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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 348) (11-12.01.21)

NORMAN GILLER’S SPURS ODYSSEY BLOG No 348
Submitted by Norman Giller

Babyface Devine makes divine Spurs debut

Perhaps my two Covid jabs have given me a shot in the arm, but I’m feeling extremely optimistic that the Tottenham silverware drought is about to finish in dramatic style. Spurs are firing on four fronts, and provided they manage to get this surreal season finished I am confident there will be at least one new trophy to disturb the cobwebs in the club cabinet.

Let’s admit it, there was a time when Tottenham might easily have been embarrassed by yesterday’s visit to eighth-tier Marine. But they mastered the brave Merseyside minnows with a ruthlessly professional performance, one that young Alfie Devine will never forget.

The baby-faced assassin marked his debut as the youngest ever Spurs Premier League player at 16 years 163 days with a sparkling goal, and gave football reporters the chance to reach for ‘Divine Devine’ purple prose. Not that I would ever lower myself to such hyperbole.

As our guru Paul H. Smith records HERE, there were further bonuses in the first-half hat-trick from Carlos Vinicius, a deadly free-kick goal by Lucas Moura and some delicious assist work from Dele Alli. It was a close-to perfection performance against gallant opponents who were rarely given a look in.

Strong rumours continue to link Dele with a reunion transfer to Mauricio Pochettino’s all-star squad at Paris St Germain, but there are equally strong messages from Old Trafford that Mauricio is going to make a move for Paul Pogba. I understand it is more likely that Harry Winks will be the midfield player on his bike, with interest being shown by several clubs including Valencia, who are keenly aware of his Spanish ancestry on his mother’s side.

Meantime, Jose Mourinho was happy to say after the five-goal romp against Marine that there is every chance that Dele will be playing on Wednesday, when the Tottenham first-team will be back in action.

The Villa match has been postponed because of Covid, and now instead the delayed match against Fulham will be staged. Victory is vital if Spurs are to maintain their challenge for the Premier League. Our old boy Scotty Parker will have other ideas!

(Update 12.01.210 - Last night’s FA Cup draw made by ex-Spur Peter Crouch – a double whammy, with the fourth and fifth round fixtures decided – paired Tottenham in an enticing away match against Wycombe Wanderers. To be played the weekend of January 22/25. If (as they should) Spurs win that, they would then meet the winners of the Everton/Sheffield Wednesday tie in an away fifth round tie, to be played in midweek February 9 to 11.

Spurs already have a place booked in the League Cup final against back-to-form Manchester City, and are still in the hunt for the Uefa League Cup and the Premier League title. All of us know about the magical ‘One’ in the year.

Here’s hoping we jab-jab our way to at least one trophy.

Stay safe. COYS.


A light went out on the football stage yesterday when Tosh Chamberlain, a dear old friend from his playing days with Fulham, passed on aged 86. Back in the 1950s and 60s he was one of football’s greatest characters and I would like to share a few stories with you out of respect for a man who played the Beautiful Game with a smile on his face.

He more than any other player was responsible for the footballing cliché ‘as sick as a parrot.’

There are two theories about how the saying started, one myth and the other fact. Let me give you the myth first because it involves Tottenham Hotspur.

In 1908, Spurs went on a goodwill tour to South America, spreading the gospel of the game in Argentina and Uruguay, where the fervour for football was in its infancy. They played seven games, including two exhibition matches against fellow tourists Everton.

On the long haul home club chairman Charles Roberts became friendly with the ship’s captain, who as a mark of respect presented Roberts with a parrot as a souvenir of the trip.

Legend has it that the parrot – who took up residence at White Hart Lane – was found dead on its perch the very day that conniving Arsenal were voted into the First Division. This was infamously at the expense of Tottenham when the Football League resumed after the First World War.

Some clever wag invented the legend that this is how the ‘sick as a parrot’ football cliché originated, but now I have to spoil a good story by pointing out that it was more than 40 years before the saying entered the limited vocabulary of interviewed footballers.

