The reigning Champions Burnley opened the programme of six games in December all to be played on wet heavy pitches. Once again the critics wondered if Spurs would buckle. The weather had turned and the White Hart Lane pitch that day was described as like Passchendale. Yet those present were served up a game in pouring rain and a swirling driving wind that will live in the memories for a long time and was described as the ‘game of the century’ (2).
Burnley had been in European Cup action in midweek, losing 2-3 in France but going through over the two legs. The visitors started well and looked like they would score. Then Tottenham turned the tide and scored three times in rapid succession. Tottenham won a corner after 18 minutes and Maurice Norman showed his value at set pieces by heading home. Then we saw Cliff Jones skimming over the surface to score, twice. The 34th Minute and Dave Mackay added another, a shot from outside the box. Just before the break they pulled one back 1-4. A few realized what would happen next.
Early in the second half our defence made two errors and both were punished. Henry failed to clear properly for the first. Then Norman was caught wrong footed and it was 3-4. With a quarter of an hour to play Spurs are mounting attacks when Burnley suddenly break out and race the length of the field and their full back fires home 4-4.
Left - Dave Mackay
Two good sides had produced a football melodrama in dreadful conditions but Bill Nicholson however was angry with the team saying after the match ‘You score eight goals and only drew.’ Dave Mackay also made his thoughts known when the press asked him about the great game making it clear that no team should be able to catch Spurs once they had a four goal lead.
The next week sees Spurs in Lancashire at Preston. Most of the game was played in Preston’s penalty box which was as packed as Piccadilly tube station.
Frank Saul reappeared as Smith was unwell and Spurs won 1-0. The only goal arrives when Norman heads a Dyson corner down into the path of John White. Some fine work by Bill Brown keeps the home side from leveling.
Right - Danny Blanchflower.
The midweek saw a three day break down to Brighton before it was back to Lancashire again the following week as we travel to Everton with Smith restored to the side. A game played in fog and many of the sixty one thousand thought the game wouldn’t be finished. Everton are on top for the first half an hour and miss several good chances before Spurs take control and strike with the venom of uncoiling cobras.
Blanchflower frees Jones with a dazzling pass. Jones in turn plays a pass which was said to land on White’s instep as the visitors take the lead. Just four minutes later and Blanchflower again, this time going down the byline finds Dyson who turns and leaves his marker going the wrong way.
Its back to Blanchflower, again to Dyson who finds Allen who hooks the ball home a shot with such force one report said it could of scored at Anfield, (1). The second half sees Everton pull one back, the fans are seeing even less. A few minutes later and Jones drives across the pitch and finds Mackay. Mackay unleashes a shot from 35 yards which would be unstoppable on any day into the top corner. Blanchflower stands and applauds as the Spurs men congratulate Mackay and a ‘deadly hush fell upon the frenzied crowd.’ Only the fog could stop Spurs and they returned home 3-1 winners. The long journey is helped by the news coming through that we have moved ten points clear at the top.
It’s a Merry Christmas all round as on the 24th as we host West Ham. John White scores after 25 minutes from a blinding Smith cross. White, another wonderful display, turns provider for Dyson with two minutes left to give us a 2-0 win. What it also means is that every one of our forwards has double figures for the season. Smith 18, Allen 12 and Dyson, Jones and White (left V Burnley) all with 10.
The bad news was Jones is injured and leaves the field with half an hour for Spurs to play with ten men and he will miss the next three games with Medwin coming back in. West Ham have Dave Dunmore in their side, the former Spurs man has scored in his last six games but does little that day.
Boxing Day and we make the trip to Upton Park. Bill Brown misses the game and John Hollowbread makes his only appearance of the season. West Ham were poor in both games and again ‘struggled to contain Tottenham’s bewildering movement.’ Straight from the whistle Spurs start to crave great gaps in the West Ham side. Tottenham feeling in a seasonal mood manage to mass a number of openings. One match report that Rhodes in the West Ham goal made 23 saves before Hollowbread made one. Bill Nic was quoted as saying the Spurs play in the first half was the best he had seen from a Spurs side.
Les Allen’s (left) shot that is on route to one corner of the net when a defender attempts a block and diverts it into the other. Spurs go 2-0 up when a Mackay ball aimed at Dyson is taken out of the air by Allen who in one movement fires home a glorious shot.
In the second half the home side has a period of pressure but the Spurs back line is never troubled and Hollowbread makes his one save. “Tottenham continue to use the ball as slick passes are played to men appearing in space as the ball arrives as defenders lumber after the ball.”
The third goal is reported as having thirteen touches as Spurs move the ball from their own box to the other in a manner that bamboozles and bewilders the opposition before White has plenty of time to finish the game off with a shot in off the post as the defence has come to a standstill.
Even on a poor pitch White never stops running and more than one writer claims he is the greatest player of the era, as he glides into spaces and never fails to play the correct pass and brings other players into the game. Tottenham let the ball do the work and White is the will-of a wisp appearing and disappearing to torment defenders. After the third Tottenham sit back and West Ham never look like scoring as we finish 3-0 winners.
Bright sunshine saw 1960 pass and Blackburn arrived at the Lane on New Year’s Eve.
Tony Marchi replaced Mackay and has a good game alongside the impressive Norman, even though he carried an injury for much of the game. Blackburn match Spurs in the early exchanges in the words of the Observer ‘Spurs looked like merely members of the Human Race.’ Tottenham conceded the first goal after 14 minutes.
Left - Terry Medwin
Tottenham made harder work than usual of the game and it takes to the 37th minute to draw level. when Dyson’s cross was met by Smith who pushed it home with his chest. The game remains even until the fifty seventh minute Dyson sends in a cross and Allen volleys home furiously.
Now in front Tottenham scored again two minutes later and Dyson again found Smith who back heeled the ball into Blanchflower’s path who picks his spot. Allen and then Smith put Spurs out of sight before Rovers scored late on. 5-2. Nicholson saw the New Year in calling his side, ‘fighters, they deserve the best.’
Tottenham have only lost once and dropped just four points at this stage of the season yet some people still wonder if they can maintain the pace in the New Year with its heavy pitches. 1961 would dawn with twenty five games played and Spurs have 46 pts, Wolves sit ten points back, Burnley were two behind them, Wednesday another point further back. with Everton the same again in fifth. Anyone really worried should have checked with the Bookmakers as they now stopped taking bets on Spurs to win the title.
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Notes – 1 – Anfield is of course just a few minutes’ walk across Stanley Park from Everton’s ground. I found one report that credited this goal to Dyson.
2- Evening Standard
That title - The News of the World
See also – The rest of this series can be found @
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