SPURS V RANGERS 1962
"The Greatest Game OnEarth"

 European Cup Winners’ Cup 1st Round 1st Leg
 31st October (Halloween Night) 1962 Kick-Off 7.45pm

Also dubbed by fans and the media as :
‘The Battle of Britain.’‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘Match of the Century’ and ‘Game of Games’.

EXTRACTS FROM : BACKGROUND

• THE LUCK OF THE DRAW

REACTION
On hearing the draw, Spurs manager Bill Nicholson a rather dour and down to earth Yorkshireman not exactly renowned for hyperbole and soundbites was reported in the Press to have dubbed the forthcoming tie as, “The greatest game on earth.”

EXTRACTS FROM : A SHORT HISTORY OF SPURS IT’S NOT CRICKET PART 2

1882 : Like Rangers previous opponents Sparta, Spurs roots also laid in the more sedate pastime of leather on willow. A group of teenagers from the local grammar school played Cricket on the land of 2 of their players’ uncle and they called themselves the Hotspur Cricket Club. As autumn arrived, they wanted a winter activity and with the advantage of having ‘their own pitch’ set up a football club under the same name. With the further advantage of having a couple of skilled young carpenters on the team they were also able to make their own set of goalposts. The name Hotspur was based around the local history of the Northumberland family who owned much of the local land and whose family seat was once based at Northumberland Park, in the marshy lands of Tottenham. The most famous Northumberland was Sir Henry Percy from the 14th Century who became known as Harry Hotspur and was immortalised in Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV. He was a fine and famous soldier, (though the least said about his attacks on Scottish raiding parties, the better) and in conjunction with his father was crucial in the overthrow of Richard II, the ‘Hotspur’ nickname came about because he always wore spurs when riding.
1883-84 Play their first ‘informal’ fixture.
1885 First Competitive Match.
1886 Lost 1-0 to Caledonians in the East End Cup Final. Renamed ‘Tottenham Hotspur Athletic Club.’ (For scholars of North London history, Tottenham was originally the village of a man called Totta.)
1895 Turned Professional.The story goes that a player called Payne lost his boots on the way home from a match and a new pair were bought for him out of club funds. The powers that be declared that by accepting the gift, Payne had relinquished his amateur status and the club was to be suspended from all competitions. So Spurs turned professional.
1896 Spurs join the Southern League.
1898 Become a Limited Company.
1899 Moved to their current ground ‘White Hart Lane’ and adopted white shirts and blue shorts. The landowner, brewers Charringtons originally wanted to build houses on the site but were persuaded by the landlord of the White Hart Inn (who previously had run a pub near to Millwall FC) of the matchday profits.
1960-1961 DOUBLE WINNERS : LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP AND FA CUP WINNERS. Dubbed ‘THE TEAM OF THE CENTURY’ by journalists. Until that point, it was thought that it would be impossible for any team to perform this feat in the 20th century. Spurs netted a staggering 115 League goals.

1961-62 : Spurs came within an ace of a ‘double double’ FA CUP WINNERS and Runners’ Up in the League. Alf Ramsey’s Ipswich Town took the title by a margin of 4 points. Spurs lost their ‘8 point’ double headers in both games with Ipswich. Had they beaten Ipswich 3-1 at home, Spurs would have taken the double double. Spurs did not compete in the inaugural League Cup Competitions between 1960 and 1963 otherwise we might have been looking at ‘Trebles’. Indeed as shall be shown, this team came within a whisker of following up their ‘Double’ with a ‘TREBLE’. Not just any Treble, but including a European Cup.

EXTRACTS FROM : RANGERS SINCE 1960

• TREBLES, DOUBLES AND NEAR MISSES
1960-61 :Scottish Champions and League Cup Winners. European Cup Winners’ Cup Runners’ Up to Fiorentina.Perhaps, the 1960 European Cup Final gave them the extra inspiration or maybe it was their increasing experience. At last Rangers were punching their weight inEurope, they disposed of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semi finals before losing both legs of the Final to the Florentines.

1961-62 Scottish Cup Winners and Scottish League Cup Winners.Rangers just missed out on a ‘Treble’, as Dundee won the title on the final day of the season. That was no disgrace, the Dundee team managed by Bob Shankly (brother of Bill) is rated by older fans as one of the best post war Scottish teams and included such names as; Andy Penman, Bobby Seith, Ian Ure, Alan Gilzean and Craig Brown.

