Tottenham’s triumphant European Cup Winners Cup campaign began on October 31st 1962. The fact that it was a European game was almost overlooked as it was widely billed as the Championship of Great Britain. The game itself is remembered by those present as one of the greatest games played at the Lane during that glorious period. One reporter claimed he had never seen Spurs play better. The following May we would be the first British side to win a major European honour, just eight years after the Football League tried to stop its sides even competing. This is the story of how that drama unfolded.
The Rangers manager made a spying trip to watch us the week before and saw Spurs beat Manchester United 6-2. After the game he met Bill Nicholson and was given permission for the Rangers team to train on the WHL pitch prior to the game on the condition the playing surface wasn’t damaged. At the pre match press conference Bill Nicholson said “This match against Rangers means more to the players than any other match I have known, including the Cup and European Cup. Rangers will really have to go to get my team out of this cup. I believe that league matches are most important but my players are really determined to do well in this competition. There is more atmosphere this week than any game since Benfica” (2).
This will have been due to the present of three ‘Anglos’ in the Tottenham team which left our three Scottish international’s with something to prove (1). The Rangers manger when asked about the game simply said “We shall train on Wednesday. Their lights are alright. I saw Spurs play last week. No further comment.” This did not go down well with the press and an official was forced to add “We’ll not do bad, we are confident.” The Scottish team then asked the press to pay for photos of their players. Earlier on they had not allowed their players to sign autographs’ for the fans waiting at the ground or to speak to the press. The following morning not surprisingly the Scottish press slammed Rangers.
Prior to the game there was so much excitement it was reported to have been more intense that the European Cup games from the season before. Even an all-ticket game had queues at the turnstiles three hours before they opened. The number of Rangers fans was believed to be well in excess of the official allocation, many having traveled to London to buy their tickets. Eye witnesses say the terraces were packed an hour before kickoff as both sets of fans set out to out sing the other. The Daily Mirror writing ‘wedged into this surging crowd was like a champagne bottle before the cork is drawn.’ The Times described the ground as ‘White Hot Lane and its tingling electric atmosphere,’ as the Scottish fans (everyone making the sound of ten) did their best to match the Tottenham roar and renditions of “The Spurs go matching on.’
The Rangers Historian magazine said that their manager rarely gave a team talk prior to game but on this night he did. He said it lasted eight minutes and consisted of an analysis of how good every Tottenham player was.
When the game got under way the 58,859 inside saw Spurs take the lead. In the fourth minute a lightning run by Greaves forced a corner. Jimmy Greaves swung in it in and with the Ranger’s defence concentrating on the big men they left White unattended to head home between two defenders on the line from about eight yards. The Daily Express describing White as ‘a wraith who never ceased to haunt the Scots on this Halloween, so delicately headed the ball into the goal to sound off a bombardment of almost barbaric joy.’ Only nine minutes later Rangers were level when they gathered a loose ball from Baker. The speed of Rangers attack caused Spurs problems all night and the ball finally went to Henderson, 1-1.
Rangers matched Tottenham until the 22nd minute and another Greaves corner. This time the movement of the Tottenham players causes confusion and the ball swings in with White meeting it on the line. Many present think that White gets the final touch. The referees report credits Greaves and he was officially credited with the goal).
White said after the game he did not get a touch until the ball had crossed the line. It was 25 years later that close re-examination of the film awarded the goal to White. Many present think that White gets the final touch. The referees report credits Greaves and he was officially credited with the goal). White said after the game he did not get a touch until the ball had crossed the line. It was 25 years later that close re-examination of the film awarded the goal to White (3).
Spurs get a third in the 37th minute. Blanchflower took a free kick, White and Greaves are both involved before its Les Allen’s header that loops over the defence. Medwin (a master on the night) and White both force saves. The fourth comes just before the break. Mackay plays in Allen who cuts in and shoots. Most in the ground think the ball was goal bound but Shearer gets the last touch for an own goal. “With the roar of victory still swelling it was cut off as through a giant hand had clamped 50,000 throats.” As straight from the restart Rangers pour forward Henderson crosses and Miller guides the ball home from ten yards out. The whistle for half time ‘was welcome to thousands of spectators emotionally wrung dry and left shaking as it must have been for the sweating but still lithe players’ and Spurs led 4-2.
After a first half of which The Times said ‘for those first forty five minutes we lived with the gods.’ The pace in the second half faded. Allen, Greaves (the hammer of the Scots) and Jones all go close to extending the lead. Then with just ten minutes left yet another Greaves corner. Once again the Rangers defence fails to clear and the ball runs lose to Maurice Norman who lashes home a shot ‘with a force that would have taken any Ranger player in the way with it.’ After the game Maurice said that he was told to go up for corners before kick off, it was hard work but it paid off. The game ends 5-2. The press praises both sides telling us that Spurs ‘were obliged to fight like demons’ and whilst the game ‘was little less than raging skilled soccer warfare there was scarcely a boo-raising foul and neither side would do anything but play football at its proudest peak, and the peak belonged to Spurs.’
Dave Mackay had a glorious game ‘he threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the invading Scots. He was a one man raiding party.’ Another report claims ‘he played like he eaten half a dozen jumping crackers for breakfast. He started as if he wanted to win the tie in the opening minutes. His example set the pattern and the pace.’ Whilst Blanchflower was ‘an artist in his changing rhythms of play’ and ‘was in his most evocative and commanding mood.’ White was a Trojan and ‘was flawless in his fluid movement and instant ball control as he sprayed passes around.’ It was not just the British press; a French reporter said ‘this game was made in Britain.’
The Scotsman said ‘This was to be the game of games and indeed it was, a monumental contest, a sporting one, a brilliant spectacle of attacking football but unfortunately for Scotland mostly from Spurs.’
Peter Wilson possibly summed up the night in the Mirror when he wrote ‘this was an occasion to relive in pubs for years to come to savour among friends who were there.’
After the game Harry Evans Tottenham’s Assistant Manager (and John White’s father in law) said “You can keep all your foreign stars, give me John White anytime.” The press ran headlines such as Super White makes Rangers reel. Dave Mackay summed up the mood that the win was enough to see them through to the second round. “I don’t think Rangers are good enough to give us a three goal start. It was hard but never rough and I was delighted with the way Rangers chose to play aggressive football.” Even the Scottish press felt the task would be beyond the Scottish side, but the frantic Ibrox crowd might urge their team home. However they cautioned that no other team in Europe could give Spurs a three goal lead, and a beating. They described White and Mackay as ‘those magnificent deserters.’ Who went most of the way towards crushing Rangers. They even suggested that to have any chance they should chain White and Mackay together hand and foot. The Rangers team however felt they still had a chance as we will discover in part 2.
The Spurs team that night was Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Medwin, White, Allen, Greaves and Jones.
Notes – 1 – the term Anglos is explained in Connections – Scotland 1
2 - see also those European Cup games - Gornik, The First A
See also The first European's, White Hot Lane and Talking Tottenham - At the Lane.
3 - The footage can be found on You-tube and the THFC VHS tape ‘the Glory Glory Nights(1986).
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