Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 324) (22.06.20)
NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 324 Submitted by Norman Giller
Football (but not as we know it) is up and running, and already we Spurs disciples are reduced to nervous wrecks as we face a must-win match against the Hammers tomorrow. If Tottenham do not come out of this game with three points we can wave goodbye to any hope of a Champions’ League qualifying place.
From what I saw of West Ham in their home defeat by enterprising Wolves, they are in disarray. If Spurs can’t conquer them, it means Jose Mourinho in particular and the club in general have huge problems as we emerge from the wilderness of the lockdown.
Our guru Paul H. Smith reports HERE on the curate’s egg of a Tottenham performance against Manchester United, when I thought we were fortunate to escape with a point. But I was not as brutal with my assessment as Roy Keane, who lambasted his old United team at half-time.
I first heard of Keane in the early 1990s when my old mate Brian Clough told me, ‘I’ve got an Irish kid here at Forest who will become as big a name in the game as George Best. Trouble is he wants to fight everybody …’
Keane went way over the top with his criticism of Maguire and De Gea and failed to give Bergwijn the credit he deserved for his resourceful play. Thank goodness the Dutchman was at full pace and power and helped us ignore the fact that Harry Kane and Sonny are not yet up to speed.
I have never heard a TV pundit so blistering with his on-screen comments as Keane, and I think he lacked balance and an acceptance and allowance that these players were having their first match for three months.
But I’m not brave enough to tell him to his face!
Perhaps a few of the Spurs players will be needing the Keane tongue treatment if we fail to come out top against the relegation-haunted Hammers tomorrow. I will be ‘flabbergasted’ if we fail to win.
As we come out of the lockdown, here at Spurs Odyssey we continue with the serialisation of my story of Tottenham’s goal scorers. 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 spotlights 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 focus on part two of the Jimmy Greaves reign at White Hart Lane, with emphasis on the Cockney Cup Final against Chelsea …
Born East Ham, London, 20 February 1940
Playing career span with Spurs: 1961-1970
Goals in 379 matches: 266
THE season after Spurs became pioneer trophy winners in Europe dawned with no hint that it was to see the break-up of the ‘Super Spurs.’ The heart was ripped out of the Tottenham team in a tragic and painful way, and a black cloud of despondency enveloped the club.
The nightmare was slow and drawn out. It started on the evening of December 10 1963 at Old Trafford, when Tottenham were playing Manchester United in the second-leg of a European Cup Winners’ Cup tie. Dave Mackay broke a leg in a collision with Noel Cantwell that surely left the United skipper losing sleep about the validity of his challenge.
Just a few weeks later, Danny Blanchflower was forced to retire because of a recurring knee injury. Tottenham had lost the brains of the team and the heart of the team, and worse was to follow at the end of the season. John White, the eyes of the team, was sitting under a tree sheltering from a storm on a North London golf course when he was tragically killed by lightning. Tottenham had lost the three most vital cogs in their machine.
To add to the depressing drama, lovely Harry Evans – John White’s father-in-law and Bill Nicholson’s right hand man – was taken from us with cancer just months before John’s awful death. It was all too painful for words.
Bill Nicholson battled through the fog of despair and got busy in the transfer market. He bought Alan Mullery from Fulham, Laurie Brown from Arsenal, Cyril Knowles from Middlesbrough, Pat Jennings from Watford, Jimmy Robertson from St Mirren and Alan Gilzean from Dundee.
He took a breather, and then went shopping again, this time buying centre-half Mike England from Blackburn and Terry Venables from Chelsea. He also tried and failed to buy Bobby Moore!
Bill Nick was trying to build another ‘Super Spurs’. He never quite made it. The new Tottenham team had some memorable moments together in the mid-sixties, but they never touched the peak performances of the Blanchflower- White-Mackay era.
Secretly, Nicholson had also tried to bring Edmonton-born England skipper Johnny Haynes to White Hart Lane to team up with his old England side-kick Jimmy Greaves. But the bold attempt fell through, and the Blanchflower-White roles went to Mullery and Venables; good as they were, they struggled to be accepted by the hard-to-please Spurs fans used to the Blanchflower-White chemistry.
Greavsie had become accustomed to the pace set by Danny and John, and he struggled to adapt to their style of delivery. Both were given a tough time by the Spurs supporters, who had been spoiled over recent years. They unkindly but understandably compared the newcomers with their great idols.
Venables was not always happy playing at White Hart Lane after his success as the midfield boss at Chelsea, and when he eventually moved on to Queen’s Park Rangers who would have taken any bets that one day he would return and buy the club! Yes, as Greavsie says, it’s a funny old game.
One of the new-look Tottenham squad who did win the hearts of the fans was Alan Gilzean, who formed a wonderful partnership with Greavsie. Jimmy found Gilly a joy to play with, and he felt that Alan was never given sufficient credit for his delicate touch play and finishing finesse in the penalty area. He was a master of the flick header, and could bamboozle defences with deceptive changes of pace and clever ball control.
