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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 382) (15.11.21)

NORMAN GILLERíS SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 382
Submitted by Norman Giller

When Greavsie and Mackay were reunited

A little treat for you as we tread water through the international break. I am reproducing here an interview I conducted between the one and only Jimmy Greaves and his big buddy Dave Mackay, who would have celebrated his 87th birthday yesterday. It is an extract from my perfect Christmas gift book My 70 Years of Spurs. Enjoy Ö

Without doubt, two of the greatest Tottenham players during my 70-year vigil have been Greavsie and the indomitable Dave Mackay. I have dug out a Q&A feature Jimmy and I produced when we were in harness for The Sun back in the 1970s after Dave had followed Brian Clough as Derby manager. Jimmy, a recovering alcoholic, had just started out on his TV and media career and Dave had that season lifted the league championship.

Hereís the great Mackay answering questions about his career from Greavsie, with me as the privileged observer and note-taker:

Did you always want to be a footballer?

Not just a footballer, a Hearts footballer. They have always been my favourite club. When I was just a kid I used to walk three miles there and three miles back to get to watch them play at Tynecastle, and I was so small I could nip under the turnstile and get in without paying. My one dream was to play in the maroon and white shirt.

Youíre the most competitive bloke Iíve ever known. Were you like that at Hearts?

As you know, whether Iím playing football, golf or tiddlywinks, I HAVE to win. I used to be the smallest player on the pitch and to win the ball I had to tackle twice as hard as anybody else and I never got out of the habit. Even now Iím retired my players fear me in six-a-side kickabouts, because I only know one way to play and that is to win. My two brothers also played for Hearts, and the three of us had a reputation for being ultra competitive. Fitbaís a manís game.

Yes, you used to kick lumps out of us in the Tottenham gym. But you were about much more than power and strength, Dave.

I like to think I could be as accurate with my left foot as the great Danny Blanchflower was with his right. I made a few goals for you, Jim, with my passes. I was lucky to play for a Hearts team that put the emphasis on skill and then joined a Tottenham side that played pure football, because that was the way manager Bill Nicholson wanted it. Anybody thumping the ball without thought got a right mouthful.

Which was the greatest team you played for?

Well obviously the Tottenham team that won the Double in 1961, but the Hearts side with which we won the Scottish championship ran them close. I skippered the team that banged in a British record 132 league goals that season. Even you, Jim, didnít rattle in that many! You made our Spurs side even better when you signed from Milan, and we deserved to be European champions in your first season but were robbed in the semi-final against Benfica by some diabolical refereeing decisions.

How difficult was it combining National Service in the Army with your football?

I got off lightly. There was no war to worry about and I had a sergeant major in the Royal Engineers who was a football nut. He used to make sure I got home every weekend to play for Hearts, provided I got him a ticket. I also played for my regiment in midweek and was as fit as a fiddle. I did more running about on the pitch than square bashing.

You won only 22 Scotland caps when players with half your ability got picked many more times. Why was that?

I played in the days when the selectors considered you something of a traitor for taking the English pound. A lot of Anglos were often ignored. I was always proud to play for Scotland, and if you mention the 9-3 game, Jim, this interview is over. That still hurts to this day. It was a freak result and is the only game people seem to remember me playing at Wembley.

The worst thing for all of us in those 1960s was losing dear John White.

Yes, I still well up when I think of it. He had asked Cliffie Jones and me to play golf with him, but we turned him down because there was a lot of rain around. He went out on his own and got hit by lightning. It was a tragedy that affected everybody at the club, particularly his best mate Jonesie and me. I had been responsible for him joining Spurs, because Iíd played with him for Scotland and told Bill Nick that he had to sign him. He was a magnificent footballer, a real playersí player who always put the team first.

Breaking your leg twice and then coming back to lead Tottenham to the 1967 FA Cup earned you the nickname of the ĎMiracle Maní.

