Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey - Norman Giller's Blog (No. 131 - 04.07.16)
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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 131) (04.07.16)

Submitted by Norman Giller

The Managing Game (7) - Percy Smith

Norman Giller writes for Spurs Odyssey Bonne chance to Spurs skipper Hugo ‘Boss’ Lloris as he leads France into the semi-finals of the Euros, but my thoughts are more with the Tottenham players caught up in the backlash of England’s defeat by the heroes of Iceland.

I just hope there has been no lasting damage to the confidence of our Famous Five – Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane – all of whom shared the humiliation of the Icelandic-engineered exit.

We need them to be at their best and brimming with self belief as they return to club duty for one of the most challenging seasons in recent Spurs history. Wherever they play they (and the Tottenham supporters) can expect to take a lot of stick from rival fans, who will relish blaming Tottenham for one of the most embarrassing results in England football history.

The only one to match it was the 1-0 defeat by the United States in the 1950 World Cup finals in Brazil, and here’s a positive thought for you. Two of the key men in that England squad were Spurs stalwarts Alf Ramsey and Eddie Baily.

The following season they were chief motivators in the famous Spurs team that pushed and ran to the League championship. We can only hope similar glory awaits our Euro Exiters.

They start pre-season training soon in the company of new club-mate Victor Wanyama from Southampton, and I understand of the 20 strikers linked with Spurs during this close season Vincent Janssen is close to agreeing terms for a move from AZ Alkmaar.

But in a turbulent transfer market do not believe it until you see him wearing a Lilywhite shirt.

The transfer window becomes wide open as the Euro finals reach their climax, and the most disturbing of all the wild rumours is that Real Madrid have their sights on Hugo Lloris.

He will not want anything invading his concentration as he prepares for the semi-final showdown with Germany. But we must hope that the Real interest is media manufactured, rather than the plan of the pirates of Madrid, who have made off with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in recent raids.

Meantime, I am temporarily becoming Welsh as – minus suspended Ben Davies – the warriors of Wales take on Portugal for a place in the final. In this year of Leicester (and Boris falling on the doorstep to No 10) anything is possible.

Ever considered writing a book on, say, your favourite Tottenham players? You may wonder about what sort of sales you can expect. Well here’s a little insider guidance for you.

I have my 101st book currently on sale – July 30 1966 Football’s Longest Day. It has had some stunningly good reviews, with everybody agreeing it is well worth a read. A Geordie reviewer went so far as to call it ‘the best football book I have ever read.’ Here on our beloved Spurs Odyssey website, founder Paul Smith was moved to write: “I heartily recommend the book to any football-loving home.”

To further encourage sales from my Spurs Odyssey friends and followers I made a special offer of just £10 for a signed, post-free copy of the £18.95 book. After printing, distribution and postage costs that would leave me with a profit of around £2 per book sale.

How many bargain basement books do you think I have sold to Spurs Odyssey readers? A hundred? Fifty? A score?

The answer, just one.

So my advice is that you think very carefully before sprinting into print with your favourite Spurs-themed book. The easy part is writing the book. The hard part, selling it.

Just in case you want to join the rush to buy the book, I will keep the special offer going for another week. You can order it by clicking on the Spurs Odyssey link at the bottom of the page on my website:

You can read just how close Bobby Moore came to joining Spurs. Imagine if he had been playing alongside Mike England at the heart of the defence, with Greavsie and Gilly up front, Big Pat in goal and Dave Mackay driving everybody from midfield. Great holiday reading!

End of sales pitch from a hungry writer.

We reach manager number seven as I continue my history odyssey on the men who have carried the baton as boss at White Hart Lane. Enter, Mr Smith …

Spurs' seventh manager - Percy Smith

PERCY SMITH (1930-35)

Born Hinckley, Leicestershire 1880
Died Watford, Herts, 18 April 1959
Appointed: 1 January 1930; Sacked 7 May 1935


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PERCY SMITH was brought in from Bury to steady the Spurs ship following the nervous breakdown of Billy Minter, and he navigated it back into calm waters by following the Peter McWilliam philosophy of doing the simple things well. Playing the traditional Tottenham passing game, he got the club promoted in 1933 and the following season steered them to an impressive third place in the top table.

