NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 178
Submitted by Norman Giller
In these troubled times, we must not let sick fanatics change the way we think and act. We will carry on calmly and go about our business unbowed and with a determination that captures our way of coping with crisis. So on with our Spurs Odyssey musings, and how better to conquer summer’s frustrating football famine than to re-visit the greatest season in Tottenham history: the record-breaking Double year of 1960-61.
On the 50th anniversary of the 1961 FA Cup victory over Leicester at Wembley, I combined with entrepreneur and life-long Spurs supporter Terry Baker to produce a limited edition book of the Golden Double, that was introduced and autographed by Braveheart Dave Mackay.
Over the next few weeks I will serialise the book here, reliving match by match the historic season in which Spurs purred to the League championship and FA Cup double. We kick off with my introduction …
WE have furnished this book with a new, compelling insight into the Double triumph by revisiting the 1960-61 season in match-by-match order, hopefully giving you a taste of what it was like to be there. Many of the eyewitness quotes I gathered during my days as a front-line Fleet Street football reporter, and others have been quarried from the memory of those who played with and against 'Super Spurs', and also those who watched with a growing excitement bordering on euphoria.
The unmatchable Tottenham side was magnificently marshalled by captain Danny Blanchflower and memorably managed by 'Sir' Bill Nicholson.
As Danny Boy said, "the team provided poetry in motion …"
Brown, Baker, Henry
They roll off the tongue like old friends
Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay
Creating a legend that never ends
Jones, White, Smith
They played the game with style and flair
Allen, Dyson, Medwin
And were – at the double – beyond compare
These days, doubles and even trebles are fairly commonplace, so there is a young generation growing up who will not understand what all the fuss was about. But back then in those early, swinging 'sixties the Double was considered the Impossible Dream because it had been a bridge too far all the major clubs of the time, including the 'Big Two', Manchester United and Wolves.
A New Millennium footballer finding himself dropped into 1960 would feel as if he had landed on another planet. They even spoke a different language in the soccerland of 1960. There were wing-halves, inside-forwards and wingers, two points for a win, and shoulder charges were allowed against unprotected, ball-bouncing goalkeepers. Fearsome defenders were allowed to tackle from behind, and words and phrases like striker, overlap, work rate, tackling back, centre-back, man-to-man marking, substitutes, red and yellow cards, and the professional foul had yet to enter the football vocabulary.
Most teams played with five forwards, including two wingers who used the full width of the pitch. The most common playing formation was 2-3-5, two fullbacks, three half-backs including the centre-half and five forwards. The more progressive teams were boldly experimenting with the 4-2-4 line-up that served world champions Brazil so well in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
On the packed terraces they waved wooden rattles, and about the most imaginative chant that they stretched to was 'two-four-six-eight ... who do we appreciate'. These were the good old bad old days when we still had threepenny bits and tanner coins, and it cost just a couple of bob (10p) to stand on the terraces, and for an Oxford scholar (a dollar ... five shillings ... 25p) you could sit in comfort in the stand. All-seater grounds were decades away.
Floodlit football was just seeing the light of day, and Saturday was the big football day when millions would tune into Sports Report on the BBC wireless Light Programme on which Eamonn Andrews would introduce the five o'clock results and reports. Televi-sion hardly got a look in. Saturday 'Classified' evening papers – in London, the Star, News and Standard – sold in their thousands. If you so much as mentioned Sunday pro-fessional football you were risking being thrown into the Tower during an era when the Lord's Day Observance Society was all-powerful.
It was suggested that football was going crazy when, in March 1960, a British record fee of £55,000 exchanged hands between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town. In return City got a skinny, 19-year-old Scottish goal hunter called Denis Law. He would prove worth his weight in gold (and goals).
A smell of revolution mixed with the aroma of embrocation and dubbined, ankle-high boots as the 'sixties dawned. The players were tied to a maximum £20-a-week wage, and they were ready to strike to kick away what they considered the shackles of soccer slavery. Jimmy 'The Beard' Hill, then a footballer with Fulham, was the main spokesman for the players' union.
