FORTY YEARS AFTER
(This article was written in May 2001)
On the evening of Thursday 24th May, 2001, I was proud to host table 44 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London W.1, where DWP Promotions hosted the Spurs Double Reunion Fortieth Anniversary Dinner. There were in all 57 tables and some 600 people gathered to see just about all the surviving members of the marvellous 1960-61 Tottenham Hotspur side, together with their esteemed manager "Sir" Bill Nicholson.
Comedian Dave Lee was the M.C and introduced the stars of the show one by one:-
"Mr Versatile himself - midfield/defender - Tony Marchi"
"What a prolific goalscorer - the one and only Bobby Smith!"
"Known as the dashing red-haired striker - Terry Dyson"
"Scorer of many, many match winning goals - the one and only Les Allen"
"Mr Consistency himself at left back - Mr Ron Henry"
"Genius with the ball, superb winger - Mr Cliff Jones"
"A man who could walk into any team in the country, what a great player - Mr Terry Medwin"
"The Spurs and England rock at centre half - Maurice Norman"
"The man who when he got the invitation to come said nothing could stop him - all the way from South Africa - here he is, at right back and our fabulous Mr Dependable himself - Peter Baker"
"Mr Supreme - Dave Mackay !"
"Ladies and gentlemen, I think there is one person missing at the top table - in my opinion - simply the best. He shouldn't be known as Mister - it should be Sir! Here he is our best manager in the world at Tottenham Hotspur - Bill Nicholson!"
And so the honoured guests took their place on stage at the top table. Bill Nicholson was at the centre with Dave Mackay at his side. Dave was looking trim, whereas some of his contemporaries such as Tony Marchi, Terry Medwin and Bobby Smith carry more than their "fighting weight". Peter Baker looked immaculate for a man celebrating his seventieth birthday this year. Bobby of course has had leg injury problems since he retired from the game, but I would venture to say he looked better than I have seen him in recent years. Maurice Norman was well tanned, and the others looked fit and fine. The original FA Cup was also on display.
Also present were special guest speaker Jimmy Greaves, along with other ex-Spurs such as Mel Hopkins, Tommy Harmer, Alan Mullery, John Pratt, Pat Jennings, Steve Perryman, Paul Allen, Terry Naylor (in a DJ), Justin Edinburgh, and ex-youth player Brian Statham. Paul Parker and Alan Hudson were there to pay their respects. Of the surviving double side the only notable absentee was goalkeeper Bill Brown who didn't make the trip from Ontario. Frank Saul, I believe still lives in the Southampton area, and his absence was not explained.
Two esteemed sports writers, Ken Jones and Reg Drury attended, and Ken Jones was the first speaker after the four course meal, and mentioned the banquet at the Savoy Hotel after the '61 Cup Final when the cabaret - the late Roy Castle, Harry Secombe and a young Shirley Bassey couldn't compete with the choruses of "Glory, Glory Hallejuhah!" Ken went on to say "What was achieved in 1960-61 was colossal (quoting the season's statistics) reflect on these words by Julian Holland who wrote a book called "Tottenham - The Double" - "The football played by Spurs through the long months of 60-61 was the most aesthetically exciting football ever seen from a club side in Britain. It matched the artistry of Real Madrid, and had the flair and grand manner of the great National sides like the Hungarian side of '53 and Brazil of '58"............a team that acted on the philosophy of one of the great managers - Bill Nicholson, and fulfilled so late in his career Danny Blanchflower's dream of the Glory Days. It was a privilege to watch them play, it is a privilege to be welcomed into their company, and it is a privilege to be with them tonight. Thank You"
After such a glowing tribute in football terms, it was perhaps unsurprising that most of the remaining speeches concentrated on humour, but before that Cliff Jones said a few words and spoke in affectionate terms of John White and Danny Blanchflower. Cliff also said how he became a great dribbler, explaining that when you play 30 a side on the beach you don't pass the ball, as you never get it back! He also spoke of his need for an interpreter when rooming with Dave Mackay on a tour of Russia, but praised Mackay as "the greatest player I ever played with. He was a winner and it rubbed off on all of us". Cliff also spoke about his own penalty miss when losing at home to Manchester City on Easter Saturday 1960, when we should have won the league that season too. (Just think folks - they played three games in four days then!) A certain James P. Greaves scored for Chelsea on the Monday, and Jones descibed him as the "greatest goalscorer I have ever seen". Jones concluded with a glowing tribute to Bill Nicholson who told the team to play with style and discipline, supporting the campaign for Bill to be knighted "Nobody has given more to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and nobody has given more to the London Borough of Haringey. To all of us here this evening he is "Sir Bill Nicholson", and it has been a privilege to play under him.
A number of items were auctioned during the evening, but it was never clear what the funds were being raised for. Club Chairman, Daniel Levy paid out of his own pocket the sum of £1,800 for the first item - a "Double" winning replica shirt signed by all the surviving team (including Bill Brown), and assured those present that the shirt would take pride of place in the boardroom. Most of the items sold raised similar amounts. Table 44 made a couple of bids, but luckily escaped making a final bid!
The formality of the evening started to fade with Dave Lee's gags (a shampoo for gypsies called "Go and Wash")who said it was ironic that once upon a time he wanted to look like Jimmy Greaves and Les Allen, and "Now they look like me!" (Dave is VERY big).Greaves's speech was highly ribald, but very funny, describing the top table as looking like the Last Supper, with the original cast. He said that he and George Best were old drinking buddies and they are getting together in a couple of weeks to write their memoirs. Anyone that can help with their whereabouts in the seventies would be very welcome to assist!
Jimmy told a couple of great stories about Tommy Smith ("face like a failed beekeeper") and the late Chopper Harris (late in the tackle). Apparently there was one occasion when Jimmy got a chance to give Chopper a forearm smash, but got spotted by the referee and called away for an expected sending off. "Then came the words that no forward wants to hear from a defender - "Please ref - don't send him off!" There were plenty of one liners - "Gazza can't work out why his sister has two brothers and he's only got one" - "Stan Collymore - 30,000 a week and Saturdays off".
The last formal part of the evening was completed when Dave Mackay (describing Tottenham Hotspur as "easily the best team that I played for") said a few words, and Mr Levy presented Bill Nicholson with a decanter and glasses, which was inscribed "Thanks for all the memories" . Mr Levy said "Obviously I am too young to remember the great days of the sixties, but I can assure you that we are going to do everything we can to bring them back to White Hart Lane" Mr Nicholson responded with humility and dignity and recognised that everyone in the room had Tottenham Hotspur "in their hearts and minds".
Each person attending this momentous evening received a souvenir brochure which carried miniature pen-pictures of the manager and players in the Double Squad. I am proud to say that I have obtained a virtually complete set of autographs to go with the pictures, which will be an honoured heirloom for the family for years to come.
Addendum - updated 20.02.16
It is of course sad to reflect upon those mentioned above that we have lost in the passing years. Primarily of course there was Mr. Nicholson himself, but we have now also lost Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Ron Henry, Dave Mackay, Bobby Smith, Tommy Harmer, and Mel Hopkins. However, the memory of this night and what the Double team achieved will never be forgotten.
Top of page | Back to The Double Years index