The Tottenham parrot story by then had been lost in the mists and the myth of time. Now for the facts. “Sick as a parrot” came into regular use in the early 1960s when a much-televised comedian called Freddie “Parrot Face” Davies used it as a catchphrase (actually, “Thick, thick, thick as a parrot”, said with a pronounced lisp).

I was there when it was first uttered by a footballer, and I diligently reported what were to become immortal words following a match at Fulham. Step forward, to a roll of drums, dear old Tosh, Fulham’s long-serving and swerving winger who was one of the great personalities of Craven Cottage in the days when pass master Johnny Haynes was king of the castle.

Tosh, as Cockney as a jellied eels stall, was sent off for allegedly calling the referee a Berkshire hunt, only he did not use the rhyming slang.

Pleading his innocence, Tosh told the referee: “But I wasn’t talking to you, ref. I was call-ing ‘Aynsie a ....(Ed:- Newsnow won't even allow me to use asterisks!), and I’m allowed to, ’cos he’s on my side.”

As we interviewed Tosh in the Craven Cottage forecourt after the game, he reached for a description of how he felt and said (with the Freddie Davies lisp): “I’m thick as a parrot.”

By the time it got into Monday’s newspaper reports, that had become “sick as a parrot”, and a cliché was born.

The one and only Trevor ‘Tosh’ Chamberlain was always good for a laugh. I was at Brisbane Road the day Fulham were playing Orient, and he was so preoccupied looking for Johnny Haynes that as he took a corner he missed the ball and kicked the flagpost out of the ground.

He once ran a right-back into dizzy array to the point where the humiliated defender growled, “Try to go past me once more and I’ll break your ------- leg.”

Quick-thinking Tosh, with self-preservation top of his menu, switched to the other wing. He said to the youngster with whom he was swapping places: “You go to my position now. I’ve broken that full-back for you.”

Ask anybody of a certain age who supported Fulham in the 1950s through to the 1960s and they are sure to have a Tosh Chamberlain story to share. Many of them are apocryphal, but why let facts spoil a good story. It was Tosh who refused to get up after a crunching tackle that went unpunished, saying he'd sit the game out "until that bleeding ref apologises". And it was Tosh who once broke the ribs of his own goalkeeper, Tony Macedo, with a fierce back pass.

Once during a match he want to the touchline at Craven Cottage, leant against the fence and puffed away at a cigarette he had borrowed from a spectator.

To watch Tosh and Haynes arguing with each other on the pitch, you would have thought they were sworn enemies. In actual fact they were the best of friends, and Edmonton-born Johnny would have started his career at his local club Spurs but for the influence of Tosh, with whom he played for the North London youth team.

He was on the Craven Cottage groundstaff and told the then England schoolboys captain that ‘it’s a fun and friendly club.’ Johnny – who could pass the ball like Beckham but with both feet - found Fulham so friendly that he spent his entire playing career with them and they made him British football’s first £100 a week footballer in 1961.

Born in Camden Town on July 11 1934, Chamberlain played for the Middlesex, England schoolboy and youth teams before joining the Fulham groundstaff in 1951. He developed one of the hardest left-foot shots in the game, but too often lacked accuracy and it was nothing unusual to see him hitting the floodlight pylons with wayward shots.

He scored 59 goals in 187 League appearances, and made an astonishing FA Cup debut in 1956 against the trophy holders Newcastle United. Jackie Milburn and Bobby Mitchell ran the Fulham defence into dizzy disarray in the opening 20 minutes and stormed to a 3 – 0 lead at a capacity crammed Craven Cottage. Tosh played like a man possessed and single handedly pulled Fulham back into the game with a hat-trick. The Fulham defence fell apart again in the second-half and Newcastle went 5-3 clear. Tosh then had a fourth goal disallowed and the Cup holders finally ran out breathless winners at 5-4.

Tosh was a regular in the Fulham team that won promotion back to the First Division in 1958-59, acting as butler for the aristocratic Haynes. He and his best mate used to have vicious slanging matches in the heat of battle but afterwards would share a drink and a laugh.

