NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 237
Submitted by Norman Giller
On this 52nd anniversary of the day England won the World Cup, I find myself in Victor Meldrew mood. Sorry. I just don’t believe the way some Spurs supporters are reacting to the weekend’s penalties shoot-out defeat by Barcelona.
Goodness knows how they are going to get through the upcoming season when they are having near nervous breakdowns because of a set-back in a meaningless match.
The social network brings out the fickleness in fans, and people have been making in-depth tactical analysis of a match that will melt from the memory as quickly as last week’s heatwave ice cream cornets.
I detest this phoney war period in football and the transfer window gossip that invariably amounts to what that defender of truth Donald Trump would call ‘fake news’.
Biggest whopper of all was the story that whooshed around the internet claiming that Gareth Bale was returning to Tottenham for £100m. Total nonsense, of course, and Mauricio Pochettino had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he described the rumour as: “Unrealistic.”
All we learned from the manufactured match at the Rose Bowl on Saturday is that Barcelona’s second team is slightly better than Tottenham’s third team at taking penalties.
It’s a safe bet you will never ever see the combination Spurs featured in this helter-skelter game in a Premier League setting.
It was a good run out for first-choice payers like Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen, but no more than five of the team are certain to be playing at Newcastle in the season’s opener.
The fascinating thing in the months ahead will be to see whether Eriksen retains his seniority in taking deadball kicks after Kieran Trippier’s exceptional performances for England in the World Cup.
Tottenham have two men with a golden right foot.
One player I expect to return from the summer tour with increased expectations is Brazilian winger Lucas Moura. He has kept a fairly low profile since his arrival in January from PSG for £25 million.
I am sure Mauricio Pochettino will be giving him more responsibility now that he is bedded into the Tottenham way of playing, and Moura makes no secret of the fact that he is – as they say in the States – ready to step up to the plate.
He has the ability to do the unexpected, and that’s not fake news.
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. I have been telling you the story here that Eamonn could not tell, and Part Ten kicks off with a season of triumph and disaster …
THE 1962-63 season that brought Danny one of his finest hours also tormented him with the realisation that his final days as a player were fast approaching. He felt the icy wind of what one of his favourite authors, Charles Dickens, would have described as a ghosts-future moment during Tottenham’s first tie in the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Rangers in December 1962.
It was billed as the Championship of Great Britain, and Danny played a major role in steering Spurs to a comfortable 5-2 lead in the first leg at White Hart Lane. Rangers decided their only hope in the second leg in a fog-delayed match at Ibrox on 11 December 1962 was to get physical ... and it was Danny on the receiving end. He recalled after the 8-4 aggregate victory:
"Jimmy Greaves gave us a dream start in the second leg with a beautifully taken goal after he had glided past three scything tackles aimed at taking him out of the game. I reprimanded a couple of the Rangers players for what could have been crippling challenges. I should have kept my mouth shut. It’s fair to say I was having a big influence on the game when I was hit from behind by a tackle that sent me crashing as if I’d been shot. My knee felt like the twisted strings of a harp, and as I lay in agony waiting for treatment I had one of those experiences of my life passing before my eyes.
I was coming up thirty-seven and I felt in my bones, literally, that suddenly the end was near. It was as bad as I feared and I was sidelined for three months, including being talked into a cartilage operation that I knew was unnecessary. I decided I had to close my international career, while I concentrated on getting myself fit for the last vital weeks of the season. That depressed me because I was so proud to wear the Irish shirt.”
Bill Nicholson wanted to keep Danny as involved as possible and appointed him to the manufactured role of ‘an assistant to the manager.’
Without Danny’s midfield guile, Spurs slumped to a 2-0 first leg defeat against Slovan Bratislava, a below-par performance in the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final that had Bill Nicholson raging to we pressmen about a lack of team discipline and a failure to do the basic things professionally. In the return leg at White Hart Lane on 14 March 1963 Tottenham were inspired by a huge crowd of 61,504, and slammed six goals into the Slovan net without reply.
Danny flogged himself in training and quickly brushed off his ring rust in a 4-1 League win over Bolton on 27 April, just four days ahead of the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final second leg against OFK Belgrade at White Hart Lane.
Spurs won the first leg 2-1 in Belgrade despite having Jimmy Greaves sent off for throwing a retaliatory punch that had missed in the 55th minute of a viciously fought match. Trainer Cecil Poynton greeted Jimmy in the dressing-room with the comment: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re the first Spurs player sent off since 1928.”
