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A Commemorative plate that was issued to celebrate the Spurs Double Season

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The Double Years

FIFTY YEARS AFTER

The Double Series was written by the eminent Brian Judson

This is the first of a series of postings about the Double season of 1960-61. The series was originally written between June 2000 and April 2001, and is being re-launched to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Spurs' finest hour.

The story of the League and Cup Double could be said to start on the day that Danny Blanchflower signed for Spurs in December 1954. Rowe's great 'Push 'n' Run' team was beginning to break up. Blanchflower had a reputation for being a bit of a rebel as he had not seen eye to eye with his managers at Barnsley and Aston Villa. But Rowe saw him as the player who would lead Spurs to honours in the future.

When Blanchflower was greeted by club captain Alf Ramsey on arrival at White Hart Lane, there were already players on the books who would form part of the Double team. But Rowe was not destined to lead Tottenham's fortunes for much longer, as he was taking ill with the worry of Tottenham sliding down the table in season 1954-55. He left to nurse himself back to health and Jimmy Anderson, a loyal servant to Tottenham for over 50 years, was appointed manager.

Anderson undoubtedly left much to Bill Nicholson, who had been appointed club coach on his retirement the week before Blanchflower arrived. But it was Anderson who picked the team and signed the players. Bobby Smith was signed during season 1955-56 as Spurs struggled at the foot of the table and had a long run in the FA Cup. But Blanchflower fell out with manager Anderson when he made some tactical changes during the Semi-Final at Villa Park after Manchester City had taken the lead, sending Maurice Norman up front to add his height to an attempt to equalise. There was a public row between captain and manager through the press which ended with Blanchflower being sacked as captain and dropped for a vital relegation game against Cardiff. Spurs survived the relegation scare and went on to have two good seasons under Anderson, finishing second and third in Division One. During that spell, Peter Baker, Maurice Norman and Cliff Jones became first team regulars as they either established themselves or were transferred in from other clubs.

But at the start of season 1958-59, Spurs made an awful start to the season and manager Anderson was taken ill with the worry of it all. He resigned as manager and Bill Nicholson took over on the morning of October 11th 1958. Their opponents that afternoon were Everton, whom it must be said were playing even worse than Tottenham. It was mooted on Merseyside that Everton's sole ambition that season was to be relegated in record time. Spurs thrashed Everton 10-4 (the only time Spurs reached double figures in the Football League) but their defence demonstrated why Spurs were deep in trouble by conceding four goals they should never have conceded.

Throughout the rest of that season, Bill Nicholson's priority was to avoid relegation. He took a long hard look at the team and decided that Danny Blanchflower was a luxury he could not afford. So in January 1959 he dropped Danny Blanchflower and played young Bill Dodge in his place. His reasoning was that Blanchflower and Iley were both attacking wing-halves and Iley was the younger player. Dodge would have more defensive responsibilities. Blanchflower responded by demanding a transfer as he was coming to the end of his playing career and reserve team football was no good to him. But out of the FA Cup, beaten by Third Division Norwich City, Nicholson took another long hard look at the team and made two momentous decisions.

For the away game at Wolves, Blanchflower, who had returned to the first team a fortnight earlier, was appointed captain for the first time in Nicholson's reign. A fortnight later, with the football world expecting Nicholson to sign Mel Charles from Swansea, Nicholson struck further north and signed Dave Mackay from Hearts. Between them, Blanchflower and Mackay steadied the team's nerves and relegation was averted.

During the summer, Nicholson had a further look at the team and decided he needed a better goalkeeper than John Hollowbread, who had held the fort after first choice 'keepers Ditchburn and Reynolds had both broken fingers in the early weeks of the previous season. He signed Bill Brown from Dundee. As a precaution, Nicholson also re-signed Marchi from Juventus as cover for Blanchflower and Mackay.

Spurs made a good start to the 1959-60 season but it was clear there was still something missing. In October, Spurs signed John White from Falkirk and Tommy Harmer's days at Tottenham were numbered. Two months later, Nicholson signed Les Allen, a reserve team player from Chelsea, in exchange for Johnny Brooks, an England international but a very inconsistent and highly annoying player. It was said of Brooks that even he did not know what he was going to do next such was his unpredictable form.

