After their glorious success in May 1963 winning the European Cup Winners Cup Tottenham set out to defend the trophy the following season, 1963 /64. For the first time England would have three teams in European action.
The two domestic trophy winners and Tottenham as the holders. Having been involved in the first all-British clash with Glasgow Rangers the season before Spurs would this time be in the first all-English meeting.
There was no seeding in the competition but as holders we were one of three teams given a bye into the Second Round. Manchester overcame Willem II of Holland. We were then drawn with Manchester United and the first leg would be in London. The press quickly dubbed the tie the Battle of Britain, seemingly forgetting they had done the same the season before. This tie would however have much more long lasting effect on Spurs than just which of the teams progressed to the next round.
The first attempt to play the game was called off due to fog with the crowd already in the ground. The rescheduled match at the start of December and saw United came to Tottenham with the idea of defending and winning the tie at home. They defended well and it wasn’t until the 67th minutes that Tottenham finally broke the deadlock. Cliff Jones set Mackay lose with a back heel and Dave Mackey forced his way through the usual eight men on the edge of their box, MacKay described in the Daily Herald as a human rocket, then he struck a thunderbolt from a difficult angle to give Spurs the lead. Mackay did a somersault and the terraces roared their approval.
Left - Mackay scores.
Top - The United goal under pressure in teh first leg.
United would probably have settled for one goal to take home but in the closing minutes their defence made an error with Dunne under hitting a past back to the goalie. Terry Dyson (who had had an earlier goal ruled out) tore between the defenders and struck home a fierce shot and the man of the match in last seasons final gave Spurs a two goal lead.
The second leg a week later got off to the worse possible start for Tottenham. In the seventh minute Dave Mackay had his leg broken and Spurs would play the rest of the game with ten men. Noel Cantwell the United man involved said it was an accident. Many watching felt he had gone in too hard. Mackay made his thoughts clear whenever he was asked about when he broke his leg he would reply, no Cantwell broke my leg. Bitter you think? When he broke it a second time he ensured that no blame was attached to the Shrewsbury player involved in that tackle. Mackay with the broken bone protruding from the leg was carried of, (the first time in his career) and he was sitting up defiant to the end. The Evening Standard reported that Mackay then declined anesthetic when his leg was reset at the hospital and traveled home on crutches.
Right - The crowd watch as the Spurs players agree that the first attempt to play the first leg should be called off.
Tottenham reorganized and defended. The defence that night earned praise from the press. None more than Terry Dyson who moved left wing to center half and even the United players praised his efforts after the match. One claiming it was the toughest game they had ever played in European action. It wasn’t all backs to the wall and Spurs attacked whenever they could. One Spurs fan there that night claimed later this was their undoing. We should of defended instead the boys seemed to feel it was a normal league game and kept attacking, this led to them running out of steam at the end and United took advantage.
The game had started with Spurs very much on the front foot, The Daily Express claiming they were ‘pounding away with all threat of a conquering confident team.’ United broke away and pulled one back just a few moments before Mackay was injured. The incident turned the tide but Tottenham still attacked whenever possible. In the 53rd minute United pulled level when a ball ran loose in our box. Just a minute later John White delivered a ball for Greaves to head home 3-2. Jones had an attempt cleared off their goal line. At that time there was no away goals neither was there extra time or penalties. If the game finished level we would go to a replay. We retained our lead until the 78th minutes when Charlton pulled them level with a shot in off the post. Then with just two minutes to play Charlton broke through a defence that was visibly tiring and won the tie. 3-4 over the two games.
Everyone present agreed that our great side had bowed out with pride in tack. The Evening Standard summed up the feeling-
“They have never given a better example of the majestic poise and assured skill which make them the finest team of their generation.”
United having beaten ten men in the dying moments publicly claim they were now the best team in England.
Left - Mackay sitting up on stretcher, (thanks - - Hotspur hq).
While Spurs returned home with heads high we knew the loss of Mackay would be a major blow to the side in the months ahead. Blanchflower had played his last game (strangely at United in the League) the month before and would be forced to retire in just a few weeks. Ron Henry returned from Manchester requiring X-rays on a foot injury. Worse still, at the end of the season John White would be tragically killed. Tottenham would finish the season in 4th place. Under the qualifying criteria at that time they would not return to European action again until 1967/8.
Incidentally Everton went out of the European Cup at the same stage, leaving just United competing in Europe and they played Sporting Lisbon (who won the trophy) in the quarter final. United won 4-1 at home before losing 0-5 away to be eliminated.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Note - The second game was played on Peter Bakers 32nd birthday.
The Story of Tottenham’s triumph in the Cup Winners Cup the previous season can be found in the Hotspur Towers series - The First Europeans, Glasgow Rangers parts 1-2, Slovan Bratislava, OFK Belegrade, Atletico Madrid, The Legacy,
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