NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 150
Submitted by Norman Giller
Ee bah gum, there's summat reet special happening as I usher in my 150th Spurs Odyssey blog. Tottenham’s Yorkshire likely lads Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are the talk of football.
Their dual performance in the Word Cup qualifier against Scotland at Wembley on Friday should have earned them joint ‘man of the match’ recognition.
I took the photo that features in the heading above when I was invited to a recent England training session, and to hear these two Yorkshire-born clubmates bantering took me flashing back 50 years and to memories of the one and only Cyril Knowles.
Like Kyle and Danny, Cyril was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was a bundle of mischief and good humour, who did not deserve the appalling luck that scarred his later life. The loss of his young son to a stone that smashed through the windscreen of his car wrecked this lovely man, and he was never the same after the tragedy.
I cannot give Walker and Rose higher praise than to acknowledge that they are developing into full-backs in the class of Knowles.
I am biased because Cyril was a close personal friend, but I have not seen a better full-back in a No 3 Tottenham shirt. Danny is challenging him, and could become even better once he cures a bad habit of loping back to his defensive post rather than hurrying after a Spurs attack has broken down.
Cyril was a converted winger who had dribbling skills similar to those displayed by Danny, but a major difference was that he also had a scything tackle that would have had him carted off to the Tower in today’s softer and sanitised game.
On the right flank, Kyle can turn a game with his darting runs down the wing and his cross that laid England’s first goal against Scotland on a plate for Sturridge was a Walker trademark. We Tottenham faithful know he can wreck a marvellous performance with a careless mistake, but he is becoming more reliable and has grown into the finest Tottenham right back since the far-off days of the legendary Alf Ramsey.
The intelligent and thoughtful Gareth Southgate – hopefully England’s next full-time manager – shares my enthusiasm for Walker and Rose. He told me: “Exciting things are happening at Tottenham, and as a manager I feel privileged to have players like Walker, Rose, Dier, Alli and Kane to call on. Mauricio is doing England great favours with his coaching and his faith in home-grown players.”
As we prepare for Saturday’s visit from West Ham, you can bet their manager Slaven Bilic is being kept awake at night wondering and worrying about how he can shut down Tottenham’s Yorkshire terriers. Our full-backs will be winging it.
In the words of Tottenham’s greatest ever Yorkshireman – ‘Sir’ Bill Nicholson – “There’s nowt like us!”
With Remembrance Day sounds and images still fresh in mind, I make no excuse for once again spotlighting the exploits of a true hero from the First World War 100 years ago.
In 1908 Spurs signed a young player – Walter Tull – from Clapton who was to make history as the first black footballer to appear in the League in the 20th century, following in the footsteps of Ghana-born Arthur Wharton who had played with distinction for among other clubs Preston and Sheffield United late in the 19th Century.
The grandson of a slave, Walter was born in Folkestone in 1888. His father was a West Indian who had arrived in Britain from Barbados in 1876 and married a Kent girl.
His parents both died before he was ten, and Walter was brought up along with his brother in a Methodist-run orphanage in Bethnal Green in London’s East End. A Tottenham scout spotted him playing amateur football for Clapton), and he started on an adventure that could have come out of the imagination of a Hollywood screenwriter.
A quick and powerful inside-forward or wing-half, he spent two seasons with Tottenham during which he was involved in an unpleasant and unsettling racial incident while playing at Bristol City. He was verbally abused by ignorant City fans, who according to one report used “language lower than Billingsgate.”
It led to a loss of confidence, and in 1910 Tull was sold to Northampton where he played 110 games. He was good enough to attract the interest of Rangers, a move that appealed to him because his brother, Edward, was working in Glasgow as a qualified dentist. Just as a deal was being discussed, war was declared. He enlisted with the 1st Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, and was quickly promoted to sergeant.
Tull served on the Somme until being invalided back to England in December 1916 suffering from trench fever. On his recovery, he was sent to officer’s training school at Gailes in Scotland and received his commission in May 1917. This was an astonishing achievement at a time when the British Manual of Military Law specifically excluded “Negroes from exercising actual command” as officers. It was Tull’s superiors who recommended him for officer training, a remarkable testimony to his charisma and leadership qualities.
Second Lieutenant Tull was sent to the Italian front, and he was mentioned in dispatches for his “gallantry and coolness” following the bloody Battle of Piave. The obscenely named ‘Great War’ was into its last months when he was transferred to France, where a push was on to break through the German Western Front defence.
He was ordered to make an attack on a heavily fortified German trench at Favreuil on March 25 1918. Soon after entering No Man’s Land, leading from the front, Tull was hit by a German bullet and fell mortally wounded.
Walter was 29. His commanding officer personally broke the news to Walter’s brother, Edward. “He was so brave and conscientious and popular throughout the battalion,” he told him in extraordinarily emotional terms. “The battalion and company have lost a faithful officer, and personally I have lost a good friend.”
It was 1999 before Tull, a hero on the pitch and in the trenches, got long overdue recognition with the opening of a Walter Tull Memorial Garden next to Northampton Town’s Sixfields Community Stadium.
Many White Hart Lane fans put their names to a petition to try to get Tull the posthumous Military Cross that he so bravely deserved. There is a blue plaque at 77 Northumberland Park N17 on the site of the house where Tull lived before the war within sound of White Hart Lane. It was unveiled by former Spurs striker Garth Crooks, who described Tull as “an amazing man whose recognition has been a long time coming.”
Yesterday, I bowed my head in memory of a great man.
Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, week 14
This week’s mystery player:
“I won 60 international caps, played for Spurs from 1994 and made my early League appearances with Liverpool. Who am I and which club did I join from Tottenham in 1997?”
Email your answers, please, to SOQL14@normangillerbooks.com. Give your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs. I will respond, and will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to the sender of the first all-correct answer drawn at random. Deadline is midnight on Friday.
Please keep a check on your points tally, because the contestant topping the SOQL table at the end of the season will receive a framed certificate announcing the winner as the 2016-17 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion. And the first three in the final table will win an autographed, hardback copy of my Bill Nicholson Revisited tribute book, PLUS a souvenir card signed by Spurs legends Jimmy Greaves and Steve Perryman.
The 13th teaser was:
“Born in Skegness, I won 61 international caps and played for Spurs up until 1988. Who am I and which manager signed me for Tottenham?”
Yes, you all came up with Ray Clemence and Keith Burkinshaw (another Yorkie!). Ray, one of the most graceful of all goalkeepers, finally filled the gap left by the departure into the wilderness of big Pat Jennings and the interlude featuring Milija Aleksic.
First name drawn at random from the correct answers is Edmonton-born Jim Downes from Exeter, who has been a Spurs supporter since the Double season of 1960-61. I will be emailing Jim a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.
As regular contestants will know, the League table is decided on facts up until the final weeks of the season. Then I introduce tie breaks based on opinions, which is when I lose friends and fail to influence people with my views.
But please remember, it is just for fun and helps us all refresh our knowledge on the history and the heroes of our great club.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
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