NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 323
Submitted by Norman Giller
Excuse this old hack’s scepticism, but I will believe Tottenham’s behind-closed-doors match against Manchester United on Friday is going ahead when I witness it live on television.
As I write, stories are circulating about a Norwich footballer testing positive for the dreaded coronavirus after playing in a friendly against Spurs at the new Tottenham Stadium last Friday.
Spurs are giving out all the right vibes about none of their players being affected, but the testing will go on right until the kick-off against United in a match so vital to both clubs. I wonder what the players (and their families) who competed against Norwich think!
It’s good to be talking about actual football again, but as my regular reader will confirm I have always considered we are rushing back into Premier League action too quickly while the lockdown (certainly for ‘vulnerable’ old hacks like me) is still allegedly in place. I have just got used to being called ‘veteran’ and now I have had a new unappetising ‘v-word’ adjective thrust upon me. I just want to be venerable and victorious.
Tottenham cannot afford to lose to United, which probably explains why Jose Mourinho has been going over the top with his comments about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – his successor in the Old Trafford hot seat – being out of his depth in the job. It seems sarcasm and hostile hype are not in lockdown.
Their head-to-head showdown on Friday (we hope) will give us a much better idea of which teams are going to fill the crucial top four – forgetting Man City – places.
Everybody is in the dark about what is likely to happen on Friday (consider these non gamstop betting sites to assist you), and I don’t fancy our guru Paul H. Smith’s task of writing a balanced preview of the game. Try tossing a coin but at no more than two metres in height. COYS!
Meantime, I’ve been spending my time on isolation island completing my 111th book … World Cup ’70 Revisited, which is a free download here https://indd.adobe.com/view/6f874087-5e46-4c1f-a06c-c8f86a85fdd9?fbclid=IwAR2y2fnf-ZG-R1dd_-87O-2qJLBhThW8PYr90VjtN-AmDOrqPQE4WjwhFtQ.
It is my personal recollection of the greatest World Cup finals of them all, and I have an army of eyewitnesses who were in Mexico with me including the memories of Bobby Moore, Greavsie, Gordon Banks and some bloke called Pelé. Well worth a read and for nowt!
A mini teaser for you: which were the Tottenham players is the 22-man squad? The answer is in the book :-)
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 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 the spotlight is on the one and only (bowing the knee) … Jimmy Greaves …
Born East Ham, London, 20 February 1940
Playing career span with Spurs: 1961-1970
Goals in 379 matches: 266
JIMMY GREAVES was – in my admittedly biased opinion – the greatest British goal scorer ever to illuminate a football pitch. There are plenty of stats and facts to support my view, and I know I could call on an army of Spurs spectators to swear eyewitness evidence that he was simply the best.
How best to represent him in this book serialisation, a pal for more than sixty years and now paralysed by a stroke that prevents him from expressing himself as in his days as one of the wittiest people on our television screens? To save you from my emotional, over-the-top hyperbole it is best that I just stick to the facts. Let’s start at what Spurs supporters would consider the beginning, the day that he joined Tottenham ...
Bill Nicholson did not want to burden Jimmy with being the first £100,000 footballer, and so he negotiated a £99,999 fee to bring him home from Italy where he had spent a miserable five months after joining them from Chelsea in May 1961. It was the start of a mutual love affair between Greavsie and the Tottenham fans as he set about building a mountain of goals that lifted him into a lasting place in White Hart Lane legend.
Those 1960s were about much more than just England’s long-awaited triumph in the World Cup. The decade heralded the first success in Europe of British clubs – led by Tottenham; saw the long overdue introduction of substitutes, ushered in the ee-aye-adio revolution on Merseyside; and witnessed the kicking out of the maximum wage to lead the way to today’s professional footballers swimming in money. The sixties were all about the Beatles, rock ‘n’ roll, Mini-cars, mini- skirts, the psychedelic, Ali-psyche and, of course, George Best. In London N17, we had Greavsie.
It was a swinging time for everybody apart from those footballers who found themselves redundant as clubs made swingeing cuts to help pay their suddenly inflated wage bills.
Spurs prudently paid each of their first-team players £65 a week, with built-in bonuses for capturing silverware. These are the terms to which Jimmy agreed, even though Chelsea had been willing to pay him £80-a-week to take him back to Stamford Bridge.