• TRAGEDY ON STAIRWAY 13
On 16th September 1961, tragedy struck at Ibrox when 2 fans perished in a crush on Gate 13, the Cairnlee Drive stairway which led from the Copland Road. Over 40 more were injured.

Sadly such a tragedy was always possible. The Copland Road end held at least 30,000 but leading to and from it were just 2 main stairways. The danger was not in entering the ground as fans would not all arrive at once but at the end of the game when everyone left together.

In addition to the lack of exits, these 2 stairways were built in to a terrace built on a man made hill, so were exceptionally steep and given the size of the terrace very long. In addition to that you have to bear in mind that fans were not upon exiting the stairway going into an empty street. There was the circulation of fans leaving from other parts of the grounds which meant crowds would dangerously build up on the stairs. Those who had used this exit on the busiest matchdays, spoke of literally being swept off their feet.

A final dangerous recipe for tragedy was that there were bottlenecks before getting on to the stairs. A nightmare scenario would be what took place at Bethnal Green tube station in 1943 when it was used an air raid shelter. Someone tripped on the steep staircase and it caused a domino like collapse of humanity and 173 people died.

EXTRACTS FROM : SPURS AND RANGERS IN THE EUROPEAN CUP 1961-1962

In 1961-62, Rangers were edged out in the quarter finals 4-3 on aggregate by Standard Liege. Spurs came even closer, extremely unlucky perhaps even robbed when they went out 4-3 on aggregate in the semi final to holders to Benfica who now included a 19 year old lad called Eusebio from Mozambique.

Spurs were victims of extremely ‘dodgy’ refereeing in the 1st leg in Lisbon and had 2 seemingly good goals disallowed. In the return at White Hart Lane they hit the woodwork 3 times and had another goal disallowed as Benfica somehow clung on to make the final where they became back to back winners beating Real Madrid 5-3. (Another boring European Cup Final.)

“I often wonder whether my biggest disappointment was losing my place in the England side for the 1966 World Cup Final or being on the losing side for Spurs in their semi-final tie in the European Cup against Benfica… I am convinced that Spurs were good enough that year to have become the first British team to win the European Cup.” (Jimmy Greaves in The Book Of Soccer No.12)

EXTRACTS FROM : TEAM OF THE CENTURY. SPURS PLAYERS AND STYLE 1960-1964

Dubbed the ‘team of the century’ not just for having achieved the ‘Double’ but for the amazing brand of football that it played. Given smaller pay differentials between clubs at this time and the fact that youngsters had fewer alternatives to playing football in their spare time, there was a spread of quality at all football clubs. Although the best team would usually win the League, it was felt that to win the FA Cup, you also required the ‘luck of the cup’. Spurs had rewritten the rules, they made their own. One group of people who rejected the ‘team of the century tag’ were some of the fans and players from the 1951 Spurs team and a favourite pastime of older Spurs fans was selecting a best team from both sides. I would also add and perhaps giving weight to the 1951 aficionados, that you do have to bear in mind Spurs success came shortly after the 1958 Munich Aircrash and the decimation of Manchester United’s brilliant young team that would have reached full maturity by 1961. This is not to denigrate Spurs brilliant double winners but to show how good it was.

Before getting a sniff of the Spurs defence, the attacking side would have to get past the ‘dynamo’ in midfield that was Dave Mackay. A ferociously committed but clean tackler, some of his teammates shuddered just watching him. According to his teammates Mackay even hated seeing players on the opposing side not putting 100% into their challenges. Not the tallest of men, he was nevertheless built like a tank and incredibly powerful. Many remember him for his ball winning alone, but that was just one part of his game. When most footballers from the 1960’s pick their fantasy team, Mackay is always considered. He was a supreme technical player. Double footed, capable of playing on either side, tight ball control, all round passing skills and a netbusting shot. He also had a phenomenal throw in and was a magnificent leader by encouragement and example.

