Tottenham's return to Europe in the European Cup Winners Cup after a three year break in the autumn of 1967 may not have been our most successful but it contained plenty of incident. Floodlight failures, the battle of Lyon and a new ruling from UEFA.
Tottenham having won the FA Cup returned to European action in the autumn of 1967. Drawn away in the first round to Hadjuk Splint then of Yugoslavia. In front of a large hostile home crowd which Spurs had tried to win over by having the players throw them flowers before kick-off. On a hot afternoon Spurs took the lead after four minutes. Frank Saul set Greaves free who in turn found Robertson to score. The home side launched a number of attacks but the Spurs defence stood firm. Then with Split tiring Spurs grabbed a second away goal just before the end. Mullery found Greaves and he went on a run from just over half way before firing home the goal that should decide the tie. This was the first season that away goals would count double in the event of a tie. It was the defence that was praised afterwards, Mike England (a colossus) supported by Mullery and Beal held everything the home side tried.
The second leg and the fans expected to be entertained. It started so well as Spurs went three up in the first half as again England and Mullery again controlled the game. Robertson scored after twenty minutes from the edge of the box into the top corner.
Then Gilzean straight afterwards when Knowles found his forehead sending Spurs on the way and Venables on to Greaves just before the break for the third. Greaves and Jones then missed a number of chances. Tottenham who were not playing as well as they had the year before then eased up completely. Split scored once and then again little over a minute later. Robertson got his second with just under ten minutes to play. Then in the dying moments Knowles hand balled and they scored again from a penalty, 4-3 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate.
The fans saved the biggest cheer of that night came when some of the floodlights failed.
Before the game someone said if I had known the score I wouldn’t have bought a ticket. This was in the days that Sunday mornings were spent queuing in the high road and before the first leg had been played. I couldn’t understand that the thought of watching Spurs in all white playing in European at the Lane was just as good as life got at that time. After the game someone said to me cheer up they won we are through to the next round and I replied and if we defend like that we won’t go much further.
The end of November saw the team fly to France and play Olympique Lyonnais is an amazing bad tempered affair. The overwhelming memory is the attack on Spurs players. Gilzean and Greaves were both punched in the face. Robertson was hacked down some 20 yards from the ball. It was just after the half hour when Alan Mullery was flat out on the ground when he was kicked in the face. This set off a prolonged delay as both sets of players set to and the home fans invaded the pitch to join in. One of the home players went in face high with his boot at Greaves. Order was only restored when the ref told officials if they did not clear the pitch he would abandon the match. That first half saw nearly every Spurs defender and some forwards booked by the ref who the press felt had learnt the rules from a different book.
Mullery, covered in his own blood, who had clearly been identified as a major threat found he was being sent off. Clearly he had thrown his face into the Frenchman's boot.
At half time as the Spurs bench who had come under a barrage of missiles, Nicholson went to Gilzean’s aid who was being attacked in the tunnel only to be elbowed in the face by one of their players.
Left Jimmy Robertson scorer in the '67 Cup Final
The second half saw the Spurs players show remarkable restraint even when they continuing to be hacked down. Robertson was brought down at least five more times and required ten stitches. Gilzean, Jones and Venables also required treatment. One of the few Spurs fans who made the trip told me the newspapers if anything under reported the problems and the visiting supporters were subjected to their own missile attack.
After the game Nicholson said ‘some of their tackling was a disgrace, they were body checking from the start.’ Reporters claim they had never seen the usually quietly spoken Nicholson as angry. He added the referee had completely lost control of the game, also saying ‘this Lyons side were playing rugby league not football league’.
The French press unsurprisingly took a different view despite carrying a quote from one of their players admitting he kicked Mullery in the face. They claimed Spurs were to blame and ‘the game was not for young ladies.’
As for the football they scored the only goal with quarter of an hour to play. Nicholson thought we had made enough chances to win the game. It was still felt Tottenham would turn the tie around in the second game.
left - Jones and Mullery both take off at home to Split.
Tottenham, without England, Mullery and Beal went in front with two goals in the first half. From a corner Venables and Gilzean set up Greaves to lash home. Then Greaves again after the impressive Dennis Bond was brought down in the box. Tragedy in the 54th minute when they scored and 2-2 on aggregate which then meant away goals would came into the reckoning.
Robertson who was still being brought down on a regular basis centred and Jones flung himself forward to head us back into the lead (top picture). They scored again when the defence should have done better. Once again Robertson led the way and this time picked out Gilzean who brought the ball down and fired home, 4-2 on the night.
Then with the terraces hoping the defence would stand up for the final minutes they scored an easy goal with the backs standing still. 4-3 and we were out on the new away goals rule.
Although some present did not seem to understand the new ruling.
Bill Nicholson called out defending diabolical and gave a list of errors.
The Spurs chairman added ‘I am most disappointed we just threw it away.’ Two weeks before Christmas and we were out of Europe losing to a side described as the worse side Tottenham had met in Europe. We would not return to European for four years.
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