The late, great Dave Mackay will be remembered as a great Spurs legend. At left-half, he was a staunch, aggressive player who took absolutely no nonsense. He is famous for many of the clubs he played with such as Heart of Midlothian and Derby County. But, at Tottenham he really made his name.
Mackay was born in Edinburgh. As a young boy his favourite club was Hearts. And in 1952 he got to realise his boy hood dream, signing a part time contract. Early on, his qualities of strength, tackling, fitness and technique were recognisable. In 1954 he broke into the first team. During his stint in Scotland, he won the Scottish League Division One title in 1957-8, the Scottish Cup in 1955-6 and the League cup in 1954-5 and 1958-9.
Spurs snapped Mackay up in 1959. He then performed a vital role as the backbone in the double winning team of 1960/1961. He was part of that utterly glorious Spurs side that won the First Division, the FA Cup three times, the European Cup Winner’s Cup and two Charity Shields.
When he first arrived at the club, he did struggle to adapt. He then formed a great partnership with Danny Blanchflower, complementing his skill and elegance with his combative might. Eventually, he became the captain of the club, even leading his team out at Chelsea in 1967 to win a final trophy.
His style will be ever present in any fan who got to watch any of his performances. As his wife Julie Welch writes, he “combined delicacy of touch and sublime attacking play with an air of barely restrained violence”. It was this combination of brute force, of stocky power, intermingled with good footballing ability that made him a real force to be reckoned with. He was not just a hard man, he was really gifted player.
He was also a fantastic leader on the pitch. Steve Perryman famously quoted the story of Mackay’s bravado in the dressing room, remembering that he said: “”Anyone feel like ******* panicking, just give me the ******* ball !”. Indeed, he lead by example by leaving all that he had out on the pitch. He relished a physical battle, a tussle and a tackle. It was this bravery, strength and desire that infected his team-mates and inspired them to meet his fantastic levels of commitment.
Despite his power, Mackay did struggle with some injuries. He had to miss the Cup Winner’s Cup final due to stomach muscle issues. Also in his career he managed to break his leg twice. This was against Manchester United, and then against Shrewsbury on his rehabilitation. A historic image was then created 20 months later. Billy Bremner maliciously targeted Mackay’s weak leg in a bad challenge. Mackay, thankfully unhurt, leapt up to grab him by the neck.
After Spurs, he moved onto Derby. He helped their promotion campaign into the First Divison. His performances in this team meant he was named joint Footballer of the Year.
He retired from playing football in 1972, moving on to player manage Swindon before his first proper managerial role at Nottingham Forest. At Derby he managed to win the League title. Since managing Derby, he had an interesting move to Kuwait, with Al-Arabi Kuwait and Al-Shabab, before moving back to England to manage Doncaster Rovers and Birmingham City. However, he again moved back abroad to Zamalek, in Egypt and then helped manage Qatar by 1995. In 1997, he retired from any involvement in football, closing what was a magnificent career.