The left half was equally special and important to Spurs. It was Danny Blanchflower who alongside the likes of George Best and Peter Doherty ranks as the finest outfield player to emerge from Northern Ireland. Here was a footballer touched by genius, for Danny, football was a beautiful game to be played in the mind. Not the fastest, but so good was his reading of the game that despite lacking pace he would always know where to position himself to receive the ball and where his teammates were running to. In addition to a fantastic range of ball skills he was always one move ahead of anyone else. He loved nothing more than to direct attacks with skill, verve and originality. In this team he had at last found the epitome of how he believed football should be played.

He could also tackle. Like all his football, cleverness was the key. He’d move to encourage the attacker to move the ball one way and then nip in and take the ball away from him. Spurs captain, he had forged a tremendous working partnership with Bill Nicholson who trusted him to act as the manager on the field. Given his wit and outgoing personality, a role and responsibility he relished.

EXTRACTS FROM : RANGERS 1962 AND PREPARING FOR SPURS

• THE NEW GENERATION
There was little wrong with Rangers in the early 1960’s. Moreover a crop of exceptionally gifted youngsters replaced the older players from 1960. Namely, Jim Baxter, Willie Henderson, John Greig, Ronnie McKinnon and Billie Ritchie. Long serving players Ralph Brand and Bobby Shearer were also available for this fixture.

Scot Symon’s signing of the outrageously gifted Jim Baxter transformed Rangers image from a hardworking team into one which had flair and skill. Though Scot Symon still rarely said much in the dressing room, before games he would now remind his players with the mantra to, “Give the ball to Jim.” He was invaluable in closely contested matches, his passing could open up any defence and he could create space by dribbling past players and then finding an unmarked colleague. Or he could of course use his precision shooting to score from distance.

Having beaten off 30 top British clubs for his signature including Spurs, Rangers were delighted with the progress of teenage prodigy Willie Henderson. Standing at just 5’4½, extremely fast and skilful and already capped by Scotland. Despite his abundance of skill, unlike other players in his position he did not over elaborate and was very direct. Rangers fans loved his enthusiasm and bravery. Big defenders might floor him but he would keep getting up and tormenting them.

In the League, Rangers usually dominated games so it was imperative to have a goalkeeper with fine anticipation to deal with breakaway attacks. Ritchie’s speciality was dealing with the sort of ‘1 on 1’ situation that often cropped up. His bigger physique than Niven made it more difficult for ‘physical’ teams to hustle Rangers. However, he would certainly face a full examination against Spurs.

Rangers were also fortunate in having captain Bobby Shearer back to full form. The swashbuckling right back was nicknamed ‘Captain Cutlass’ and his ability, experience, strength and leadership were essential qualities.

EXTRACTS FROM : PRE – MATCH BUILD UP

• 2 WEEKS 2 SPYING MISSIONS
Most unusually Rangers too had spied. Scott Symon travelled to London to see Spurs host Manchester United on Wednesday 25 October and probably wished he hadn’t bothered. Spurs ripped United apart winning 6-2 but the trip was not all bad. He had a chat with Bill Nicholson who agreed that Rangers would be allowed to train on the Spurs pitch before the game, provided the turf was in no danger of cutting up.

• GOALS GOALS GOALS
At Spurs the emphasis when in possession was always on moving the ball forward and the defence and midfield were constantly reminded that ‘if one ball goes back the next ball must go forward.’ This made for some thrilling football. Just over a quarter of the way through the season Spurs had netted in individual Games :

4 Goals x 4 Matches v Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Aston Villa (All at White Hart Lane.)
5 Goals x Once v League Champions, Ipswich Town in the Charity Shield.
6 Goals x 2 v Manchester United and away to West Ham.
9 Goals x Once v Nottingham Forest at White Hart Lane in late September.
The last time they failed to score at White Hart Lane was on Easter Monday 1960.

EXTRACTS FROM : THE TICKET QUEUE THAT STRETCHED
FROM TOTTENHAM TO GLASGOW

The 41,000 terrace tickets went on sale on Sunday, with the sale officially commencing at 1 pm. These standing or ‘ground’ tickets were priced at 5 shillings and my understanding is that tickets were allocated to a maximum of 2 per person. Although overnight queuing was officially banned, many fans milled around the ground overnight and by dawn an estimated 25,000 formed a queue stretching 1½ -2 miles long. In reality it stretched a lot further. Many Rangers fans had travelled to London for the ticket sale arriving on Saturday. Some stayed on in London, others went home to return to London for the match.

