NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 319
Submitted by Norman Giller
We have an outright winner of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League title for 2019-20, and it’s our first Quiz Queen. Take a bow Emily Hadjinicolaou … from now on known as Queen Emily!
From twice before being a runner-up, Emily came through to take the championship by being the only one to agree with all fourteen of my selections in the Great Tiebreak Test, including the three substitutes. It was the substitutes what won it … and one in particular. Emily remembered that when the Moussa Sissoko bashing was at its basement worst I continued to stick up for him and pointed out his all-round strengths and skill.
Mauricio (ah, Mauricio, Mauricio wherefore art thou, Mauricio) Pochettino agreed with my rating and kept on picking him despite mass moaning from the Tottenham fans, who were eventually forced to accept that the muscular Frenchman is an exceptional footballer. So good that he had to have a place on my substitute’s bench. This selection lifted Invincible Emily to the maximum 159 points for the season.
Many of you hit the woodwork and went agonisingly close to my selection. You are either excellent mind readers or share my exquisite taste. But in the final count – as actuary Emily will be able to tell you to the nearest decimal point – you trailed her by at least three points.
(For those of you not regular readers of my ramblings, the rules were that there had to be five British and five overseas outfield players, plus three substitutes … two foreign born and one British. Easy!).
This was the 4-4-2 line-up that wise Emily and I agreed on … and will cause arguments and disagreements among most of you:
Kyle Walker Toby Alderweireld Ledley King Danny Rose
Christian Eriksen Luka Modric Mousa Dembele Gareth Bale
Harry Kane Son Heung-min
Subs: Jan Vertonghen Dele Alli Moussa Sissoko
I will wait for you all to stop gnashing your teeth and giving me a virtual kicking before sharing a brief explanation for each selection:
Hugo Lloris, picked himself. Until this season, comfortably the finest Spurs goalkeeper since the dizzy days of Pat Jennings.
Kyle Walker, a wonderful athlete, powerful and extremely quick. Best Tottenham right-back since Alf Ramsey.
Toby, just getting the nod ahead of his countryman Jan Vertonghen because of his booming passes out of defence. Little to pick between the two Belgian buddies.
King of Kings. Nearly every one of you agreed with me that Ledley had to be at the heart of the defence. Emily and I also made him captain, just ahead of Our Harry because he has a better view of the field from the back line. We want Aitch giving full concentration to banging the ball into the net.
Danny Boy, taken at the peak of his form and edging out Benny Assou-Ekotto because the rules demanding British/overseas balance (no wonder so many of you are disliking me at the moment!).
Christian Eriksen, judged on his mesmerising, measured play before he left us in mind and spirit this season.
Luka Modric, who can be mentioned in the same breath as great controlling Tottenham midfield artists like Glenn Hoddle, Danny Blanchflower, John White, Martin Peters and Eddie Baily.
Mousa Dembele, along with Gazza the most unique footballer ever to pull on the Lilywhite shirt. Nobody (probably including Mousa) knew what he was going to do next with his baffling and bewildering running on the ball. What a wonderful sight when in full sail.
Gareth Bale. Need say no more. One of the greatest British-born footballers of all time. A left foot from Fort Knox.
Harry Kane, who made virtually every selection. Captain marvel (but I want him with just the responsibility of scoring). Made me cry last week with his wonderful charity-sponsoring gesture. What a man. What a a role model. And he’s One of Ours.
Son Heung-min. Sonny boy. Fast enough to catch pigeons and as hungry as Harry for goals. Lights up the Lane with the sunshine of his smile and his style.
On the bench: cultured Jan for his ability to fit into most back line roles … Sissoko who can play either holding midfield or attacking (provided he leaves others to shoot) … Dele Alli, one of the most gifted footballers of his generation.
Like the rest of you, I went through agonies having to leave out footballers of the quality of our Amsterdam hat-trick hero Lucas Moura, the juggling Erik Lamela, buzzing Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe, goal grabbing Robbie Keane, ultra-efficient Eric Dier, sulky but skilful Sol Campbell and even the dazzling Darren Anderton.
Two-times champion David Guthrie was one of those who slipped Darren Into his team, but I gave him a sick note and left him out!
Those who selected the likes of Teddy Sheringham, David Ginola, Dimitar Berbatov and Van Der Vaart forgot the pesky rules that demanded 100 Premier League appearances since 2000.
Our Quiz Queen Emily arrives for a game of a lifetime, ready for the ‘Miracle in Amsterdam’
And so to our new champion, Emily. This is how she reacted when I told her yesterday that she was our new Quiz Queen and that Moussa Sissoko had swung it for her … warm your hands and heart on the Spurs spirit that comes through in her email …
“OMG! OMG! I cannot believe this! It has made my day!
The words “It’s Sissoko who swung it!” are now immortalised for me.
Thank you and Paul Smith so much for your articles on the Spurs Odyssey website and for running the Quiz. Whether working from the office or home, reading your column is my Monday lunchbreak ritual.
