Ken Jones: Strange day when 10 men made Tottenham's glory boys look ordinary

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The Independent Football

A thing about the FA Cup, upon which long-serving followers of football are surely in agreement, is that the final seldom comes up to expectations. In rehearsals the teams look great but on the day they invariably give a pretty poor performance.

A thing about the FA Cup, upon which long-serving followers of football are surely in agreement, is that the final seldom comes up to expectations. In rehearsals the teams look great but on the day they invariably give a pretty poor performance.

To my mind, the biggest disappointment, certainly for those of a neutral persuasion, came in 1961 when Tottenham Hotspur met Leicester City. Having won the Football League championship with games to spare, playing a brand of football that is still recognised today as some of the best ever seen on English grounds, Tottenham were within reach of the first modern Double, a feat they duly achieved but not to the satisfaction of their redoubtable manager, Bill Nicholson.

Although dour by nature, Nicholson held firm the belief that it was the duty of his players to entertain. In the dressing-room afterwards Nicholson could barely contain his frustration. "We didn't play," I recall him muttering. "As a team we have done something big, but we never got going, didn't truly represent the standards we have set ourselves."

The cerebral captain, Danny Blanchflower, was unable to influence the game; Dave Mackay, the barrel-chested driving force looked jaded as though all his energy had been expended in the League; John White had his worst game of the season. The only Tottenham players who distinguished themselves were Cliff Jones and the defenders Peter Baker, Maurice Norman and Ron Henry.

Had Leicester's right-back, Len Chalmers, not been crippled from the 20th minute a glorious chapter in Tottenham's history might not have been written.

Arsenal's captain when they won the Double 10 years later, Frank McLintock, was a teenager in that Leicester team. "Nobody gave us a prayer," he said this week. "According to most of the critics we were just there to make up the numbers. But we had a plan. Our manager, Matt Gillies, left out the regular centre-forward Ken Leek and asked Hugh McIlmoyle to play deep. It upset Tottenham's rhythm and they didn't get going until the strain of having only 10 fit players on the pitch finally told on us."

With his experience of six FA Cup and League Cup finals, McLintock fully expects Saturday's meeting between Arsenal and Manchester United to be a tight affair. "The FA Cup may not be what it once was but both teams will be looking to take something from the season, so nerves are bound to play a part," he said. "It can affect your passing and your decision-making. Nobody wants to make a mistake so things tend to get bogged down. When we completed the Double in 1971 by beating Liverpool in extra time just six days after winning at Tottenham to take the title, we were very relaxed but didn't quite get it together and I can't imagine that anyone who watched, not even our own supporters, thought it was a great game."

There have been dramatic FA Cup finals but few that are recalled as feasts of football. The 1953 final between Blackpool and Bolton was a mediocre match in which Stanley Matthews played little part until the latter stages when he saw more of the ball and used his brilliant dribbling to break Bolton's resistance. Thus the match became a monument to Matthews' career.

There are only two sorts of medals to be carried away from an FA Cup final, but an infinite variety of memories. Even today, playing in an FA Cup final leaves something with a man, a moment or two he will always remember, or about which he will never want to be reminded and yet cannot quite forget. This is one thing about the Cup final that does not change.

Going back further than it makes me comfortable to remember, a favourite among Cup final anecdotes concerns Jimmy Logie of Arsenal and Scotland, who would be known today as a playmaker but is better served by the old term, schemer.

An inveterate gambler, Logie found it a damn sight easier to cope with football than with life. Shortly before Arsenal were called out to face Liverpool in the 1950 final, Logie went missing. A search of the dressing-room and surrounding areas proved fruitless. When Arsenal crossed the old running track at Wembley they only had 10 men.

Suddenly, Logie appeared from alongside the tunnel and attached himself to the line of gold-shirted Arsenal players. When waiting to be presented, the Scottish international Alex Forbes heard Logie's voice. "It got beat Alex," he said. Less than 30 minutes before a match in which he plotted Arsenal's 2-0 victory, making both goals, Logie had sneaked out to telephone for the result of a dog race.

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