NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 385
Submitted by Norman Giller
It is going to be fascinating to see what Antonio Conte and Director of Football Fabio Paratici conjure up during the January transfer window. It screams out that number one priority must be a playmaker to feed off the ball winning skills of Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg and the immensely promising Oliver Skipp.
Juventus used to have the ideal type of player that Spurs need. He was a cross between Roy Keane with his power and Paul Scholes with his skill. His name, of course, Antonio Conte. He needs to try to buy a clone of himself as a player. That, my friends, is needle in the haystack time.
While we wait patiently for Harry Kane to fire on all cylinders, how lucky Conte is that his two side-kicks Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura are in rattling good form. Yesterday’s super strike from Moura will surely be a contender for Tottenham goal of the season, and Sonny completed the 3-0 demolition of Norwich with one of his typical clinical finishes.
If we are honest with our assessments, we have to admit Tottenham were flattered by the scoreline but fifth place with a game in hand on the Hammers hints that better times are on their way.
Our guru Paul H. Smith gives his dispatches on the game HERE, and agrees with me that while Spurs have yet to hit top form the signs are that Conte has them back on track after their recent mediocrity.
Conte’s enthusiasm is infectious, and he clearly has the players singing from his song sheet. He has brought three fitness coaches with him and the physical input is noticeably now back up to Pochettino levels.
Here is the Tottenham programme leading up to Christmas
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
Liverpool (home, Premier League), Sunday December 19, kick-off 4.30
West Ham (home, Carabao Cup quarter-final), Wednesday, December 22, kick-off 7.45
Crystal Palace (home, Premier League), Boxing Day, December 26, kick-off 3.00
Let’s hope Conte has all his players singing in harmony, including Our Harry who so far this season has been out of tune.
Christmas gift time, and I have two suggestions for you – surprise, surprise, books by yours truly. There’s My 70 Years of Spurs, which you can get signed by me, post-free from https://www.normangillerbooks.com/blank-page. It is introduced by my old pal Steve Perryman and has taken me a lifetime to write :-)
Then there’s Sir Geoff Hursts’s Eighty at Eighty, in which England’s 1966 World Cup hat-trick hero selects the 80 sportsmen who have had the biggest influence on him in his 80 years on this mortal coil. He becomes an octogenarian on Wednesday, joining in the 80 club Mike England, who hit the big 8-0 last week. Mike always gets the No 5 shirt in my all-time Tottenham team. He is in great shape, as is Sir Geoff who I was privileged to help write his latest book.
Here’s Sir Geoff's assessment of the late, one and only Jimmy Greaves from his Eighty at Eighty book:
YOU NEEDED to be around where and when I was growing up to realise why Jimmy Greaves has always been gigantic in my personal rating of footballers. If there’s been a greater British goalscorer then I’ve not seen him and, for Jimmy, it was cruel fate that he was not in England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team.
I was a year younger than Jim and was in awe of him because of the way he monopo-lised matches in our local Essex school games. He once scored 11 goals in a 13-0 victory against the school where Martin Peters was a pupil. ‘I watched from the sidelines,’ the younger Martin later told me. ‘I’ve never seen an individual performance to touch it.’
When I signed as an apprentice for West Ham in 1956 he was already a star in the making. That season, 1956/57, he scored the little matter of 114 goals for Chelsea, who presented him with an illuminated address to mark the feat. The following August, at the age of 17, he made his first-team debut for Chelsea against Spurs at White Hart Lane and scored a sensational solo goal that Tottenham skipper Danny Blanchflower described as the greatest goal he had ever seen.
That was what it was like for Jimmy all the way through his career, stunning goals scored with natural ease and celebrated as casually as if he had picked an apple from a tree.
I personally thought he was at his most scintillating as a goalscorer when with Chelsea, his goals coming in fives, fours and plain ordinary threes. All of us other young pros looked on in wonder as he became a target for the super-rich Italian clubs and joined AC Milan for a record £80,000 in 1961. At the time the most you could earn in English football was £20 a week; he quadrupled his take-home pay by moving to Italy.