Okay, you ask for a brief bio, so here goes:
I was born in Cyprus in January 1965 (so, I am aged 55 and haven’t seen us win the league … yet). My dad became a Spurs fan in his early 20s in the 1950s when Cyprus was under British rule, during Arthur Rowe’s push and run era. He passed on the Spurs bug to my two brothers and I (my mother is also a big Spurs fan – she is now 83 – and, before travelling back to Cyprus earlier this year, attended the FA Cup tie against Southampton with me at the new stadium).
My brothers and I all attended Manchester University in the early 1980s (no universities in Cyprus at the time) and our first game watching Spurs live was against Manchester United in 1983 at Old Trafford. My main memory of that game is that Ossie Ardiles came on as a sub, and looking back I think this must have been one of this first games for Spurs, after his loan spell away during the Falklands War.
My first game watching Spurs live at ‘the old’ Lane (again with my brothers) was the second leg of the UEFA Cup Final in 1984 against Anderlecht! I still cannot believe that we managed to get tickets. I remember the excitement of seeing the brown envelope with my writing on it waiting for me at my pigeon hole at Uni and realising it contained tickets for the game (£11 each as I recall).
After finishing my Maths degree at Manchester University in 1986, I trained and qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in 1991. I am still working at the same Surrey-based firm I joined as a trainee back in 1986. (Norman note: Brainbox Emily does not mention that she also got a BSc degree!).
I haven’t got children of my own but one of my brothers (Nick, who also lives in the UK) has three daughters. I count as one of my biggest successes in life the fact that I have managed to make all three of the girls (who grew up in the North West of England, and now live and work in London) Spurs fans.
All three of my nieces, their dad and I are Tottenham season ticket holders and one of the things I miss most during the lockdown is the ritual of meeting up with them before the game, having something to eat, discussing the game and generally catching up.
I have attached a couple of photos of me. The first one is at the Johan Cruyff arena just before the “Miracle of Amsterdam” (I was there with Nick) and the second one is in Madrid for the CL Final – two of my greatest highlights in all my years of supporting Spurs.
And, being crowned as the champion of your quiz is certainly the highlight of my lockdown isolation! Take care and stay safe, Emily.”
I am sure Emily’s sincere words have helped ease the pain of those of you who went so close to lifting the title. Our 2019 champion Graham Eyre from Down Under in New South Wales and hat-trick chasing David Guthrie were among those just pipped by Queen Emily.
Once I have come out of isolation, I will be organising Emily’s prizes: 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 Emily as SOQL champion 2020.
Ed's note - You don't have to wait for the end of lockdown or isolation to consider the availability of best betting sites and offers. The Bundesliga has returned (albeit behind closed doors) and we may yet see Premier League football and other sporting events return this summer.
Until the new season starts, as it surely will, I shall continue with a weekly teaser just for fun and to keep you all on your Tottenham toes. By all means send me your answer to SOQLTeaser@normangillerbooks.com but only for satisfaction, not points. I will, as usual, reply if I possibly can. This week’s off-beat Teaser:
Which former Spurs manager played nine times for England and for which County team did he score more than 8,000 runs and take 89 wickets?
Thank you everybody who has taken part in the SOQL quiz and I hope you join me for year seven when the new season kicks off.
All hail Queen Emily.
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 the Lane Legend known to one and all as The Mighty Smith …
Born Lingdale, North Riding 22 February 1933
Died Enfield 18 September 2010
Playing career span with Spurs: 1955-1964
Goals in 317 matches: 208
BOBBY SMITH was the first Tottenham player to hit the two-century goals mark, and at the Everest peak of his playing career was as powerful and potent as any player who ever pulled on the No 9 Spurs shirt. Sadly, he never knew prolonged prosperity and he spent most of his life after football in debt and in despair. He and I were due to to chronicle his life and times when he passed on in the late summer of 2010, and this is how I recorded his passing ...
"It’s the ghosted book that I will never publish – Bobby Smith: Secrets of a Soccer Slave. Everything was planned and I had collected and collated much of the material, which would have shocked the life out of today’s pampered footballing millionaires. And there is a generation of sports journalists coming through to whom it would have read like fiction.
But the secrets will go to the grave with Bobby, who lost his fight with cancer at the weekend (September 18 2010). I had put the book on the back burner when, just a few weeks ago, it became obvious that he was struggling.
The moving minute’s applause in his memory before the game against Arsenal at White Hart Lane on Tuesday would have been even warmer if the crowd had been fully aware of the facts of Smithy’s footballing life.
He was 28 before he earned more than £20 a week, and when joining Spurs from Chelsea in 1956, he was taking home just £17 a week.
In the 1960-61 season that he blasted Tottenham to the League championship and FA Cup double with 33 goals, the maximum wage was lifted. The following season – along with the rest of the double-winning players and newcomer Jimmy Greaves – he was paid a princely £65 a week.
But these relative riches had come too late for Bobby. He was a wreck from recurring injuries, and had to play through a pain barrier every time he went on to the pitch.
