live in a cynical, mercenary and sometimes violent age. Then again every
generation have been saying that since
time immemorial. Anyway, if the first section of this article strikes
you as sentimental and soft, then please forgive me. It is a true story.
At Primary School, my best mate, Barry
Ross, was one lucky gringo. Although eleven years old he was tall for
his age and looked sixteen. I looked up to him like an older brother and
with awe as he smoked ciggies and managed to get into X certificate
films at the cinema. I suppose he was drinking pints in the pub at
fifteen! His mum worked in the offices of British Railways and she could
get free tickets for Spurs matches and complementary rail tickets. At
the end of season 1960/61, Barry had seen all of the games Spurs had
played, home and away in League and Cup. Not bad for a lad of 11, and he
travelled on his own. That was except for one game on February 11th
1961, when Spurs played at Villa Park against the Villa in a league
match. Although a regular at White Hart Lane, pocket money/paper round
money permitting, I had only seen Spurs play away at Stamford Bridge and
Highbury and now I had permission from my parents to go with Barry up to
My Mum had knitted me a navy blue and
white bobble hat that I wore with pride as we boarded the steam train at
Paddington. Then it was Birmingham, Snow Hill, with Barry guiding me
though the packed platform to the bus stop outside the station. Along
the platform were large straw skips with the lettering THFC stamped on
them. "Look !" I cried .. "all Spurs' kit and
"That's right son, now move out of
the way please" It was Cecil Poynton the Spurs trainer and kit-man,
I turned away and bumped into a tall man
in a grey cashmere overcoat.
"Now, that's a nice tea cosy
son" said the tall man as he took my bobble hat in one hand and
ruffled my hair with the other.
The Northern Ireland accent and generous
smile were instantly recognisable. On TV he had been advertising the
Shredded Wheat cereal with the immortal lines..."Pass the hot milk
"Danny !" I exclaimed, and
gave him an impromptu hug. Danny just smiled and gently placed my bobble
hat back on my head. Barry and I watched him disappear into the
forecourt and waiting Spurs coach. I shouted out "Never mind
passing the hot milk Danny, pass the ball.. all right" He didnít
hear me. I felt like the kid, Joey, calling after Alan Ladd in
Barry pointed out that I had just spoken
to a football genius. Spurs won the game 2-1
with goals from Bobby Smith and Terry
Dyson. Danny Blanchflower was in, as usual, superlative form. The
following week Spurs repeated the dose with a 2-0 FA Cup win at Villa in
the 5th Round. Barry was there of course. The last time I ever saw him
was when I was queuing at White Hart Lane for the Euro Cup-Winners Cup
1st Round 1st Leg tickets against Glasgow Rangers in November 1962. He
roared past me on his flash drop-handle bar racing bike waving his
ticket in the air. "See you at Ibrox in the second leg" he
yelled. Some hope. It was in the second leg at Glasgow that Danny
sustained an injury that would hasten the end of his brilliant career.
Memories of Danny...........Flicking the
ball between two Arsenal players as they charged in to tackle him. Danny
jumped over the scything legs and carried on with the ball leaving the
Arsenal players to collide with each other. His slide-rule passing, his
chipped and flighted accurate crosses, his cool penalties and his
reading of the game, enabling him to dictate the ebb and flow of the
match. He would bring the ball out of defence and veer off to the
central or left side, then with a drop of his left shoulder, step over
the ball and reverse flick the ball with his right foot to the
overlapping Cliff Jones or Terry Medwin.
As articulate off the field as he was on
it, his calm demeanor hid a strong will and ego. He left Barnsley for
Aston Villa because he could not stand the Yorkshire Club's training
methods and lack of ball practice. He then left Villa due to his
perception of their lack of ambition, and joined Spurs for a then record
fee for a half-back, of £30.000, despite competition from Arsenal and
Wolves. This was in 1954 and Spurs manager, Arthur Rowe, saw Danny as
the man to rekindle and inspire his fading "Push and Run"
side. Rowe resigned due to ill-health and coach, Jimmy Anderson, took
over the managers role. As captain, Danny took it upon himself to change
things on the field as he saw fit. This caused a rift with Anderson as a
couple of results, notably the FA Cup Semi Final with Man. City, ended
in defeat with Danny getting the blame for tactical blunders and
subsequently being dropped. Even when Bill Nicholson became manager he
thought the Northern Ireland international too adventurous, leaving the
defence without cover in his attacking forays.
At the end of 1958/59 season Danny had
re-established himself in the first team and had regained the captaincy.
The eventual "Double Team" were falling into place. Within two
seasons the impossible dream was done and Dannyís quest for glory
reached itís summit.
For further reading :- THE DOUBLE AND
BEFORE...Danny Blanchflower. Published by Nicholas Kaye, 1961.
DANNY BLANCHFLOWER ..A BIOGRAPHY OF A
VISIONARY. Dave Bowler. Published in paperback by VISTA, 1998.
THE DOUBLE...THE INSIDE STORY OF SPURS'
TRIUMPHANT 1960/61 SEASON. Ken Ferris. Mainstream Sport, 1999.
Vaya con Dios mi amigos