footed forward who could disrupt the tightest defence with his speed and shooting power.
Billy was top club scorer for three successive seasons and did more than most to keep the club in the First Division before the relegation season of 1914-15. His 95 goals in 243 League appearances was a club record until Jimmy Dimmock surpassed it in 1930.
His playing career was interrupted at its peak by the outbreak of the First World War, and he served as a sergeant with the Tottenham Royal Engineers, winning a Meritous Service medal. He was appointed club captain after finishing his military duties, but had lost his pre-war snap. He decided to hang up his boots when manager McWilliam picked the talented Jimmy Banks ahead of him.
Billy switched to club trainer in 1921 but was promoted beyond his comfort zone when the hugely capable McWilliam returned to the North East. He inherited a team that was past its sell-by date, with players weighed down by creeping age and loss of form and confidence following their heady performances in the immediate postwar years.
But nobody could have predicted their sensational collapse in the 1927-28 season. After thirty-five games they were sitting fairly comfortably in seventh place in the First Division. Then came a slide that was a mountain avalanche, and Billy Minter looked on helplessly like a sherpa caught in the rock fall.
In the last seven games they gathered only three points and the shell-shocked team were relegated in next to bottom place with 38 points. Can you imagine what they would have made of that if there had been a social network in operation back then!
It was no consolation for them to hear from the statisticians that this was the highest total in the two-points-for-a-win era with which a First Division team went down. The competition that season was so close that Derby County, with only six more points, were fourth in the final table. Neither was it any solace that the team that went down with them in bottom place was the Middlesbrough side managed by the extravagantly paid former Tottenham boss McWilliam.
He was the highest earning flop in the game during that era, and after his hero worship at Newcastle and Tottenham he suddenly found out what it was like to be given merciless stick by the Ayresome Park fans.
Down in the Second Division Spurs had five seasons of mediocrity that were more about taking part than winning. It was a period of deep gloom at White Hart Lane, and poor Billy Minter crumbled under the pressure and had to take leave of absence.
To their credit, the club did not just let their great servant disappear into oblivion. They insisted that he stay on at the club to which he had given so much and found him a non-pressure job as assistant secretary to Arthur Turner.
Billy’s health deteriorated and the club mourned his death in May 1940 at the age of only 52. He died just weeks before the drama of the Dunkirk evacuation, and Arthur Turner said on behalf of the club:
”Tottenham mourn the loss of one of their most loyal employees. He served the club in several roles, including as an outstanding player, trainer, chief scout and as a conscientious manager. Right up until his passing he continued to serve the club he loved as a hard-working assistant secretary. He was one of our family, and he will be sadly missed.”
In the annals of Tottenham’s history, Billy Minter deserves to be remembered as a great servant to the Lilywhites, who should never have been given the huge burden and responsibility of management.
The directors decided they needed a manager with experience of being in charge rather than promoting from within.
Next week: Here comes Mr Smith.
SPURS ODYSSEY QUIZ TEASER
As we patiently wait for the third Spurs Odyssey Quiz League to kick off at the start of next season, I am challenging you each week to a teaser test of your knowledge of Tottenham players, ancient and modern.
Last week’s challenge: “I won 13 international caps, moved to Manchester United from Tottenham and was the youngest member of the Scottish squad in the 1982 World Cup finals. Who am I and with which English club did I win a UEFA Cup final medal in 1981?”
Yes, as you all swiftly told me, it was the larger-than-life Scot Alan Brazil, who was a powerhouse forward with Ipswich before arriving at the Lane for a brief but memorable run in the Lilywhite shirt. He is now, of course, the talk of TalkSport with his hard-hitting opinions and off-the-wall humour.
First name drawn: Simon Corley of Cambridgeshire, who has followed Tottenham avidly since the 1977-78 season. I will be sending Simon a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.
This week’s teaser: “I played for Vicenza and Torino between two long spells with my local club Tottenham. Who am I and what number shirt did I wear in a European Cup Winners’ Cup final?”
Please email your answer by midnight on Friday to SOQLTeaser7@normangillerbooks.com You will receive an automated acknowledgement.
Don’t forget to add your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
The "Giller Index" - listing all Norman's articles for Spurs Odyssey
Top of page | Spurs Odyssey Home Page