NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 235
Submitted by Norman Giller
I make no apologies for taking a narrow, Lilywhite-laced view of the VARnished 2018 World Cup. Our skipper Hugo Lloris, the captain of champions France … Our Harry Kane, winner of the Golden Boot … and Kieran Trippier, the discovery of the tournament. What a championship for Tottenham Hotspur!
There was Spurs sprinkled throughout the championship, with no fewer than nine involved at the semi-final stage. Before it all disappears into the record books and the back of the memory, let’s applaud those Tottenham heroes who lit up the Russian stage with N17 nuggets:
England: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose.
Belgium: Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Toby Alderweireld (who apologised tongue-in-cheek to Eric Dier for his goal-line clearance in the third/fourth play-off) .
France: Mon capitaine Hugo Lloris, whose one nightmare error in the final could not diminish the fact that he had an exceptional tournament.
We could also throw in recent Spurs servants Luka (Player of the Tournament) Modric, Vedran Corluka , Kyle Walker and Nacer Chadli.
It was an at times magnificent and always memorable tournament, hindered when it should have been helped by the introduction of the VAR system. The jury is still out as to whether it works, and the unVARnished truth is that we seemed to be talking more about what was happening in the TV technical studio than on the pitch. VAR will only work if the referees get their calls right after their screen watch, and often as not it seemed to me they were getting it wrong. A red card for VAR? I doubt it, but they must be correct at all times.
The biggest eye opener during the World Cup – even for Tottenham supporters – was the consistent form of Kieran Trippier. He became the man with the golden right boot, delivering a stream of precision passes and his free-kick scorcher against Croatia gave the Young Lions hope that was finally crushed. He used to idolise David Beckham and he certainly has his accuracy and application.
We can expect Kieran to share deadball responsibilities with the little Danish master Christian Eriksen during the upcoming season.
This is all proof that in recent seasons we have had a procession of great footballers operating at Tottenham.
Now, the major challenge for Mauricio Pochettino is quickly switching the appetite and attention of those returning from the World Cup back to club football.
What mountains Tottenham have to climb in this scorching summer. Stripped of many players for their lucrative pre-season tours, they have to move into their state-of-the-art stadium and also play four Premier League games in three weeks, before the next international break in September.
Pochettino’s motivational powers will be truly put to the test as he sets out to fight their fatigue, both physical and psychological.
With the Premier League season kicking off in the blink-of-an-eye next month, there is little time in which to breathe. The players’ union – the Professional Footballers’ Association – demand a minimum three-week break.
Can Mauricio recharge the batteries in time to get off to a winning start at Newcastle on Sunday August 11?
All those couch coaches ripping into England – and Harry Kane in particular – should realise that this team is a work in progress, a young side that is in the excellent hands of Gareth Southgate.
‘Gentleman’ Gareth is out of the Pochettino school who believes the team is greater than the individual and I can see them making a strong challenge for the 2020 European championship, with the final at Wembley.
Mind you, world champions France will be among the contenders. They are very special. You have to hand it to Hugo.
Danny Blanchflower, one of Tottenham’s all-time greats, once walked out on Eamonn Andrews and refused to accept his ‘This Is Your Life’ book. While waiting for the new season to get under way and Spurs to move into their state-of-the-art home, I will be telling you the story here that Eamonn could not tell. Part Eight focuses on the Double winners …
The Tottenham team that won the historic Double under Danny’s captaincy in 1960-61 was beautifully balanced and as close to perfection as you could get on a football pitch.
Goalkeeper Bill Brown, one of the more efficient Scottish goalkeepers, had excellent reactions and a safe pair of hands, which made up for his occasional positioning misjudgement. He had a good rapport with the 6 foot 1 inch Norfolk-born giant Maurice Norman, a dominating centre-half who won 23 England caps.
Big Mo was flanked in a fluid 3-3-4 formation by full-backs Peter Baker and Ron Henry, both of whom were disciplined and determined and had unyielding competitive attitudes.
Dave Mackay was always quick to take up a defensive position alongside Norman when needed and his tackles were like a clap of thunder. They used to say in the game that anybody who felt the full weight of a Mackay challenge would go home feeling as if he was still with them.
Danny was not noted for his tackling, but he was a shrewd enough positional player to manage to get himself between the opponent in possession and the goal. He would defend with the instincts of a sheepdog, cornering the opposition by steering them into cul-de-sacs rather than biting them. He left that to the Great Mackay.
