We are looking back at the period when Bill Nicholson first took charge of Tottenham. Following on from that famous win over Everton (1) Tottenham traveled to Leicester the following weekend and won 4-3. That however was the end to the bright start under the new management. It was followed by defeats to Leeds away and a 1-5 thrashing at Manchester City.
A home point against Bolton and a win at Luton lifted the gloom slightly but then just one point from the next seven games brought us to the end of the year having played 24 games and gained 17 points. We had managed 44 goals but at the same time conceded 59.
This spell had included our last ever game on Christmas Day, it was a defeat away to West Ham. It also saw the return of Cliff Jones (2) who had broken his leg in pre-season. 1959 got off to a better start with a 3-1 win over Blackburn at home (the fans would have to wait two months before another two points at home). The following weekend and we played West Ham in the Third Round of the cup who had beaten us twice the previous month and we managed to win 2-0. This was followed by a win at Newcastle and a home win V Newport in the Cup.
Worse was then to follow with home defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United. The FA Cup brought Third Division Norwich to Tottenham and a 1-1 draw. The replay in midweek saw Spurs bundled out of the competition. The next weekend saw us draw 4-4 with Portsmouth, we equalized in the last minute.
The problem lay in that Tottenham were too exposed with Blanchflower and Iley at wing half both going forward. Nicholson took the decision to drop Blanchflower for the Blackburn game at the start of January. Blanchflower (3) played at inside right for the reserves. This allowed Bill Dodge to come in at right half for his debut and provide more protection. Nicholson hoped to then bring Blanchflower back and use him in tandem with Harmer (moving to right wing) to create, something both Rowe and Anderson before him had considered. Blanchflower meanwhile had put in a transfer request, at 33 thinking he had a few years left at the top.
Left - The Scotland and Hearts captain - Dave Mackay
Nicholson told him he would advise the Board to reject it. Blanchflower did return to the first team at inside right for the replay with Norwich and despite some wonderful touches he looked out of place. Spurs still could of won if they had taken their chances.
It was in March that two events took place that would turn Tottenham’s season around and place them firmly on the road to success. On the 7th the home game with Leicester Nicholson handed the captainship back to Blanchflower, he had resigned it two years earlier.
As Julian Holland wrote ‘it was like the mainspring had been put back and the clock ticked again.’ That day Danny scored and Spurs ran out 6-0 winners. In dreadful weather Blanchflower set about ‘conducting the band’ as he stamped his authority on both the game and the team.
Right - Bill Brown signs for Tottenham.
Described that day as a dance master as he controlled the game and measuring his passes better than an engineer. In Holland’s words he fondled the ball like a lover, perfect passes, the chips mixed with long balls as he always had space despite Leicester’s best efforts. One of the rain drenched fans that day told me he never played better. It was only then the ghost of relegation was banished he told me and we looked forward for the first time in a long season.
The second event was two weeks later Manchester City came to the Lane and that day Nicholson gave a debut to Dave Mackay. The Scottish captain signed from Hearts had become the most expensive half back in the country, the previous holder being Blanchflower. The two immediately looked like partners. No longer was the defence left exposed, if Blanchflower went forward Mackay was there at the back keeping the door shut. Mackay featured in just four games that season but he was an instant hit on the terraces. Spurs took 12 points from there last 7 games at home and ensured they were safe from relegation. This included a 5-0 win over West Brom. Against this they only collected three points from the last six away. The season ended with a 2-2 draw at Preston.
The Tottenham team 20th December 1958. Under thirteen thousand watched a 0-0 draw.
Back (left to right): Peter Baker, Danny Blanchflower, John Hollowbread, Maurice Norman, Ron Henry, James Iley.
Front: Terry Medwin, Tommy Harmer, Robert 'Bobby' Smith, Alfred Stokes, Cliff Jones.
This left us 18th from 22 having played 42 games and winning just 13. 19 defeats and 10 draws left us on 36 points, six clear of Aston Villa who went down above Portsmouth. Bobby Smith (5) had managed 35 goals in the League and Cup. Terry Medwin was next with 14 and Dave Dunmore with 8, out of a total of 85. The trouble was at the back with 95 conceded. Ted Ditch burn (4) had broken his finger in the fourth game of the season and although he stayed with Spurs another year he did not play again. All a long way from the previous two seasons second and third place finishes but the of the season gave the fans some hope for the coming season. After the World Cup of the previous year Tottenham would spent the break with a 12 day trip to Russia and Nicholson would have time re-evaluate his side before the 1959/60 season began.
Apart from the game with Bela Vista (1) Tottenham played two other friendlies that season, a 5-2 at home to Hibernian, and a 4-2 win V a Bucharest Select XI in December both at White Hart Lane.
Watch out in the next few days for both - Hotspur Towers - Russia 1959.
And Part Three of Prologue which recalls season 1959-60.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Top image - cigarette card from 1958.
Notes - 1 - see Part 1. Prologue 1 - TenFour
2 - Cliff Jones - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-cliff-jones
3 - Danny Blanchflower - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/ht-27-danny-blanchflower-part-1
4 - Ted Ditchburn - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-ted-ditchburn
5 - Bobby Smith - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-bobby-smith
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