Tottenham came into the new season on a wave of optimism after finishing third in the First Division title race in 1959-60, just two points behind champions Burnley. Danny Blanchflower was openly talking about doing the Double that 1960 FA Cup winners Wolves had just missed by a single point.
Most people dismissed it as Blanchflower blarney.
Dave Mackay, the heart of the team, said: “The secret of our success was simple: team-work and team spirit. We all played for each other, and made ourselves available for the ball when attacking and made sure we picked up opponents when defending. Our manager Bill Nicholson was a quiet yet demanding boss, who always kept his feet on the floor and preached that we should keep things simple. Bill was a brutally honest man, and I think the team he built was created in his image – honest and totally focused. There was never any false praise or false hopes where Bill Nick was concerned. If you wanted success you had to EARN it. I was involved with many clubs as player and manager during my career, but there will always be a lot of Tottenham carved into my heart. The Double season was, well, as good as it gets, and I was proud and privileged to be part of it.”
Fasten your safety belts and come with us back to August 1960. It is going to be an exhilarating and exciting ride.
This was the squad from which manager Bill Nicholson selected his history-making team:
AN undistinguished match was into its 85th minute before Spurs scored the first goal of what was to become an historic season. Bobby Smith bullocked his way through the Everton defence and was shaping to shoot when he was unceremoniously sent tumbling just inside the 18-yard box. A chorused cry of ‘Penalty’ from the Spurs fans suddenly turned to cheers as Les Allen swept the loose ball into the net.
QUOTE – Bobby Smith: “I was mouthing off to the referee that I had been fouled, but he played the advantage and Les did the business. If we had not scored then I would have felt robbed, and Everton would have got off the hook and probably nicked a point.”
Two minutes later the mighty Smith wrapped up the points for Spurs when he went down on one knee to head in a cross from John White.
It was not a performance that added weight to the pre-season predictions from Danny Blanchflower that this was going to be Tottenham’s year to do the double. But what stood out for those looking for signs of things to come was the midfield supremacy of Blanchflower, White and Mackay against an Everton team reckoned to have one of the First Division’s finest half-back lines.
Cliff Jones was a limping passenger for most of the second-half after a crunching tackle from Alex Parker, his former Army team-mate. “I thought we were pals,” Jonesie said as he hobbled on the wing. Hard-as-nails Scot Parker replied: “Aye, we are, laddie, but just not today.”
There was no feeling that this was going to be the start of the most glorious season in Spurs’ history. The terse after-match verdict from Bill Nicholson: “We can and must do better.”
So, the Golden Double season is off and running … join us here next Monday for the next thrilling instalment … Stay calm … business as usual ... COYS!
THE SPURS ODYSSEY QUIZ LEAGUE TEASER
Each week while waiting for the kick-off to a fourth Spurs Odyssey Quiz League in August, I will set a weekly Tottenham teaser, just for fun and to keep you thinking about the club’s great history.
Last week I asked: Who came off the bench to score a hat-trick against Bruce Grobbelaar to lift Spurs to victory after they had gone 2-0 down in an away FA Cup tie replay?
The answer was, of course, Rocket Ronny Rosenthal, who came on as substitute to score a hurricane hat-trick against Southampton at the old Dell. Spurs eventually won 6-2 after extra-time.
First name drawn from the correct answers was Vic Peters, a Spurs fan for 35 years who lives in Harlow. I will send Vic a screen version of my Spurs ’67 book (you might consider buying a signed copy from me at http://www.normangillerbooks.com … all profits to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes).
This week’s teaser: Who was the last Scot to captain a Tottenham team in an FA Cup final at Wembley?
Email your answer please to SOQLTeaser4@normangillerbooks.com. Closing date: midnight this Friday. I will send a screen version of Spurs ‘67 to the first name drawn from the correct answers.
Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!
The "Giller Index" - listing all Norman's articles for Spurs Odyssey
Top of page | Spurs Odyssey Home Page