R.I.P Dave Mackay - a true Spurs legend
written 3rd March, 2015
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The picture adorns my wall, signed by the great man himself. I was in the south-east corner of the lower terraces at White Hart Lane and had the privilege of seeing the scene of Mackay lifting Bremner from the same angle as the iconic photograph, but from a greater distance.
It was and remains a truly memorable football photograph. It is one that will be seen many times over today and tomorrow as the national, Tottenham, Derby, Scottish and Edibnburgh press reports the sad passing yesterday of David Craig Mackay, born on 14th November, 1934 at Musselburgh, Scotland.
We Spurs fans have to accept that Mackay was not just our legend. After winning the Double and the FA Cup three times (he sadly missed the Cup Winners' Cup Final through injury), Mackay went on to enjoy great success as Brian Clough's Derby County Captain, and succeeding Clough, as Derby's manager in 1973. Mackay was one of few players who won the league title as a player and a manager at that time.
Before coming to Spurs, signed by Bill Nicholson in 1959, Dave Mackay had great success at Hearts, where he won League, Cup, and League Cup winners' medals. During his career, Dave was capped by his country 22 times. It would, of course have been more, had he not suffered a broken leg twice.
If asked "How did you break your leg", Dave would say, "I didn't break my leg, that was Noel Cantwell". That was the first time against Manchester United. The second was when he attempted a come back in a Spurs reserve game.
This takes us back to that picture, where early in the game against Leeds, Mackay's fellow Scot (also an International), the terrier-like Billy Bremner, caught Dave with a tackle that naturally upset the Spurs captain. Hence the reaction. For more information, the story of Dave Mackay and Billy Bremner on August 20th, 1966 is told here.
In his excellent double season articles, Brian Judson wrote this about Dave Mackay:- "When Tottenham bought Dave Mackay, they bought the best possible insurance. Mackay played in 40 Cup Finals during his career and was never once on the losing side. He was first spotted playing for Hearts. Spurs were looking to strengthen their team. Nicholson was widely expected to sign Mel Charles but Nicholson struck in Edinburgh and persuaded Mackay to come to Tottenham. Whilst Mackay performed great deeds for Tottenham, Charles flopped at Arsenal. It was Mackay who adjusted the balance. Whilst he enjoyed rampaging forward, he was careful to defend when Blanchflower went forward so there were never great chunks in the defence as had happened with Jim Iley. Mackay twice broke his left leg, the second time during a come-back game in the Reserves at Tottenham. As he left in the ambulance, his first thoughts were for Nicholson. "Don't tell him until they've finished playing at Upton Park!" he barked....
Dave Mackay stated in his autobiography that he didn't actually like the picture with Bremner, but he would happily replicate the collar-grabbing image for any Spurs fan who asked. One of these was my good friend Gary Parker, who met Dave a few years ago, and has such a photograph. Here is Dave in a good-natured pose:-
It was known that Dave Mackay had not been well in the last year or two. We all have to prepare for this moment when we are taken to another plane. Few of us leave an impression upon the world, in this case the world of football, as deep as the mighty Dave Mackay. I woke up to the news, and had tears in my eyes.
Another picture of Mackay adorns my wall. That is of Dave, as Spurs captain, lifting the FA Cup at Wembley in 1967, when we beat Chelsea 2-1. Dave is flanked by other Spurs legends Pat Jennings, Alan Gilzean, Jimmy Greaves and also one of the goal-scorers that day Jimmy Robertson (not a Spurs legend!).
That Cup Final picture is particularly poignant at this time, when we have lost a League Cup Final to Chelsea.
The easy option to take when selecting an all-time Spurs team is to select the Double winning side. Most Spurs fans of an age to have seen Dave Mackay would include him, alongside Danny Blanchflower in an all-time team. Spurs were blessed to have had two such fine players and captains.
I think of Dave Mackay virtually every time I watch Tottenham play. I think of the times he made a free kick anywhere inside the opponents' half a threatening situation, similar to a corner, and how he would swing the ball into the area, leading to many goals for those with heading prowess, such as Gilzean, or Bobby Smith before him. It frustrates me to see our team to take a quick kick, with possession being the only objective, even if, as often happens, passing back to the goalkeeper is required.
Oh for a player and a leader such as Mackay now. R.I.P Dave. You were, and remain always a true Spurs legend.
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