NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 82
Submitted by Norman Giller
Tommy Harmer - "The Charmer"
Our resident guest blogger Norman Giller continues his Spurs Odyssey portfolio on great players of the past, focusing today on The Little Master of White Hart Lane, Tommy Harmer …
If Boris Johnson is worth a £500,000 advance for writing the life story of William Shakespeare, I wonder what I could get from a publisher for a tome on Tommy Harmer, who was Tottenham’s poet in football boots?
Everything rhymed when Harmer the Charmer had the ball at his feet, and he could make it sit up and talk a language that confused defences. He was unfortunate that his peak years fell between the two stools of the 1950-51 Push and Run side and the Double team of 1960-61.
I was recently asked which of the lesser known Tottenham players of the past would have fared best in today’s game, and I did not have to think long before answering Tommy Harmer.
He would have been sensational in the modern, non-contact game, with his ball control, deceiving changes of pace and direction while dribbling, and his ability to pass the ball through the eye of a needle. It was easy to imagine that the ball was tied to his boots.
His biggest handicap was, of course, that he was a Tom Thumb of a player, a bantamweight standing just a smidgeon over 5ft 5in and too easily kicked off the ball in an era when the big boot ruled.
It was within the laws to tackle a player from behind, and tiny Tommy was continually being upended as he prepared to perform his magic. In today’s game he would have had a harvest against defenders not allowed to intimidate him.
Something else that worked against him was his nervous disposition. He was a chain-smoking bundle of nerves before a game, and it took the eloquent, calming persuasion of club captain Danny Blanchflower to bring the best out of him.
Danny told me that he rated Tommy one of the most skilful players he had ever had the pleasure of playing with, and added: “If only he realised how good he was, he could have paralysed any defence. But he was lacking confidence and self belief.”
It’s part of Tottenham folklore how Tommy masterminded the Spurs team that beat Everton 10-4 in Bill Nicholson’s first match as manager, but he eventually lost his place to the more cunning midfield play of the elusive John White.
Harmer was a hogger and holder of the ball, while White provided the perfect one-touch service that made the Tottenham Double team tick.
The likeable little Cockney geezer from Hackney moved on to Watford and then Chelsea for the wind-down years of a career that did not bring him the rewards that his unique skills deserved. His output for Spurs from 1948 to 1959 was 205 League games and 47 goals.
Tommy never earned more than £20 a week with Tottenham, and he finished up as a City of London messenger. When he became engulfed by the ex-footballer’s nightmare of Alzheimer’s, the wonderful Tottenham Tribute Trust quietly helped him retain some dignity in old age.
He died on Christmas Day 2007 at 79 unaware of his distinguished playing career, and his widow Jean revealed: ''Tom and I were of an era that was loathe to ask for help. Our generation just didn't do that! When Tom's dementia was worsening, I had also suffered a traumatic colon cancer operation, and initially refused the Trust’s help because I was lost in a daily routine of worry; about Tom, and for our future. I can't speak highly enough of their kindness and professionalism, and how they guided me through Tom's final days. I don't know what I'd have done without their timely intervention.''
This is why all profits from my Tottenham-themed books go to the Trust to help our old heroes. You can order Bill Nicholson Revisited or Danny Blanchflower, This WAS His Life at www.normangillerbooks.com.
Let’s not all have a nervous breakdown if Spurs lose to the “MLS All Stars” in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, and neither should we climb to an Everest of euphoria if it’s a victory.
These pre-season games – including next week’s friendly with Real Madrid – are just experimental tune-up matches for the real thing, and the only game that matters in the near future is the season opener at Manchester United on August 8.
Have you noticed the name of the ground where they are playing in Denver – Dick’s Sporting Goods Yard. That’s the sort of name you end up with when you want big bucks for ground naming rights.
Prepare yourself for Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken Stadium for the new White Hart Lane. I’m only joking (I hope).
It will be fascinating to see the line-up for Tottenham’s game against ‘Yankee Steve’ Gerrard and Co. Just three of the 47 players linked with Spurs by the In the Knows have so far signed. I wonder if Mauricio Pochettino will manage to get Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld on to the pitch. It’s likely that he will ring changes so that at least 15 of his squad get match action.
Roll on the new season and the real thing, and we hope you spend it here with us at Spurs Odyssey, where Paul Smith and his team try to give you the facts not the fable.
THE GILLER TEASER
Just two weeks away from the kick off to the second Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, and to keep you on your toes I have another teaser to test your knowledge of Tottenham.
Most of you were correct with last week’s teaser: Which former Premier League manager won 26 international caps while playing 196 League games for Tottenham between 1965 and 1975, and which club did he join from Spurs?
Yes, it was the ‘Irish Cockney’ Joe Kinnear, who moved to Brighton from Tottenham, and after a successful spell as manager at Wimbledon became an adopted Geordie at Newcastle.
First name drawn from the correct answers is Geoff Steer, of Gateshead via Walthamstow. I will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to Geoff, who has followed Tottenham since his 1960s schooldays supporting from The Shelf.
This week’s teaser: Who was capped 28 times and was in the 1998 World Cup finals squad, and played for Chelsea and Leeds after becoming Tottenham Payer of the Year; and with which club did he start his career?
Email your answers, please, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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