• THE POSTMAN HAD TO RING TWICE
Prior to the ticket sale at White Hart Lane, the Tottenham sorting office had been deluged with postal applications for tickets. Over half of the applications bore a Scottish postmark although the senders would not have been pleased to see their applications returned. Scot Symon reported to the Evening Times a similar story at Ibrox. “We have had applications for one hundred times more tickets than our allocation.”

EXTRACTS FROM : 2 DAYS TO GO

• MONDAY 29TH OCTOBER 1962

THE FLYING SCOTSMEN
In the evening, Rangers flew into London Airport from Renfrew and upon arrival were met by a delegation from Spurs including Bill Nicholson who exchanged pleasantries with his counterpart.

COMMENTS & NO COMMENTS
Nicholson told the assembled press pack. “Everything is set as far as we are concerned. There are no last minute upsets in the Tottenham camp.”

“This match against Rangers means more to my players than any match I have known. Including the Cup and European Cup. They will take some stopping when they get there.”

“Rangers will really have to go to get my team out of this cup. I believe that League matches are most important, but my players are really determined to do well in this competition.”

“There is more atmosphere this week than before any game since Benfica. (Last season’s conquerors of Spurs in the European Cup). Even the FA Cup seems just another match but not this one.”

Scot Symon had less to say, he succinctly outlined his schedule and informed journalists. “We shall not train on the day of the match. The lads will be free to do as they please.”

HIDE AND SEEK
Scot Symon was engaged in a game of hide and seek with the Press. Upon being found he forfeited a short statement. “We train at Tottenham tomorrow, not Wednesday. Their lights are all right. I saw Spurs last week. No further comment.” The press expecting a bit more copy were not overly impressed and moved onto a Rangers official who ventured, “We’ll not do bad. We are confident.”

EXTRACTS FROM : 1 DAY TO GO

TUESDAY 30th OCTOBER

TROUBLE AT THE LANE
Trouble arose when the press were advised that they would have to pay for any additional photographs taken of the squad apart from the official pitchside practice session. Scott Symon told the journalists that, “Rangers had a syndicate and charged a fee.” (The Scotsman)

The press were not takers, The photographers took their ‘free’ shots and then walked out, claiming to have never heard of such a thing as a syndicate. In fairness, I’m sure they had but Rangers had already compounded matters by not making time to sign autographs for waiting fans at the ground entrance.

The Scotsman newspaper felt embarrassed by this behaviour and the following day a headline in the sports section proclaimed, “Rangers Set Themselves Above Film Stars.” They drew the conclusion that if players had to take time out of their schedule for a photographic session it was understandable. “But,” they concluded, “all in all,it is a short sighted policy.”

More damaging still was that they made the front page of the Evening Times back in Glasgow that same evening. The headline read, “Rangers Pay Up Syndicate Back Again.” They were strongly critical, reporting that, “This was Rangers the exclusive, no autographs, no interviews and an unbending Mr Scot Symon.”

RIGHTING A WRONG
However in fairness to Rangers, they almost immediately realised their error of judgement with the press the moment the photographers walked out. Scot Symon in a bid to make amends appeared after training just before midday to issue an apology. He hoped that, “the media would understand the positions.” Furthermore he even promised to field some questions which for the Rangers boss was one stop short of asking for his blood.

EXTRACTS FROM : MATCHDAY

• FOLLOW WE WILL
From daybreak onwards on this dry sunny Autumnal morning, Rangers fans arrived en masse to London by any available mode of transport. They came on service trains and football specials, cars, coaches, vans and even by aeroplane. The bulk of the support congregating at and around Euston station where it quickly became clear that despite an official allocation of 3,000 tickets, many more fans would be travelling. Bill Brown of the Evening Times was most impressed, “It sounded to these rather deafened ears that there were 30,000 Rangers fans around Euston this morning.” Others estimated lower amounts, but quoted a figure of at least 10,000 fans. At their Euston rendezvous they sported hats,banners, scarves, flags and enjoyed ‘bottled’ beverages. I rather liked the woollen sweaters worn by a few fans which depicted the outline of Rangers players.

• THE RANGERS FANS V ARTHUR DALEY

THE CANNY SCOTSMAN
According to The Scotsman, the London touts would have done well to watch their Scottish counterparts who had travelled south. They had concluded it was not a sellers’ market and sold their stock earlier in the day at cheaper prices than their London counterparts.