Well it was something of a miracle really when you think of the mess my leg was in when Noel Cantwell did me at Old Trafford. Iím not going over old ground, but you saw it, Jim Ė one of the nastiest tackles ever! Then I got it broken again in a reserve match and for a while it looked as if it was curtains. But I was determined to play again, and that was a marvellous Spurs team I captained at Wembley. You and Gilly [Alan Gilzean] were two of the best striking partners I ever saw. Poetry in motion.

You looked a giant on the pitch, Dave, and people would never believe me when I said I was taller than you.

How many bets did we win in pubs when weíd challenge people to guess which of us was taller. You beat me by half an inch when we stood back to back. Those were the days when any pressman joining us for a drink were told, one, everything you hear is off the record, and, two, make sure you get a round in.

Talking as somebody who is a recovering alcoholic, we certainly used to hit the old hooch back in our playing days.

Aye, we were a good drinking club, thatís for sure. You and Gilly could really knock it back. I donít encourage my players to booze like we did. For us it was a sort of bonus, but now players are sensible enough to know that they should only drink in moderation. Itís a classic case of, ĎDonít do as I do, do as I sayí. Iíd come down on them like a ton of bricks if they drank like we did.

Remember that game when the ref sent you off and you talked him out of it?

For all my reputation for being a tough guy, I was never ever sent off and I was not going to let the referee spoil my record when I knew he was making a mistake. It was in a cup tie against Bristol City and that little so-and-so Johnny Quigley kicked me up in the air. All the ref saw was my retaliation and he said. ĎOff, Mackay.í I grabbed hold of Johnny and marched him to the ref and he was honest enough Ė or scared enough Ė to tell the ref what had happened, and he let me off.

The fans loved the way you used to always kick the ball miles in the air and trap it as you ran out for the start of a match.

It started off as me showing off, but then it became something of a superstition, and I also did it to let the opposition know I had a bit of skill. A lot of people thought I was all about tackling. But I could play a bit. You will confirm, Jim, that I could beat all of you at keepy-uppy and I can still lob a two bob bit into my top pocket.

Thereís that famous picture of you grabbing Billy Bremner by the scruff of the neck that proves your competitive nature.

I hate that bloody picture. It shows me in a terrible light. People see that and think what a bully I must have been. But I was just putting young Billy in his place. I had not long come back after breaking my leg a second time and he jumped in with a reckless tackle. He and I have always been big mates and roomed together on Scotland trips. That was just a moment when I felt I needed to give him a bit of fatherly advice about watching his tackles. We often laugh about it.

When you at last won the Footballer of the Year award in 1969 you had to share it with Man Cityís Tony Book. Did that spoil it for you?

No, I was just proud to have won even if it was a joint award. Tony Book is a smashing bloke and he had an outstanding season. I would have been choked if I had gone through my career without getting the award because I never had false modesty and knew I deserved it. The fact that you never got it, Jim, is a joke.

I was shocked when you signed for Derby, because you told me you were going home to Scotland.

That was the plan. I was all lined up to go back to Hearts as player-manager when I got a call from Brian Clough. He locked me in Bill Nicholsonís office and said he was not going to let me out until Iíd signed for Derby. He is the most persuasive guy Iíve ever met and he convinced me I could still play at the top level.

You changed your style completely when you moved to Derby.

Cloughie knew my legs had gone and told me just to use my positional sense and guide young Roy McFarland at the heart of the defence. Brian wanted me for my leadership qualities and I slotted in comfortably, more as a conductor than the old-style competitor. Others did the running for me and I just kept motivating them with the odd tackle and a flourished fist. I think opponents were frightened of my reputation, not realising that I was nothing like the player Iíd been at Tottenham. But it all worked very well and I was nicely paid.

Now, youíve taken over from Cloughie as Derby manager and have won the league championship. Do you remain a Cloughie fan?