“Who was that?” asked Greavsie.
“Me,” said the veteran backroom man, who served Spurs for more than 50 years.
Danny returned as skipper for the second leg, with Dave Mackay moving up into the attack in place of the suspended Greavsie, and the stylish Tony Marchi filling the Mackay anchorman role in midfield. Mackay, Terry Dyson and Bobby Smith scored to lift Spurs into the final with a 5-2 aggregate win.
The Spurs skipper kept to himself that he was in agony with his knee. “I deceived the critics,” he confided later. “They gave me glowing write-ups, not knowing that I would have crumbled had I gone into any one-on-one challenge. I knew I was living on borrowed time, but was determined to play in that Cup Winners’ Cup final. I had been seduced by the glory of European football.”
No British team had won a major trophy in Europe when Spurs travelled to Rotterdam for the final, and hopes that they could break the duck were suddenly diminished when their main motivator, Dave Mackay, failed a fitness test on the day of the match.
The absence of Mackay was a devastating blow because he had been a major force in Tottenham’s magnificent success over the previous two seasons. As it sank in that they would have to perform without his battering ram input a blanket of gloom dropped on the Spurs camp.
Atletico were suddenly considered by neutrals to be warm favourites to retain the trophy they had won in impressive style the previous year, when they mastered a high-quality Fiorentina side.
Mackay’s absence plunged manager Bill Nicholson into a morose mood, and he added to the air of pessimism when he ran through the strengths of the opposition during a tactical team talk. He made Atletico sound like the greatest team ever to run on to a football pitch, and he bruised rather than boosted the confidence of his players.
Skipper Blanchflower was so concerned about the sudden gloom and doom environment that he summoned all the players to a private meeting and made one of the most inspiring speeches of his career.
Using a mixture of fact and blarney, word-master Blanchflower pumped confidence back into his team-mates and made them believe in their ability to win. He countered every point that Bill Nicholson had made about the Madrid players by underlining Tottenham’s strengths, and he convinced them that they were superior to the Spaniards in every department:
"Bill is right, these Atletico players deserve our respect but we must not be in fear of them. Let’s not get carried away with all we hear and read about them. Just think of what’s being said in their dressing-room. ‘They’ve got this centre-half Maurice Norman, built like a man mountain and so ugly with his teeth out that he will frighten us to death. They’ve got quick players like that Welsh flier Cliff Jones, who is fast enough to catch pigeons. They have hard men like Bobby Smith who can run through walls, and that little genius Jimmy Greaves can score goals from out of nowhere. Their manager is a coaching master who will have the tactics to beat us.’
Come on lads, heads up and go out there and play with a swagger. We are Super Spurs, and this is going to be our finest hour.”
It was a speech of Churchillian class and Tottenham went into the final with renewed determination to take the trophy back to White Hart
This was how Tottenham lined up for the game of their lives, with Tony Marchi stepping into Dave Mackay’s place in a flexible 3-3-4 formation …
Peter Baker Maurice Norman Ron Henry
Danny Blanchflower John White Tony Marchi
Cliff Jones Bobby Smith Jimmy Greaves Terry Dyson
Bill Nicholson, one of the finest tacticians in the game, deserved the credit for the fact that Greavsie was in position to give Spurs the lead in the 16th minute. He had spotted, during a spying mission to Madrid, that the Atletico defence was slow to cover down the left side, and he instructed that full use should be made of the blistering speed of Cliff Jones. Moving with pace and penetration, Cliff sprinted to meet a neatly placed pass from Bobby Smith and Greavsie drifted into the middle to steer his accurate centre into the net with his deadly left foot. It was a real pick-pocket job, and Tottenham’s fans roared their ‘Glory-Glory’ anthem as the stunned Spaniards suddenly wilted.
It was on the wings that Tottenham were monopolising the match, with Jones and tiny Terry Dyson running the Spanish full-backs into dizzy disorder. Atletico, strangely enough, also had a winger called Jones, but he was not in the same class as Tottenham’s Welsh wizard.
Dyson and Jones combined to set up goal number two in the 32nd minute, exchanging passes before releasing the ball to Smith, who laid it back for John White to rifle a low shot into the net. It was a rare but crucial goal for the elusive White, who had made his reputation as a maker rather than taker of goals. His signature was stamped on most of Tottenham’s attacks as he prised open the Atletico defence with beautifully weighted passes.