In the hour before the game, the terrace tickets were going for face value. (Arthur and his chums then retreated back to the Winchester to drown their sorrows, served by a sympathetic Dave)

EXTRACTS FROM : FINAL PREPARATIONS

• OH WHAT AN ATMOSPHERE
Except for local derbies, travelling support was generally limited at this stage in history although those who queued for tickets might have correctly anticipated a massive travelling contingent. Not only was it massive, it was of course vocal and in terms of colour unlike anything they had ever seen.

Like at Highbury in 1960 the Rangers fans were allowed to parade their colours around the cinder playing track before the game. There were even more flags and banners in red white and blue. There were also lions rampant and saltires. Most popular with the London fans and indeed with the travelling support were the many giant Union Jacks. There was also accompanying music with pipes and flutes, this was something special for the London crowd and they cheered the procession. Spurs fans also had their party piece to join the parade with their 3 fans nicknamed the ‘White Hart Lane Angels’ who turned up to matches wearing just white shrouds.

Such a special atmosphere was surely deserving of a special game.

• THE RANGERS DRESSING ROOM AND A RARE TEAM TALK
Given Scot Symon’s normally quiet demeanour in the dressing room, I was very surprised to learn this from the Rangers Historian, (Volume 6 Number 6) “Manager Scot Symon held his one and only team talk which lasted all of eight minutes consisting of an analysis of how good every individual Tottenham player was.”

EXTRACTS FROM : MATCH REPORT

5 mins GOAL 1-0 SPURS : Spurs have a cluster of 3 players including their giant centre half, Maurice Norman on the goal area and one other lurking close to goal. There are a further 2 behind either side of the penalty spot. Rangers have 4 players in the goal area and a further 2 men on the goal line, joining Ritchie. Jimmy Greaves takes an in swinging corner on the right. The 4 Rangers seem most concerned with Norman but the unchallenged John White leaps high to score.

9 mins GOAL 1-1 : Rangers quickly respond with an equaliser. A mix up between Baker and Blanchflower on the halfway line, ends with the ball at the feet of the unmarked Wilson. He sprints away and passes to Brand. With Norman converging on him, Brand shoots low and powerfully and Bill Brown blocks. The ball breaks to Wilson to net in the rebound but the ever alert Henderson speedily nips in front of his teammate to kick low and powerfully home from 3 yards out. Such is his momentum that Henderson is tangled in the netting along with the ball. Eventually untangled, he celebrates with his partner Wilson.

The German referee surprises the crowd with some strange decisions.

23 mins : GOAL 2-1 SPURS : Another corner. This time a cluster of 3 Spurs players converge on the goal area and 2 close to goal. Rangers again have 4 defenders in the goal area and 2 on the line. Greaves scores directly from a perfect inswinging corner kick on the right hand side. Ritchie is distracted as the Spurs men converge in on goal whilst their markers are statuesque. White and Allen follow the floating ball into the net without getting a touch. Some observers believe that White actually got a touch and scored. (On Friday 2nd November, it was reported that in the referee’s report sheet, he had awarded the goal to Greaves.)

Now the momentum shifts to Rangers. They pepper the Spurs goal and it looks only a matter of time before they level the score. Jim Baxter in particular is in the thick of the action but Spurs are still a danger with White displaying his array of short and long passing skills.

37 mins : GOAL 3-1 : Danny Blanchflower takes a free kick. The ball is only weakly cleared and collected by Jimmy Greaves, he passes to Les Allen who bravely lunges at the ball, despite the close attentions of the Rangers defence, to loop his header over the advancing, Ritchie.

Ritchie is forced into further action and makes a series of top drawer saves from Medwin and White.Spurs are now in the ascendancy.

44 mins: GOAL 4-1 : Mackay plays in Les Allen with a clear run at goal. He cuts inside and shoots low, hard and on target. Both Ritchie and Bobby Shearer make desperate lunges but the shot bisects them both. The ball may have taken a feint deflection off Bobby Shearer but it wasgoalbound anyway.

45 mins : GOAL 4-2 : Straight from the restart Willie Henderson runs away with ball on the right hand side. He rides 2 strong challenges to cross perfectly to Jimmy Millar on the left.Millar who has lost his marker powerfully guides the ball home from 10 yards out.

