The Cup Quarter Final saw us making the long trip to Roker Park for the meeting with Second Division Sunderland. Roker Park was famous for its fanatical fans and their ‘roar’. This wasn’t quieted even when Jones headed home after just ten minutes. Tottenham missed several other chances to increase the lead.Bill Nicholson was seen to be visibly unhappy as his side seemed to ease up rather than kill the game and he urged his side to raise their game.
Then four minutes into the second half Sunderland pulled level from a deflected shot. Most of the sixty one thousand plus crowd went crazy and spilled over onto the pitch.
The pitch invasion was good natured. There were just celebrating. There was one story that a Sunderland fan was asking the Spurs players for autographs. The Sunderland fans whose team had only a few seasons dropped out of the top flight after being there most of the last century were on the verge on doing what no other team had done, stopping Tottenham’s march to the Double. Where we again going to see a side stumble again when in sight of the line?
The break in play gave Danny Blanchflower another opportunity to show why he was such a powerful influence on the team as he run around the pitch speaking to each player, one later claiming what Danny had said was pointing at the invading crowd, ‘we don’t want any more of that nonsense.’ Sunderland and their fans threw everything at Spurs who now realized they had a game on their hands.
The players said afterwards the noise was so intense we could not hear each other. One report said ‘Norman and Mackay stood like two lighthouses facing a stormy sea.’ Tottenham weathered the storm as the game went to a replay. If every team needs an element of luck in cup competitions then maybe Spurs had theirs that day. Bill Nicholson however was clear on one thing; the Spurs should have won the game early on.
There were some Spurs fans at the ground that had traveled by train and coach. There were even 47 who had flown up, quite possibly the first time that Spurs fans had used a plane to reach a game.
The replay was just four days later; it was common in those days to play replays the same week. Nearly sixty five thousand were in the ground when the gates were locked with some estimates claiming more than that number locked out. The turnstiles had been opened at 5pm and it has been estimated that nearly fifty thousand had arrived by 6pm.
The build up in the area had started so early that its reported in future local schools gave a half day holiday when Spurs had a big home game. Cliff Jones and Bobby Smith both nearly missed the game as they become stuck in the pandemonium. Both ended up walking through the crowds and pushing their way in. Bobby even managed to obtain a police escort along the way.
With the gates locked half an hour before kick off the crowd refused to depart and there are pictures of ticket holders climbing over the gates as police struggled to maintain order.
Afterwards Fred Bearman the Chairman said ‘It is difficult to know what to do when you have so many people trying to get into a ground that only holds 65,000. This is something we will discuss it at our next meeting.’ Many of those unable to gain entry in the days before massive social media stood outside and followed the game by the noise of the ones inside.
A very different Spurs turned up and put the Second Division side to the sword 5-0 and they could have won the tie by more. White Hart Lane became an inferno of football passion containing an almost frightening intensity for the night to match the Roker Roar but the side maintained ‘an icy arrogance of a team that knows its destiny is greatness’ (1).
Left - Locked out at The Lane
The 65,000 fans inside the ground and those locked out played their part in Tottenham’s passage into the semi–final. One wonders what Nicholson must have said to the players after the first game but the real Spurs were on show for the replay. White sparked the Tottenham win when just short of the half hour his ball was hammered home by Allen. Within minutes White (again) found Jones wide in space who set off at rocket speed and saw his shot blocked by the goalie but Smith was on hand to score. Just before the break the third came from Dyson after Jones set him free. He then headed the fourth just after the hour after splendid work from Les Allen who ‘danced into the area, with the ball on his toe and went past four defenders.’ Mackay finished the rout and Spurs were into the Semi–finals just ten days away.
If the fans thought a little Tottenham wobble was behind them then the trip down to Cardiff for an evening kick to avoid the rugby international reminded them Spurs were not home yet. Cardiff who had been unlucky at Tottenham in November made us fight all the way but this was a game Spurs should have won.
It started well and Dyson opened the scoring in the second minute but they pulled it back in the tenth minute. Les Allen put us ahead again just before the break but again Cardiff would not give up and scored twice. The last twenty minutes Spurs lay siege to the Welsh goal but failed to breech the wall. Nicholson was clearly disappointed as he said ‘I thought all the goals were poor by our standards but it is goals that win matches, good luck to them.’ Tottenham lost 2-3 and Cardiff celebrated their first ever win at home to Spurs.
The shock of this defeat to a side struggling in mid-table plus Wednesday’s midweek win saw the lead suddenly drop to six points. Tottenham remained in Wales after the game for a break which included training on the Mumbles beach (just outside Swansea). The team returned to London on the Wednesday and some of the players visited Wembley for the England under 23 game with Frank Saul in the England squad but he didn’t play.
Whilst the team had avoided talk of the Double until now it was during the break in Wales that the subject was finally brought out into the open. It was Danny Blanchflower that took the lead, admitting that they only needed to average one point per game to be sure of the title. That just left the Cup, two games remaining and he felt the side had a good chance of achieving it. At last it was out in the open.
In the theatre they say a bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night. Maybe that translates to football as we saw at the pre-season trial game. When they returned from Wales the first team played the reserves before heading north for the semi-final in a public trial match which means there was a programme and press reports. Can you image that two days before a vital cup game. And much like the pre-season trial game things don’t go well at rehearsal and the ‘stiffs’ run out 4-1 winners. Frank Saul, Barry Aitchson and John Smith scored as well as an own goal before Terry Dyson gets one back for the first team.
Now it was north to Birmingham and only Burnley stood between us and Wembley.
1 - The Daily Express
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