Hotspur Towers - OFK Belgrade
Tottenham once again headed behind the iron curtain at the semi final stage of the European Cup Winners Cup competition in 1963. Thus becoming the second English team to reach a second European semi and the first to do so in consecutive seasons. April 24th saw the team take the field against OFK Belgrade as we sought to become the first British side to reach a European final. Spurs made three changes from the last round. Baker returned at right back for Mel Hopkins. Terry Dyson came in for Cliff Jones on the wing whilst wing half John Smith replaced Frank Saul. Blanchflower was still injured
In the first game in front of 45,000 fans they set out to stop Tottenham playing their natural game. As Bobby smith recalled ‘they were a rather physical side, or at least adopted that style in an attempt to put us off our game. There was no way that was going to work, as the likes of Dave Mackay and myself enjoyed the odd physical encounter.’ After the press described our last game away in the competition as showing we had gone soft this time Spurs showed much more strength both physically and mentally.
OFK had overcome Chemie Halle-Leuna (Germany) Portadown and Napoli to reach the semi –final stage. In the twenty fourth minute the game would explode into life. Smith again describes what happened, ‘some of their tackles were a bit naughty and it was one rather crude challenge on yours truly that lead to our first goal.’ Bobby had been upended by a defender and as he says, ‘lets just say I didn’t take kindly to it.’ A general melee broke out on the pitch when the referee managed to restore order one of their players was found flat out on the floor. Nobody was really in any doubt what had happened and the OFK players again manhandled the ref demanding that Smith be sent off. The ref spoke to the linesman but in the previous confusion nobody could be sure what had happened and nobody was spoken to.
Tony Marchi finally took the free kick playing it to Smith. He in turn laid the ball to White and 1-0, as he volleyed home from 20 yards. OFK would pull level just ten minutes later. Popov equalized from the penalty spot. Some felt the award was harsh as the ball had seemed to hit MacKay’s boot and fly up to hand.
Then in the 55th minute came the moment that the game is best remembered for. Jimmy Greaves was sent off, for the first time in his career. In fact it was the first sending off for Spurs since 1927. Most commentators saw little of the event as it occurred about twenty yards off the ball.
At first Greaves refused to leave the pitch. The Hungarian ref called captain Marchi and instructed him to remove Jimmy. Finally a furious Nicholson called him to the sidelines. Nicholson was still angry after the game claiming he would submit his own report to the organizing committee on the incident. Jimmy upon reaching the dressing room received ‘some comfort’ from our trainer that night Cyril Poynton. Cyril knew what he was talking about as it had been Cyril who had been sent off in October 1928.
On arrival back in London Jimmy said ‘I was wrong to retaliate when I was kicked, I’m choked, I’m embarrassed, I just don’t know what to do with myself. Whenever I’ve been booked it’s been for something I said not for fouling. It had been a pretty rough game all round and I’m sure the referee had made up his mind to make an example of the next player to catch his eye.’ Then explaining what happened ‘the back had been kicking me all across the park, I’ve got the bruises to prove it, and as he was running away after the last kick I turned and clipped him I was wrong but it was the heat of the moment.’ Just before that the defender had clashed with Bobby Smith.
If OFK thought this and their continued attempts to distract the players, at one point one spat in Terry Dyson’s face, would give them the advantage they were misguided. Tottenham instead of breaking as OFK had hoped buckled down and took charge of the game. The team producing a suburb display. Belgrade were unable to create any dangerous moments. Dave Mackay was described as ‘roaring and shouting as if he were leading a charge of Highland infantry and everyman played with that sort of Celtic spirit.’ The Daily Sketch claimed it was ‘the most courageous performance of any British side I had seen.’ In the end it was Tottenham had produced the winning goal, Terry Dyson firing home to make it 2-1 to Spurs. The home fans that started the night fully behind their team applauded Spurs from the pitch and whistled their own players from the pitch. After the game Maurice Norman who had played with a toe injury throughout required stitches above the right eye.
A week later the sides met again at White Hart Lane in front of just under 60,000 on a damp sliding pitch. Blanchflower returned to the team even though he wasn’t fully fit and then banged his knee in the gym on the day of the game. He still insisted on playing and required a pain killing injection. The other change was Cliff Jones replacing John Smith. With Greaves suspended Mackay moved forward to the number10 shirt, although he is said to have covered every blade of grass. Tottenham played with their heads not their hearts to win through to the final.
The bad feeling from the first leg was always bubbling under but never became ugly although their continuous body checking brought derision from the crowd. OFK went close and forced Brown into action early on. In the 29th minute Mackay lashed home his shot and Spurs went 3-1 up in the tie following a brilliant pass from Blanchflower. Then just six minutes later (the Daily Sketch informs us and seven fouls later) the visitors pulled one back. Then just before the break Blanchflower found White, on to Mackay who laid into Jones’s path (1) who scored.
The second half started with OFK trying to force their way back into the game and Tottenham’s defence stood firm. As the half went on Blanchflower was visibly tiring. Then a White center for the outstanding goal to finish the tie. Smith (the press saying he flew like a javelin - having just landed in the top picture) with a diving header that sent the ball flying into the Paxton Road net. That would of pleased Smith as before the game the visitors had described him as an ox who couldn’t score. The papers led with headlines such as Mackay drives Spurs into final. Most papers reserved their highest praise for the ‘leader of the band’ Danny Blanchflower. The Daily Express played their respects to the skipper, ‘A quiet unflappable football professor called Blanchflower steered Spurs through a sea of stormy soccer into the final.’ It was Blanchflower at his string pulling best as he marshaled his team and endured there was no slip ups at the last hurdle. OFK attempted to knock Spurs out of their stride but Blanchflower called for cool heads. It was Smith and Jones who received the harsh treatment but rarely retaliated and Smith went on to deliver one of the best performances of his season. Late in the game Jones who had received a number of fouls during the game and finished visibly limping reacted to a late trip whilst he was in full flow that had to be pulled away by his teammates. The referee reprimanded Dyson the smallest man on the pitch when in the words of the Express he was overzealous.
After the game Bill Nicholson said “I wish they were all Dave Mackay’s we would never lose a match.” The Tottenham side had become the first British side to reach a European final. Now all minds turned to the final game in just two weeks time in Rotterdam. It may seem strange to younger readers, but there was a time when European football did not dictate the fixture list and dates were not set before the season started and clubs were expected to make their own arrangements. Thus Athletio Madrid played their semi final second leg on the same night Tottenham played their first and had their scouts at White Hart lane for the second game.
f- Peter Shearman (an old non de plume).
Notes - 1 - The Daily Express wrongly credited Dyson as the scorer.
See also - The First Europeans, Glasgow Rangers parts 1&2, Slovan Bratislava,
Thanks go again to the various personal memoirs of family and friends. Daily Herald, Harry Harris, Julie Welch, Daily Express, Daily Sketch, Bill Nicholson, Terry Dyson, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Smith, Daily Mirror,
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