In one memorable match against top-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday on the way to promotion, Jimmy Hill scored a headed hat-trick, all three goals coming from Chamberlain corner-kicks. Two years later it was Hill who led the successful players’ union fight to have the maximum wage lifted to pave the way for Johnny Haynes to get £100 a week. “He’s worth every penny,” said Tosh at the time. “Bet he’s glad he took my advice to join Fulham!”

For the record, all the Spurs first-team players were earning £65 a week, and that was in the season after they won the Double and captured the FA Cup for a second successive year.

Tosh wound down his career with Dover Athletic and then Gravesend and Northfleet, and to this day is remembered as one of the most popular players ever to pull on the white shirt of Fulham.

He was never a boastful man, but would always take the opportunity to remind people that he produced the longest kick in League history. The wind was whipping in off the Thames in the days before the riverside stand was built at the Cottage and it took one of Tosh’s thunderous left-foot shots flying across the water and on to a passing barge. The ball later turned up seven miles away down river at Brentford.

It could only happen to Tosh.

Rest easy old friend. And thanks for the laughs.


Another recent departure at a grand 95 was Bill Nankeville, a hero of mine when I was an athletics-mad schoolkid. He was our top miler at the time and came sixth jn the 1948 Olympic 1500 metres final. Bill was king of the four lap race until a young Oxford University medical student took over from him, one Roger Bannister. They remained good friends long after they had hung up their spikes.

His son became famous and is one of Tottenham’s celebrity supporters – Bobby Davro, the brilliant and hilarious impressionist. Bobby, partner of Billy Wright’s gorgeous daughter Vicky, tweeted: "Today I lost my best friend and my hero. The most wonderful human being I have ever known. I'm so proud of him. He was GB mile champion and represented his country in two Olympic games but to me he was just ‘Dad’”

RIP Bill, a smiler miler who was always cheerful and a wise cracker, just like his son. A four-minute smiler.


Many of you comment on how you like to see the upcoming fixtures, so I will list them here every week as we tick off the matches on the way (fingers crossed) to silverware in what is the Centenary of the 1921 FA Cup win, the Platinum celebration of the 1951 Push and Run title, the Diamond Jubilee of the 1961 Double Year, the Ruby anniversary of Ricky’s ‘Goal of the Century’ in the 1981 FA Cup final triumph, and, of course, the Pearl anniversary of the last time Spurs won the FA Cup in 1991.

These are the fixtures facing Spurs to the end of January …


Wed  13 Jan Fulham       (home, 8.15, Premier League)
Sun  17 Jan Sheff United (away, 2.00, Premier League)
22-25 Jan   Wycombe      (away, FA Cup 4th Rd)
Thur 28 Jan Liverpool (home, 8.00, Premier League)
Sun  31 Jan Brighton  (away, 2.00, Premier League)


Spurs Odyssey Trivia Quiz League

The 19th week of season seven of the Spurs Odyssey Quiz League challenge, and the question is:

Who won 24 caps for a country that was not of his birth, and which manager signed him from Lens?

Please email your answer to me at SOQL19@normangillerbooks.com. Deadline: midnight this Friday. I will respond to all who take part.

The rules are the same as in previous seasons. I ask a two-pronged question with three points at stake – two for identifying the player and one for the supplementary question. In the closing weeks of the competition I break the logjam of all-knowing Spurs-history experts with a tie-breaking poser that is based on opinion rather than fact.

This year’s prizes for the champion: a Harry Kane framed and signed photo two, books from my Greavsie collection with autographs from Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman and Dave Mackay, and, most important of all, a framed certificate announcing the winner as SOQL champion.

Last week’s SOQL question: Who won five England caps, collected an FA Cup winners’ medal as a substitute with Spurs and which Tottenham manager bought him from Liverpool?

The answer: Paul Walsh and Terry Venables. Paul will admit he messed up at Spurs by putting his social life (booze) ahead of football disciplines. Bet he’d love to have another crack at it.

See you back here same time, same place next week. COYS!

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