EXTRACTS FROM : POST MATCH REACTION

• AND FELLOW SCRIBES AND FIZZING WHIZBANGS

Hold On!
Bill Holden of the Daily Mirror felt that Spurs were fortunate to have a 3 goal advantage but that the tie was not beyond Rangers. He nominated Jimmy Greaves as Man of the Match for Spurs and Willie Henderson for Rangers.

Peter Wilson also writing for the Mirror, penned the headline, “A Fizzing Whizbang of a Game.” He felt that it was, “a great, great occasion, British football at its best that was White Hart Lane last night. Spurs won deservedly considering the second half play although I thought them a trifle lucky to be 4-2 up at half time.” He concluded that, “It was a night to prove that all is not decadent in British sport.”

GAME OF GAMES
John Rafferty of the Scotsman also enjoyed himself. “This was to be the game of games and indeed it was. It was a monumental contest, a sporting one, a brilliant spectacle of attacking football, but unfortunately for Scotland mostly from Spurs.” Unlike his English colleagues, he considered the 3 goal deficit too big to pull back in the 2nd leg.

CORNERED
He noted not just Spurs effectiveness from corners but how, “They (Rangers) fell to the oldest trick in the book – the high cross ball. Against it Ritchie and McKinnon were unsure and every ball swirling high into goal was potential trouble. Yet paradoxically the Rangers defence was otherwise wonderful.” Rafferty was impressed with how Shearer and Caldow defended against the pace and skill in the Spurs attack and was impressed with Davis’ non stop work and running. But felt that the Rangers forwards Brand and McMillan were not good enough to exploit Spurs’ biggest weakness their defence. He believed that Henderson was inexperienced at this level and that only Millar was able to menace Spurs.

MADE IN BRITAIN
Bill Brown of the Evening Times felt that the tie was still alive. His star of the evening was Dave Mackay, “Mackay made himself a one man raiding party.” Bill too enjoyed his evening and quoted a French scribe he met at the match who remarked to him, “This was made in Britain.”

EXTRACTS FROM : TALKING POINTS

• MACKAY V BAXTER FOR SCOTLAND

BOTH

However the Selection Panel comprised of various Scottish Club Chairmen could not even manage this easy answer. Mackay was equally effective in either wing half position and so you could play both and what a blend. Mackay the buccaneering all round footballer with tremendous leadership qualities. Baxter, less reliable but peerlessly capable of controlling a game against anyone, his self confidence a massive boost to colleagues. Interestingly, they formed a close friendship together on trips with the Scotland team, both players seemingly held each other in the highest regard and they enjoyed each other’s company which would have augured well for a midfield partnership.

The 1962 Scotland manager, former Ibrox legend Ian McColl must have been in despair at not being able to pick his team but nevertheless judged by the results of a team selected by rank amateurs.

• BILL NICHOLSON 1962

MODERN MANAGEMENT
Standards & Culture: Bill Nicholson made no bones about what was expected from anyone joining Spurs. “Any player coming to Spurs whether he’s a big signing or just a ground staff boy must be dedicated to the game and to the club. He must never be satisfied with his last performance, and he must hate losing.” Any player who fell short of these standards was aware that he would not have a career with Spurs and could expect to be moved on. He did not need to rant and rave or make long speeches, it was clear where everybody stood.

Relationship With The Players : Despite the fact that he kept a distance from his players, he was deeply concerned about their welfare. He also had their complete respect. According to Pat Jennings in his autobiography, “When Bill entered the dressing room to change before training there was a general hush… nobody clowned around when Bill was about, not even a joker like Jimmy Greaves.”

Club Manager : Nicholson’s focus was not just on the first team but extended to the youngsters with the club. He would tailor skills sessions for them and ensured that the training they received was as good as the first’s. He would even allow the youngsters to play practice matches with the first team so they could gain experience and took a very keen interest in their development. Of course this also enabled players progressing through the club to be able to settle quickly with the first team.

Man Management : He was one of the first managers to treat his players like adults and not to impose any childish restrictions. In return he expected them to behave like adults and give complete dedication to Spurs. He commanded respect from his players because of the way he ran the club. There was also respect for his achievements and his honest approach which in turn created discipline.