Fulham’s bearded wonder Jimmy Hill led the PFA’s campaign to kick out the £20 maximum wage as the eloquent union chairman, and it was his Craven Cottage team-mate Johnny Haynes who made the quickest profit. Comedian Tommy Trinder, chairman of Fulham, announced to the press in 1961 that he was making England skipper Haynes British football’s first £100-a-week footballer. “It was,” admitted Johnny, “the funniest thing Tommy ever said.”
The Football League caved in after the players once again threatened strike action, and this time they really did mean it. In the space of a week in January 1961 the maximum wage was kicked out and the restrictive contracts scrapped. Suddenly the likes of Greavsie, Denis Law, Joe Baker, Gerry Hitchens and the great John Charles found they could earn in England the same sort of money that had tempted them to be lured by the lira to Italy.
Here’s Greavsie talking to me long before his paralysing stroke about those early days as a Spurs player and his move from Milan to Tottenham in that historic £99,999 deal:
"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.
King James surveys the territory he is about to conquer Sketch © Art Turner
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 Adamson, 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 likes 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 … and it was within the laws for them to tackle from behind. Ouch!
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."
Tottenham made a monumental bid for the major prize – the European Cup – in Jimmy’s first season, during which the ‘Glory-Glory-hallelujah’ choruses raised the old White Hart Lane roof. There are conflicting opinions as to when the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ was adopted as the club’s theme song. Some insist it was being sung by Spurs supporters at Molineux in April 1960 as Tottenham powered to a 3-1 victory that stopped Wolves being first to the League and Cup Double.
Older supporters vaguely remember it being sung back in the early 1950s after a cartoon had appeared in the Tottenham match programme showing Arthur Rowe day dreaming of the Double. The caption read: “While the Spurs go marching on ...”
There was an explosion of noise every time Spurs played European Cup ties at White Hart Lane in 1961-62 as they saw off Gornik, Feyenoord and Dukla Prague. There was also good humour to go with the fanatical support. A small group of Spurs supporters always dressed as angels, carrying witty placards and waving them – without malice – at opposition fans. There was never a hint of hooliganism. That scar on the face of soccer was a decade away.
Tottenham were desperately unlucky to lose a two-leg European Cup semi- final against eventual champions Benfica, propelled by the rising master Eusebio. To this day, Greavsie insists that a ‘goal’ he scored, which would have put Spurs into the final, was wrongly flagged offside by the linesman.
They quickly picked themselves up after their exit from Europe and the following month retained the FA Cup, with Jimmy scoring an exquisite goal in the third minute to put them on the way to a 3-1 victory over Burnley.
My Greavsie bias coming out again, but I think it rates with the finest goals scored at old Wembley. He was fifteen yards out and passed the ball along the ground into the net through a forest of players’ legs and with all the unerring accuracy of a Jack Nicklaus putt. Jimmy, never one to boast in his playing days, said just before the players left the dressing-room, “I’m going to get an early one today lads.” If it had been a fluke it would have been an outstanding goal, so the fact that Greavsie meant it puts it up into the classic category.
The Tottenham team, rolling off the tongue like old friends: Brown; Baker, Henry; Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay; Medwin, White, Smith, Greaves, Jones.
Goals from Bobby Smith and skipper Danny Blanchflower clinched Tottenham’s win after Jimmy Robson had equalised for Burnley. Danny’s goal came from the penalty spot in the 80th minute after Tommy Cummings had handled a Terry Medwin shot on the goal-line.
As Blanchflower was placing the ball on the penalty spot his Northern Ireland team-mate and good friend Jimmy McIlroy said to him: “Bet you miss.”
Danny did not say a word. He calmly sent goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw the wrong way as he stroked the penalty home. As he ran past Burnley schemer McIlory, he said: “Bet I don’t!”
The victory earned Tottenham a place in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and the ‘Glory-Glory’ chanting supporters roared them all the way into the final in May 1963. No British team had won a major trophy in Europe when Spurs travelled to Rotterdam for the final, and hopes that they could break the duck were suddenly diminished when their main motivator, Dave Mackay, failed a fitness test on the day of the match.
The absence of Mackay was a devastating blow because he had been a major force in Tottenham’s magnificent success over the previous two seasons. As it sank in that they would have to perform without his battering ram backing a blanket of gloom dropped on the Spurs camp.
Atletico were suddenly considered by neutrals to be warm favourites to retain the trophy they had won in impressive style the previous year, when they mastered a high-quality Fiorentina side.
Mackay’s absence plunged manager Bill Nicholson into a morose mood, and he added to the air of pessimism when he ran through the strengths of the opposition during a tactical team talk. He made Atletico sound like the greatest team ever to run on to a football pitch, and he bruised rather than boosted the confidence of his players.
