Legend backs Spurs to recreate glory nights at the Lane
Sunday 26 September 2010
Tottenham Hotspur may be Champions' League newcomers but the notion of the north Londoners as European neophytes ignores a rich history predating the marketing men's Year Zero of 1992. Nobody knows this better than Cliff Jones, a member of the Spurs side that achieved British football's first European triumph by lifting the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.
Tottenham later won the Uefa Cup twice but it was at the start of the 60s that they first tasted the "glory nights" that Harry Redknapp's team seek to recreate. Bill Nicholson's 1961 Double winners reached the European Cup semi-final on their continental debut in 1961-62 and Jones recalls: "At White Hart Lane we were unbeatable in the European Cup. We knew we could score goals and the crowd played a big part, there was an amazing atmosphere. Will those glory nights come back again? Under Harry we hope it will happen though there'll be nothing like those nights with 60,000 at the Lane."
Half a century later, few Spurs fans would expect Redknapp's men to get to another semi-final but there has already been one parallel with the past – the play-off with Young Boys echoing their 1961 preliminary-round tie with Gornik Zabrze. Where Tottenham trailed 3-0 in Berne, their predecessors found themselves four behind in an eventual 4-2 loss in Poland which preceded an 8-1 home romp. Jones, who hit a 23-minutehat-trick – "left foot, right foot and a header" – said it was an "unforgettable night, we just blew them away".
Spurs then overcame Feyenoord and Pribram before a semi-final against Eusebio and the eventual winners Benfica. "We went to Benfica and a few decisions went against us. We lost 3-1. We beat them 2-1 [at home], we threw everything at them but it just didn't run for us."
When Tottenham humbled AtleticoMadrid 5-1 in the next season's Cup Winners' Cup final, The Times described them as "an inspiration to other clubs in the British Isles". The key figures were Danny Blanchflower – a "true captain" who made tactical switches during play – John White, "the brains of the side", and Dave Mackay, "the heart of the team".
Jones had no small role as a winger blessed with greyhound pace and an eye for goal that brought 159 strikes from 370 Spurs appearances. The 75-year-old Welshman sees shades of himself in his young compatriot Gareth Bale. "When he picks the ball up, there is an expectancy from the crowd. I was the same style of player."
Jones fancies Spurs to beat Twente in Wednesday's first home outing. "Harry will have the players up for it, the supporters will be up for it and it is going to be a little bit like it was when we first played in Europe. I see no reason why we can't qualify."
Tottenham v Twente is live on Sky Sports 2 from 7.30pm on Wednesday; Cliff Jones is a patron of Saint Francis Hospice
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