The Tottenham attacking movements in that Double year were full of fluency and fire, a blaze lit in midfield by three of the greatest players to come together in one club team (up there with Best-Law-and-Charlton and Moore-Hurst-Peters). Blanchflower, an inspiring skipper for Northern Ireland as well as Tottenham, was the ‘The Thinker’ of the team, the field marshal who had an instinctive feel for the game and an ability to lift the players around him with measured passes and intelligent tactical commands.
He was the sort of confident captain who would sort things out on the pitch in the heat of battle rather than wait until the after-match dressing-room inquest (an I’m-in-charge attitude that, as we know, brought him into dispute with the then manager Jimmy Anderson).
Mackay, the Scot with an in-built swagger and a he-man’s barrel chest, was the heart of the side, always playing with enormous enthusiasm, power and panache.
John White, an artist of an inside-forward in the best traditions of purist Scottish football, was the eyes of the team, seeing openings that escaped the vision of lesser players and dismantling defences with precision passes and blind-side runs that earned him the nickname, ‘The Ghost of White Hart Lane’. This talented trio were essentially buccaneering, forward-propelling players, but were sufficiently geared to team discipline to help out in defence when necessary.
Spearheading the attack in that memorable start to the swinging ’sixties was burly, bulldozing centre-forward Bobby Smith, a 15-cap England centre-forward who mixed subtle skill with awesome strength.
He was the main marksman in the Double year with 33 League and Cup goals. The mighty Smith was in harness with Les Allen, father of future Spurs hero Clive. He was a clever and under-rated player who was the unlucky odd man out when Jimmy Greaves arrived the following season.
Les contributed 23 goals to Tottenham’s championship season. Smith, Allen and Greaves all started their careers with Chelsea.
Out on the wings Spurs had Terry Dyson – tiny, quick and taunting, the son of a Yorkshire jockey – and the marvellous Cliff Jones, one of the ‘Untouchables’ of Welsh international football, who could take the tightest defences apart with his fast, diagonal runs. He was the Gareth Bale of his time and truly world class.
In reserve Spurs had players of the calibre of Welsh terrier Terry Medwin, talented Canvey Island teenager Frank Saul, cultured wing-half Tony Marchi and utility player John Smith, all of whom made occasional appearances during that golden season.
Back in 1982 I scripted the first official video production on Tottenham Hotspur in the VHS/Beta days: SPURS, The First 100 Years. For background material, I sat Bill and Danny down for a reunion and got them reminiscing on the Double season. I asked the questions off camera:
Danny, what made you so certain that Tottenham were going to do the Double. Did you really believe it or was it your usual blarney?
Danny: ‘I totally believed it. The hard thing was getting everybody else to climb on my wagon of hope and glory. I just sensed everything was right. We made a bold challenge for the title in 59-60, and we had a team spirit and understanding that gave me a buzz. Once I’d convinced myself we could do it I became like a bee spreading pollen. It’s fair to say, Bill, that you were quietly confident?’
Bill: Well I wasn’t as bold as you. You kept broadcasting it to the point where I had to tell you to tone it down, because I thought you were putting unnecessary pressure on us. It was hard enough concentrating on winning one trophy, without having two on our minds. I agreed we had the players with the skill and desire to do it, but I kept it to myself. I was never one to shout too much about what we were going to do. I left that to the Tommy Dochertys and the Malcolm Allisons.
When did you really start to believe it, Bill?
Bill: ‘I suppose I came round to Danny’s way of thinking once it was clear we had the First Division title virtually wrapped up by the spring, although I had to keep warning against complacency. The fans got behind us and their support was enormously important. More than two and a half million people watched us that season, an average of over 50,000 per game.’
Danny: ‘I’ll agree with that. The huge crowds made a huge difference. They were like a twelfth man. The cheers, particularly from the Shelf side, could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Dave Mackay stood not much more than 5ft 7in, but I swear he used to become six-foot tall when the crowd were roaring him on. I think we all grew the minute we ran on to the pitch.’
Which game in particular stands out for you both?
Danny: ‘For me it’s one we didn’t win, at least at the first time of asking. The FA Cup quarter-final at Sunderland. I had heard much about the Roker Roar, and in this match found out exactly why it was so ingrained in Sunderland’s history. We were leading 1-0 when Sunderland forced a corner. Suddenly I thought the earth was quaking. The 63,000 crowd let out such a roar of expectation that I swear for a while I was deafened. I was trying to shout defensive instructions but could not make myself heard. The roar was still growing when the corner was taken and we managed to scramble the ball behind for another corner. This set them off again and if anything even louder, even wilder, ever more demanding. It was almost as if they were sucking the ball into the net, and they got their equaliser through Willie McPheat. I expected to see the scoreline read Tottenham Hotspur 1, Roker Roar 1. We comfortably won the replay 5-0, but the sound of Sunderland stayed with me for all time.’
