During the course of the next few weeks Tottenham will set out on their latest (and 22nd) European campaign. Last season we recalled the club’s first great adventure when they fell at the semi-final in the European Cup. This autumn we will retrace the events of the following season and the path to victory in Europe as Tottenham became the first British side to win a major European trophy. These days we may be use to the Champions’ League format but in those early days European football was very different. As an overture to this glorious chapter in our history today we turn our attention to those first Europeans, discover how it all started and Tottenham's role in the events.
The idea of a European Cup (Champions League) can actually be traced to South America where their ‘Championship of Champions’ competition started in 1948. A French journalist covering the event suggested to his newspaper that a similar event could be held in Europe. The paper prepared a proposal and submitted it with great fanfare to UEFA. At that time as we will learn elsewhere (1) The English FA were not enameled with the idea of midweek tournaments or the use of floodlights or indeed to some extent any matches with European sides. You may also recall (4) Charles Sutcliffe, of the FA was quoted as explaining why England would not be taking part in the 1934 World Cup as saying "The national associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have quite enough to do in their own International Championship (1) which seems to me a far better World Championship than the one to be staged in Rome". A number of clubs including Tottenham had experimented with floodlight friendly games in recent years. The leader in this field had been Wolverhampton and it was their win over Honved of Hungary in 1954 that many feel finally tipped the balance. The British press acclaimed Wolves as the champions of Europe. This led to a backlash from the continental press refuting the claim as they had not met the champions of their own respective countries. The following spring in March 1955 UEFA approved the idea and the European Cup was born.
For the first tournament in 1955/56 just 16 teams were invited to compete. Chelsea were amongst the invited but they ‘were persuaded’ by the Football League not to take part. Alan Hardaker, the League chairman at the time has been quoted as saying he feared ‘for fixture congestion and contamination by foreign sides.’ Chelsea's place place was taken by a Polish side. Therefore the only British team to compete was Scotland’s Hibernian. It has been suggested they were invited as they had functional floodlights and had been one of the teams that had pioneered international friendies. Hibernian then reached the semi-final where they lost to the French side Stade De Reimes. 1956/57 Saw an English side take part when Manchester United resisted the pressure of the Football League. They like several other clubs including Tottenham knew which way the future of the game was heading. These clubs fans had warmly welcomed midweek games and the thought of competitive could only increase their income. United would reach the semi final of the competition. The following season United again reached the semi-final. It was on the return flight from their quarter final match that their plane tragically crashed at Munich.
In 1959 Wolves fell in the first round and the following season the quarter finals. 1961 saw Burnley also go out after reaching the last eight. Thus when Tottenham reached the semi-final in 1962 they became the second English team to reach the semi-final stage. Details of Tottenham’s campaign that season can be found listed in note 2. The following season they became the second British team to reach a second European semi-final and the first to reach a final.
The European Cup proved a success and the European Cup Winners Cup was launched in the 1960/61 season. This now meant two teams from each country would take part in European competition. Unless you won the trophy in which case a third team also entered. A far cry from today when the top third of the league take part. Glasgow Rangers reached the first final beating Wolves in the semi. They then lost both legs of the final to Fiorentina. Tottenham winning the Double meant that in 1962 Leicester City were invited to take part but were beaten in the first round by Athletio Madrid who went on to beat the holders Florentina in the first one game final held in Glasgow. The holders would again become runners up the following year when Tottenham won the competition in 1963. The last ECWC final was won by Lazio in 1999.
There was also the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, although never classed as a major trophy, (which we explored previously (3). Until it was replaced by the UEFA Cup in 1971/72. Tottenham won this trophy in its first season beating Wolves in the two legged final, thus becoming the first British side to win two different European trophies. Spurs repeated the feat winning the trophy again in 1984.
A brief mention should be included that some invitational international club cup competitions in Europe can be traced back as far as 1897 when teams in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire competed in the Challenge Cup. Strangely it was John Gramlick an English plumber and one of the founders of the Vienna Cricket and Football Club who was the mastermind behind the tournament. There was also the Lipton Trophy which was played for in the early parts of the last century. Then came the Mitropa Cup from 1927 up to 1992. However this was just for teams in Eastern Europe although some ‘western’ teams competed after World War 2.
When Tottenham retained the FA Cup in 1962, only the second team to do so since the 1890’s, they qualified for the European Cup Winners Cup. Tottenham would receive a bye in the Premlinary Round and in the First Round we were drawn against Glasgow Rangers who had overcome Sevilla in a game. Our clash with Rangers was heralded as the ‘Game of Games’ and the ‘Battle of Britain.’ We will learn what happened then next week.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
Notes - 1 – The story of Tottenham under the lights will appear next month.
2 – The Spurs European run of 1961/62 can be found at - Hotspurs Towers 25 – Gornik, Hotspur Towers 39 – The First Adventure, Benfica First Leg and Second Leg,
You may also enjoy White Hot Lane and Hotspur Towers – The Intertoto Cup.
3 – Inter Cities Fairs Cup. – Hotspur Towers 12.
4 - Flying Down to Rio Flight Eight.
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