NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 325
Submitted by Norman Giller
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out Tottenham’s requirements in the last Significant Seven matches of this surreal season. They simply have to win all of them and hope that teams above in the Premier League drop points during – regardless of the temperatures – a July melting pot.
Here at a glance are the final fixtures standing between Tottenham and a place in next season’s Champions’ League:
Thursday July 2: Sheffield United (away, 6.00pm)
Monday July 6: Everton (home, 8.00pm)
Thursday July 9: Bournemouth (away, 6.00pm)
Sunday July 12: Arsenal (home, 4.30pm)
Wednesday July 15: Newcastle (away, 8.00pm)
Saturday July 18: Leicester City (home, 3.00pm)
Sunday July 26: Crystal Palace (home, 3.00pm)
Of course, two matches stand out like land mines: the home games against Arsenal and Leicester. The North London Derby will carry even more prestige and pressure than usual after the Gooners’ dramatically clinched an FA Cup semi-final place yesterday, and the Leicester match could prove a vital six pointer.
But Jose Mourinho and his squad must not make the mistake of looking ahead. We are down to taking – and winning – each game as it comes, starting with the difficult visit to Sheffield United on Thursday. The Blades will be looking to bounce back after the heartbreak of the last-minute FA Cup exit against the Woolwich Nomads.
The signs were we had got our mojo back against West Ham last week, as our guru Paul H. Smith reports HERE. But that seems like an age ago, and we must just hope Our Harry Kane can continue his march back to glory. Seeing him score his first goal for six months was like welcoming back an old, much-cherished friend. I reckon that lay-off cost Spurs at least 15 goals.
What excited me in the victory over West Ham is the way Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela fired each other up, bringing back memories of two Argentinian aces from thirty years ago, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa. And we all know there’s a ‘one’ in the season coming up.
All it needs is for the moody Tanguy Ndombele to bring his talent to the table and Spurs would have a midfield from the heavens, but all the talk is of Tanguy moving on at the end of the season. That would be a pity, because we have seen only glimpses of the Frenchman’s obvious artistry.
And how about the aggressive “captain’s” performance against West Ham from Eric Dier! He has skippered every team he has ever played for from his schoolboy football days in Portugal, and is a born leader. There were memories of the great Dave Mackay as he brandished his fist at team-mates and motivated with his energy and eagerness. He does not wear the captain’s armband but has the leadership qualities that inspire his team-mates.
We are going to need the Dier determination and desire to get that Champions’ League place for a seventh season, starting at Bramall Lane on Thursday.
Fasten your safety belts, friends. It’s going to be a challenging July.
Talking of buckling up brings me to an important publishing event … the biography of the ‘Father of Spurs’, Bobby Buckle. It is the justifiably proud work of Phil Nyman, with the knowledgeable support of Barry Middleton, Bobby Buckle’s family and a group calling themselves the ‘Bobby Buckle Matters Partnership’.
They first came together with the aim of getting a treasured Blue Plaque placed at Bobby’s boyhood home at No 7 White Hart Lane, originally called the White Cottage and arguably the first home of Tottenham Hotspur.
It was suggested by the Blue Plaque copyright owners that it would help their case if there was printed proof of Bobby’s status and achievements, and so the Bobby Buckle biography was born.
Bobby ‘Father of Spurs’ Buckle in his solicitor clerk days
“This has turned out to be a fabulous labour of love,’ life-long Spurs supporter Phil Nyman tells me. ‘We knew Bobby was an exceptional footballer but during our research we have discovered what a brilliant brain and driver our principal founder was. We are immensely privileged to bring his accomplishments to the notice of all Spurs fans. It is important that everybody should know what this man did for our great club.’
It is a fact that without Bobby Buckle’s contribution in the formative years there would not have been a Tottenham Hotspur today. He was not just one of the schoolboy founders of the Hotspur football team, but was at the heart of every major moment in the club’s early development on and off the field.
A sprinting winger, he scored the first ever goal registered to Spurs in 1882-83, became team captain and played for Spurs for the first ten years of the club’s existence.
Born on 17 October 1868, he actually lived in White Hart Lane, and was one of the main instigators when a group of cricketing schoolboys gathered under a gaslit lamp-post in Tottenham High Road in the late summer of 1882 and decided to form a football team called Hotspur. It was his house where the players used to meet before carrying the goalposts to Tottenham Marshes to play their games … just a long goal kick away from the magnificent new home.
But it was off the field where Bobby most influenced and inspired the club’s growth. He was a committee member from its earliest days and later served as both treasurer and secretary, and his voice was the most persuasive when it came to the decision to turn professional.
As club director and a respected solicitor’s clerk, he along with chairman Charles Roberts negotiated a deal for Tottenham Hotspur to move to what would become the future White Hart Lane. And it was the remarkable Bobby Buckle who sat at the top table to propose the victory toasts at both the 1901 and 1921 FA Cup winning banquets!