Then, after a series of threatened strikes by the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Football League dramatically caved in to our demands and kicked out the maximum wage. Suddenly Jimmy could earn at home in England what he was picking up in Italy, where they were playing a miserly tight and physical defensive game.
He was marked by two or three defenders everywhere he went – ‘even to the bog’, he said with a Cockney humour that was to become famous.
Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson brought him back to England for a then world-record £99,999, deliberately dropping below three figures to save Jim from carrying the burden of being the first £100,000 footballer. So he joined the team that in the previous season had been the first in the 20th century to win the First Division and FA Cup double – and he made them even better.
He became idolised at Spurs on his way to a club record 266 goals, FA Cup winners’ medals in 1962 and 1967, a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal in 1963 and legendary status.
Meantime, I had been converted by West Ham manager Ron Greenwood from a very average wing-half to a goal-seeking forward, not anywhere near the class of Greavsie but good enough to attract the attention of England boss Alf Ramsey. I wasn’t a twinkle toes like Jim, but I brought more physicality and power to the game than the little genius.
I remember my first meeting with Jimmy away from football. Our daughter Claire was just a couple of months old and I was pushing her in a pram through our local supermarket in Essex when I came face to face with Jimmy. We both did a double take, laughed at the coincidence and then got involved in a conversation.
I was so in awe of him that when I wandered back into the High Street I realised I had left Claire in the supermarket and rushed back and retrieved her. A year later, Greavsie and I were together in the England squad.
Jimmy had overcome an energy-sapping bout of hepatitis in the autumn of 1965 but got himself razor-sharp fit for the World Cup finals. He played in the first three matches while I looked on from the stands in those pre-substitute days, just glad to be part of the squad. In the third game against France he picked up a nasty gash on his shin that needed stitches and I – lucky boy – was the one who took his place, scored in my World Cup debut against Argentina (thanks, Martin) and had a pretty prominent part in our semi-final victory over Portugal.
The entire nation was debating whether Jimmy should be recalled for the final when he reported that he was fit again. Alf liked the way I moulded with my West Ham club-mates Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, so I was safe. Roger Hunt made the team tick with his tireless work rate, something Jimmy would never claim was his strongest suit. So Alf named an unchanged side, and it has now been a talking point for more than 55 years whether Jimmy should have played.
He later admitted that the hepatitis had robbed him of half a yard of speed, but he was still better than most strikers in the world and had a couple of years when he showed flashes of his old form before a miserable wind-down season at West Ham, where he seemed more interested in the social life with his best pal Bobby Moore than playing.
It was a sad day for football when he retired at the all-too-young age of 31. Jimmy had a well-publicised battle with the bottle, but had the character to overcome it and reinvent himself as a television celebrity alongside Ian St John in the popular Saint and Greavsie show, and to produce loads of books with Norman Giller, the writing partner I have borrowed. He later become a stand-up comedian and after dinner speaker, starring in road-shows compered by our agent Terry Baker. All of this came crashing down in 2015 when he suffered a paralysing stroke and as I write he has just passed on at the age of 81. The greatest British goalscorer of them all deserved a better finale.
(There are another 79 biopics in the book, plus 81 photos. You can get an auto-graphed copy of Sir Geoff’s book direct from his agent Terry Baker www.a1sportingmemorabilia.co.uk )
The 17th week of season eight of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:
Who won 28 Scottish caps, collected League and FA Cup medals with Tottenham and to which country did he emigrate at the end of his playing career?
Please email your answer to me at email@example.com and make the subject heading Quiz Week 17. 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 – 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. That’s when I become as popular as Sol Campbell in an Arsenal shirt.
This year’s 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 16: Who has won an Olympic silver medal, collected 35 international caps and from which club did he join Spurs in 2018?
Lucas Moura, who joined Spurs from PSG (and came up with a cracking goal yet again yesterday!)
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!
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