Smith had been an exceptional forward with Preston, scoring goals galore for them before moving to Lancashire rivals Blackburn and helping them win two League titles immediately before the Great War. He cut his managerial teeth with Nelson and then made a good enough impression in three years at Bury to convince chairman Charles Roberts that he was the man to revive Tottenham.

From the moment he arrived at The Lane, Smith set about grooming young players to take over from Tottenham’s veteran stars. Into the team came centre-half Arthur Rowe, a product of the club’s Northfleet nursery and somebody who would one day make a huge impact at the club. Smith also snapped up a young inside-forward called Willie Hall, who had just two seasons with Notts County behind him. He was seen as a ready-made replacement for the powerhouse George Greenfield, who was forced by injury into premature retirement.

Within eighteen months both Rowe and Hall were in the England team, which defeated France 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Hall had to wait four years for his next international call, this time against Northern Ireland at Old Trafford in November 1938. He plundered what was then a record five successive goals. Three of his goals came within a four minute spell, still a record for the fastest England hat-trick.

There was no happy ending to the Hall story. He became seriously ill during the War and in 1945 he had the lower part of both his legs amputated. Hall remained a huge favourite at White Hart Lane and in 1949 he was made vice President of the newly formed Spurs Supporters Club.

Hall was a prominent force in the attack that powered Spurs to the First Division as runners-up in 1932-33 in Percy Smith’s third full season in the hot seat. Leicestershire-born Smith said after winning promotion:

”My first objective was to get Spurs into the First Division where they belong. Now that has been achieved we must establish ourselves in what is a much more challenging league. We have the nucleus of an excellent team and there are many fine young players coming through our nursery sides. We can go into the new season with a sense of optimism. I have been pleasantly surprised by the way the supporters get behind the team, and that was an important part of our success last season. We will endeavour to give them plenty to cheer about now that we are back in the First Division.”

True to his word, Percy’s team gave the faithful fans a cracking first season back at the top table. In finishing third they had the satisfaction of scoring more goals (79) than fierce rivals Arsenal, who were on their way to a hat-trick of League championships.

The highlight was a 3-1 victory at Highbury, but ten defeats away from home torpedoed Tottenham’s chances of challenging the Gunners for the title.

Spurs came roaring out of the traps in impressive style at the start of the 1934-35 season but then suddenly – in a nightmare replay of the Billy Minter collapse – went into free-fall. Hit by a succession of injuries to key players, they had one of the worst runs in their history and after 22 defeats were relegated back down to the Second Division in bottom place.

There was a massive behind-the-scenes fall out between Smith and the directors, who were accused by the manager of interfering. He told the club he would be leaving at the end of his contract, but they persuaded him to make an instant exit. A disillusioned Smith moved on to manage Notts County and, later, Bristol Rovers.

Smith, who died in Watford at the age of 79 in 1959, had a rollercoaster time at The Lane – a familiar experience for Tottenham managers. He will be remembered for taking Spurs up and forgotten for taking them back down again. Along with the fans, he experienced the best and the worst of times. The man who briefly took Smith’s place was one of the country’s great all-round sportsmen. I’ll be telling you all about him here next week.


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

“I played for Vicenza and Torino between two long spells with my local club Tottenham. Who am I and what number shirt did I wear in a European Cup Winners’ Cup final?”

Most of you were quickly on the ball with this one, Tony Marchi who famously wore the No 6 shirt in the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final when deputising for injured Dave Mackay. I always felt sorry for Edmonton-born Marchi, who had to go through his two-phase Tottenham career playing in the shadow of the great duo of Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay. But this tall, elegant player was a perfect squad man and never ever let the team down when called in for understudy duties.

First name drawn: Harrow-based Geoff Davies, who has followed Tottenham since watching them win the FA Cup against Chelsea in 1967. I will be sending Geoff a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.

This week’s teaser: “I am a current League manager, won 53 international caps and played more than 300 games for Tottenham. Who am I and which team did I join from Spurs?”

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.

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

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