Another flying Welshman on the wing
As Bale and Co take Europe by storm, Cliff Jones remembers the famous Spurs team that broke new ground
Sunday 05 December 2010
It is a paradox of modern football that while demands on players have become harder, winning the Double is apparently easier. Since Tottenham Hotspur in 1961 became the first side to win both the League and the FA Cup in the 20th century, they have been emulated on eight occasions, Manchester United alone achieving the feat three times in just six seasons in the 1990s. Young fans may find it hard to comprehend the effect of Spurs' achievement.
"It's always the first ones that are remembered, isn't it?" suggested Cliff Jones, the team's rampaging Welsh winger, who has written the foreword to a splendid new coffee-table book entitled 61: The Spurs Double (Vision Sports Publishing, £30). "It's like Roger Bannister doing the four-minute mile, or [Edmund] Hilary climbing Everest," he said. "Nobody had done it, though lots of good teams had been close."
Indeed, some mighty ones had tried and failed. Huddersfield Town and Arsenal, dominant in the 1920s and '30s respectively, never even reached a Cup semi-final. United's wonderful Busby Babes failed in 1957, losing the FA Cup final when hot favourites, and Stan Cullis's very different Wolves won the Cup three years later but missed out on the League championship by one point. Around that time, an article in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly asked: "The Double: Is It Possible?"
Bill Nicholson's Spurs would eventually provide the answer. Winning the first 11 games of the season, unbeaten until mid-November, they won a record 31 League games out of 42, scoring 115 goals. Yet just as impressive as the figures, if not more so, was the team's style, a swagger that combined the awesome power of Dave Mackay and Bobby Smith with the finesse of Danny Blanchflower or John White.
Jones picks out three of that quartet as forming the hub of the team in what would now be called the midfield. "Dave Mackay as an individual was our most important player. He brought commitment and the will to win. John White, who was so sadly killed in 1964, was the playmaker. Bill Nicholson was the man who ran the club from top to bottom, but when we went on to the pitch Danny became the manager and he would make changes on his own."
White was Jones's room-mate and once invited him to play golf. "I didn't play golf then, though I love it now, so he went and played on his own," Jones recalls. "Later that afternoon I got a phone call from a pal saying John had sheltered under a tree in a thunderstorm and been struck by lightning. A terrible blow for Spurs."
As Nicholson was famously sparing with his compliments, his verdict on Jones – "no braver player in the game" – counted as the highest praise. They finally parted company in 1968 when, 10 years after being made the world's most expensive winger at £35,000, Jones moved across town to Fulham, the first signing Bobby Robson ever made as a manager.
It did neither much good: Fulham were relegated, Robson sacked, and Jones lost his enthusiasm for football, drifting into the Southern League and then acknowledging his Welsh heritage by taking up rugby union with the Saracens veterans team.
He is a regular at White Hart Lane as a hospitality host and thoroughly enjoys watching Harry Redknapp's team, all the more so now that there is a young Welshman flying down the wing again, 50 years on. "Gareth Bale is very special. I think he's the best left-sided player in the world and I've said to him he'll be the first Welsh player to win 100 caps. And such a nice, respectful boy too."
As Spurs travel to Twente Enschede this week, the Jones boy believes they can progress a long way in the European Cup, a competition in which his own team, with Jimmy Greaves added to the Double side, were cruelly denied by the eventual winners Benfica in an epic semi-final in 1962.
"I saw Barcelona the other night and they're a good side, but there are other ways of playing too," said Jones. "I think we can hold our own with the top clubs in Europe."
This week's European games
Bursaspor v Rangers (7.45)
After a respectable campaign, Rangers (5 points) will finish third and play in the Europa League. So the main interest here is whether the Turkish club can earn their first point(s).
Manchester United v Valencia (7.45)
Every English contender's aim is to avoid Barcelona in the first knock-out round, which means winning the group. United (13pts) will do so unless they lose to the Spanish (10pts).
Twente Enschede v Tottenham Hotspur (7.45)
Spurs (10pts) hold an advantage over second-placed Internazionale (10) and against the Dutch side (5pts) need to match Inter's result to finish top. Not a formality by any means, however, as the Italians play Werder Bremen (2pts).
Arsenal v Partizan Belgrade (7.45)
Two successive defeats mean that Arsenal (9pts) cannot expect to finish ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk (12pts), although an expected victory over bottom club Partizan (0pts) will put them through.
Marseille v Chelsea (7.45)
Chelsea (15pts) can offer some of their youngsters more European experience, though Didier Drogba would doubtless like a return to the Vélodrome. Marseille (9pts) have also qualified.
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