Steve ‘Skip’ Perryman has written the introduction to the book, and appreciates just what Bobby did to build the foundations for Tottenham Hotspur. ‘Without Bobby Buckle there would probably have been no Tottenham Hotspur,’ he says. ‘It’s astonishing what he did for the club in those early days, and every one of we players who have followed should bow the knee to him.’
I will give full details of how to purchase the £10 book next week. Anybody with Spurs in their soul should have it on their bookshelf.
Yes, Bobby Buckle Matters.
As we come out of the lockdown, here at Spurs Odyssey we continue with the serialisation of my story of Tottenham’s goal scorers. The book is called Shooting Spurs, with all profits going to the Tottenham Tribute Trust (actually, I’ve passed some of the income on to the NHS, sure nobody will mind). It spotlights every player in Tottenham’s history who has scored more than 50 League and Cup goals since the formation of the club in 1882.
Today we focus on the polished partner to Jimmy Greaves … the ‘other G-man’ …
Alan Gilzean, a Nureyev on grass. Sketch © Art Turner
Born Coupar Angus, Scotland 22 October 1938
Died Glasgow, 8 July 2018
Playing career span with Spurs: 1964-1974
Goals in 439 matches: 133
ALAN GILZEAN was hailed as the ‘King of White Hart Lane’ and was held in similar high esteem at his original club Dundee, where he laid the foundation to a career celebrated on both sides of the border. For my tribute to Gilly, I turn to the article I wrote in his memory following his sudden passing in the summer of 2018, leaving the football world a poorer place ...
The date: February 20 2015. The place: the Stevenage leisure centre in Hertfordshire. The occasion: the celebration of the 75th birthday of football legend Jimmy Greaves. Jimmy’s manager/promoter Terry Baker had the bright idea of inviting as a surprise guest Greavsie’s long-time playing partner at Spurs, Alan Gilzean.
It was a reunion of the G-Men, none of us at the party realising that this would be the last time they would ever be together. Six weeks later, Jimmy was hit by a severe stroke that has left him the prisoner of a wheelchair. Gilly suffered a brain tumour and passed on in July this year (2018), aged 79.
During an evening dripping with nostalgia, Jimmy and Alan paid tribute to each other. “Gilly was one of the most talented footballers I ever played with or against. He was magical,” said Greavsie.
“Jimmy was simply the greatest goalscorer who ever pulled on a pair of football boots,” said Gilly. “I would have paid to play with him. It was a privilege.”
As a mutual friend of both of them, I shared the top table at the birthday feast. Jimmy insisted on me joining the photo shoot and called it: “The Greavsie, Gilly and Gilly show.”
That picture (featured below) has now taken on new poignancy in my photo scrapbook, and speaks a thousand words to me of memorable times chronicling the footballing feats of the G-Men on the pitch and enjoying their company off it ... mostly at the bar.
The Three G-Men Greavsie, Gilly and Gilly
It is well documented how Greavsie hit the bottle until famously conquering alcoholism to became a much-loved television personality. What has been less publicised is that Gilly could drink the lot of us under the table, but kept his habit away from the public gaze.
I once asked him who his favourite partners were. Studiously laconic with his humour, he said without blinking: “Bacardi and Coke.”
Bill Nicholson, Tottenham’s manager supreme, had cause to call him into his office one Monday morning. “Alan, I’ve had a complaint from a supporter,” he said. “He says he saw you coming out of a nightclub at two o’clock in the morning.”
“Well he’s mistaken,” Gilly replied, with that poker face he always had on the football field. “I was going into the club.”
Sitting alongside me at the birthday bash was Tottenham’s former captain and another White Hart Lane idol, Steve Perryman. He was trusted by the Gilzean family to release the news of Alan’s passing, and when he rang this old hack I was mortified.
‘We’ve not only lost a great footballer and Tottenham legend,’ skipper Steve told me, ‘but we’ve lost a great man. We all loved Gilly. There was nobody who did not have a soft spot for him as a feller, and we were all in awe of him as a footballer. He could make the ball talk.’
I always described Alan as a Nureyev on grass, because he was so balletic. You could have set his movement on the pitch to music. He danced many a pas de deux with Greavsie and then with big Martin Chivers as his partner. What music the G-Men made together, with Alan providing the subtlety of touch with either foot and glancing headers that were his trademark. He happily took second violin to lead virtuoso Jimmy, but was a master soloist in his own right.
Gilly was an extraordinarily gifted forward who could thread a ball through the eye of a needle. He specialised in flick headers, and was an intelligent positional player who often popped up in unmarked places that caught defenders napping. I am often asked what the pair of them would be worth in today’s mad transfer market. Priceless! £200-million and rising.
Born in Coupar Angus on 22 October 1938, Alan first made a name for himself as a free-scoring forward with Dundee and won the 1961-62 league title with them and helped the club reach the European Cup semi-finals the following season. He is as much idolised at Dens Park as he is at Tottenham.
