The second hurdle in Tottenham’s European campaign of 1963 saw Tottenham at their very best and worse and the supporters played their part to the hilt. The tie took them back behind the iron curtain again, having played in Poland and Czechoslovakia the year before. This time the destination was Czechoslovakia again. Where we would play Slovan Bratislava who had overcome Lausanne of Switzerland in the last round.
The first leg was on March 5th away and Tottenham did not play well, losing 0-2. The other game we failed to score in during the competition. Many observers feeling Spurs did well to restrict the home team to two goals. The hero that night was Scottish international Bill Brown who produced one of the best displays of his career.
Tottenham arrived in Bratislava to find the city in the grip of one of the worst winters for many years. Bill Nicholson recalled the River Danube was frozen over, the river contained large blocks of ice. Spurs made two changes from the last round. Tony Marchi came in for Blanchflower who had not played after the injuries he received in the game at Rangers. The other change was Frank Saul for Terry Medwin (who was injured) on the right wing. The thinking was that Saul could add presence to the attack but if needed could fall back and help in defence. A thaw started to set in on the day of the game and the pitch was described by Nicholson as wet and skiddy. The press felt it was more like a quagmire. Nicholson did not allow this to distract him from the fact that his side played poorly.
Brown played a large part of the game with a plaster across his face, the result of a courageous dive at the feet of the Czech forwards. The home side took the lead after half an hour in front of 32,000 fans (which included about 100 from London) when a well worked move down the left came in and Brown was given no chance. Brown the Brave made a series of good saves throughout the game and kept Tottenham in the tie.
The second goal came near the hour mark and followed a defensive lapse. The press contained descriptions of the team being slow and sloppy as well as commenting that the side seemed to have had grown soft. Even Bill Nicholson was quoted as saying if his team had played as well as Slovan had and only scored twice he’d want to know why. The papers picked our Brown for praise. Marchi and Mackay ‘were tirelessly chasing and covering,’ and ‘steady screening’ by Norman seemed to be the only good points that could be found.
Despite the home sides pressure Greaves did have two goals disallowed (both offside), Norman also had a header that went in but a foul had been given and Marchi shot just past the post. The players themselves knew they had not played well and were determined to overturn the two goal deficit in the return nine days later.
Mel Hopkins came in for Baker as the only change. The second leg was played out in front of 61,504 fans. The heavy rain turned the White Hart Lane pitch into a muddy patch similar to the one we played on in the first leg. This time however Tottenham were at home. There seemed little doubt of the result from the time the visitors appeared.
Use to playing in front of smaller crowds and a running track between them the ‘Tottenham Roar’ delivered from an enthusiastic crowd close enough for their visitors to feel their breath clearly unsettled them. The Express calling the home support ‘the raging tide’ on a night that an eyewitnesses said the whole ground seemed to be rocking. The Times felt ‘there was the excitement of a three ring circus.’
Bobby Smith wrote in his autobiography ‘in the opening minutes I challenged their keeper, as I was apt to do in those days and from then on he was a nervous wreck.’ The keeper Schroif, like several of his team mates had played in the 1962 World Cup final and he was considered one of the best in the world at that time, did manage to pull off three good saves early on but whenever he was put under pressure by Smith and Jones in particular he made errors.
Slovan did manage to hit the post early on which might have turned the tide but Spurs took the lead on the half hour mark. Marchi took a throw in and found White he laid the ball back towards Mackay (the demon of Tottenham) who chested the ball down and unleashed a shot into the far corner of the net.
Right - Bobby Smith in typical action challenging the goalkeeper at every opportunity during the return game.
One fan in the west stand that night remembers ‘it was a little like the Benfica night as we seemed to struggle to find the Tottenham rhythm but Mackay’s goal changed all that, once he scored there was no question in my mind about the outcome.’ Another seven minutes and we were level in the tie. Greaves played a one two with Jones and then rounded his defender and slid home the best goal of the game. The Tottenham crowd lifted the roof and within moments we were ahead. Jones again was involved this time sending Saul away on the right. His center was an invitation for Smith whose header was almost out of the goalies hands and into the net.
Into the second half and Spurs stuck the cross bar from Hopkins, and then approaching the hour mark Tottenham surely ended any lingering hopes the Czech side had when they scored their fourth. Their goalie punched poorly under pressure from the onrushing Smith and Jones. The ball went loose but only as far as Greaves, a simple chip into the empty net at the Paxton Road end to give us a 4-2 lead.
The 75 minute and Marchi crossed and this time Jones was there to head home. Still Spurs were not finished within a few minutes White won the ball ran forward and fired home pass the by now static goalie. Six nil on the night and a comfortable passage into the semi finals for Tottenham and the first time in his career that Schroif had conceded six in a game.
Bill Nicholson was a little happier after the game describing it as ‘the night was a victory for pure power’ adding ‘our wing halves won the game.’ His counterpart said ‘I envy Spurs their supporters we have never played before such a crowd. The crowd is a great help to them and the noise they make is fantastic.’ He then commented on the Spurs team “Spurs deserved to win by six, they were so much better than us in tackling and heading. They were completely unrecognizable from the Spurs in Bratislava.”
Writing later Blanchflower who had missed the tie said of the clubs third trip to Eastern Europe “We were never happy over there, but they couldn’t believe their eyes when they came to London. We rarely had any trouble at home.
As for the press after the mauling they gave Spurs in the first leg, this time the headlines included ‘Eloquent Tottenham have the last word’ – The Times. As well as ‘Glory Glory the Tottenham Tyrants go thundering on’ – The Daily Herald.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
Thank You in addition to family and friends for their memories, Bill Nicholson, Bobby Smith, THFC. Daily Express, Ralph L. Finn, Daily Sketch, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Hotspur hq, Colin Gibson, Harry Harris, Bob Goodwin, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, Pathe news and Phil Soar,
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