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On This Day - 20th August, 1966

20th August, 1966
(originally published August 2006)

One of the most iconic football images ever!

Click on the image to reveal a larger version

It was forty (yes - forty!) years ago today on Saturday August 20th, 1966, when one of the most famous and iconic of football images was taken at White Hart Lane!

I am proud to say that a large framed (and signed) copy of this picture adorns my dining room wall. I can also say that I was in the ground on the day in question.

The tale behind the picture has been told many times, and it is actually quite sad for Spurs fans to know that according to Dave's recent book The Real Mackay, the Spurs legend did not like the image, which he said portrays him as a bully and like "Desperate Dan on steroids". Nevertheless, Dave was always happy to re-enact the occasion for the benefit of any masochistic Spurs fan making the request whenever Dave attended a Spurs fans' function.

This match took place of course on the first day after the glorious summer of 1966, when England became World Champions! The crowds flocked to see the English game at its top level. Spurs faced Don Revie's Leeds after Spurs had had a moderate 65-66 season, whereas Leeds had finished runners-up to Liverpool. Shankly's side had been the victors over Leeds in the 1965 Cup Final, and a rivalry had been born!

These were the early days of Leeds' best years, although for all the domination they often enjoyed, trophies were not so regular. They won two league Championships and one FA Cup, finishing the bridesmaid more often than the bride. Leeds also won the Fairs Cup twice. This was the fore-runner to the UEFA Cup. (Established in the 1971-2 season and won by Spurs!)

Dave Mackay had in the previous season made his first team come-back after what was considered a quite miraculous recovery from having his leg broken on two occasions. When asked "When did you break your leg?" Dave said forcefully that he didn't break his leg - others did! The first player to do it was the late Noel Cantwell, when playing in a Man Utd v Spurs game. (European Cup Winner's Cup at Old Trafford on December 10, 1963. The incident happened in the United box after only eight minutes.)The other remains an anonymous reserve player in one of Dave's first games back from injury.(12 September 1964 at home to Shrewsbury Town. It was the fourth match of his comeback in the Football Combination. Dave maintained he was deliberately targetted in this game)

Thus, Dave was mightily sensitive and upset by a typical Bremner challenge within the first few minutes of this season-opener. Apparently, Bremner had not gone for the leg nearest him, but in Dave's opinion, his fellow Scot had purposely gone for Mackay's left leg, which had been broken twice.

The picture shows Terry Venables looking on, and the referee - Norman Burtenshaw - raced onto the scene to prevent Mackay's gesture from escalation. These were the days before cards, but of course, players did get booked and sent off for extremely violent incidents. Burtenshaw gave the players a "Talking to". (He was probably under threat from the invincible Mackay, who would have reminded him of the 43,844 fans present - most of whom had come to watch Mackay play a game of football!

Incidentally, Spurs won the match 3-1 with goals from Mullery, Greaves and Gilzean. Mike England made his debut, having signed from Blackburn on the previous day. The Spurs team was Jennings; Beal, Knowles; Mullery, England, Mackay; Robertson, Greaves, Gilzean, Venables, Jones.

The foreword to Dave's book was written by Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated that the Mackay - Bremner picture hangs in his office.

Dave Mackay was 80 on November 14th 2014. Sadly Dave passed away in March, 2015. He will forver remain one of the true Spurs legends.

Outside Elland Road, there is a statue of the late Billy Bremner, whose arms appear outstretched. Whenever we visit, I always think there is something missing from that statue! (Mr. Mackay, of course!)

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