Alan arrived at the Lane in December 1964 as replacement for the bulldozing Bobby Smith. The contrast was stark, but he was every bit as devastating as the mighty Smith and he majestically earned the title The King of White Hart Lane.
He and Greavsie went together like fish and chips and they were the most dynamic duo in the League for three or four years. Gilly won 22 Scottish caps, and settled to another winning partnership with Martin Chivers when Jimmy moved on in 1970.
Alan wound down his exciting and often eccentric career in South Africa, and cut his links with football after brief experience as manager of Stevenage and then working as a depot transport manager. He disappeared completely from the football radar, leaving behind Spurs stats: 343 League games (93 goals), 96 cup matches (40 goals). His son Ian was a Spurs youth player and later scored goals for Dundee, just like his adored Dad.
Sportswriter James Morgan produced a superb book on Gilly’s apparent ‘disappearance’ called ‘In Search of Alan Gilzean’. It turned out he had moved to Weston-super-Mare when the transport company he had been working for in Stevenage relocated to Bristol, where he quietly got on with his organisational duties without ever boasting about his exploits as one of the finest footballers of his generation.
After 30 years out of the spotlight Alan returned to the celebrity circuit to get the acclaim his talent deserved. When I put the ‘gone missing’ stories to Gilly, he told me with that famous straight face: “I always knew where I was.”
Tottenham’s old guard did their buddy – the great, the unique, the unforgettable Gilly – proud at his funeral in Dundee, where fans lined the rain-lashed cortege route applauding a player loved and lauded both sides of the border.
Skipper Perryman rounded up the troops from the 60s and 70s and they turned out smartly in club blazers and matching ties, saying their fond and final farewells to a team-mate they admired as a player and respected as a pal.
It was like throwing a deck of Tottenham cards on to the floor and coming up with a hand of aces. Among those who made the long-haul trip with Steve were Pat Jennings, Mike England, Phil Beal, John Pratt, Alan Mullery, Martin Chivers and ‘daddy’ of them all, 83-year-old Cliff Jones.
Representing Dundee, the club where Gilly first made a name for himself as a footballer of rare quality, were exceptional old playing heroes Bobby Wishart, Ian Ure and Bob Seith, along with former Scotland manager Craig Brown, who rated Alan “one of Scotland’s finest footballers of all time.”
One person missing but mentioned in a hundred conversations was Jimmy Greaves, Gilly’s prolific partner in the golden days when they were known as the G-Men, machine gunning defences with their stunning skill and finishing precision.
Stroke victim Jimmy was too unwell to attend, but you can bet his shooting boots that he would have been there in spirit for his old mate. “My favourite strike partner,” was how he always used to describe him to me.
Gilly lit up the memories of his former team-mates, who to a man recalled how he was an outstanding individualist but who gave his all for the team. Each of them talked in awe of his trademark flick-heading ability, and ball control that baffled and bewildered a procession of defenders.
The peerless Perryman told me: “Your description – ‘a Nureyev on grass’ – suited him perfectly. When I first broke into the team he was an established star but treated me as an equal and was always supportive and encouraging. A true team player despite having unbelievable individual skill. A gentleman and a great, great man. You’ll not hear anybody have anything but good to say about him.”
The eulogy for the King of White Hart Lane could not have been in better care than that of ace sportswriter Patrick (Paddy) Barclay, a Dundonian who witnessed his playing exploits for both Dundee and Tottenham.
Picking his words with the same timing and skill that Gilly used to pick his way through defences, Paddy told a packed congregation: “If Alan had been born half-a-century later and we were talking about the leading headers of a ball in the world, we’d be discussing Cristiano Ronaldo.......AND Alan Gilzean in the same breath. We should all count ourselves lucky that he came along while we were around to see him. Whoever said ‘never meet your heroes’ had obviously never met Alan Gilzean. It was an absolute privilege to watch him play and then know him as a lovely, decent, modest man.”
There will never be another like Gilly, a centurion on both sides of the border.. I will never forget the night the G-Men were reunited. We will not see their like again.
Next up, Big Chiv … the second of Alan Gilzean’s striking partners
Each week before we start season seven of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, I am asking you a trivial question just to keep you on your Tottenham toes. By all means send me your answer to SOQLTeaser@normangillerbooks.com but only for satisfaction, not points. I will, as usual, reply if I possibly can. This week’s off-beat Teaser:
Which former Spurs manager followed his father as a professional footballer, won 12 international caps and which London club did he manage either side of Tottenham?
Last week’s question: Which former Spurs manager won three caps, captained a Premier League title-winning team, and which manager signed him from Tottenham?
The answer: Tim Sherwood, who was captain of the Premier League-winning Blackburn Rovers team and was signed from Spurs by the then Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp.
See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!
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