Skipper Blanchflower was so concerned about the sudden gloom and doom environment that he summoned all the players to a private meeting and made one of the most inspiring speeches of his career.
Using a mixture of fact and blarney, word-master Blanchflower pumped confidence back into his team-mates and made them believe in their ability to win. He countered every point that Bill Nicholson had made about the Madrid players by underlining Tottenham’s strengths, and he convinced them that they were superior to the Spaniards in every department. It was a speech of Churchillian class and Tottenham went into the final with renewed determination to take the trophy back to White Hart Lane.
This was how Tottenham lined up for the game of their lives, with Tony Marchi stepping into Dave Mackay’s place:
Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Marchi, Jones, White, Smith, Greaves, Dyson
Bill Nicholson, one of the finest tacticians in the game, deserved the credit for the fact that Greavsie was in position to give Spurs the lead in the 16th minute. He had spotted, during a spying mission to Madrid, that the Atletico defence was slow to cover down the left side, and he instructed that full use should be made of the blistering speed of Cliff Jones. Moving with pace and penetration, Cliff sprinted to meet a neatly placed pass from Bobby Smith and Greavsie drifted into the middle to steer his accurate centre into the net with his deadly left foot. It was a real pick-pocket job, and Tottenham’s fans roared their ‘Glory-Glory’ anthem as the Spaniards suddenly wilted.
It was on the wings that Tottenham were monopolising the match, with Jones and tiny Terry Dyson running the Spanish full-backs into dizzy disorder. Atletico, strangely enough, also had a winger called Jones, but he was not in the same class as Tottenham’s Welsh wizard.
Dyson and Jones combined to set up goal number two in the 32nd minute, exchanging passes before releasing the ball to Smith, who laid it back for John White to rifle a low shot into the net.
It was a rare but crucial goal from White, who had made his reputation as a maker rather than taker of goals. His signature was stamped on most of Tottenham’s attacks as he prised open the Atletico defence with beautifully weighted passes. Blanchflower, White and the tall, stately Marchi were working like Trojans in midfield to make up for the absence of the one and only Mackay. At most clubs, Marchi would have been an automatic choice for the first team, and he played with such skill and determination that his contribution was in the Mackay class. There can be no higher praise.
Atletico Madrid revived their flickering flame of hope in the first minute of the second-half when Collar scored from the penalty spot after Ron Henry had fisted the ball off the goal-line.
For 20 minutes there was a danger that Spurs could lose their way as the Cup holders forced a series of corner-kicks, but the defence managed to survive the Spanish storm.
Goalkeeper Bill Brown took his life in his hands as he threw himself courageously at the feet of Mendonca to snatch the ball off the forward’s toes. Chuzo broke free and Tottenham’s fans sighed with relief as he shot the wrong side of the post; then Ramiro drove the ball just off target. This was when everybody connected with Tottenham began to wonder and worry whether they were going to get by without the great Mackay, who in a situation like this would have been breaking Spanish hearts with his thundering tackles and brandishing a fist in a demand for extra effort from all his team-mates.
It was ‘Dynamo’ Dyson, having the game of a lifetime, who ended the Atletico comeback when his hanging cross was fumbled into the net by goalkeeper Madinabeytia, who had one eye on the menacing presence of big Bobby Smith.
Dyson became a man inspired and laid on a second goal for Greavsie before putting the seal on a memorable performance with a scorching shot at the end of a weaving 30-yard run. His first goal was something of a fluke, but the second was a masterpiece.
As Tottenham’s triumphant players paraded the Cup in front of their ecstatic fans, Bobby Smith shouted at Dyson in his typically blunt way: “If I were you, mate, I’d hang up my boots. There’s no way you can top that. You were out of this world.”
And that’s where we will pause the Jimmy Greaves story … join us here again next week for Part Two and an FA Cup victory at Wembley …
Each week before we start season seven of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, I am asking you a trivial question just to keep you 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 won 59 international caps, scored a winning goal against England at Wembley, and from which club did he join Spurs as team boss?
Last week’s question: Which former Spurs manager won three international caps as a midfielder and for which two Midlands clubs did he play in the 1980s?
The answer: Big Martin Jol – Jolly Jol who is remembered with a smile of affection. He played for West Brom and Coventry and those with good memories recall him being sent off at the Hawthorns in 1982 for a little bit of fisticuffs with Tony Galvin (on the wing) in a League Cup semi-final..
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!
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