Of course, he is a master and Iíve been lucky to play under three of the greatest managers ever in Tommy Walker at Hearts, Bill Nick and then Cloughie. I have learned so much from the three of them. They are completely different personalities but have the same fundamental belief that football is a game of skill. The principles I hold are the same as when I first started out with that wonderful Hearts side.

What was the best advice you got from Cloughie as a manager?

That I should burn his desk! Thatís what he did to Don Revieís desk when he took over at Leeds, and when he came here to do some transfer business he said I should set fire to his desk because it gets rid of the stench of the old regime.

With a gun to your head, who would you say was the most important influence on your career?

Without question, my wife Isobel. She is the perfect football wife. Knows when to encourage and when to shut up. Without her, I would not have been half the player or half the manager. She is my strength and Iím not saying this only so sheíll let me off the shopping tomorrow so I can play golf. Iíd have loved to have been a golf professional. Now thereís a life, almost as good as being a footballer.

That interview from nearly 40 years ago gives the perfect insight into Dave Mackay the football man. He and Jimmy were heroes for all seasons. What a team they will be leading Up There, along with the likes of George Best, Bobby Moore and Gilly. There will be little elbow room at the bar!

What a joy and a privilege it was for me to write about them all and report their triumphs and tribulations. You can read much more like this in My 70 Years of Spurs, available now. Just drop me a line at normangiller@gmail.com and Iíll tell you how to get a signed copy for Christmas. I promise to be polite :-)


Meantime, Spurs return to Premier League business at home to unpredictable Leeds on Sunday. What mood will Harry Kane be in? All we Spurs watchers would have noted that he had more attempts on goal in the first-half against Albania last week than in his entire season so far with Spurs.

Can Antonio Conte get him functioning on full power for Tottenham, or will he be departing during the January transfer window? Itís going to be fascinating scenario.

I understand Conte is serious about his desire to bring 100-cap Gareth Bale back to the Spurs fold again, and his vision takes in the dream front three of Son, Kane and Bale, who has played more matches for Wales this season than Real Madrid. As Greavsie often said, ĎItís a funny old game.í

Just to remind you, Tottenhamís next eight matches Ö

Leeds United (home, Premier League), Sunday November 21, kick-off 4.30
Mura (away, Euro Conference), Thursday November 25, kick-off 5.45
Burnley (away, Premier League), Sunday November 28, kick-off 2.00
Brentford (home, Premier League), Thursday December 2, kick-off 7.30
Norwich City (home, Premier League), Sunday December 5, kick-off 2.00
Rennes (home, Euro Conference), Thursday December 9, kick-off 8.00
Brighton (away, Premier League), Sunday December 12, kick-off 2.00
Leicester City (away, Premier League), Thursday December 16, kick-off 7.30

Yes, interesting times ahead, friends. Donít know about you, but I am actually tingling with excitement. Silly old fool :-)


Spurs Odyssey Quiz League 2021-22

The 14th week of season eight of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:

Which Yorkshireman has won 65 caps, and for which Midlands club did he score a goal while on loan from Tottenham in 2011?

Please email your answer to me at soqleague@gmail.com and make the subject heading Quiz Week 14. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will do my best to respond to all who take part.

The rules are the same as in the previous seven seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake Ė two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact. Thatís when I become as popular as Sol Campbell in an Arsenal shirt.

This yearís prizes for the champion: A rare out-of-print book from my now very special Greavsie collection with autographs from the late, great Jimmy Greaves, Dave Mackay and Steve Perryman, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion 2022. Plus a signed copy of My 70 Years of Spurs book AND a special bonus prize, the Eighty At Eighty book that I have written in harness with Sir Geoff Hurst, still the only man to score a World Cup final hat-trick.

Answer to question No 13: Who has played 109 matches for his country including in a World Cup final, and which Bundesliga club did he join from Tottenham in 2012?

Rafael Van Der Vaart, who left Spurs all too soon to return to Hamburg. Only a series of hamstring injuries prevented him becoming one of the all-time great Tottenham imports. How we could do with his skill in midfield right now!

See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!

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