NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 232
Submitted by Norman Giller
Where on earth is Harry Kane going to take us on his incredible footballing adventure? We are all on board with him and thoroughly enjoying the ride.
Just to put his performances into some sort of perspective, he has scored 89 goals and had 12 assists in his last 91 games for club and country. That is a phenomenal strike rate. We have seen nothing like it from an England (and Tottenham) player since the goal-gorged days of the little master, Jimmy Greaves.
I feel privileged to have watched both of them on their journey into the land of legend, and there is still much more to come from Our Harry. He has so far scored 18 goals in 26 England appearances. Where will it end? He is just 24 and approaching his peak!
And just to remind you, he has recently signed a new six-year contract with Tottenham.
We literally love him here at Spurs Odyssey. Our guru Paul H. Smith, publicly said as much on Twitter and got dozens of ‘likes’ from similar-minded supporters who have lost their hearts to our Hurrikane.
His hat-trick against Panama yesterday in a crucial World Cup group match was unremarkable and straightforward by his standards, two masterclass penalties and then a deflection.
But in milestone measurement he is only the third striker after Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker to notch a World Cup hat-trick for England, and he now has a collection of hat-trick balls that reach the ceiling in his sumptuous Essex mansion. Arise Sir Harry!
Just a word of keeping-our-feet-on-the-ground caution: Tunisia and Panama are not the greatest of international sides. The real test for Gareth Southgate’s young lions comes against the sort of quality opposition we can expect on Thursday against the multi-talented Belgian team.
Toby and Jan against Our Harry! Can’t wait.
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 Five kicks off as Danny joins Arthur Rowe’s Push and Run Tottenham team …
THERE was no waving of a magic wand when Danny arrived at Tottenham in December 1954. He had signed for a club on a downward spiral after the heady heights of the Push And Run triumphs, during which they captured the Second and First Division titles in back to back seasons under the spell of master tactician Arthur Rowe. It was the prospect of working with Rowe that most appealed to Blanchflower after hitting the wall of apathy at Villa.
Arthur, born and raised within goalkicking distance of White Hart Lane and a model of modesty, was never one to want to take credit for his own genius. He would always stress that the real father of Push and Run was his old Tottenham mentor Peter McWilliam, a trend-setting tactician in two spells in charge at White Hart Lane.
McWilliam was building the 1921 Tottenham FA Cup winning team when Arthur joined Spurs as a schoolboy. The Scot helped launch Arthur’s playing career with the Tottenham nursery team Gravesend and Northfleet. He developed into a thinking man’s centre-half for Tottenham throughout the ‘thirties until a knee injury forced his retirement after an international career confined to one England cap. He travelled through Europe as a full-time coach and was on the verge of accepting the Hungarian team manager’s job when war was declared. His coaching inspired a new generation of Hungarian football masters, including the peerless Ferenc Puskas.
Arthur did his wartime service with the Army before resuming his football duties, and he was lured back to the Lane from Chelmsford City in 1949 after the failure of red-blooded, ex-Gunner Joe Hulme to get Tottenham back to winning ways. In his first two seasons in charge he shook the football world by lifting the Second and First Division championships in successive seasons. The introduction of simple Push and Run tactics was derided by the critics as “playground football.” But played properly, the Tottenham way, it was devastatingly productive.
Arthur knew that in Danny he had the pass master who could make his system work even more smoothly, but sadly his health let him down before he could make the most of the Blanchflower influence.
The pressures of management took their toll on the gentle, softly spoken Rowe, who had conjured his trophy-winning results by precise planning rather than bullying his players. A devastating 3-1 FA Cup fifth round defeat at York City in 1955 was the final blow for King Arthur, who abdicated the Tottenham throne after what was diagnosed as a nervous breakdown.
His last major act was to buy Danny Blanchflower. What a parting gift for the club he had served so well. He later came back into the game as manager at Crystal Palace, where he told me:
"I set my sights on Danny when Billy Nicholson told me his knee injury was going to force him to retire. To be honest, I thought we were going to lose out to the Arsenal because they made no secret they wanted him. I travelled up to Brum and talked football to Danny in a back room at Villa Park. We got on like a house on fire, and found we had the same philosophy about the game.
Like me, he thought football should be imaginative and played with skill and thought. I knew he wasn't all talk, because I'd seen he could do it on the pitch. When most about him were trying to knock ten skittles out of the ball he was looking to use it with intelligence and accuracy.
