It was then back to Cup Action and another game at Villa Park. March 18th, saw us meet Burnley in the semi-final. Danny as we have seen was a master of the psychological aspect of the game. He knew the Burnley captain well as they roomed together for Ireland and Jimmy McIlroy understood why Danny’s nickname as a youngster was rabbit as he kept him up all night talking.
Left - Spurs take the field in the semi final.
Before the game at Villa Park Danny admitted telling Jimmy that Spurs had the lucky home dressing room for the semi, and remained him Burnley did not do well on that ground. McIlroy countered that’s because we never wear our normal colours (Villa and Burnley of course both wear claret and blue). Ah replied Danny ‘we have never lost against those shirts there either.’ Despite The Curse of Villa Park (1) Tottenham had not lost at Villa in the league since before the war.
Danny then (knowing the answer) asked what hotel Burnley had stayed in last night. When he received his answer he rubbed it in ‘poor sods, we stayed there in 56, and we lost.’
It was a disappointing game in heavy winds that the fans, eight train full’s had taken them north, celebrated the result if not the performance. Burnley had been eliminated from the European Cup just three days before by Hamburg after losing 1-4, having been 3-1 up from the first leg.
Bobby Smith put Spurs ahead on the half hour when he picked up a poor clearance and drove right footed past the goalie. Both sides had good calls for hand ball in the box but the ref gave neither. Burnley nearly pulled level with Spurs as they headed home but the ref saw a foul on Norman.
Left - Semi final action,
Brown catches watched by Norman and Baker.
Just after the break Smith got his second of the match when the ball fell nicely for him and another right footed drive from the edge of the box. Jones rounded off the win with our third. Maurice Norman watched by the England manager and the selectors (2) had a magnificent game. Another man they had their eyes on was Smith.
The press had been mounting a campaign saying he wasn’t good enough to play for England and Smith had publicly said he was fed up with all the critics (3). His two goals that day must have helped his case. Ice cool Danny Blanchflower with his tantalizing passes had one of his finest hours and Brown made some good saves. Burnley, who remember came from four down to draw at The Lane earlier in the season and Tottenham fans breathed a sigh of relief when the game ends.
A handful of people short of seventy thousand (Spurs are credited with twenty thousand plus of them) watched as Spurs reached their first Cup Final in forty years. This would be Tottenham’s third final in their history and their first ever game at Wembley. Smith was a little slow leaving the pitch that day and was caught up by the invading Spurs fans that hoisted Bobby up on to their shoulders and carried him from the field.
Left - Henry, Brown and Baker.
Maybe an after effect of reaching Wembley but the next game a Newcastle United side that looked relegation in the face came to White Hart Lane and Les Allen put us ahead in the closing minutes of the first half. Tottenham could have run in ten or twelve. Up to the penalty box we were superb but we couldn’t finish that night. One report even suggested some spirit must be protecting the United goal line. Another said Newcastle had taken a bigger hammering than a blacksmith’s anvil. Then Newcastle pulled level just after the hour and took the lead in the 77th minute, two breakaway goals and only a couple of other chances was all Newcastle could muster. Tottenham’s play tended to become rushed as they looked for a way back but it was not to be that day. The Daily Sketch warned that ‘the dirt diggers would now claim Spurs were over the top and falling to pieces. What rubbish.’
The fans wanted a good performance to assure themselves all was well and the Double was still possible (even though we were still top of the table). Next it was a cross town trip to the river bank for the Fulham game and those fears were not eased as Spurs drew 0-0 in a game and Fulham missed chances to win it.
Saul was in for Smith and Marchi for Mackay. Nicholson was furious with his side after the game. A man who rarely criticized them in public was moved to say “We've become lazy! We didn’t play well.
This was Tottenham’s first 0-0 since August 1959 when we played Birmingham at home. It was only the second and last time we failed to score that season.
Easter was approaching, the time when the year before fatigue cost Spurs their hopes of the title and with the lead at the top being slowly cut back again the question was asked would Spurs hold on. Nicholson when he was calmer admitted Spurs did not play well at Fulham and had not done so for a few games. He said the side just needed to work harder.
The team bounced back again in the best possible style over the Bank Holiday as Cliff Jones in inspired form lead Tottenham forward. Those were the days when teams played three games over the Easter weekend and would often make or break a season. Chelsea came to Tottenham on the Good Friday.
Sixty five thousand watched as Tottenham did what they pleased and made Chelsea appear small fry and ‘looked like carthorses galloping like mad to keep up with trotting thoroughbreds.’
The five minutes after the break the tireless Blanchflower managed to find Jones in space in the Chelsea box and he scored. It felt like a great weight had been lifted, not just off the team but the fans. Tottenham started to put moves together again. Jones scored again, Frank Saul (in for Smith ) and Les Allen added goals. Tony Marchi had marked Jimmy Greaves out of the game and showed why at any other club he would be first choice. Chelsea managed a couple of consolation games in the last few minutes to make the score look respectable as Tottenham won 4-2.
The month ended with seven games to play and Spurs were just three points clear of Wednesday. Wolves (with just six to play) were seven points behind Spurs as they entered teh final month.
The Title comes from the Daily Express who said -White and Blanchflower fashioned the fantasies of soccer which streamed from Spurs.
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Notes – 1 – see Hotspur Towers - The Curse of Villa Park.
2 - At the time, England like most countries had a selection committee and the manager like if any say in what players were chosen.
3 – Smith scored 13 times in 15 games for England.
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