As the transfer window finally opens and the super agents, club insiders and sources close to the Board room provide endless speculation it is easy to forget that there was a time when transfers didn’t collapse over image rights.
Indeed it was a much simpler time as Alan Mullery and Bobby Smith recall how they joined Spurs.
First up Bobby Smith, he had joined Chelsea at 14 years of age, and despite homesickness and running away several times he had made his way through the ranks to the first team squad. He recalled that in December 1955 “I was training at Stamford Bridge when I was called to the manager’s office. When I got there he also found Tottenham manager Jimmy Anderson and his assistant Bill Nicholson. Ted Drake, the Chelsea manager told him Tottenham had made an offer of 17.000 and the club had accepted it.” Bobby was surprised but replied that he was happy at Chelsea and did not want to leave. He then left and made his way back to pitch where he said the captain called him over and asked what that was all about and Bobby told him.
Bobby was told that he had made a big mistake as the club clearly were going to let him go and he could not have much of a future at Chelsea. He was told to run back and say he had changed his mind. On reaching the office he found Spurs had already left. Bobby says he dashed down the stairs and into the car park where the Tottenham car was just pulling away. Jimmy Anderson stopped the car and Bobby told he would sign for Spurs if they still want him. Anderson looked surprised but took his wallet out of his jacket and gave Bobby a new ten pound note saying that was his signing on fee.
Smith may have been surprised but the Evening Standard claimed Spurs had been after him for sometime. They quoted Drakes as saying ‘Spurs have never left us alone and I don’t blame them, Bob did not like leaving us but he has not had a lot of chances here and we realized he had a chance to establish himself at Tottenham.’
Jimmy Anderson said about the signing ‘ I have been sweet on Smith ever since he played for Chelsea juniors (he scored a hat trick against Spurs) before he signed professional forms. We have the footballers here. I think Smiths spirit will finish it off for us.’
Bobby (above at the end of the Gornik European Cup tie) would go on to become our second highest goal scorer of all time with 208 goals.
Moving forward nine years and our second legend, Alan Mullery also made the trip from West London to Tottenham. Bill Nicholson had tried to sign Alan several times but Fulham had rejected the previous bids. Then in March 1964 with the transfer window about to close Nicholson met with Fulham manager Frank Osborne, a former Spurs player, this time in their cars outside Lords Cricket Ground, but still they could not agree. When Nicholson phoned him again Osborne said ‘phone the chairman and he will give you a define no.’ their chairman was Tommy Trinder a well known comedian, who was performing in Birmingham at that time.
Frank Osborne was surprised when Nicholson rang back and said that he had agreed a fee of £72,500,which was a record for a half back. It seems the chairman wanted some urgent work down at the ground.
Mullery at this point says he knew nothing but had been told that Spurs had been watching him. The day before the window shut Osborne rang Mullery and told him to come to his house.
When he arrived Alan remembered Mrs Osborne seemed very upset then frank offered him a sherry, which Alan declined as he had a game the following day. Frank told him one won’t hurt and told Alan that Spurs want to buy you and the Board had overruled him.
Left -Alan days before the 67 Cup Final, this pose was used as he was carrying an injury at the time. Top pic - In his Fulham days with Jimmy Greaves.
Bill Nicholson and his assistant Eddie Baily arrived shortly after. Bill asked him if he would play at full back which Alan rejected saying he had always been a half back. Bill finally agreed (it’s thought he was also after Mike Bailey at Charlton for the right half position, both players would later play for England in that role). Then Bill said he wouldn’t sign him that night as he had agreed to let Mullery play for Fulham the following day against Liverpool. Alan was told to keep the deal secret and not tell anyone.
Alan did tell his family he was moving they felt it was a mistake, wondering if he was good enough., after all would be taking the great Danny Blanchflower’s place,(Alan did take time to win the crowd over).
Alan kept the secret from his team mates but at half time in the Liverpool game and being 1-0 in the lead he told the captain Johnny Haynes he was moving to Spurs later that day. Haynes refused to believe him but the story did spread around the dressing room.
Some accounts claim that it was at this point that Osborne found out and that he had stormed out of the ground but that is not supported by Alan’s own version.
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