Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey - Norman Giller's Blog (No. 134 - 25.07.16)
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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 134) (25.07.16)

Submitted by Norman Giller

The Managing Game (10) - Arthur Rowe

Norman Giller writes for Spurs Odyssey If I were in the shoes of new England boss Sam Allardyce, first thing I’d do is hand the captain’s armband to Tottenham utility defender Eric Dier.

He came out of the shambolic Euros flop in France with his reputation intact as a player of high quality and exceptional promise, keeping his head while all around were losing theirs. Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti was among those lauding him as one of the best players at the Championships.

Wayne Rooney’s goal-studded England career has almost run its course, and Dier looks the best of the new generation to take over the baton as skipper. He is the commanding type of player who can inspire and lead by example, in the way Bobby Moore used to in England’s golden days that we celebrate this coming Saturday with the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup victory.

I have followed Eric’s progress with particular interest, because I knew his maternal grandfather Ted Croker when he was the supremo at the Football Association and I was earning my daily bread as a football reporter.

Ted was a thorough gentleman, steeped in the history of the Beautiful Game and determined to always present it in its best light, with the emphasis on skill and sportsmanship.

‘Young Eric’ has not fallen far from the family tree, and plays the game in a hard but honest way that is motivational. Eventually, I hope to see him take over the Spurs captaincy from the wonderful Hugo Lloris, who literally has his hands full keeping the ball out of his net.

Tottenham have rewarded Dier with a new five year contract that makes him one of the higher paid members of the squad on £70,000 a week. That eye-watering income is dwarfed by the likes of Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale, who net more than double in this age of galloping greed.

It will be fascinating to see how Eric’s game develops this coming season now that he has laid a firm foundation to his career with high-level action for both club and country. He along with all the players who took part in the Euros have been allowed extra breather time, and so miss this week’s ‘International Champions Cup’ mini-tournament Down Under in Melbourne.

Spurs play their first match tomorrow (11am UK time) against Italian champions Juventus, who have also left several of their star players at home. The second game is with Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid on Friday, both games at the famous MCG ground in Melbourne.

Tottenham’s squad includes new summer signings Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen, with winger Georges-Kevin N’Koudou from Marseille waiting to join them on their return.

The players that have made the trip Down Under:

Goalkeepers: Michel Vorm, Tom Glover, Luke McGee;
Defenders: Dominic Ball, DeAndre Yedlin, Kevin Wimmer, Luke Amos, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker-Peters; Midfielders: Victor Wanyama, Tom Carroll, Nacer Chadli, Marcus Edwards, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Josh Onomah, Ryan Mason, Anton Walkes, Harry Winks;
Forwards: Vincent Janssen, Heung-Min Son, Shayon Harrison, Will Miller

Looking Down Under from Up Here in the UK, let’s all hope that Mauricio Pochettino is too busy with pre-tournament training to pay any attention to the overtures from the Argentine FA to take over as their national team manager.

We want Mauricio to hang around long enough to become as big a legend as Arthur Rowe and the finest of all White Hart Lane managers, ‘Sir Bill’ Nicholson.

Looking forward to the new season? Check out this William Hill promotion guide.

It is 50 years to the day on Saturday that England won the 1966 World Cup, and I have put together an hour by hour reconstruction of the day thanks to having been in the privileged position of spending from breakfast time to suppertime and beyond with the England team.

As a Spurs Odyssey reader, you can get an autographed copy of my 101st book – July 30 1966 Football’s Longest Day – at the post-free price of just £10. It’s a great holiday read (I would say that).

Kindly order it by clicking on the Spurs Odyssey link at the bottom of the page on my website:

You can see an edited version of a recent BBCtv interview I gave about the book here: Even if I say it myself, I don’t look bad for an old hack in need of a preservation order. You could also check out this sportsbook review

End of sales pitch from a hungry writer.