Missing the command of Blanchflower, and the drive of Mackay, the 1963-64 season was relatively barren for Spurs after three years of non-stop success. But they still managed to finish fourth in the League in a season that would be remembered for the start of Liverpool’s ‘Red Revolution’ under the mesmeric management of Bill Shankly, a close friend yet fierce rival of Bill Nick.
Ownership of the Spurs had moved from the Bearmans to the Wales late in 1960, with first Fred Wale and then Sidney as chairman. They considered Tottenham a family club, and allowed Bill Nick to get on with the job of managing without interference. Under the Wale influence, the Tottenham directors ran a tight, well-organised ship with Bill Nick a revered captain on the Bridge.
His latest team saved their peak performances for the FA Cup in the 1966-67 season, culminating in a well-earned FA Cup final triumph over London neighbours Chelsea at Wembley. Of the side that won the trophy in 1962, only Dave Mackay and Greavsie had survived, along with Cliff Jones on the substitute’s bench. Greavsie had recovered from the hepatitis that had robbed him of half a yard of pace during the build-up to the 1966 World Cup finals; nobody ever takes that illness into account when discussing Jimmy’s contribution to the World Cup triumph, halted by a gashed-shin injury received in a group game against France.
The fact that Mackay was there at the 1967 FA Cup final to lead out the Tottenham team as skipper was the sort of story that you would expect to come from the pages of Roy of the Rovers. ‘Miracle Man’ Mackay had made an astonishing recovery after breaking his leg a second time following his controversial collision with Noel Cantwell at Old Trafford in 1963.
Mackay motivated a team that had Pat Jennings building himself into a legend as the last line of defence. Baby-faced Irish international Joe Kinnear had come in as right-back in place of the energetic Phil Beal, who was unlucky to break an arm after playing an important part in getting Spurs to the final. Joe, a neat, controlled player, was partnered at full-back by Cyril Knowles, a former Yorkshire miner who took the eye with his sharp tackling and some polished, if at times eccentric skills. He was to become a cult hero, with anything he attempted – good or bad – accompanied by chants of ‘Nice one, Cyril’ from the White Hart Lane faithful.
Standing like a Welsh mountain in the middle of the defence was the majestic Mike England, one of the finest centre-halves ever produced in Britain. He was a class player from head to toe. Just imagine if Bobby Moore had arrived to play alongside him!
Dave Mackay was the immoveable link between defence and attack as he adapted his game from buccaneer to anchorman, helping to stoke the fires of the engine room where Alan Mullery and Terry Venables were forging a productive partnership. They never quite touched the peaks that Spurs fans had seen in the ‘Glory-Glory’ days of Blanchflower-White-Mackay, but – let’s be honest – few midfield combinations have ever reached that sky-scraping standard.
Jimmy Robertson was a flying Scot on the right wing, where his speed was a vital asset for the G-men – Gilzean and Greaves, who had a radar-like understanding for where to be to get the best out of each other. For the final, Bill Nick preferred Frank Saul to Cliff Jones for the No 11 shirt. Frank, who had been a fringe player in the Double-winning squad, was more of a central striker than a winger, but he was a direct player with a good nose for goal. Cliff, and Joe Kirkup for Chelsea, were the first players to wear No 12 shirts in an FA Cup final. The Tottenham team:
The heroes of 67: Back row – Joe Kinnear, Cyril Knowles, Mike England, Pat Jennings, Alan Gilzean, Alan Mullery. Front – Jimmy Robertson, Jimmy Greaves, skipper Dave Mackay, Terry Venables, Frank Saul.
Facing Tottenham in the first all-London final were Tommy Docherty’s elegant but unpredictable Chelsea team. They had gone through an even more drastic rebuilding programme than Spurs, and Terry Venables was part of the upheaval when he moved on to Tottenham to make room the previous year for the arrival of Scotland’s ‘Wizard of Dribble’, Charlie Cooke.
Peter ‘Catty’ Bonetti was their goalkeeper, as good a catcher of the ball as there was in world football. Allan Harris, preferred at right-back to usual choice Joe Kirkup, was a solid defender and a good balance for the marvellously skilled Eddie McCreadie, who had the ball control of a winger to go with his scything tackles.
Marvin ‘Lou’ Hinton was a sound centre-half with a good footballing brain, and making the earth tremble alongside him was poker-faced Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, Allan’s brother and one of the most feared ball-winners in the game. Young John Hollins was a bundle of atomic energy at right-half, and aggressive Scot John Boyle played a utility role in midfield while wearing the No 11 shirt.
Filling the scheming role for Chelsea that had belonged to Venables was the dance master Cooke, a charismatic character known to his friends as ‘Bonny Prince Charlie’. All the people who tried to compare Charlie with his predecessor Venables were wasting their breath. They were as alike as grass and granite. Charlie liked to hang on to the ball and run with it as if it was tied to his boot laces, while Terry let the ball do the work with precise passes that could have come out of the Push and Run coaching manual.
Chelsea relied on three main marksmen to get the ball into the net. Bobby Tambling, a faithful Stamford Bridge servant who had recently overtaken Greavsie’s club goalscoring record, had a terrific turn of speed and was a deadly finisher. Tommy Baldwin, who had joined Chelsea in a part-exchange deal that took George ‘Stroller’ Graham to Arsenal eight months earlier, was nicknamed ‘Sponge’ because of the way he soaked up work (and off the park, beer!).
