The story of the League and Cup Double could be said to start on the day
that Danny Blanchflower signed for Spurs in December 1954. Rowe’s great
‘Push ‘n’ Run’ team was beginning to break up. Blanchflower had a
reputation for being a bit of a rebel as he had not seen eye to eye with
his managers at Barnsley and Aston Villa. But Rowe saw him as the player
who would lead Spurs to honours in the future.
When Blanchflower was greeted by club captain Alf Ramsey on arrival at
White Hart Lane, there were already players on the books who would form
part of the Double team. But Rowe was not destined to lead Tottenham’s
fortunes for much longer, as he was taken ill with the worry of Tottenham
sliding down the table in season 1954-55. He left to nurse himself back to
health and Jimmy Anderson, a loyal servant to Tottenham for over 50 years,
was appointed manager.
Anderson undoubtedly left much to Bill Nicholson, who had been appointed
club coach on his retirement the week before Blanchflower arrived. But it
was Anderson who picked the team and signed the players. Bobby Smith was
signed during season 1955-56 as Spurs struggled at the foot of the table
and had a long run in the FA Cup. But Blanchflower fell out with manager
Anderson when he made some tactical changes during the Semi-Final at Villa
Park after Manchester City had taken the lead, sending Maurice Norman up
front to add his height to an attempt to equalise. There was a public row
between captain and manager through the press which ended with
Blanchflower being sacked as captain and dropped for a vital relegation
game against Cardiff. Spurs survived the relegation scare and went on to
have two good seasons under Anderson, finishing second and third in
Division One. During that spell, Peter Baker, Maurice Norman and Cliff
Jones became first team regulars as they either established themselves or
were transferred in from other clubs.
But at the start of season 1958-59, Spurs made an awful start to the
season and manager Anderson was taken ill with the worry of it all. He
resigned as manager and Bill Nicholson took over on the morning of October
11th 1958. Their opponents that afternoon were Everton, whom it must be
said were playing even worse than Tottenham. It was mooted on Merseyside
that Everton’s sole ambition that season was to be relegated in record
time. Spurs thrashed Everton 10-4 (the only time Spurs reached double
figures in the Football League) but their defence demonstrated why Spurs
were deep in trouble by conceding four goals they should never have
Throughout the rest of that season, Bill Nicholson’s priority was to avoid
relegation. He took a long hard look at the team and decided that Danny
Blanchflower was a luxury he could not afford. So in January 1959 he
dropped Danny Blanchflower and played young Bill Dodge in his place. His
reasoning was that Blanchflower and Iley were both attacking wing-halves
and Iley was the younger player. Dodge would have more defensive
responsibilities. Blanchflower responded by demanding a transfer as he was
coming to the end of his playing career and reserve team football was no
good to him. But out of the FA Cup, beaten by Third Division Norwich City,
Nicholson took another long hard look at the team and made two momentous
For the away game at Wolves, Blanchflower, who had returned to the first
team a fortnight earlier, was appointed captain for the first time in
Nicholson’s reign. A fortnight later, with the football world expecting
Nicholson to sign Mel Charles from Swansea, Nicholson struck further north
and signed Dave Mackay from Hearts. Between them, Blanchflower and Mackay
steadied the team’s nerves and relegation was averted.
During the summer, Nicholson had a further look at the team and decided he
needed a better goalkeeper than John Hollowbread, who had held the fort
after first choice ‘keepers Ditchburn and Reynolds had both broken fingers
in the early weeks of the previous season. He signed Bill Brown from
Dundee. As a precaution, Nicholson also re-signed Marchi from Juventus as
cover for Blanchflower and Mackay.
Spurs made a good start to the 1959-60 season but it was clear there was
still something missing. In October, Spurs signed John White from Falkirk
and Tommy Harmer’s days at Tottenham were numbered. Two months later,
Nicholson signed Les Allen, a reserve team player from Chelsea, in
exchange for Johnny Brooks, an England international but a very
inconsistent and highly annoying player. It was said of Brooks that even
he did not know what he was going to do next such was his unpredictable
The team was now in position. Ron Henry had replaced Mel Hopkins at left
back following the Welsh international being sidelined through a broken
nose whilst playing for Wales. And during the summer of 1960, Nicholson,
reflecting on Tottenham’s failure to win the Championship, decided to drop
Terry Medwin, switch Cliff Jones to the right wing to partner John White
and to bring in Terry Dyson, the smallest player on the books, on the left
wing. He also signed John Smith from West Ham with the intention of
replacing Blanchflower, who was looking increasingly frail on the field.