We reach manager number ten as I continue my history odyssey on the men who have carried the baton as boss at White Hart Lane. I make no apologies for repeating an earlier feature on the quiet revolutionary who put Push and Run into the football vocabulary …

Spurs' tenth manager - Arthur Rowe

ARTHUR ROWE (1949-1955)

Born Tottenham 1 September 1906
Died London 17 November 1993
Appointed: 1 May 1949; Resigned 1 July 1955

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ARTHUR ROWE came home to Tottenham after Joe Hulme’s humiliating exit, and almost as if waving a magic wand produced order where there had been chaos, method where they had been mayhem and triumph where there had been disaster. The transformation was close to miraculous.

‘King’ Arthur, born and raised within goal-kicking distance of White Hart Lane and as modest and likeable a man as you could wish to meet, was never one to want to take credit for his own genius. He would always stress that the real father of Push and Run was his old Tottenham mentor Peter McWilliam, a trend-setting tactician in two spells in charge at White Hart Lane.

McWilliam was building the 1921 Tottenham FA Cup winning team when Arthur joined Spurs as a schoolboy. The Scot helped launch Arthur’s playing career with the Tottenham nursery team Gravesend and Northfleet. He developed into a thinking man’s centre-half for Tottenham throughout the ‘thirties until a knee injury forced his retirement after an international career confined to one England cap.

He travelled through Europe as a full-time coach and was on the verge of accepting the Hungarian team manager’s job when war was declared. There is a school of thought that it was his ideas passed on to young Hungarian players that was the foundation for the Magical Magyars of the 1950s, who buried England under an avalanche of 13 goals in two mesmeric matches. Adding strength to this theory is that he coached the coaches at the request of the Hungarian government.

His son, Graham, who now lives in Los Angeles where he works as a financial adviser, made perfectly pertinent points about his father’s impact on football in a 2006 letter to the sports section of the esteemed Financial Times. I tracked down Graham in California, and I am grateful for his permission to publish his letter here:

“Sir, In his piece ‘Magyars mourn their lost magic’ Jonathan Wilson states: ‘Half a century ago Hungary were not merely the best in the world but possibly the best team there has ever been.’

I disagree with his assessment of the Hungarian soccer team. The great Hungarian team of 1953 played the same fast, short-passing game that humiliated England and was played by Tottenham Hotspur from 1949 to 1953. During that reign they won the then Second Division championship, followed immediately by the First Division title, and then in the next season were runners-up to Manchester United and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup.

In 1952 they toured North America playing an attractive style of football called ‘push and run’, a fluid, fast-moving style that entertained capacity crowds wherever they played. That Spurs team was managed by my father, Arthur Rowe, who had won championships while in charge of Chelmsford City, a Southern League club, from 1946 to 1949.

After a stellar career as a Tottenham player in the 1930s, my father took a coaching position in Budapest, Hungary, before returning to England in 1939 to join the army.

In Budapest were sown the seeds of the ‘push and run’ approach, which for the next 13 years, incubated and ultimately manifested itself in that great Hungarian team. But it was a style that was first played by the glorious Spurs team of 1949-53.

In a Financial Times article of July 1 1998, Peter Aspden wrote of ‘the beautiful version of the game, invented by the Hungarian side of the 1950s’. The Hungarians did not ‘invent’ the beautiful version of the game. If anyone ‘invented’ it, it was my father.

On my wall at home there is a photograph of my father with Ferenc Puskas, the peerless member of the Hungarian team of the 1950s, and my thoughts turn to what kind of a game might have been played between those two great teams. What a feast it would have been.

- Graham A. Rowe, Los Angeles.”

Yes, what a feast. It would have been a banquet of football at its purist and best; definitely the Beautiful Game. I make no excuses for now revisiting my Spurs history book The Lane of Dreams for a trawl through the achievements of Arthur Rowe after his life had been taken to unexpected crossroads by the outbreak of the Second World War. It is a story well worth repeating and should be required reading for any Spurs supporter who wants to know the club’s proud history.

