NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 317
Submitted by Norman Giller
Those people talking of a June resumption of Premier League football should stop and think again. Plans are going ahead for matches to be played behind closed doors at ten venues, but in my humble opinion it should not be allowed to happen. And I know there are several prominent players who share my fears that it is too big a gamble.
The football authorities are just not thinking things through properly. For instance, just to open the doors of a stadium like Tottenham’s grand new home for a televised match involves a minimum 100 people, taking into account groundsmen, electricians, people to erect the goal nets, dressing-room attendants, medical staff, ambulance paramedics incase of injury, physios, referee, his assistants and fourth official, good old Paul Coyte for the team announcements, TV cameramen, sound technicians, team coach drivers. And are you going to have ballboys, or leave it to the players to retrieve the balls that go out of play on to the deserted seating areas?
Then there’s the little matter of the 32 players, including the ten subs, the two managers, their coaching staff, team doctors, (these days) psychiatrists, interpreters and kit organisers. Plus, do you honestly think diehard fans will not be trying to congregate as near as possible to the grounds? I could go on and on (“as you usually do,” Ed). (Editor's note:- Norman often inserts a comment from the editor, which is no such thing!)
Every one of these individuals has to travel to and from the ground. It only needs one of them to have been infected with the virus for it to spread. Remember that on average one person infects three others. Just from one football match behind closed doors hundreds could be at risk of contracting the killer virus. Dramatic but factual. (This a genuine editor's note. I thought that "R" was down to 1 and falling)
Sorry, but I believe the season has to be abandoned as in France and Holland, and hopefully start from square one again in August. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going to make an announcement about the easing of the lockdown next Sunday. As much as I am missing it, I just hope that does not signal a hasty return to football competition.
You may not like what I am saying here, but you know it makes sense. The virus is victorious over season 2019-20. Give Liverpool the championship, with an asterisk explaining that it was awarded after 31 matches.
Time to grow up, folks, and stop dreaming of the impossible. We are talking life and death here, and I’m afraid football becomes just a minor casualty. There is no way we can put our NHS heroes at risk by playing on, and sending any victims to hospital to increase the strain and stress on doctors and nurses.
Boris, you must tell the Premier League chiefs to put the ball away until another day.
Our Spurs Odyssey guru Paul H. Smith and I have decided the only safe and rewarding place to exist at the moment is in a pleasant past where we remember our old heroes who brought us all together as Tottenham disciples.
The enforced standstill in the season gives us the chance to remember and revere the achievements of Lane Legends. So – continuing today here on the Spurs Odyssey stage – we serialise my latest book lauding the past performances of our goal-grabbing players.
The book is called Shooting Spurs, with all profits going to the Tottenham Tribute Trust (actually, I’ve passed some of the income on to the NHS, sure nobody will mind).. It focuses on every player in Tottenham’s history who has scored more than 50 League and Cup goals since the formation of the club in 1882. Today we spotlight a man who started out seeing red …
Born Wood Green, North London 10 January 1918
Died Hackney 29 April 1999
Playing career span with Spurs: 1939-1954
Goals in 294 matches: 117
LES BENNETT put the power into the precision of Push and Run. He was a key man in the first Tottenham team to win the League championship, and while living somewhat in the shadow of main marksman Len Duquemin still managed to project his own style and personality in one of the greatest teams I ever had the pleasure of watching.
Whisper it but Bennett’s early dreams were to wear the red and white of Arsenal, to such an extent that he was a Gunners ball boy at the 1932 FA Cup final when he had a close-up view of Newcastle inside-right Richardson pulling the ball back after it had run out of play, enabling Geordies centre-forward, Allen to score a debatable winning goal. It would never have got past VAR!
One of a family of 12, Les was an exceptional schoolboy player and shone for Wood Green, Middlesex and London schools. It was Tottenham, rather than Arsenal, who spotted his potential and signed him as a promising seventeen-year-old inside-right in August, 1935. He continued to work in his family’s plastering business while smoothing the edges of his game with Tottenham’s nursery team at Northfleet, with Bill Nicholson, Ronnie Burgess, Les Medley and Ted Ditchburn among his team-mates. The foundation of Push and Run was being laid in the English garden of Kent.
Les was on the brink of being trusted with League football in 1939 when war was declared. In the November he made his first appearance in the senior team, in a wartime League match against Watford and scored a hat trick, to signpost what was in store once the final shots of the war had been fired..
Les Bennett’s non-football medal collection after distinguished wartime service. A hero on and off the pitch
He experienced action of a different kind once called up, serving with distinction in Burma, India and Egypt. While training in Ulster, he was picked by the Northern Ireland League, and later sat on the bench as an England reserve without ever winning a full cap. Bennett was 28 when peacetime football returned and he wasted no time making his presence felt on opposition defences. He was three times Tottenham’s top scorer in the immediate post-war years in the Second Division as the club prepared itself for an all-out assault on returning to the top table.
