Few readers will have seen Danny Blanchflower play but 50 years after he retired his simple philosophy on football is known to all. However some people take his ‘Glory’ statement to mean the result doesn’t matter. Having spoken to a number of fans from that era what he is saying is win the right way. In his own words "Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is." He also said “Always play with a smile on your face, it’s a beautiful game.” As well as "Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better."(6) He had no time for people who he believed did not give their all in a game or for those who tried to claim an unfair advantage. “Any small boy, anyone who kicks a ball owns a piece of the action. Everybody enjoys the exaggeration and romance of a sporting story, but deliberate lying and cheating for profit is something else." He believed in hard work and also said “Ideas are very funny things. They never work unless you do.”
When Bill Nicholson retired he wanted Danny to replace him as manager. However Danny’s honesty had ruffled too many feathers in the Board room. On one occasion its reported a club director said to him "The trouble with you is that you think you know all the answers." To which Danny replied "Ah, God love you, you don't even know the questions!" Little surprise that he was passed over for the job.
He did turn to management briefly a few years later with a very poor Chelsea side and then had three years with the Northern Ireland side. Upon retirement Danny turned instead to journalism and became a highly respected writer.
On the international stage he won 56 caps (41 and 2 goals with Spurs) He led the Northern Ireland side to their only World Cup Finals in 1958 when they reached the quarter final (7). During the 1958 World Cup he was asked about the teams tactics and he said "We aim to equalise before the other team score,” In many of those internationals games he played alongside his brother Jackie whose career was ended in the Munich air crash.
Danny was a true innovator of the game. He introduced things that we now take for granted. It was his Spurs side that first sent the big center half up for set pieces and introduced the short corner. On the international stage his Irish side formed a wall for a free kick when playing Italy. This had never been seen before and the Italians asked the ref it they could do that.
It was however in the 1962 FA Cup final that he wanted to try something so unbelievable that I found it hard to believe until Dave Mackay confirmed the story. Before the game Danny said if we get a penalty then instead of shooting straight at the goal. He would slide the ball forward and to the left. The goalkeeper would be committed and Mackay would rush in from outside the box and fire home into the opposite corner. Tottenham led 2-1 and then they won a penalty. Mackay described what happened next , I thought about it, what if I missed, what if Burnley made it 2-2. I looked at Danny shook my head and retreated back into midfield. Danny of course made the game safe at 3-1.
Despite his image could be a private man and turned down appearing on the live TV “This is your life” programme. Although he did do a ‘Face to Face’ recorded TV interview the following year. Danny certainly had a reputation for being able to talk. Ted Ditchburn is quoted as saying “Danny was a great guy, you could not help but like him, and he used to talk a great game. Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.” Burnley‘s Jim Mcllory roomed with him for Northern Ireland, “People say to me Why don’t I play as well for Ireland as I do for Burnley. Its simple Danny keeps me up all night talking.”
An example of his being unwilling to compromise his beliefs can be seen in this example whilst working on US TV he said “These teams can’t play.” the producer screamed in his earpiece “Accentuate positive truths rather than negative truths.” He turned to look into the camera “These teams positively can’t play.”
Danny Blanchflower won countless awards and honours including the Player of the Year award twice in 1958 and 1961, becoming only the second player to do so, the second time aged 35. He is a member of the Tottenham and English Football Hall of Fame’s. The Ulster History Circle had placed a plaque honouring him on the house where he grew up. His image even appeared on a postage stamp. He was the first British player to be voted into a World Cup All-star XI. In 1990 the club awarded him a testimonial game. Sadly at the age of 67 he passed away in Surrey on this day 9th December in 1993.
I once read a description of him that said he played football the way Gene Kelly Dances (8). Maybe his real legacy, apart from the trophy haul, is the way he influenced the sport and young players. A future Tottenham player and manager, a young Terry Venables than at Chelsea said "There was one player in particular who captivated me; entertainment value apart, it was a sheer education to watch him perform. That was Danny Blanchflower. What a model for any budding young wing half ? In watching Danny, I realised that soccer is an art. His cultured play and powerful influence on the rest of the Spurs team were an inspiration to me."
f- Peter Shearman (an old non de plume reserved for THFC matters).
Notes - 6 - I’ve also seen this quote attributed to Bill Shankley, Liverpool manager.
7 - Flying Down to Rio, flight Six.
8 - I am also certain this was Julie Welch, who wrote Those Glory Glory Days.
Thanks - Dave Bowler's book - Danny Blanchflower- The biography of a visionary, THFC, Andy Porter, The Times, The Independent, Mehstg, The Spurs Odyssey, The Irish FA, BBC, FIFA and Glentoran FC.
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