Football: Blanchflower dies, aged 67: 'He was one of the last great soccer romantics'

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The Independent Online
DANNY BLANCHFLOWER, one of football's all-time greats and captain of Tottenham's 1961 Double-winning team, died yesterday at the age of 67 after suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

The famous Spur passed away in a nursing home in Cobham, Surrey, after slipping into a coma two days ago. 'Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise,' said his brother, Jackie, a survivor of the Munich air disaster.

'He should be remembered for his sportsmanship, something that is not too prevalent in the game today. Yes, he was one of the last great soccer romantics.'

An intelligent, inspirational player, Blanchflower and his fellow Hotspurs were responsible for paving the way for the success of British clubs abroad when they carried off the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1963.

He collected just about every prize the domestic game had to offer in his time, including two Footballer of the Year awards in 1958 and 1961, but it was long before the advent of superstar salaries. Three years ago it was claimed he was living on the interest earned by his savings - about pounds 20 a week - and a benefit match was organised by Tottenham on his behalf. He suffered also from arthritis which he claimed was the result of players stamping on his feet.

A private, principled man, he will be remembered by those outside the game for the time he rebuffed a lurking Eamon Andrews, attempting to spring a This is Your Life programme upon him, with the memorable retort, 'not on your life'.

Many of those unable to honour him then, finally did so last night. Bill Nicholson, his manager during the great years of the Double team, was deeply saddened. 'He was one of our best players and a very, very good captain. He was very stylish, and although he had a reputation of not being quick, he had very good anticipation and intelligence which made up for it.'

Billy Bingham, a fellow team-mate of the 1958 Irish World Cup side, had kept in close contact with Blanchflower and helped to organise the Spurs' benefit.

'Let's remember him at his sparkling best - off the pitch with his wit and great skills as a raconteur, a pleasure to be with; and on the pitch with his elegant passing and great leadership qualities.

'I can never remember him beng booked, he never retaliated, he never argued, though he could tackle well.

'He was a great leader, so charismatic, an all-round personality. When he retired he became a journalist, writing with his own individual stamp. He could be controversial, often quite mischievously.'

He was a man to whom even the revered themselves looked up to, like Bobby Charlton, whose career overlapped the tail-end of Blanchflower's. 'You always felt he had something over you with his knowledge of the game.'

Billy Drennan, the Irish FA secretary from 1950-1984, knew Blanchflower as a player and, for a short period during the 1970s, as a manager of the Northern Ireland team. 'He had that wonderful motivational quality just like Peter Doherty, our first manager whom he so admired. He was a man of principle, dignity and loyalty.'

For Cliff Jones, one of those original super Spurs, he was a captain who was never afraid to try something different. 'Always play with a smile on your face,' he would tell you. 'It's a beautiful game.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- THE BLANCHFLOWER FACT FILE ----------------------------------------------------------------- 10 February 1926: Born in Belfast. 1945-46: Began career, at Glentoran. April 1949: Joined Barnsley for pounds 4,000 (68 appearances, 2 goals). March 1951: Aston Villa, pounds 15,000 (148, 10). December 1954: Joined Tottenham Hotpsur pounds 30,000 (382, 21). 1958: Footballer of the Year. 1961: Captained Spurs to Double. Voted Footballer of the Year for second time. 1962: Led Spurs to FA Cup again. 1963: Captain again as Spurs became first British club to lift European trophy (Cup- Winners' Cup). 1964: Retired, having won 56 caps for Northern Ireland. June 1976: Manager of Northern Ireland. Quit November 1979 (Six wins in 24 games). December 1978: Manager of Chelsea. Resigned September 1979. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Ken Jones, page 39

Obituary, page 16