On his war-forced return to England from Hungary, Arthur became an army physical training instructor and then manager of non-League Chelmsford, making him ideally placed to take over at White Hart Lane as successor to Joe Hulme in 1949. His first major signing was Southampton right-back Alf Ramsey, a player he knew shared his keep-it-simple principles. Nicknamed ‘The General’ because of his fanaticism for talking football tactics, Ramsey took the secrets of simple football with him into management, and there was more of a hint of the Arthur Rowe push and run style about the Ipswich side he steered to the League championship and the England team he led to the World Cup in 1966.

'King Arthur's' knights marched majestically to the Second Division title in Rowe’s first full season in charge, but sceptics said their “playground push and run” tactics would be exposed in the First Division. Wrong! They powered to the top of the table, eventually taking the League championship with 60 points, four ahead of Manchester United and the highest total since Arsenal’s record 66 twenty years earlier.

It was their attack, led aggressively by Channel Islander Len Duquemin, that took the eye, but the defence was a vital part of the jigsaw. It featured the safe hands and acrobatics of goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, the towering presence of centre-half Harry Clarke, the perfect balance of full-back partners Alf Ramsey and Arthur Willis, and two of the finest half-backs in the League in Bill Nicholson and skipper Ronnie Burgess.

Eddie Baily’s inch-perfect passing from midfield was a key factor as Spurs took apart the best defences in the land, scoring seven goals against Newcastle, six against Stoke, five against West Brom and defending champions Portsmouth and four in three of the first four matches of the season. Push and run became more like push and punish. It was wonderful to watch, provided you were not the team on the receiving end.

Fast forward a dozen years by which time I had arrived in my privileged position as chief football reporter with the Daily Express. Putting on my Miss Marple hat, I was in a position to ask the principal people – Arthur Rowe, Alf Ramsey and Bill Nicholson -– who was the most influential player in that push and run team. Each answered without hesitation: “Ron Burgess.”

Bill Nick even went so far as to add: “Ronnie was the greatest player ever to pull on a Tottenham shirt. Yes, with a gun to my head I would even have to put him ahead of Dave Mackay.”

That was some admission, and when I asked Ronnie Burgess the same question while he was managing Watford in the 1960s he told me in his lilting Welsh accent:

“There was no individual more important than the rest. We had that vital all-for-one-and-one-for-all spirit, which I suppose was a spill-over from the war. We’d all been in the forces during the war and knew the importance of teamwork. If you have to single out one man, then it has to be Arthur Rowe. It was his philosophy that we followed. Keep it simple, keep it quick, keep the ball on the ground.”

Legend has it that Burgess, a powerhouse of a player, trod on every blade of grass on every pitch on which he played. He was at left-half, with Bill Nicholson a perfect balance with his more disciplined and careful approach on the right.

Behind Nicholson was the immaculate Alf Ramsey, a model of calm and consistency. Tommy Docherty once said spitefully of him that he had seen milk turn faster, but it has to be remembered that Alf was thirty by the time of the push and run era and had learned the art of conserving his energy by clever positioning and intelligent marking.

Arthur Willis, workmanlike at left-back, was an ideal foil for the more artistic Ramsey, with Charlie Withers as a more-than-capable stand-in. Harry Clarke – recruited from Lovells Athletic in the Southern League – stood oak tree solid in the middle of the defence. He had a great understanding with goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, who would have won dozens more than his six England caps had it not been for the powerful presence of Frank Swift.

The attack piston on which Spurs fired was provided by effervescent Eddie Baily, the Cockney ‘Cheeky Chappie’ who proudly patrolled in midfield with a Napoleonic air of authority. His uncanny ability to lay a pass on a handkerchief made goal scoring much easier for twin strikers Len ‘The Duke’ Duquemin and the often-lethal Les Bennett. These were the wonderful days of flying wingers and they did not come much better or more of a handful for full backs than Sonny Walters and Les Medley.

