Tottenham’s first European campaign started in Poland, (where this years EL final is scheduled), against Gornik Zabrze, on the 13th September 1961 in a small mining town in Katowice (1).
Bill Nicholson flew out to Warsaw before the game, with no airport in Katowice, he then had a four hour train journey. To find what he described as a depressing place. Their club officials were very welcoming. They took him to one hotel but the standard was poor. He asked to see another hotel and was taken to another town called Chorwoz. Which was even worse. He returned to the first. However before the team arrived a major clean up and redecoration had taken place.
The players still found bugs in their rooms. On the street outside, guards with machine guns supervised prisoners repairing the cobbled streets. On their arrival two English journalists were arrested for taking photos in the town. Bill also had their team watched but said they learnt nothing.
They may not be famous now but Gornik were Polish champions and had a team packed full of internationals. The game was played in front of an intimidating 70,000. With international travel a major problem in those days Tottenham did have one supporter in the ground. A student who had traveled from Southampton. The pitch was in superb condition when the British press arrived there were women on their knees cutting the grass with scissors. One reporter described it as better than Wembley. Gornick presented the club with a craved coal truck (made from coal) to commemorate the occasion.
The campaign could not have started much worse as Spurs went 0-4 down in the 47th minute. Bill later admitted he thought they were on the way out. the first goal had been an own goal from Maurice Norman. A Dave Mackay tackle saw one of their players limp off midway through the second half. This brought threats from both players and fans. It was Mackay’s driving personality that brought Spurs back into the game. With twenty minutes left it was his run that led to Cliff Jones heading home. Just four minutes later Mackay again, he found Smith’s head who set up Terry Dyson to make it 2-4. The players were downcast but confident that they could turn the tie around at home.
Bill said after game “I was bloody upset, we lacked discipline and determination” The press described our performance as poor, littered with mistakes and ill temper. Speaking years later Bill admitted they were only expecting a typical league game. "The team were convinced there was nothing to worry about, we just did not know how to play two legged ties. We started trying to play our normal game and they hit us hard. We had to learn to eradicate opponents strengths. We learnt more in that 90 minutes that the previous 90 years. Europe was a different place. '
Jones then put us ahead in the tie. Gornik drew level with a superb drive from Ernest Pohl (2). Jones then finished off his hat trick , it coming in an 17 minute spell, to make it 4-1 on the night. Smith made it five just before the break and another midway through the second half. Blanchflower set up Dyson to make it seven. John White described as at ‘his glorious and imperious best,’ and ‘The master of inside forwards’ finished things off, near the end, 8-1.
The ground that night was compared with at Roman Coliseum and the Poles clearly had as much chance as the Christians. The 56,737 inside witnessed a performance that many said was the best the team had ever played. An evening that has passed into club folklore and set the tone for future European nights (4). You can find brief highlights on You tube.- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcWYqH-cqYU
Dave Mackay said afterwards “they were not a bad side but we were irresistible that night.” John Bond, West Ham player and later manager was at the game “Tottenham were a different class, I don’t see a winger today who can do what Cliff Jones did that night, he could beat people at pace he wasn’t that tall but he could out jump anyone.”
The press were full of praise using terms such as dazzling, delightful, flawless, breathless and deafening. The Daily Express called it a ‘Savage destruction on a night of emotion.’ They described the crowd as amazing and that their roars had helped shatter Gornik. Parts of the press did however feel the crowd had been too aggressive. This led the club to respond in the next programme, ‘It was thrilling to hear the full Tottenham roar and the supporters enthusiasm.’ The club also pointed out that when Gornik scored their were applauded (6). The club added ‘We are proud of our supporters and players for making it such a memorable night.’
The Tottenham team for both games was Brown; Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Jones, White, Smith, Allen, Dyson.
Notes 1 – Gornik in Polish means miner.
2- Gornik have since renamed their stadium after him.
3- So intimidating was the atmosphere that when Benfica came later in the competition they refused to warm up on the pitch. See also Benfica - first Leg, second Leg.
4- See also White Hot Lane
5- See Hotspur Towers 24
6- This can clearly to seen and heard on the video clip.
f- use my Peter Shearman site.
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