Love of the Game : He was at the ground 7 days a week from early morning until late at night. When he was not at the Ground it was almost always because he was on Spurs business, nobody at the club worked harder. He also had a clear vision of how he wanted football played and Spurs became the ‘neutrals’ favourite team.

Meticulous : Nicholson noted every last detail not just on Spurs opponents but assessed and correlated everything from food to temperature to pitch conditions to hotels used.

Tracksuit Manager : One of the new breed of ‘tracksuit’ managers preferring to control his players from the middle of the training pitch instead of from behind a desk. It was actually what he enjoyed most. A key reason for him becoming Spurs manager was that he feared losing his coaching role if someone else took charge.

Training Methods : At this stage he was one of the most sophisticated coaches in Europe.In addition to his famous skills sessions where players would repeatedly work on scenarios they would face in games. There were Cheshunt practice games where players would switch to their opposite position, centre halves would play as centre forwards to get an idea of a centre forward’s mindset. Pitches were split into 3 with players not allowed to enter certain areas. Plus hours were spent perfecting free kick and throw in routines, not just executing them but defending against them. Not that it was all about beautiful football, there were character building 5-a-side games played inside the tiny indoor ball courts at White Hart Lane. Players were expected to give everything in a confined area and the frequently painful collisions and fierce arguments were exactly what the manager wanted to see.

Blue Collar : Before the double winning season he worked with his players during a 2 hour pre-season downpour which would have had practically any other manager running back to the sanctuary of a dry comfortable office. There was nothing at all flash about him, he was always immaculately turned out whether in his training kit or matchday suit but it was always sober in style. Similarly despite the array of skill in the Spurs team, there was never any showboating or over elaboration, yes they would use the highest skills but it was all channelled into the end product, scoring a goal to help win the match. Despite his successful managerial career Nicholson still lived in Tottenham and in the same house where he had lived since being a player.

Buying and Selling : Bill Nicholson was not a ‘wheeler dealer’ in the sense that he would buy players to sell on at a profit. His brief was to create an excellent team and to give credit to his board, he was given whatever funds were needed. From 1958, he was very seldom wrong in any of acquisitions and had the courage of his convictions to break transfer records when he felt a player was good enough. He was that good at judging a player that transfer negotiations were conducted in the utmost secrecy as rival managers trusted his judgemen better than their own and would try to ‘gazump’ him.

Team Spirit : He was uncannily adept at putting together a set of genuinely ‘good lads’ who enjoyed each others friendship off the park and this in turn knitted them into a tight unit. Furthermore no factions of any kind were tolerated in the dressing room.The team always made any newcomer welcome and were modest down to earth men,there were no prima donna’s. Bill Nicholson was aware that the players socialised after games and quietly encouraged it.

Public Relations : Like Scot Symon, he was not really given to PR and soundbites and did not make any particular attempts to befriend the media. Though unlike Symon, he would try to be co-operative and answer their questions, the idea being that if you gave them something they would then have to go away to prepare it for their newspapers.

Nicholson also knew of what he was not quite so good at and his choice of assistant, Harry Evans complemented his weakness. The cheerful Evans dealt more on the administrative side of the job and was more approachable to players if they needed help or advice. Similarly as you will later read, captain Danny Blanchflower had a special role both at Cheshunt and on the pitch. Nicholson also realised that whilst he understood football as well as anyone he was not an expert in the field of fitness and sport science. In Summer 1960 he first employed P.E expert Bill Watson from Chelmsford to get the players to optimal fitness and with a somewhat devastating effect.

Everyone has a weakness, according to ex players, Nicholson’s was to unnecessarily build up the opposition. However at this stage it was not too much of a problem. A few would sometimes ask jokingly after a big win, ‘That brilliant player you told me to watch out for, was he playing today?’ Similarly rarely handing out praise after a game was not a problem for established players who understood his management style, knew the game and their ability but it could be a problem for a youngster keen to impress and uncertain of his performance.

EXTRACTS FROM : POSTSCRIPT

• RANGERS 1962-1963
Rangers went on to complete a domestic double. They ran away with the League Championship ahead of runners up Kilmarnock (managed by Willie Waddell) and won the Scottish Cup in a replay against Celtic, the 2 matches at Hampden watched a staggering 249,916 fans.