THE STORY of Arthur Rowe, who was manager of Tottenham Hotspur for an all too brief spell from 1949 to 1955, is one of triumph and tragedy. Rowe had one of the sharpest soccer brains the English game has ever known. But it was so finely tuned that he suffered a nervous breakdown because of the pressure of trying to keep Spurs where he had put them - on top.
He bounced back in a series of different jobs with Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Leyton Orient and Millwall in the Sixties and Seventies. Indeed, he managed Palace for two short spells. But it was during his golden years at White Hart Lane that Rowe carved a football niche as the architect of Spurs' successful 'push-and-run' side. He guided the club to their first ever League championship, in 1950-51.
He was Tottenham born and bred, honed his early soccer skills at Parkhouse Road School and playing for London Schoolboys as an outside-right - although he was later to spend his professional career as a centre-half. He left school in 1921, the year a Jimmy Dimmock goal took the FA Cup to White Hart Lane, and he signed amateur forms for Spurs in 1924.
But there was no meteoric rise to fame. Spurs sent him to Cheshunt in the Athenian League for a year and then to the Kent club Northleigh for the next four seasons to learn his trade, before calling him up to join the big boys in the summer of 1929. Even then he had to wait until 1931-32 to make the first of his 182 League appearances for his only professional club. 'I never scored a goal for the first team. They didn't like the centre-half to go too far over the halfway line in those days,' he told me.
Rowe captained Spurs to third place in the old First Division in 1933-34 and won an England cap against France in the process. But it was the following season, when Spurs were relegated, that left a greater mark on his memory.
When injury ended his career in 1939 he went to Budapest to spend two months as the official Hungarian government's instructor to their soccer coaches. He liked Hungary and was preparing to stay longer until Hitler took a hand and Rowe returned home to join the Army.
With his demob in 1945 he took charge of the Southern League outfit Chelmsford. It was there in May 1949 he got the call from Spurs and joined them as manager at pounds 1,500 a year. For three post-war seasons Spurs had got 50,000 people on the terraces and nowhere in the Second Division. Rowe, still burning at the indignity of demotion 14 years earlier, transformed them with a team which included only a solitary newcomer, in the full-back Alf Ramsey.
Push and run, they called it. 'In fact, mate, it's just a case of doing the obvious. Football's a simple game, it's the players who make it difficult,' he told me at the time.
Whatever the reason, Spurs started with a 4-1 victory at Brentford, romped away with the Second Division title, and won the First Division in the same memorable fashion a year later.
Even when poor health led to his resignation, he still left Spurs a legacy of style and one of his last signings - Danny Blanchflower - who was to lead the club to a historic double at the start of the Sixties.
English football could do with a young Arthur Rowe. But then, as he often said, 'All you need to remember is that 50 per cent of the people in the game are bluffers. So a decent manager's halfway there when he starts out.'
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