NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 265
Submitted by Norman Giller
(Ed) - (Norman refers below to the hiatus in Spurs' programme because of our non-involvement in the FA Cup this weekend. You might like to check out this week's betfred offers regarding next week's games, before or after you read another excellent article by a wonderful weekly contributor to Spurs Odyssey.)
The 10 day lull in Tottenham’s two-pronged title challenge, gives me the chance to send birthday greetings to the greatest of all Tottenham goal scorers, the one and only Jimmy Greaves.
Jim will be 79 on Wednesday, and I know all Spurs Odyssey disciples will join me in wishing him improved health and a better quality of life as he battles with the consequences of his paralysing stroke of nearly four years ago (May 2015).
Author David Tossell has a family-backed book coming out in April on the great man, and I hope you support it because Jim is getting a share of any profits.
To put us all in a Greavsie reminiscing mood, here’s an interview I had published in one of the 20 books I have written in harness with Jim and it features him talking in response to my question: “What did playing for Spurs mean to you …?”
Over to Greavsie:
“I considered myself the luckiest footballer on earth the day Bill Nick arrived in Milan to sign me for Tottenham. Not only was he rescuing me from what I reckoned was the prison of Italian football, but he was also giving me the chance to join what I believed was the finest club side in Europe. It was in the previous season that Spurs had pulled off that historic Double. I had played against them with Chelsea, and I can vouch for the fact that they were, to use a Cockney understatement, ‘a bit tasty.’
They purred along like a Rolls Royce, with Danny Blanchflower, John White and Dave Mackay at the wheel. When they wanted to touch the accelerator there was Cliff Jones to break the speed limit down either wing; and if they needed a full show of horsepower, Bobby Smith was put in the driving seat. These were the nucleus of five world-class players around which Bill Nick had built his team. He had got the perfect blend and I remember thinking when I played against them, ‘Blimey, there’s not a weakness in this team. They can win the lot.’
‘The lot’ in those days meant the League Championship and FA Cup, two trophies that were harder to win then because – and of this I am convinced – the game was a lot tougher and more demanding. In comparison, today’s football has become a virtual non-contact sport. And remember we were all on a twenty quid a week maximum wage at the time, which is why I nipped off to Italy.
Just to give you an idea of the overall standard of the First Division in 1960-61: I was playing in a Chelsea side that included such international-class players as Peter Bonetti, Frank Blunstone, Peter Brabrook, Bobby Evans, Bobby Tambling and Terry Venables. I managed to bang in 41 goals that season. We finished in twelfth place in the table.
Wolves, dripping with international players, scored 103 First Division goals and could do no better than third. Defending champions Burnley, blessed with the talents of Jimmy McIlroy, Jimmy Adams, Alex Elder, Jimmy Robson, Ray Pointer, John Connelly, Brian Miller and Gordon Harris, netted 102 First Division goals, and were back in fourth place. We were all puffing and panting trying to keep up with Spurs.
Runners-up Sheffield Wednesday had England internationals Tony Kay, Peter Swan, Ron Springett and John Fantham at their peak. Blackpool missed relegation by a point, despite being able to call on such skilled players as Tony Waiters, Jimmy Armfield, Ray Parry, Ray Charnley and the one and only Stanley Matthews. Each team also had at least two hatchet men, with instructions to stop the clever players playing.
The like of ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Norman Hunter, Tommy Smith and Chopper Harris were coming through the ranks and about to make themselves felt. Just talking about them brings me out in bruises. In today’s game they would have been red carded every time they stepped on a pitch if they tried to tackle as they did in those 1960s when football was not for the faint-hearted.
There was class running right the way through the First Division – and not a foreign player in sight. This was the quality of the opposition that the ‘Super Spurs’ side had to overcome to pull off the League and Cup Double that had eluded every great team throughout the 20th Century. They did it with a style and flair that made them one of the most attractive teams of all time. There were defensive deficiencies, but you never heard a murmur of complaint from the spectators, who were always given tremendous value for money.