Bill: For me it has to be the night we clinched the championship against Sheffield Wednesday at White Hart Lane. They were our closest rivals all season and had been the first team to beat us. We went down 2-1 in our seventeenth match at Hillsborough. It was a real war of a game, with no quarter given. Their manager Harry Catterick was a great friendly rival, and I shook my fist at him in jest at the end of the game and told him, “When you visit us you’ll get a taste of what you’ve just given us.” Sure enough, it was another battle royal at the Lane, and we dug deep to win 2-1 and so take the title. That was a very special night, and that was when the Double suddenly became a real possibility.’
What was the lowest point of the season?
Bill: No question, our League match against Burnley at White Hart Lane in the December. We blitzed them in the first-half and led 4-1 at the interval. Then in a shambolic second-half we let them back in for three goals and it finished 4-4. I tried to avoid the press that day because I was fuming and didn’t want to say something that I’d regret. I waited for an hour before leaving the ground and found the reporters still hanging on for me in the car park. “That was a shocking performance,” I told them. “A match of eight goals and we virtually scored all of them!”
Danny: ‘The lowest point for me, sadly, was not on the pitch. In the days leading up to the FA Cup final against Leicester City my father became very ill and was fading away as I prepared for the biggest match of my life. He did not live to know what his oldest son had achieved. I kept his passing very private, but it was extremely painful. There is nothing like the death of a loved one to put life into perspective. It makes you take a different view of things. Winning the Double was a huge achievement and I was enormously proud to be a part of it, but it came at a time in my life when I was having to compartmentalise everything.’
Bill, you famously were not a happy man after the final against Leicester City in which Spurs clinched the historic Double.
Bill: ‘It came as something of an anti-climax. We had played some of the finest club football I had ever seen throughout much of the season, but everything fell flat on the big day. I so wanted us to show the world what we could do, but we lacked our usual rhythm and drive. The injury to Leicester City defender Len Chalmers somehow upset the balance of the match, and we just didn’t get into our stride. Of course I was delighted with winning, but I wanted us to do it the Tottenham way with style and panache. I may have looked miserable, but that was my way. Inside I was a very happy man! What’s that feller Kipling say about treating those two impostors of triumph and disaster the same way? I always tried to keep things balanced. We had achieved the Double. The first club to do it in the 20th Century. How could that not please me?’
Danny: ‘We did not play as well as we could, but not as badly as some critics claimed. They were expecting a classic and the fact that it wasn’t clouded their judgment. I was never in any doubt that we would win. It took us a long time to adjust to the pace of that grassy Wembley pitch, and then had to readjust the tempo of our passing when it started to rain. The Chalmers injury reduced Leicester to ten fit men, and they all stepped up their work rate to compensate. It led to a lot of desperate play. I thought the 2-0 scoreline was just about right. Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson were our scorers, and Terry declared in the dressing-room afterwards: “Yorkshire 2, Leicester City 0.”’
What for you was the most memorable moment of the season off the pitch?
Danny: ‘I had been in such a cocoon of concentration that the enormity of what we had achieved did not hit me until we paraded the trophies on the Sunday. Tottenham High Road was packed with thousands and thousands of people. I had never seen so many people in one place in all my life. That to me was an incredible moment, and it suddenly dawned on me, yes we have achieved the Impossible Dream – the Double.’
Bill: ‘Yes, I’ll go along with Danny on that one. I’ll never forget the reception we got on that coach ride to and from the Town Hall. Little Terry Dyson, who had joined us from my hometown club Scarborough, said as the crowd were cheering: “There are more people here, Bill, than live in the whole of Scarborough.” And he was right, you know. There were at least four times as many people than live in Scarborough! It was amazing. It made us all realise that we had made football history.’
And there was even better to come when Bill went shopping in Italy … and came back with a footballing genius called Jimmy Greaves. That’s where we kick off next week’s chapter … See you then.
This week’s totally trivial teaser, just for fun:
Who was in goal when Dele Alli scored with a long-range shot for England in an international match at Wembley in November 2015?
Please email your answer to me at Teaser11@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. No prize, just pride and the satisfaction of being right!
Last week I asked: Which current Tottenham player has been on loan to Watford, Peterborough, Bristol City and Sunderland?
You were all right, of course: Danny Rose, who many thought deserved more playing time in Russia.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS.
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