rainy day hotsie totsie

This article first appeared in the Spurs match-day magazine on 02.01.1999

The excellent performance in the recent Worthington Cup tie against Liverpool brought back some memories of one of the players who was instrumental in the Tottenham side at a time when I first began watching them in earnest.

The wet and windy evening of 6th December 1972 saw Liverpool come to visit White Hart Lane. The match was the 5th round replay in the old League Cup following the 1-1 draw in the original  tie two days earlier and there were fears that their journey would be in vain, so bad was the rain. I took up my position on the Shelf, but moved from my usual position at the front to a place further back to gain some shelter from the driving rain. Having won through against Huddersfield and Millwall, overcoming Middlesbrough in between after three matches and two lots of extra-time, the Spurs fans were hopeful of the team progressing further in the competition against the visitors, who were to win the League title later that season. Over 34,500 came to the ground that night to witness Tottenham gain a 3-1 win over their Merseyside rivals and although Big Chiv scored twice that night, the outstanding moment for me was the long range pile-driver that left the Liverpool goalkeeper - one Ray Clemence - grasping at thin air.

The scorer of that goal was a player who was never regarded as one of the leading lights of the seventies, when the club enjoyed a period of trophy success. He was never hailed by the fans like some of his team-mates. He was never flash nor fancy, but was always there. His contribution during his long and loyal service should not be underestimated, for it is players like him that provide the basis for any glory that comes the club's way.

I refer to John Pratt. A man who would run through brick walls for Tottenham Hotspur and while he was the one to make way for bigger names that came to Spurs, he was always there to fill in when required. It was the League Cup that season that perhaps reflected his career. He scored another goal against Wolves in the first leg of the semi-final and made the starting line-up at Wembley to face Norwich City. However, his moment of glory lasted only twenty minutes, as he sustained an injury and was replaced by Ralph Coates, who, as we know, scored the only goal of the game. The sight of the injured man making it up the steps to collect his medal was one that remains to this day.

His debut at Highbury in 1969 ended in a 0-1 defeat, but the misery was erased early the next season when he returned to score in a 3-2 Spurs win. He chipped in with goals throughout his Tottenham career, rather than scored regularly, but those he did notch were important or memorable. An ever-present throughout the Second Division campaign of 1977-8, his goals earned points from close matches that counted towards promotion at the season's end. He scored in the club's last League win at Old Trafford in 1976. He got two rasping dives past Gordon Banks in an exciting 4-3 home win over Stoke in 1972.

John returned to the club, after a spell in America playing for the Portland Timbers, to take up a coaching post, which lead to his promotion as manager Peter Shreeve's assistant. He left the club in 1986, but still attends games at White Hart Lane. I saw him walking unrecognised up the High Road to the match against Charlton recently. I wanted to go up to him and say thank you for the effort he put in for the club that he obviously loved and for brightening up that awful wet night in December all those years ago, but I was too embarrassed.

John, if you are reading this - Thank You.

WYART LANE

 

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