For me to join the team in 1961 was like being given a passport to paradise. I considered it like coming home. I was a Spurs fan when I was a kid, and it was odds-on my joining them from school until a lovely rascal of a Chelsea scout called Jimmy Thompson sweet-talked my Dad into encouraging me to go to Stamford Bridge.
I wondered how the Tottenham fans would react to me moving to their manor at White Hart Lane, and realised they were quite keen on the idea when I played my first game in a Spurs shirt in a reserve match at Plymouth. There was a record crowd for a reserve game of 13,000 and I know many of them were Spurs supporters, because over the years I have met loads that say they were there!
My other concern was how the Spurs players would take to me. They had been reading the day-to-day accounts of my exploits in Italy, where I had been waging a verbal war in a bid to get back into British football. Those who knew me only by reputation must have been thinking I was a real troublemaker, and – having just won the ‘impossible’ Double without me – understandably looked on me as an intruder who could possibly rock their happy and successful boat.
Thank goodness it didn’t take me long to kick their doubts into touch. I got lucky and kicked off with a hat-trick against Blackpool in my first-team debut, and I settled into the side – both on and off the pitch – as if I had been at Tottenham all my life.
I am never comfortable talking about goals that I scored, but I have to admit that one of the goals in my first match was a little bit special. Dave Mackay took one of his long throw-ins, Terry Medwin flicked the ball on, and I scored with what the newspapers described as ‘a spectacular scissors kick.’ From that moment on I was accepted by the Tottenham fans and players as ‘one of them’.
All these years later I can say that the Tottenham team of that period was the best side I ever played with, and that takes into account England matches.
I get goosebumps just thinking about some of the football we used to play: it was out of this world, and I consider myself as fortunate as a lottery winner to have had the chance to be part of the dream machine.”
Those of us of a certain age will know how lucky we were to have Greavsie to watch week in and week out when he was at the delicious peak of his powers. Our Harry Kane is a bit special, but even he cannot touch Jimmy for being able to hoodwink defenders with a sudden change of pace and direction. He sold more dummies than Mothercare and used to pass the ball into the net with all the assurance and accuracy of a Jack Nicklaus putt. The Gentle Executioner. Harry is more brutal but just as effective. Aren’t we the fortunate ones to have seen them both in action in a Lilywhite shirt!
Happy birthday dear friend. And thanks for the memories.
I am still on Cloud 9 after last week’s trip to paradise with that 3-0 dismantling of Borussia Dortmund. The second-half was as good as it gets and there were echoes of the Glory-Glory nights of the 60s in which Greavsie played such a prominent role.
Mauricio Pochettino will not allow complacency to set in because he knows Dortmund can be dynamic at home, and in Sancho they have a richly promising player who can take a defence apart – dare I say it – in Jimmy Greaves style.
Still all to do, but well done the lads – in particular Jan the Man Vertonghen, Smiling Assassin Son Heung-min and Hugo ‘the Boss’ Lloris – in giving Spurs such a stranglehold on the game.
Progress past Dortmund in the Champions’ League will be a great belated birthday present for Jimmy Greaves, who was in that magnificent Totteham team of ’63 that became first British winners of a major European trophy. Those were the days, my friends.
Question No 27 in this 2018-19 SOQL season:
Who netted a third minute FA Cup final goal for Spurs, won 57 caps and against which team did he score his first League goal?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL27@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
This year’s prizes for the champion: A framed Harry Kane autographed picture, two books from my Spurs collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and (most precious of all) a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.
Last week I asked: Which Suffolk-born player won two international caps, started his career at Carrow Road and from which club did he join Tottenham in 1995?
Yes, you all got there in the end … Ruel Fox, who joined Tottenham from Newcastle. He won his two caps with Monserrat. Not a lot of people know that :-)
Please keep a check on your scores. I will be trusting you to count your points as I do not have faith in my email server.
Thank you for taking part. See you back here same time, same place next week. Keep the faith. COYS!
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