Standing just over five feet ten, ruggedly built and with good close skills to go with his driving power, he was a perfect support partner for the more direct Duquemin and they struck up an instant, winning partnership.
The plundering pair were perfectly suited to provide the finishing punch to the push-and-run, one touch, philosophy of Arthur Rowe when he took over the manager’s baton in the summer of 1949.
With pass master Eddie Baily pulling the strings in midfield, they powered and purred their way to the Second Division title in the 1949-50 season, piling up 81 goals, of which Bennett, in 35 appearances, scored 14.
The following season Spurs got to the top of football’s Everest by capturing the League Championship. By then, Bennett was being challenged for his No 8 shirt by the persistent Peter Murphy, but he played 25 times and scored another seven goals as his contribution to the title triumph.
Now slowing down in what were physically punishing times, Les moved to West Ham for his final shots in the Football League and managed three goals in 26 games before briefly trying the player-coach route with first Clacton and then Romford. He later returned to Clacton to manage a caravan site, and then became a security guard at the University of Essex. Les kept a foot in the football world by scouting for the Hammers.
He made a one-off comeback at White Hart Lane in 1964, playing with his old Push and Run chums in a testimonial match for the family of the great John White, who had been killed by lightning while playing a solo round of golf. Les said in a post-match interview:
‘I loved every second of my time at Spurs. The war robbed me of my best years, but that was the same for so many of my generation. I felt privileged to play in that great championship team. Our secret was that we all played for each other, and in our manager Arthur Rowe we had a tactical genius. I’ll always have Spurs in my blood.’
Trivia for film buffs: If you ever get to see the 1947 film Odd Man Out starring James Mason, look out for the pedestrian in the street who suddenly reveals football skills. That’s our Les!
A Ps to what I have written in the book is that our two-times Spurs Odyssey Quiz League champion, David Guthrie, has introduced me on line to Colin Bennett, son of Les and quite a character in his own right.
He drives a cab for a living in Essex and is full of great anecdotes passed on by his Dad. Just a couple of them:
“Christmas 1951-52 season, and Dad decided he wanted to spend it at home with the family in the days when they played Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He told manager Arthur Rowe, ‘Sorry Boss, but I don’t feel too good … and will give the Christmas visit to Middlesbrough a miss.’ Arthur sweet talked him into playing, Spurs won 5-1 and Dad scored four of the goals. Arthur said to him in the dressing-room afterwards, ‘When you feel better, Les, I’ll expect FIVE goals.’
‘Dad used to room on away trips with skipper Ron Burgess and would second Bill Nicholson’s opinion that he was the greatest player ever to pull on the Lilywhite shirt. Dad told me of an unofficial European Cup match against Rapid Vienna in the 1950s, and it ended drawn and was decided on the toss of a coin. Ron said that he managed to flip the coin Tottenham’s way!’
Colin is a musician, songwriter, taxi driver, comedian, an artist specialising in wax works, and he stood as an Independent candidate in the last General Election. “I was only 35,000 votes behind the winning Tory,’ he says. ‘I was a bit Spursy. Lost my deposit.’
The jury is out on Colin’s musical taste and judgement. He actually likes my piano-playing … here’s a sample for those in need of isolation punishment … no singing, Elvis had left the building the moment he heard my fingers on the keyboard …
https://www.facebook.com/norman.giller/videos/10222847630719154/ -(‘Don’t give up the day job,’ Ed) (Editor's note - No comment!)
Next week: The Duke!
Here we go, my friends … the final fence of the 2019-20 Spurs Odyssey Quiz League chase Question. No 40
Who followed David Pleat from Luton to Tottenham, and which number Spurs shirt did he wear in an FA Cup final at Wembley?
Please email your answer to me at SOQL40@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.
Next week, the dreaded tie break to try to find a winner from the 60+ of you in the running for the title.
As usual, I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake. Next week I will try to break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact. No virus is going to stop us completing our race!
Last week’s SOQL question: Who began and ended his career with Solva, was with Spurs for five years, won 58 international caps and which manager bought him from Peterborough?
The answer: Simon Davies, who arrived at the Lane when George Graham was in charge. I threw Solva in as a red herring, hoping some of you would think it was an overseas club. But every one of you got it right … so it’s on to the final gallop. We are approaching the elbow in the Grand National! Good luck.
This year’s prizes for the champion: a Harry Kane framed and signed photo, two books from my Spurs collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and, most important of all, a framed
certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.
See you back here same time, same place next week. Carry On Regardless. COYS!
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