He told me how on the morning of the 1961 FA Cup Final he made two secret journeys from the team’s Middlesex hotel to see his GP near his home in Palmers Green for painkilling injections on his knee.
“If our manager Bill Nicholson had known the pain I was in, he would have left me out,” said Bobby. “This was the game of my life and I was determined not to miss it.”
Bobby played through the pain and scored the first and laid on the second of the goals in the 2-0 victory over Leicester City that clinched that historic double.
There is cruel irony in the first legal betting shops in the UK being opened in May 1961, the very week that Smithy enjoyed his Wembley glory. What few people knew is that he was hopelessly addicted to gambling, and betting shops became like his second home.
When Tottenham were checking out of their hotel after the away leg of their European Cup first round tie against Feyenoord in 1961-62, Bill Nicholson called a meeting of the players to say in the pre-STD days: “Our telephone bill is 10 times what we expected. Somebody has taken liberties calling home.”
Bobby snapped: “All right, all right. Keep your hair on. I’ll pay it when I get home.”
Nobody except his room-mate Jimmy Greaves had known that Smithy had been on the phone throughout the trip to his bookie in London. “He just couldn’t resist it,” Jimmy told me. “If two flies were running up a window pane he would want to bet as to which would get to the top first. I know what I’m taking about when I say gambling is a drug worse even than alcoholism.”
After the historic 1960-61 Double, Bobby had two barnstorming seasons alongside Greavsie before his injuries caught up with him. “He was the perfect partner for me, knocking defenders down while I concentrated on knocking the ball into the net,” Jimmy said. “We had an instinctive feel as to where to be to get the best out of each other. I had him to thank for many of my goals both for Spurs and England in an era when it was acceptable to hammer into defenders. He would run through brick walls for the team, and I would pick up the pieces.”
With his body protesting and his gambling debts mounting up, Smithy moved on to Brighton in May 1964 for a trifling £5,000. “That money should have gone into my pocket,” he moaned. “Spurs should have given me a free transfer in return for all those goals I scored for them.’
At the time, he was the most prolific goalscorer in the club’s history and there were many who thought Spurs were being mercenary for demanding a fee, even though it was peanuts.
I just happened to be interviewing Brighton manager Archie Macaulay when Smithy reported for pre-season training at the Goldstone Ground on the south coast at the start of his career with them, and I arranged for Daily Express sports photographer Norman “Speedy” Quicke to take a picture of him weighing-in on the club scales.
It was going to be just an innocent “atmosphere” picture. Smithy had weighed 13st 9lb according to the Spurs records. Archie Macaulay hit the roof when the arrow on the scales shot up to 16st 9lb! That was more than a stone heavier than the newly crowned world heavyweight champion Cassius Clay, the difference being that Clay (later Ali) stood 6ft 3in, Bobby Smith 5ft 9in.
It went from being a run-of-the-mill photo to supporting a back page lead story under the headline “Blobby Smith!” He was given extra training, and got himself in good enough shape to help shoot Brighton to the Fourth Division title before moving to Hastings for the final shots of his goal-gorged career.
As he signed off, he sold his story to the Sunday People, who ran the front-page banner headline: MY LIFE OF BIRDS, BOOZE AND BETTING
“I made most of it up,” Bobby told me. “I was desperate for cash to clear gambling debts. But the bit about birds virtually ended my first marriage.”
He became a painter and decorator and drove a minicab before the crippling injuries he had collected on the football field finally caught up with him, not helped by a fall through a manhole that damaged his already wrecked legs.
Bobby had to take a disability pension after suffering heart problems and having a hip replacement. The Tottenham Tribute Trust quietly did their best to help him through his financial maze.
It would have been handy if he could have sold his League championship and FA Cup winners’ medals from 1961 and 1962, but they were stolen and he had the heartache of hearing how the 1961 Cup medal had turned up at an auction and sold for £11,200.
Here’s something for Spurs fans to chew on. Bobby told me: “I am always made very welcome when I go to White Hart Lane, but my first club Chelsea go further. Every Christmas they send a cheque for £1,500 to all those who were in the squad for the 1955 League championship win ... and I hardly got a kick because manager Ted Drake hated my guts!”
If he had been playing today, Bobby – who mixed cruiserweight strength with subtlety on the ball – would have been revered as a player in the Alan Shearer class, and rewarded with the riches that his ability warranted.
But he played in the soccer slave era. His rewards were pain in the limbs and – much of it self inflicted – poverty in the pocket.
Bobby’s story deserved to be told. But he has taken his secrets with him. Rest easy, old friend."
The highlight for Bobby was being the main marksman in a Double year that has gone down in the annals as the greatest season in Tottenham’s history. Many of his goals came from crosses supplied by a Welshman from a famous footballing family ... the Flying Jones Boy, and the subject of next week’s special feature here on your favourite Spurs Odyssey website.
See you back here same time, same place next week. Carry On Regardless and Stay Alert. Queen Emily commands it. COYS!
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