Blanchflower, White and the tall, stately Marchi were working like Trojans in midfield to make up for the absence of the one and only Mackay. At most clubs, Marchi would have been an automatic choice for the first team, and he played with such skill and determination that his contribution was in the Mackay class. There can be no higher praise.
Atletico Madrid revived their flickering flame of hope in the first minute of the second-half when Collar scored from the penalty spot after Ron Henry had fisted the ball off the goal-line. Today he would have been red carded.
For 20 minutes there was a danger that Spurs could lose their way as the Cup-holders forced a series of corner-kicks, but the defence managed to survive the Spanish storm. Goalkeeper Bill Brown took his life in his hands as he threw himself courageously at the feet of Mendonca to snatch the ball off the forward’s toes. Chuzo broke free and Tottenham’s fans sighed with relief as he shot the wrong side of the post; then Ramiro drove the ball just off target. This was when everybody connected with Tottenham began to wonder and worry whether they were going to get by without the great Mackay, who in a situation like this would have been breaking Spanish hearts with his thundering tackles and brandishing a fist in a demand for extra effort from all his team-mates.
It was ‘Dynamo’ Dyson, having the game of a lifetime, who ended the Atletico comeback when his hanging cross was fumbled into the net by goalkeeper Madinabeytia, who had one eye on the menacing presence of big Bobby Smith.
Dyson became a man inspired and laid on a second goal for Greavsie before putting the seal on a memorable performance with a scorching shot at the end of a weaving 30-yard run. His first goal was something of a fluke, but the second was a masterpiece.
As Tottenham’s triumphant players paraded the Cup in front of their ecstatic fans, Bobby Smith shouted at fellow Northerner Dyson in his typically blunt way: “If I were you, mate, I’d hang up my boots. There’s no way you can top that. You were out of this world.”
Two-goal Jimmy Greaves told me:
"I wish I’d been able to tape-record Danny’s pre-match team talk. I would have made a fortune selling it as a motivational speech. Bill had made us almost shrink with fear when he talked about the Atletico team as if they were world beaters. He made it seem as if they only had to turn up to win. Then Danny got hold of us, and had us straining at the leash to get out on the pitch and humble the opposition.
In fact, come to think of it his speech could have come out of Shakespeare’s Henry V, you know the Larry Olivier bit: ‘Once more unto the breach,dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead.’ Of course, Danny would have stayed out of the wall on account of him being Irish!
Seriously, his speech was the most inspirational I ever heard in a football dressing-room. And then he went out and played a blinder on one leg!"
Captain Danny, who had gone into the match half fit, later wrote:
"I have never carried a trophy so high because I knew we had earned it with a magnificent display of football against skilled and well-drilled opponents. We had wandered through foreign fields and we faced our moments of trial and tribulation, our moments of doubt and frustration, but in the end the trophy was deservedly ours. I had become the first British captain to hold aloft a European cup. That is something I will never ever forget.
It is times like this I wish I was into having a tattoo. I would have the trophy tattooed on my chest.
To tell the truth, I have often played this season when I was less than properly prepared. If Dave Mackay had not failed a fitness test, I may well have stood down from this match. Mind you, Bill Nicholson would have had to use a team of horses to pull me away from the pitch. These are the sort of games for which you are in the game. Not so much for the winning, but for the glory.
In some ways, I have been a little unfair on my team-mates in insisting on playing when not 100 per cent fit. But it was a calculated risk done with the best of intentions. I like to think my experience was important on the night.
The victory had given me a taste of the nectar, and I wanted more. I decided on one more season. I wanted the challenge of retaining that wonderful trophy."
That dream was to become a nightmare … as we will learn in next week’s dark instalment.
This week’s totally trivial teaser, just for fun:
Who was a League Cup winner with Spurs, had a rewarding partnership with Jurgen Klinsmann, became an MBE and during his career scored 149 Premier League goals?
Please email your answer to me at Teaser14@normangillerbooks.com.. Deadline: midnight this Friday. No prize, just pride and the satisfaction of being right!
Last week I asked: Who played 420 games for Spurs, appeared in two League Cup winning Tottenham teams and a victorious Uefa Cup side before playing in Los Angeles and Memphis?
Yes, the hugely under-rated Phil Beal. Greavsie used to tell the tale: "Bill Nick told Phil he was always the first name on his team sheet. I waited for Phil to stop preening, and then added, 'That's because your name comes first alphabetically.' Happy days.
Phil was (and remains) a magnificent servant to the club, and a lovely bloke.
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