Blanchflower did not see it that way, of course. To complete the story,
Smith was so frustrated that he only made 21 appearances for Tottenham in
four years at the club and had left for Coventry before Blanchflower
finally made the decision to retire in 1964.
In July 1961, during pre-season training, Blanchflower quietly told
chairman Fred Bearman that Spurs would win the Double during the coming
season. Spurs started like a house on fire, winning the first 11 games on
the trot. They drew the 12th with Manchester City, which prompted
predictions from the press that Spurs were about to crack. Spurs won the
next four games on the trot before losing their first game of the season,
2-1, at Sheffield Wednesday. Again, the press predicted Spurs were about
to crack but Spurs resumed their triumphant progress with the only hiccup
a 4-4 draw against Burnley, after being 4-0 ahead. By Christmas, they were
11 points ahead of Sheffield Wednesday and it seemed just a matter of how
many points Spurs would win the League by.
Spurs now concentrated on the FA Cup. They beat Charlton Athletic, 3-2, in
the Third Round. The draw then pitched them against Crewe Alexandra, who
had been crushed 13-2 the previous February. This time Spurs were merciful
and only bothered to win 5-1. The 5th Round saw Spurs win 2-0 at Aston
Villa. The draw then gave them an away tie at Sunderland, then in the old
Second Division. Spurs nearly came a cropper there and were fortunate to
survive a 1-1 draw. But at White Hart Lane, Spurs re-exerted their
authority and crushed Sunderland 5-0. For the Semi-Final, it was back to
Villa Park for a tie against Burnley, probably the only club who could
match Tottenham at their best in those days.
Before the match, Jimmy Adamson pointed out to Danny Blanchflower that
Burnley had never lost a match at Villa Park in their normal playing
strip, knowing full well they could never use it because of a clash of
colours with Villa’s. But at that time, Spurs were regularly beating Aston
Villa and had not lost there since before WW2. In the event, Spurs had no
trouble in beating Burnley once Bobby Smith had thumped them ahead.
Through to their first Final since 1921, Spurs could now switch their
attention back to the League. Their long lead had been chipped away and
only three points stood between them and Sheffield Wednesday. Spurs were
dropping a lot of silly points and Nicholson became thoroughly
exasperated. “We’ve become lazy” he roared through the press on Easter
Saturday as Spurs prepared to play Preston North End, struggling to avoid
relegation. The Spurs players were annoyed with the public criticism from
the manager and took it out on Preston. Once the whistle went, it was
always going to be a question of how many Spurs would bother to get. The
five they got widened the gap at the top of the table again.
And so to April 17th 1961. Spurs had one hand on the Championship.
Sheffield Wednesday knew the odds were against them. Spurs were a goal
down after Megson had scored following a free-kick. But within a minute of
that goal, Smith had plundered an equaliser and within seconds of that,
Les Allen had snatched what was destined to be the winning goal.
When the whistle ended the game, the crowd streaked onto the pitch and
refused to go home until Danny Blanchflower led his champions out on to
the balcony in the old West Stand.
Spurs eased up alarmingly over the last few weeks and failed to beat
Arsenal’s record of 66 points for the season. They were more interested in
saving themselves for the Cup Final against Leicester City.
The Cup Final was a huge disappointment. Mackay was nothing like the
player he had been during the season and Spurs were ultra-cautious on the
Wembley turf, keenly aware of the injury hoodoo. But it was Leicester who
fell victim to the hoodoo in those distant pre-substitute days when
Chalmers and Allen collided and Chalmers did not get up until after some
very lengthy treatment. Leicester refused to accept the script that
Tottenham should win, urged on by their captain, a certain Frank McLintock
who was to achieve notorious fame some ten years later. But Spurs
eventually scored two late goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson and
Spurs had achieved the first modern League and Cup double.
By Brian Judson.
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