Then there was Tony Hateley, a master of the airways whom Tommy Docherty had bought from Aston Villa for £100,000 after his silkily skilled centre-forward Peter Osgood had broken a leg. While weak on the ground, Tony was a powerhouse header of the ball who learned a lot from the old head master Tommy Lawton while at Notts County. One day he would pass on all he knew to his son, Mark Hateley.
Masterminding the Chelsea team was manager Tommy Docherty, one of the game’s great personalities. He had a razor-sharp Glaswegian wit and was in complete contrast to the dour and often tight-lipped Bill Nicholson.
On paper, it looked certain to be a cracker of a match. But on the pitch it turned out to be something of a damp squib. The whole day fell a bit flat, mainly due to the fact that both teams were from London. That robbed the match of much of its atmosphere, because the supporters were not in that bubbling ‘Oop f’the Coop’ day-out mood.
Spurs skipper Mackay had a personal mission to win after having been inactive for so long, and he drove the Tottenham team on like a man possessed. They were always playing the more positive and purposeful football, and deserved their lead just before half-time. Jimmy Robertson crashed a shot wide of Bonetti after Alan Mullery’s long-range pile-driver had been blocked.
Robertson, proving one of the most effective of all the forwards, set up a second goal in the 68th minute when he steered a typical long throw-in from Dave Mackay into the path of Frank Saul, who pivoted and hooked the ball high into the net.
Tottenham then slowed the game down to suit themselves, playing possession football so that Charlie Cooke could not get the ball to take command with his mesmerising control. Bobby Tambling was allowed in for a goal five minutes from the end, but Tottenham tightened up at the back to hold out for victory.
Three months after this triumph, Tottenham drew 3-3 in the Charity Shield against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a match that has gone down in footballing folklore because of a wind-assisted goal scored by Pat Jennings. The Irish international goalkeeper hammered a huge clearance from the Spurs penalty area that went first bounce over the head of Alex Stepney and into the back of the United net. The bewildered look on the faces of the players of both teams was hilarious to see, I was reporting the match for the Daily Express, and afterwards Pat told me: “I decided to clear the ball up to Greavsie and Gilly, and a strong following wind grabbed it and took it all the way to the United net. Jimmy and Alan had their backs to me and could not believe it when they realised it was me who had scored. Greavsie said he told Alan: ‘D’you realise this makes Pat our top scorer for the season? He’ll never let us forget it.’”
The Greavsie era at Tottenham was drawing to a close, leaving a remarkable legacy of a club record 220 First Division goals (including a record 37 in 1962-63) and 32 FA Cup goals. Those bare statistics hide the fact that many of the goals were of the spectacular variety, fashioned like a skilled sculptor with clever feints, dizzying dribbles, astonishing acceleration and then finished with a pass rather than a shot into the net.
Those old enough to have witnessed a Greaves goal will confirm that I am not exaggerating when I say we actually felt privileged to have been there to see it. We were keeping company with a genius, a Goya of goals. How many would a peak-powered Greaves score in today’s game on billiard-table surfaces, with no Norman Hunter-style bites-yer-legs tackling from behind and the relaxed, often-confusing off-side law? And what would he be worth in the transfer market? Let the bidding begin at one pound under £200m!
There were calls for Greavsie to be reinstated in the England team when he hit a purple patch with 27 First Division goals in 1968-69, but Jimmy seemed to be almost visibly losing his appetite for the game the following season. Bill Nick told me privately that he was concerned that the Artful Dodger of the penalty area seemed to be showing more enthusiasm preparing for driving to Mexico in a 1970 World Cup rally than playing football. By this time, Jimmy had built up a flourishing sports shop and travel business with his brother-in-law Tom Barden, and football was no longer the be-all-and-end-all for him. Yet he was still by some distance the most dynamic finisher in the ‘old’ First Division. To try to bring the best out of Greavsie, Nicholson went shopping and bought Martin Chivers as a new playmate from Southampton.
Sadly, he arrived at Jimmy’s side just as the goal master was losing his motivation. The crunch came when Spurs wore their white shirts like flags of surrender against Crystal Palace in a fourth round FA Cup replay at Selhurst Park. Palace striker Gerry Queen dismantled the Spurs defence for the winning goal, and I recall that the headline on my report for the Daily Express announced: “Queen Is King at the Palace.”
Greavsie, trying to settle to his new partnership with Chivers, was dropped for the first time in his nine years at Spurs. It was his final curtain at Tottenham.
With many Spurs fans in tears, genius Jimmy moved on to West Ham for an unhappy last season in League football, while Martin Peters came the other way from Upton Park to join a Spurs side graced by another Tottenham centurion, the “other” G-Man ... yes, it’s Alan Gilzean who is under the spotlight here next week.
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 three caps, captained a Premier League title-winning team, and which manager signed him from Tottenham?
Last week’s question: 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?
The answer: Terry Neill, who moved to Tottenham from Hull City and proved far too red blooded for Spurs before rejoining his beloved Arsenal as manager.
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!