The team was now in position. Ron Henry had replaced Mel Hopkins at left back following the Welsh international being sidelined through a broken nose whilst playing for Wales. And during the summer of 1960, Nicholson, reflecting on Tottenham's failure to win the Championship, decided to drop Terry Medwin, switch Cliff Jones to the right wing to partner John White and to bring in Terry Dyson, the smallest player on the books, on the left wing. He also signed John Smith from West Ham with the intention of replacing Blanchflower, who was looking increasingly frail on the field.

Blanchflower did not see it that way, of course. To complete the story, Smith was so frustrated that he only made 21 appearances for Tottenham in four years at the club and had left for Coventry before Blanchflower finally made the decision to retire in 1964.

In July 1960, during pre-season training, Blanchflower quietly told chairman Fred Bearman that Spurs would win the Double during the coming season. Spurs started like a house on fire, winning the first 11 games on the trot. They drew the 12th with Manchester City, which prompted predictions from the press that Spurs were about to crack. Spurs won the next four games on the trot before losing their first game of the season, 2-1, at Sheffield Wednesday. Again, the press predicted Spurs were about to crack but Spurs resumed their triumphant progress with the only hiccup a 4-4 draw against Burnley, after being 4-0 ahead. By Christmas, they were 11 points ahead of Sheffield Wednesday and it seemed just a matter of how many points Spurs would win the League by.

Spurs now concentrated on the FA Cup. They beat Charlton Athletic, 3-2, in the Third Round. The draw then pitched them against Crewe Alexandra, who had been crushed 13-2 the previous February. This time Spurs were merciful and only bothered to win 5-1. The 5th Round saw Spurs win 2-0 at Aston Villa. The draw then gave them an away tie at Sunderland, then in the old Second Division. Spurs nearly came a cropper there and were fortunate to survive a 1-1 draw. But at White Hart Lane, Spurs re-exerted their authority and crushed Sunderland 5-0. For the Semi-Final, it was back to Villa Park for a tie against Burnley, probably the only club who could match Tottenham at their best in those days.

Before the match, Jimmy Adamson pointed out to Danny Blanchflower that Burnley had never lost a match at Villa Park in their normal playing strip, knowing full well they could never use it because of a clash of colours with Villa's. But at that time, Spurs were regularly beating Aston Villa and had not lost there since before WW2. In the event, Spurs had no trouble in beating Burnley once Bobby Smith had thumped them ahead.

Through to their first Final since 1921, Spurs could now switch their attention back to the League. Their long lead had been chipped away and only three points stood between them and Sheffield Wednesday. Spurs were dropping a lot of silly points and Nicholson became thoroughly exasperated. "We've become lazy" he roared through the press on Easter Saturday as Spurs prepared to play Preston North End, struggling to avoid relegation. The Spurs players were annoyed with the public criticism from the manager and took it out on Preston. Once the whistle went, it was always going to be a question of how many Spurs would bother to get. The five they got widened the gap at the top of the table again.

And so to April 17th 1961. Spurs had one hand on the Championship. Sheffield Wednesday knew the odds were against them. Spurs were a goal down after Megson had scored following a free-kick. But within a minute of that goal, Smith had plundered an equaliser and within seconds of that, Les Allen had snatched what was destined to be the winning goal.

When the whistle ended the game, the crowd streaked onto the pitch and refused to go home until Danny Blanchflower led his champions out on to the balcony in the old West Stand.

Spurs eased up alarmingly over the last few weeks and failed to beat Arsenal's record of 66 points for the season. They were more interested in saving themselves for the Cup Final against Leicester City.

The Cup Final was a huge disappointment. Mackay was nothing like the player he had been during the season and Spurs were ultra-cautious on the Wembley turf, keenly aware of the injury hoodoo. But it was Leicester who fell victim to the hoodoo in those distant pre-substitute days when Chalmers and Allen collided and Chalmers did not get up until after some very lengthy treatment. Leicester refused to accept the script that Tottenham should win, urged on by their captain, a certain Frank McLintock who was to achieve notorious fame some ten years later. But Spurs eventually scored two late goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson and Spurs had achieved the first modern League and Cup double.

Cheers, Brian

Look out for more articles re-living the Double Season in the run-up to and throughout the new season

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