Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey - Norman Giller's Blog (No. 125 - 23.05.16)
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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 125) (23.05.16)

Submitted by Norman Giller

The Managing Game (1) - Frank Brettell

Norman Giller writes for Spurs Odyssey The only thing we Spurs addicts learned from last night’s Tottenham-tinged England friendly against Turkey is that Christian Eriksen can relax, safe in the knowledge that he will not lose his free-kick specialist role to Our Harry Kane.

He was trusted with virtually every free-kick against the rugged Turks, and few found their target. Harry is a born finisher and should have been in the penalty area trying to get on the end of the free-kicks. I am assuming Wayne Rooney will take on the job in the Euro finals, which will leave Kane and Vardy free to battle for the scraps in the goal area.

All five of our Tottenham boys equipped themselves well, with the ever-improving Danny Rose getting the man-of-the-match vote. I personally would have given it to his White Hart Lane team-mate Eric Dier, who was a powerhouse in his mopping-up-and-move-it-on role.

All in all, it was not the most impressive of displays by England and I thought several of the players looked stale and in need of a rest after the strenuous domestic season. Manager Roy Hodgson now has the job of galvanising them ready for the Euro finals, when they would much prefer to be heading for the beach.

What concerns me is how knackered will all our Tottenham players be by the time they report back for club duty at the start of a crucial season that includes the Everest challenge of the Champions League? Our Belgian contingent, of course, are also on European duty, as is our captain Hugo Lloris (France), Ben Davies (Wales) and Kevin Wimmer (Austria).

We are going to be worrying about Europe during the summer for more reasons than just the minor matter of the Referendum.

But we can cheer ourselves up with the fact that we have the fresh Mauricio Pochettino waiting to recharge their batteries, rather than the weary Louis van Gaal. Just think how close we were to having the quirky Dutchman in charge at The Lane.

He was a nod of the head away from being Spurs manager, a missed bullet if ever there was one.

In Pochettino we trust.

To keep us in Spurs mode and mood during the summer break I am going to dig into the past and spotlight the men who have carried the responsibility of managing our great club. Many Spurs Odyssey followers know their Lilywhite history, but I am astonished at how many of the younger generation seem to think football started with the Premier League.

Each week, starting today, I am dipping into the pages of one of my early Tottenham books (The Managing Game), and will feature a different White Hart Lane boss, kicking off with the very first Spurs manager …

Spurs' first manager - Frank Brettell

Appointed: 14 March 1898
Resigned: 17 February 1899

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FRANK BRETTELL, Tottenham’s first manager, was quite a character. Liverpool born but proudly proclaiming himself Irish, he arrived like a whirlwind and turned the Spurs squad inside out. Then, after just one season in charge, he took off for the promised land of Portsmouth – because they doubled his wages.

A qualified schoolteacher, he had a remarkable playing career with St. Domingo’s, a club that later morphed into Everton. He started out as a goal-scoring forward in 1878, ten years before the formation of the Football League.

After having his chest crushed in a collision on the pitch in the era when football was very much a game of physical contact, he spent two months on his back in hospital and then resumed playing as a half-back. During a match at Stanley Park, his leg was broken with a snapping sound that legend has it was heard all the way over at Anfield. It was back to hospital and when he returned to playing it was as a goalkeeper.

Throughout his playing career, Brettell worked as a reporter and football columnist for the Liverpool Mercury. You get some idea of his energy and enterprise when you take into account that while writing for the newspaper he was the secretary-manager of St. Domingo’s and also playing for the team.

He was on the committee that engineered the transition of St. Domingo’s to Everton before becoming secretary-manager of Bolton Wanderers in 1896. Charles Roberts, the entrepreneur who had negotiated a Southern League place for Tottenham, persuaded Brettell to take over as the first official manager of Spurs as they started to establish themselves as one of the outstanding clubs in the south soon after becoming a limited company.

Brettell took charge in March 1898 in the days when managers were expected to carry out the dual role of team boss and club secretary. Tottenham, then playing at Northumberland Park, had recently become professional, largely funded by a wealthy local businessman benefactor called John Oliver.

When Brettell joined Spurs from Bolton he was able to coax half his former Wanderers team to join him on the journey south with the promise of weekly wages of £3 10s (£3.50). They were less than pleased back at Bolton as he plundered their playing staff.

Spurs won 37 and drew 12 of his 63 games as manager. The most memorable match was a goalless draw against Woolwich Arsenal (in the days when they knew their place) that drew a record 14,000 spectators to the cramped Northumberland Park, convincing Tottenham they needed a bigger venue. Their eyes were on a garden nursery down the road at a place called White Hart Lane.

Brettell was described by a chronicler of the time as “a jovial, assured but impatient man.” Much to the annoyance and frustration of chairman Roberts, he quickly ran out of patience at Tottenham before taking the cash bait to move to Portsmouth to organise them for their first season in the Southern League.

Pompey were owned by a local brewer, John Brickwood, who made Brettell an offer he could not refuse to become the club’s first manager.

In his first season in charge he steered them to second place in the table, runners-up to the Tottenham team that he had left behind. He appeared to have an unquenchable thirst for launching clubs and in 1903 he moved west to Plymouth Argyle, starting from scratch to introduce them to the world of professional football.

Brettell had just a brief encounter with Tottenham, but will always have a proud place in the club’s history as the first of the march of the managers.

Manager No 2 would start the Tottenham tradition of playing the Scottish way. That’s next week’s episode.

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 to test your knowledge of Tottenham players, ancient and modern. Last week’s challenge:

Which Tottenham player made his one and only international appearance in Alf Ramsey’s first match as manager, and who was in charge at White Hart Lane when he first signed for Spurs?

Most of you found this a doddle: Ron Henry, who first signed for Spurs as an amateur in 1952 when Arthur Rowe was in charge during the Push and Run era. Ron, a real Tottenham loyalist, got his one and only England cap in the Alf Ramsey debut match in France which ended in a disastrous 5-2 defeat.

First name drawn: John Stock, of Taunton, a Spurs fan since his schoolboy days in North London in the 1960s. I will be sending John a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.

This week’s teaser: I made my international debut for Morocco in 2010 and have since won 30 caps but for another country. I have scored 15 Premier League goals for Spurs. Who am I and from which club did I join Tottenham?

Please email your answer by midnight on Friday to 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.

You can purchase any of my books from me at, including No 101 out this week: July 30 1966, Football’s Longest Day, the full inside story of the day England won the World Cup. I was there, and was the only journalist to get into the dressing-room after the final. All profits from my Tottenham-themed books go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help any of our old heroes who have hit difficult times.

Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!

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