Something else I liked about Danny was that he was not asking for a backhander. His motivation to move was not money but the hunger to play football the way it should be played. He was ideal for Spurs.
Tottenham-born Arthur had a lovely Cockney sense of humour. He added with a wink: “It was the best thirty grand I ever spent!”
A brief sad note here on the dementia theme I mentioned at the start of our journey. Arthur passed on suffering from Alzheimer’s on 17 November 1993, just three weeks before Danny died from the same merciless illness. Neither could remember the pleasure they had given us or their achievements that so brightened the Beautiful Game.
It was frustrating for Danny that ill health had beaten the manager for whom he most wanted to play. The deeply depressed Arthur was replaced by the veteran Jimmy Anderson, who would have fitted in nicely with the old-style Villa regime from which Danny had just escaped.
Anderson recognised his natural leadership skill and appointed him captain when Alf Ramsey hung up his boots to concentrate on a managerial career at Ipswich Town. Bill Nicholson, the player Danny had replaced in the No 4 Spurs shirt, became first-team coach, and at last Danny had found somebody who spoke his football language. And, glory be, nearly all the training was done with a ball!
Now just past 30, Danny was desperate to have something to show for all his years with a ball at his feet, and his best chance to date loomed with a Tottenham FA Cup run in 1956. He led them to a semi-final against Manchester City, a match that brought him into open conflict with the almost insignificant Jimmy Anderson.
He had been a member of the Tottenham backroom staff since way back in his teens in 1908, and he found his promotion to manager mostly a burden rather than a blessing.
Filling in as emergency manager when Arthur Rowe first became unwell, he was then given the job permanently in July 1955. Cynics claimed that the notoriously mean Tottenham board promoted him because he came cheap. After years of playing second fiddle he suddenly found himself conducting the orchestra, and he just could not get the rhythm right.
He found himself in charge of a team in a state of evolution rather than revolution. The great players who had come through a war and then formed the Push and Run team had grown old together, and now Jimmy found himself having to replace exceptional players and thinkers like Alf Ramsey, Billy Nicholson, Ron Burgess, Eddie Baily, flying wingers Sonny Walters and Les Medley, and the twin strikers Len ‘The Duke” Duquemin and Les Bennett.
He wanted to follow the Arthur Rowe lead of rebuilding the side around the Renaissance Man Danny Blanchflower, but could not get anywhere near his wavelength.
A man of few words, Anderson would not have lasted five minutes in today’s world in which Premier League managers are expected to give regular one-on-one interviews and press conferences. They have to know how to please and satisfy not only newspaper reporters but television, radio and a growing army of Internet interrogators.
Jimmy was brought up on the Victorian-age principle: speak only when spoken to, and he followed the Matt Busby edict: “Treat the press like you would treat the police.” He considered journalists a pain in the derriere (nothing changes).
Anderson, ruddy faced and looking more a park keeper than a football manager, said in a rare interview following his surprise elevation from the backroom to the top job:
"Spurs have been my life virtually since I left school and I will do my best to meet the standards that Arthur Rowe set in his championship-winning season. All I ask from the players and supporters is patience while I settle into the job. I have inherited a talented team that is a little lacking in confidence. We must all pull together to get back into a winning groove. I ask the press to leave me to get on with the job without unnecessary interference. Matters of club business will be dealt with by our Secretary. My one priority will be dealing with the players and getting things right on the pitch."
There were encouraging signs that Anderson was starting to get it right when Tottenham reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1956, going down 1-0 to Don Revie-inspired Manchester City at Danny’s old hunting ground, Villa Park. But it was another false dawn, and suddenly all the media attention centred on an earthquaking bust-up between Anderson and his outspoken skipper.
Their dispute became open warfare and it reached the point where Danny was telling the newspapers how Spurs should be playing the game and how the club should be managed. Echoes of what happened at Villa. Anderson blamed Danny for the Cup semi-final defeat, because he made tactical changes during the game without even a glance in the direction of the manager.
He sent centre-half Maurice Norman up into attack and signalled for inside-forward Johnny Brooks to come back into the heart of the defence. It is on record that Anderson – his ruddy face white with rage – said to Danny in the dressing-room after the semi-final: "You have made me look a fool in front of the directors. I’m manager of this club, not you. In future don’t make any tactical changes without my say-so."
Danny, never one to take a verbal volley without retaliating, replied: "I’m as disappointed as you and the directors. I tried to win the game by taking a gamble. You think I made a mistake. I think it’s better to make a mistake trying something than to accept things and do nothing."