It was all knitted together by the softly spoken yet, when necessary, assertive Arthur Rowe. I caught up with Arthur in my Daily Express reporting days when he was ‘curator’ of the short-lived PFA-supported Football Hall of Fame in Oxford Street in the early 1970s (a venture that quickly died because of lack of public interest)

A gentle, kindly man, Arthur was easy to talk to and we had many long conversations about his career in the game in general and his management of Spurs in particular. He revealed that the art of push and run football – the signature style of Spurs – was born against the walls of North London. Tottenham-born Arthur, the chief architect of the meticulous method, remembered playing with a tennis ball against the wall as a schoolboy and suddenly thought to himself: “That’s how easy and simple the game should be!”

I caught Arthur in reflective mood twenty years after he had entered the land of football legend by steering Spurs to back-to-back Second and First Division titles. Speaking quietly, with a discernible Cockney accent, he told me:

“My philosophy was that the easier you made the game the easier it was to play it. So I used to tell the players to push the ball to a team-mate and then run into space to take the instant return pass. It was making the most of the ‘wall pass’ or the ‘one-two.’ When not in possession get into position. Make it simple, make it quick. It was easier said than done, of course, but I got together a squad of players with the football intelligence to make it work. We used to operate in triangles, with Eddie Baily, Ronnie Burgess and Les Medley particularly brilliant at the concept out on the left. It was amazing to watch as they took defenders out of the game with simple, straightforward passes and then getting into position to receive the return. Over on the right Alf Ramsey, Billy Nicholson and Sonny Walters were equally adept at keeping possession while making progress with simple passes. Of course, you cannot play this type of game with confidence unless you have the foundation of a good defence, and from Ted Ditchburn through the entire rearguard we were rock solid.”

It was as if there was something almost inevitable about Tottenham’s great escape from the Second Division in the early weeks of the 1949-50 season. There was an attitude about the team that set them apart from the opposition; it was almost as if they were strutting their stuff and saying: “With this sort of football, we deserve a place at the top table.”

Yes, there was a touch of arrogance about it, and much of the cocksureness emanated from pass master Eddie Baily. A fellow East Ender of mine and an old and treasured mate, who we sadly lost in 2010, Eddie spent a couple of wind-down seasons as player-coach at Leyton Orient when I was sports editor of the local paper.

We used to chinwag for hours about the “good old days,” and he described the push and run side as “the perfect football machine.” Eddie, with a voice as Cockney as Bow Bells, told me:

“We were far too good for the Second Division, and played our way to promotion with ease. I remember we were top of the table from September and had a run of twenty-three matches without defeat. These days I suppose I would be called a playmaker, but then I was just a good old- fashioned deep-lying inside-forward. My job was to provide the passes for the goalscorers, and I think you’ll find I had a foot in the majority of the goals we scored. That’s not me being big headed. That was fact. An important aspect is that we had a very good dressing-room spirit. There were no stars. We all took equal praise when winning, and shared the blame if things went wrong. Max Miller was the big comedian of the time, and I was given his nickname ‘Cheeky Chappie’ because I was always the dressing-room comedian. We were the thinking man’s team. Players like Alf, Bill Nick and Ronnie Burgess were obsessed with tactics, and of course dear Arthur Rowe was the man who led us with clear and concise instructions. There was no mumbo jumbo. We just got on with playing the game in a simple direct way that bewildered the opponents.”

By Christmas 1950 Totteham were top of the First Division following a sequence of eight successive victories. Among their devastating performances was a 7-0 destruction of FA Cup giants Newcastle United. They achieved that without skipper Ronnie Burgess, who sat in the stand nursing an injury. “That was the finest exhibition of football I have ever seen,” he said later. “It was only by becoming a spectator that I realized just how special this side was. We paralysed Newcastle with our push and run tactics that a lot of so-called experts had said would not work in the First Division.”

