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Cliff Jones - "It's a Wonderful Life!"

Cliff Jones: It’s a Wonderful Life

it's a Wonderful Life by Cliff Jones

The original Welsh Wizard tells the story of his footballing life, battling hard-tackling full-backs in a career that lasted from the 1950s to the 1970s and was highlighted by Cliff entering Tottenham folklore as part of the Double-winning team of 1960/61.

(http://shop.tottenhamhotspur.com/product/cliff-jones-its-a-wonderful-life/70830?TRE00011)

When you have lived as long as Cliff Jones (he will be 82 in February 2017!), and when you have been married for over 60 years; have had four children and nine grandchildren; when you have made your Football League debut over 63 years ago; when you became the most expensive player signed in Britain to play for what became the greatest British team in modern football, winning the elusive League and Cup double, and the first European trophy, and when you have represented your country and played in the quarter-finals of The World Cup, you are surely entitled be happy and to call your autobiography “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Cliff Jones is a living football legend. He is one of a diminishing band of living members of the famous Tottenham Hotspur double-winning side, and whilst this most excellent book is primarily and inevitably about football, it is also about so much more.

Cliff Jones in 1958

Cliff Jones proudly wears his Spurs shirt in 1958

I was only 8 months old when Cliff Jones made his league debut for his beloved Swansea (“…I am and always will be a Swansea Jack through and through, from topknot to toes…”) on 16th April, 1953. This particular Jones boy (Cliff comes from a family of professional footballers) scored on his debut too.

By the time I saw Cliff Jones in the flesh, I had missed the joy of being present during that double season, two FA Cup wins, and a European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final win to boot. I also failed to get a ticket for the 1967 Cup Final, but by that time I had seen Cliff play a few times!

One abiding memory is of seeing Jones score at Stamford Bridge on 31st August, 1968. Spurs drew 2-2 that day and Cliff scored, along with my all-time football hero, Jimmy Greaves.

In more recent years, I have been lucky enough to meet Cliff in the flesh, and I told him he had been responsible for me being given a dead leg on my way out of that Chelsea game by an embittered Chelsea fan.

Chelsea were one of the many teams who tried to sign him from Swansea in 1958, and Cliff has a tale to tell about that in the book. Arsenal were another team interested. Cliff’s Uncle Bryn had been an Arsenal player, but thankfully for we Spurs fans, Swansea manager at the time (and famous ex-Spur) Ron Burgess persuaded him that he should sign for Spurs.

Jimmy Anderson was the Spurs manager at the time, but Bill Nicholson was his number two, and it was Bill who got Cliff out of a scrape as he tried to convince the Highbury commissionaire that he was Spurs’ new signing when he reported for his debut game. That was a 4-4 draw, but Cliff didn’t score that day, and was somewhat disappointed with his personal performance.

Returning to that game in 1968, Cliff knew his Spurs days were coming to an end, but he still scored 6 goals in the 9 games he had left as a Tottenham player, before moving to Fulham. Cliff was so much more than a winger, and suffered the injuries that go with his brave and determined playing style. After all, he scored 159 goals in 372 (+ 8 as sub) games for Spurs, and he remains the fourth-highest ever goal scorer for our club.

Cliff Jones signs off for Spurs with a goal against Manchester United in 1968

Cliff Jones signs off for Spurs with a goal against Manchester United in 1968

Cliff is as loyal to Tottenham Hotspur as he is to his home town Swansea, and as he is to his country Wales, for whom he was proud to wear the shirt no less than 59 times. He scored 15 International goals too. His first International goal came in his second game against England (Wales won 2-1).

Cliff played for his country in the 1958 World Cup Finals in Sweden when a certain Pele was responsible for a 1-0 quarter-final defeat, and of course he has been so proud of his countrymen this year when they reached the semi-final of Euro 2016. Cliff was the original “Welsh Wizard”, but two more recent successors – Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale – have written glowing forewords to this book.

Known to modern-day Spurs fans as a genial match-day hospitality host, and often the star of Paul Coyte’s half-time chats, Cliff remains so firmly in the hearts of not just Spurs fans but football fans everywhere.

I always think Cliff looks remarkably fit and dapper, but over thirty years of a post-football career as a games instructor at Highbury Grove Boys School no doubt helped him to maintain his condition.

When I picked up this book (co-written with the renowned football writer Ivan Ponting), I wondered why there hadn’t been a Cliff Jones autobiography in previous years. Perhaps the answer can be found in some of the personal facts related here with the utmost honesty and candour by not only Cliff but his wife of over 60 years, Joan.

The Jones family’s greatest tragedy was the loss of daughter Debbie to cancer in 2006, but Joan in particular, had to deal with Cliff’s alcoholism until he gave up drinking on 29th June 1985. Playing football for Tottenham Hotspur was not the only thing Cliff had in common with Jimmy Greaves.

This wonderful book is a must for not only Spurs fans, but any football fan, and in truth, anyone interested in a life story told with feeling and humour. It is not just about football, you see. Being a lifetime Spurs fan brings tears to the eye on occasions, but reading about Cliff’s personal battle with the bottle, and the affect upon the family brought a tear to my eye.

I cannot begin to give justice to Cliff Jones’s life and career here, but I can and do urge you to buy and read the book!

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