Once upon a time games were recorded by reporters using language to paint a word picture for the reader who would then reenact the game in his mind. I know a number of readers have enjoyed my dips into the newspaper accounts of past events in various articles so I’ve drawn together a few stories that have surfaced during my research. I hope you will find them interesting, informative or just amusing. So if you could forget the sound bite a moment and turn to the back page.
Here is a lovely example, it comes from the Scottish presses version of the visit of Hearts to Spurs in November 1956 in the Anglo Scottish Cup, under the heading ‘Spurs gain revenge over Hearts’ (Hearts won the first game) and a subheading ‘Scots bemused by Harmer.’
‘This match at times breathed some of the best football either side of the boarder. It was a game of movement, goals, entertainment and skill and the graceful Tottenham spiced their approach with a dash of Harry Hotspur. Their precise mixture of the short and long pass, expertly timed was pulling the Scottish defense form side to side and bringing it to full stretch. Tottenham’s football language became more astute and more pointed. Sometimes the sentences were staccato sometimes they flowed in length giving balance and a meter to what they were saying.’
It continues ‘At 3-2 the Sassenach hearts were in their mouths for a spell.’ As well as singling out Mackay (against his future employers) with ‘his throw-in the equivalent of a corner kick but as a team they did not truly live with Tottenham. Here again was the poise and thoughtful construction of Blanchflower and Marchi. Smith even without a goal (he hit a hat trick) would have earned full marks as a dashing center forward but it was little Harmer the prince of a starry evening doing things at his own pace, he was an entertainer who would of made the eyes of Alex James once the greatest of them all dance with appreciation and merriment. The line and measurement of Harmers passes were at times perfect and he more than anyone sent Hearts away starching their heads.’
Doesn’t that just make you wish you had been at the ground that floodlit night?
Next - We slip back to 5th December 1918, World War One is still raging but the end is in sight and the Chairman shares an insight.
The Sheffield Daily Independent carried a syndicate report from Tottenham’s AGM at Edmonton Town Hall.
The Chairman Mr. C.D. Roberts reported “he had been often been asked lately if football would again take the prominent part in sport that it had previously held. He had replied that his opinion was and always had been football was still in its infancy and that it would become even more popular than before. No sport would ever take its place.” The report continued that Messers Deacock and Roberts had been reelected as Directors together with Mr. George Cox in place of Dr.McKenzie.
Left -The Daily Mirror reporting on the night we won the ECWC in '63.
Forget the clamor of papers for which players should be called up for their countries its Friday May 11th 1952 and the press reveal the surprise omission of Billy Wright from the forthcoming England game with Portugal.
This it seems was because Mr. Wright had played too much football over the last two years. His place is given too Bill Nicholson the Tottenham right half who gets his first international chance. The story continues that in Mr. Wrights absence, Ramsey (the Tottenham full back) will captain the team. In case you’re wondering if Mr. Wright got plenty of rest the next paragraph informs the reader that he was a member of the Wolves party that left the same day for their tour of South Africa.
I don’t want you thinking that transfer gossip is new I came across a number of reports that suggested certain players were posed to sign, and mostly didn't, however without the need of a club insider or sources close to. I liked this cutting (1935) well its nearly right McWilliam did return to Spurs, just three years later.
As for transfer stories well the top picture is Ricki Villa and Ossie Ardiles in 1978 when they made the front and back page of the Weekly Herald. Its hard to understand the impact of this story now, but one reporter claimed we could not have made a bigger splash if we had signed Batman and Robin. If you look closely your see the reporter was one John Fennelly, who is now the clubs historian.
Left - How the Leicester Mercury covered our FA Cup victory win over City in 1948.
The Arsenal encounter in 1922 was a bad tempered affair. With Tottenham down to nine men the press box was shocked by what they had seen. The Herald wrote “Here was another example of Spurs artistes being bullied out of it by “grim Arsenal.”
The Sportsman described the visitor’s tactics as the “Sledgehammer opposition of the Arsenal.” The Sunday Evening Telegraph reporter went so far as to say “they were the most disgusting scenes I have witnessed on any ground at any time. Players pulled the referee, fists were exchanged”.
More bad feeling and our first game in Europe was the match in Gornik in 1961 Spurs came from four nil down to finish 2-4. All the home players were ‘officially amateurs’ and the communist Polish paper, The Workers Tribune, commented ‘we understand the desire of professionals to win their matches as much money is at stake but we do not expect then to win over tombstones of the crows.’
The Daily Mirror 1962 and Dave Mackay breaks his leg a second time in a reserve fixture at home to Shrewsbury.
The story runs that he says don't tell Bill Nic who at the time was with the first team playing at West Ham.
The fans expression says it all.
Another match report, this time the Liverpool Courier and their reporter who covered Everton’s first visit to White Hart Lane in January 1910 wasn’t impressed with his side. His lengthy report contained ‘The display of the Everton team at Tottenham on Saturday was truly disappointing. They were defeated by three clear goals, and there were possibilities of this margin being even more pronounced.’ The report then spent several paragraphs berating the toffees performance. When he got round to the match ‘Almost their first dangerous incursion into the Everton half brought about a leading point after 23 minutes' play. Taylor getting into position for trapping one of the cross centres from the home forwards, was fared by R Steel, who with a somewhat random shot drove hard between the centre half's leg into the net.’ Then just before halftime he informs us ‘there was only one side in the picture, and that was certainly not Everton.’ After slamming the visitors again he finished ‘Ten minutes from the close Clifford instead of kicking clear, feebly headed into touch, and this led up to Middlemiss putting his side further ahead, while the latter just before the close found the Everton right back again at fault, and completed the scoring.’ (Spurs winning 3-0).
September 1916 and the papers carry a report that Tom Morris has been wounded a third time.
The story below it is worthy of your attention.
Forward again, to 9th March 1938, and the local papers carried the story that just a couple of hours after our 2-2 draw, ‘the stand at Plymouth caught fire. A discarded cigarette was thought to be responsible, the stand had been checked at 8pm after the game but flames were discovered at 10pm.
Two points of interest in this next story from the Hastings and St Leonards Observer in February 1952, they report that Tottenham sent their second team down to Hastings United for the game when they officially turned on the floodlights. The fans were treated to ‘an exhibition of the famous Spurs close passing technique. The club sent their second team for the game and ‘demonstrated to perfection the art of the short pass allied with running into open spaces all done at speed with accuracy never scarified which bewildered their opponents.’ Spurs showed little mercy ‘a controlled pounding – the spurs never let up.’ Spurs were five up at half time and ran out 10-0 winners. The two points, well the club then stayed in Hastings over night and were photographed walking on the beach in the morning before returning to London and the second, Spurs did not turn their own lights on until the following year.
I will leave you with this story from July 2014.
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