Hotspur Towers turns its attention to the period leading up to the greatest period in Tottenham’s history at the start of the 1960’s when we won the League and Cup Double, FA Cup again and then the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963 (7).
This series continues on directly from the events described in ‘The Anderson Era,’ (8) which took us as far as 11th October 1958. At that point Bill Nicholson became manager and The Prologue will take us from that point to the dawn of the golden days. In part one we look back at his first week in the manager’s chair.
Bill Nicholson recalled “When I went to the ground that day I had a good idea I’d be taking charge because the chairman had told me in the week (1) that Jimmy was unwell and wanted to know if I would consider taking over as manager. The chairman called me into the boardroom and confirmed my appointment. I did not ask for a contract. I just agreed to take over and later in the day came the amazing game with Everton."
Terry Medwin recalled “We didn’t know Bill had been appointed until he came down on the day of the game. Bill was a great man as a player, and as a coach. Everybody respected him. He was very quiet as a person, but he would soon pull you up if there was a problem. Everything was so much fun when Bill was manager, it was very enjoyable.”
At that point Tottenham were lying 16th in the table, but only one point better off than the team (Villa) at the bottom, having won three games with just nine points from eleven games (4). They had also conceded twenty three goals against seventeen scored (four of those in one game V Chelsea). Everton were 20th with eight points.
Nicholson’s first decision was to make three changes from the side that had played the previous weekend. Blanchflower and Medwin returned having missed one game. The other change was Tommy Harmer (who had “started the season looking like he was playing in clogs rather than boots”) at inside right replacing Eddie Clayton.
Tommy said later ‘I had been out of the League team for the previous four matches and was half expecting to be left out again when I reported for the match with Everton. But Bill Nick told me I was in, and it became one of those games when just everything went right for me.’ Indeed the press claim he had a foot in nine of the ten goals as he torn Everton apart.
Left - Harmer showing off his tricks by standing on the ball at the old Chestnut training ground.
In just the second minute it was Harmer’s pass that split the defence, with Smith’s shot came back to Stokes to open the scoring. In the tenth minute Jimmy Harris pulled Everton level. Tottenham then scored with Bobby Smith twice either side of George Robb scoring at the end of what has been called a mazy dribble. Robb then had a header which was half cleared and Stokes scored from the loose ball. The half finished with Medwin getting the sixth in off the post.
The second half started and Harris pulled one back from a corner but the next goal saw Smith complete his hat trick with a header. Then in the last ten minutes there was a flurry of goals. Tommy Harmer made it 8-2 with a special goal. He won a loose ball outside their box then struck a half volley which flew into the top of the goal. He later claimed it was his first goal he had ever scored from that distance.
right - Hollowbread and Baker watch as Everton score.
Harris for Everton completed his hat trick only for Smith to hit his fourth, again from outside the box. Collins scored to make the score 9-4 before Tottenham’s Johnny Ryden finished the rout and Spurs had won 10-4 (6).
The Spurs that was - Hollowbread; Baker, Hopkins; Blanchflower, Ryden, Iley; Medwin, Harmer, Smith, Stokes, Robb. Only three of these men would be regular’s in the Spurs team that won the League two seasons later.
After the game Harmer famously said to Nicholson “10-4, we don’t do this every week you know.” On the other side of the coin Danny Blanchflower commented (but possibly it was his Irish wit) “We can only go downhill from here, how do you follow ten goals? Things can only get worse.” While Bobby Smith remembering that day “We were sorry to hear that Jimmy Anderson had to quit, but we were pleased for Bill, and believe me, we played this one for him.”
One supporter present that day (of the 37,794) told me recently ‘going home that night it was like a dream but I have to admit by about Tuesday I found myself thinking we still let them get four, but at least we might now start thinking of moving up the table, relegation, even that early had been in our thoughts’.
Nicholson’s first match was described at the time as “The greatest day in the history of White Hart Lane.” Whilst The Daily Mirror called it ‘An avalanche.’ The Liverpool press were not as understanding and wrote about their goalkeeper “We must protect this man from lumbago” referring to how often he had to pick the ball out of the net. It was in fact a record setting day as those fourteen goals equaled the aggregate first division record set by Aston Villa and Accrington Stanley way back in 1892 when they fought out a 12-2 result.
Maybe we should offer Bill Nicholson the last word on that day who has been quoted as recalling much later. “I’ve never believed in fairy tales in football, but this came close to making me change my mind. In many ways it was a bad advertisement for football because so many of the goals were the result of slip-shod defensive play. But I have to admit it was magnificent entertainment. Little Tommy Harmer played the game of his life. On his day he was as clever a player as I’ve ever seen, but he was too often handicapped by his small physique.”
The Everton game wasn’t the only thing happening that week on the Tuesday Tottenham entertained Bela Vista from Brazil at The Lane (9) and this landed Bill in a Club V Country fight. Wales were due to play Scotland at the weekend and wanted Hopkins and Medwin left out the Spurs team but Bill played them (10). Then on the Wednesday he took charge of England Under 23’s for the last time, although some records show Ron Greenwood took over for this game, Bill would certainly have done the preparation.
Despite his amazing start there were still a number of bumps in the road ahead and in part 2 we look at what happened in the rest of the season 1958/59.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Top pic - Bill on the Tottenham training ground.
Notes – 1- Bill had been called to the Chairman’s works, (Brown’s of Tottenham) on the Wednesday, 8th October where he was offered the post of manager at the club. At that point he was building himself a successful reputation as a coach (2) and had been part of the England set up at the World Cup the year before (3). He wasn’t convinced he wanted to be manager but realized that if he didn’t take the post someone else would.
2 – Bill Nicholson’s story is told in the series starting at –http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/bill-nicholson-part-1
3 – Flying Down to Rio 1958 - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/flying-down-to-rio-flight-five
4 – Remember it was two points for a win at that time.
6 – Some reports describe the goals slightly differently the ones used here are from firsthand accounts and newspapers of the time.
7 – That European Triumph was described in Glasgow Rangers, Slovan Bratislava, OFK Belegrade, Atletico Madrid and The Legacy.
8 – The Anderson era - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-the-anderson-era-part-1
9 – See Connections Brazil –http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/connections-brazil-part-one
10- It was usual at this time for internationals to take place alongside club games and the clubs would just make do without their players. Scotland won 3-0 in Cardiff, Hopkins and Medwin both played. Scotland was captained by Dave Mackay and Bill Brown was in goal, both would join Tottenham within the year. The Daily Mirror story leads with the clash and reports England manager Walter Winterbottom was in the stands that day. Ken Jones who wrote the story was the cousin of our own Cliff.
Thanks – The usual sources and those lovely Tottenham fans that let me cross examine them and were keen as ever to ensure those days will live forever. Thank you also on for Prologue to THFC, Phil Soar, Julian Holland, Bob Goodwin, Everton Historical, Anton Rippon, Logan Holmes,Norman Giller, Mike Donavan and Toffee Webb.
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