Unbeknown to everyone including, Bill Nicholson, Bobby Smith was carrying an injury before the FA Cup Final in 1961. The week before in the final League match at home to West Bromwich Bobby had headed home his 28th goal of the season. Then later in the game he twisted his knee.
At that time it was painful but he wasn’t too concerned. That was too change.
Left - Rounding Gordan Banks in the Cup Final '61
Then during the early part of the week leading up to the final while taking part in a light training session he kicked the ball and experienced terrible pain in that same knee. He continued through to the end of that session without anyone else realizing the problem. Bobby however was now worried. Was he about to miss the most important game of his career?
The team were due for another session on the Friday and Bill Nicholson would be as usual be assessing all the players and their fitness prior to the game. Bobby knew he had a couple of days to either recover or find a miracle. As he later said ‘If Bill had known the pin I was suffering he would have had no choice but to leave me out, but this was going to be the game of my life and I was determined that I wasn’t going to miss it.’
His next stop was his own doctor in Palmers Green in North London. Quickly explaining the situation the doctor gave him a pain killing injury. This seemed to work and Bill Nicholson was none the wiser. On the Friday Bobby had to return to his doctor for another injection. Then Bobby received a nasty surprise, the doctor wanted to see him the following morning and again before the game. Otherwise he wasn’t sure Bobby could get through the game.
Bobby would claim this gave him more problems than the forthcoming game itself.
On the Friday evening the whole team moved into the Hendon Hall hotel.
How was he going to ‘disappear’ from the team to visit the doctor.
Left - Bobby, right hand on trophy after the game.
Bobby was rooming with Maurice Norman. The side had gone to the cinema the night before and not returned home till late. Maurice woke up in the morning to find Bobby missing. Bobby had sneaked out of the window at 7am. As Bobby said it was lucky they were on the ground floor. Bobby needed to escape without being noticed and managed to reach his car before driving to his doctors surgery.
Upon returning to the hotel Maurice saw him and wanted to know what was going on. Bobby took him one side and let him in on the secret swearing him to keep quiet.
The team passed the morning quietly, reading the papers, watching TV and using the hotels putting green. Bobby knew he had to return for another injection. Telling Cyril Poynton the trainer he was just going for a quiet walk to ease his nerves.
Then slipping into the car park he jumped into his car and headed off. After receiving his last injection there was a dash back to the hotel and rejoined his team mates who had just sat down to lunch. A few more minutes and he would have been found out.
Then it was off to Wembley where he played his part in the clubs historic victory which included scoring the opening goal with about twenty minutes to play and with the team scoring its second a few minutes later, with Bobby involved in the move, the trophy (and the Double) was safe.
Left - Cup Final night, Bobby at the Savoy reception.
Which was good from Bobby’s position as he said in the last minutes he become tired and felt the injury and in his own words was little more than a passenger for the last part of the game.
That injury was one of a series that he suffered throughout his career, not helped by his brash style of play, although often overlooked is that he was also a skillful player. These injuries would not only affect and shorten his playing days but would cause him distress in later life. Indeed he later required a hip replacement and qualified for a disability pension.
However on this day Bobby’s gamble paid off and his part in clubs greatest achievement is ensured. The Final is remembered in the Double series which concludes this month.
The story of the Double can be found @
see also - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-bobby-smith
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