Sitting on the touchline bench was Arthur’s schoolboy son, Graham, who recalled:

“Tottenham played football out of this world against Newcastle. If there had been TV cameras around in those days, they would still be showing the match today as a classic and as an example of how to play the game to perfection. My father was a modest man who did not like or seek the limelight. He was happy to let his team do the talking for him on the pitch, and they were very eloquent. Anybody who saw that push and run side will, I know, never forget it.”

In this truly golden season White Hart Lane attendances averaged 55,486 as Tottenham captured their first League championship. They notched 82 goals and were beaten only seven times. In their post-Championship campaign it looked as if they were going to lift the title again as they finished like trains, taking 20 points from the last dozen matches. But Matt Busby’s Manchester United hung on to win the crown after finishing runners-up four times in the previous five years. Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-0 on the final day of the season for the considerable consolation of pipping Arsenal to second place.

It was the FA Cup that brought Tottenham greatest success the following season, when they finished an unimpressive tenth in the First Division. They battled through to the FA Cup semi-final after surviving four away ties. Waiting for them at Villa Park, as in 1948, were Matthews/Mortensen-motivated Blackpool.

Victory was handed to Blackpool on a plate by, of all people, safe-as-houses Alf Ramsey, who in a rare moment of carelessness played a back pass intended for Ted Ditchburn into the path of Blackpool goal poacher Jackie Mudie. It became a skeleton in Alf’s closet, and I hardly dared mention it in the many hours we spent together during the 1960s.

He once confided, after a G and T too many, that the memory of it kept him awake on many nights. playing over and over again what he should have done. But his poker face never conveyed to the Tottenham fans that he was even more devastated than they were. Alf was always harder to read than a closed book.

Sadly, the stress and strain of managing Spurs took its toll on the enormously conscientious Rowe and he reluctantly had to stand down in 1955, with the team he had created, cajoled and championed showing the sign of advancing years. The lowest point was a 3-1 FA Cup defeat at York City. That was the nightmare result that finally broke Arthur’s spirit. He later coached West Brom, Orient and Millwall and steered Crystal Palace to promotion, but his health was very fragile and he was never able to touch the heights he – and all the Lilywhite fans – had enjoyed at The Lane.

His last major signing for the club was a player who was to become a Lane legend – Danny Blanchflower, bought from Aston Villa for £30,000 and in Arthur’s expert estimation the perfect player to carry on the push and run philosophy.

Push and run was poetry in motion, and it was Arthur’s lasting legacy. They should build a statue to him at the new Lane alongside that of Bill Nicholson and in memory of the man who pumped the pride and the passion back into Tottenham.

The pressures of following Rowe were to prove too much for the loyal servant promoted to fill boots that proved far too big for him. That’’s next week’s harrowing story.


As we patiently wait for the third Spurs Odyssey Quiz League to kick off at the start of next season, I am challenging you each week to a teaser test of your knowledge of Tottenham players, ancient and modern. Last week’s teaser.

“I was a member of the 1970s Tottenham team relegated and then promoted, scoring nine goals in 172 League matches. Who am I and from which Lancashire club did I join Spurs in 1975?”

A tough one for some of you, but most came up with the correct answer: Don McAllister, who arrived at the Lane from Bolton Wanderers. He was one of the prominent players in the nail-biting season of 1977-78, and scored a vital winning goal against his old Bolton club with a spectacular diving header to help clinch promotion in third place.

First name drawn: Devon-based Sam Rose, who has followed Spurs since his schooldays in the 1960s in Walthamstow. I will be sending Sam a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books.

This week’s teaser: “I have been capped 11 times and will be back in the Premier League after winning promotion last season. I played more than 100 first-team games for Spurs. Who am I and from which Dutch club did I join Tottenham?”

Please email your answer by midnight on Friday to You will receive an automated acknowledgement.

Don’t forget to add your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs.

Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!

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