Blanchflower had still not taken his boots off, and was fuming that Anderson had gone for him so soon after the final whistle and with the disappointment of defeat still heavy in his heart. From then on they were bitterly opposed to each other.
What cut even deeper with Danny is that the London reporters turned on him, blaming the Tottenham skipper for the semi-final defeat. Journalists he considered his friends were unmerciful with their criticism, siding with Anderson’s argument that he should not have made such a drastic change of tactics. “I realised that their prejudice was coming out against me,” Danny said later. “They had to have a cat to kick because they were not going to Wembley with a London team. It was their provincial colleagues who would get the best seats in the house for the final and the big headlines and projection. They were quite happy to jump on the Anderson bandwagon and give me a hiding. I was the villain of the piece.”
Anderson always cut something of a comic figure, because he used to wear his trousers with the bottoms tucked into socks, like golfing plus-fours. But there was nothing amusing about his next public spat with Blanchflower, and he stripped him of the captaincy after a row during which he accused Danny of trying to knife him in the back.
According to Danny, he was innocent of any wrongdoing. It kicked off when he telephoned the London Evening News to discuss an article he was due to write for football editor JG (Jack) Orange. He had been left out of the team to play in a crucial relegation match at Cardiff, and Anderson had told Orange earlier in the day that it was because of an injury, which led the early editions.
I was working at the News as a sports room assistant and took the call. Danny asked for Jack Orange, and I told him he was out of the office. I passed the telephone to his deputy Vic Railton, who was establishing himself as one of the hungriest news gatherers in Fleet Street sports history.
Vic asked Danny about his injury, being polite rather than seeking a story. Danny was puzzled and answered truthfully: "Injury? What injury? I’m in fine shape. I’ve just been left out."
The Evening News ran a ‘Blanchflower dropped’ exclusive under Vic’s byline in the last edition, and Anderson went ballistic, accusing Danny of trying to undermine him and stir up trouble. Funnily enough, the next day the veteran, bowler-hatted Orange accused Railton of trying to steal his job by making him look a fool. It’s a funny old world.
The Tottenham directors had to choose between the manager they had just put in charge or the articulate but prickly Blanchflower. The directors sided with their manager and told Danny to button his lip, which was like asking a chaffinch not to chirp.
The garrulous Irishman had forged a perfect understanding with Arthur Rowe, but when Jimmy Anderson took over he just could not find common ground. He felt as if he had been time-machined back into the sort of past he had escaped at Villa. This was old school meeting new school, and a collision of ideals, ideas and personalities. Danny told me much later when the dust had settled:
"My dispute was not so much with Jimmy as with the directors, who were guilty of massive interference. They got it wrong in the first place by promoting a man beyond his capabilities. He was a fine backroom worker, but was just not cut out for managing, and he had never played at top level. It made no sense that he was managing a major club. You don’t put an able seaman in charge of the ship. That way you will eventually hit the rocks.
The Hungarians and Brazilians had recently shown we were light years behind with our methods, and it was so obvious that Jimmy Anderson was still living in the Ark. He never forgave me for sending Maurice Norman up from defence to lead the attack when we were battling to pull back the Manchester City lead in the FA Cup semi-final.
I could not be one of those captains who just spun the coin. I saw it as my duty to make changes in the heat of battle rather than save it for the after-match inquest. Sadly, my argument with Jimmy dragged our then coach Bill Nicholson in and, for a while, I was at loggerheads with a man for whom I had utmost respect.
I went on the transfer list and when Bill finally took over from Jimmy he played me in the reserves. That hurt like hell. It all came right in the end, but I was never on Jimmy Anderson’s Christmas card list."
Bill Nicholson’s golden era was about to kick off. It was all happening against the backdrop of an incredible period in Danny’s footballing life, when the Northern Ireland team he was skippering became the talk of the world. Meantime, his family life was plunged into grief. This is the mix of triumph and tragedy hat I will tell in Part Six of my book serialisation next week.
This week’s totally trivial teaser, just for fun:
Who played fives games in the 1958 World Cup finals, won 59 international caps and once wore the No 12 Spurs shirt at Wembley?
Please email your answer to me at Teaser8@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. No prize, just pride and the satisfaction of being right!
Last week I asked: Who was a World Cup winner who wore Tottenham shirt numbers 18 and 33?
Yes, the answer of course the one and only Jurgen Klinsmann, who became a Tottenham Legend in his two brief but brilliant phases with Spurs.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS.
And good luck to Harry and the boys against Belgium!
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