Not just a major figure in the history of Tottenham Hotspur, but also of football in this country in the 1950s and 1960s, as Danny Blanchflower brought an intelligence and intuitive approach to the game, which do not always go down too well with everyone.
A man who was as eloquent off the field as his skill talked for him on it, Blanchflower could read the game better than almost anyone of his generation and he was not afraid to have the temerity to put his thoughts on the game into practice while out on the pitch to try and change things in the favour of his own side.
As a player, he could do it all. Tackle, track back, pass, head, shoot and cross. Not with strength and power, but with guile and creative thought. He also had the ability of bringing out the best of his team-mates through his shrewd captaincy and unique man-management, which unfortunately was never allowed to be put into practice as the boss at White Hart Lane, when he was seen as the natural successor to Bill Nicholson.
It was his speed of thought on the field that set Danny apart from other players and the role he played as a half-back (or midfielder) gave him the freedom of the field to do his work in. Often back on the edge of his own area, he could move the ball with long or short passes and was mobile enough to join in at the other end of the field creating or scoring goals.
Born of a shipyard worker and a mother who played centre forward for Belfast women's team in Belfast, Danny attended Ravenscroft school and was awarded a scholarship to Belfast College of Technology. Leaving his studies early to work as an apprentice electrician at Gallagher's cigarette company in the city, it was the first of a number of maverick decisions that marked his career. His younger brother Jackie was a talented footballer too and went on to play for Manchester United.
Blanchflower made a name for himself in local sides before he lied about his age to join the RAF and was sent to Scotland to train as a navigator, being sent on a scholarship to St. Andrews University, but the war interrupted his studies when he was sent to Canada and on declaration of peace, he returned to his football.
Joining Belfast side Glentoran on resumption of football after the war in 1946, he still worked at Gallagher's, but was spotted by Barnsley, who paid £6,000 for him in 1949 to bring him to England. It was never going to be a smooth ride as a manager with Blanchflower in your side, as it proved firstly at Barnsley, where he had a difference of opinion about the lack of practice with the ball in training with manager Angus Seed.
His personality did not entirely fit in the Yorkshire set-up and he was sold to Aston Villa for £15,000 in 1951 and in time took the captaincy of the team. However, once more Danny fell out with the Aston Villa management, over a dispute about team tactics and the aspect of training with footballs in 1954, leaving Spurs to beat Arsenal to the signing of Blanchflower by offering £30,000, some £1,500 above what Arsenal bid. This made Blanchflower the most expensive midfielder in Britain at the time, but for four years, he was playing in a side that was getting old and the remnants of the Push and Run side of 1950-51 needed to be replaced. Arthur Rowe, who brought Danny to the club retired in 1955 and then Jimmy Anderson took over, but his reign was short and ended with illness meaning he made way for Bill Nicholson to assume the mantle of Tottenham manager.
Alf Ramsey was captain of the Spurs side when Danny arrived, but Blanchflower took over the responsibility of captaincy on 19th March 1955 v Sheffield United and was skipper for 13 months until Harry Clarke resumed the responsibility. Danny took over as captain again against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 2nd March 1959, just a month after he had put in a transfer request that was refused by the board. The Irishman had 265 matches as captain and his final game in the captain's role was v Manchester United in the First Division on 9th November 1963.
Blanchflower's reign on the field saw him clash with Anderson as Spurs were losing in the 1956 FA Cup semi-final and Danny told Maurice Norman to join the attack to try and get Tottenham level. This didn't work and Spurs lost to Manchester City, causing the manager to strip him of the captaincy and leaving him out of the side in a vital game against Cardiff City. The party line was that Danny was injured, but he refused to toe that line and revealed that he had been dropped. This saw the player rebuked by the board for his comments and while there was some talk that he might be allowed to leave, as the directors were of the opinion that he thought he was bigger than the club, but his hopes for success with Tottenham saw him stay and in 1956-57, he was the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year and Spurs finished in third position in the First Division.
The early days for the Northern Ireland international half back under Nicholson did not go that smoothly either, as the side struggled in the early stages of the 1958-59 season and the younger, more defensive Bill Dodgin was preferred to Blanchflower and he waited a while before putting in a transfer request. Nicholson strongly resisted the request and it was denied, with Danny returning to the team shortly after, being reinstated as manager in March and allowed to put his thinking into practice on the pitch.
This partnership of manager and captain was starting to build and it spectacularly took off the next season with eleven straight wins from the first day that backed up Blanchflower's claim to his tem-mates that they could do the Double that season. And so it proved, with Tottenham storming to the Championship and breaking league records on the way before travelling to Wembley to collect the FA Cup with a win over Leicester City, but without the panache that their football had shown during the long campaign preceding the final.
It was a spell of success that retained the FA Cup the following season, with Blanchflower scoring a penalty in a 3-1 win over Burnley and finishing third in the league, so narrowly missing out on a second Double. While not a regular goal-scorer, Danny was normally ice-cool from the penalty spot, scoring 11 of his 21 goals for the club from spot-kicks. The following season saw the disappointment of controversially losing to Benfica in the semi-final of the European Cup wiped away, as Blanchflower became the first British team captain to lift a European trophy after beating Atletico Madrid 5-1 in Rotterdam.
While a leader on the pitch, Blanchflower rarely integrated with the team away from the game and kept a distance from the ones who went drinking after a game.
Always a regular in the Northern Ireland national team, Danny enjoyed pitting his wits against the top player sin the world and it is a shame that there were not more opportunities for him to do so in European competition, as Spurs were knocked out of the next campaign by Manchester United and the trophies then dried up for Tottenham. At the age of 28 and with his body not being able to keep up with his footballing brain, Danny retired from playing in April 1964, just as the Spurs side was starting to be re-built by Bill Nicholson for his next era of success for the club. In his final game, a 1-4 defeat at Old Trafford, he was given the run-around by Denis Law, which hastened his decision to call it a day.
The expected arrival as Spurs manager had been widely predicted when Bill Nicholson was sacked in 1973, with Nicholson interviewing Blanchflower and Johnny Giles for the post before he left the club. Unfortunately, the directors saw this as an affront to their authority and plumped for a less suitable appointment and the chances of Blanchflower taking over after that time diminished.
After his days playing football ended, the Irishman took some time out and wrote about the game for the Sunday Express, until his country came calling in 1978 and he took the helm of the national side for a short while, moving into the manager's office at Chelsea later that year. His time at Stamford Bridge was not glorious, as he won only three of 15 games in charge and the club were relegated, leading to his dismissal in September 1979. His theories didn't go down well with the players, who were unable to process his instructions.
On the big screen, Blanchflower starred in a 1984 Channel 4 Film called "Those Glory, Glory Days" about four Spurs mad schoolgirls in the early 1960s, one of whom took his name and followed the team through lots of personal difficulties. On the smaller screen, Danny refused to appear on TV programme "This Is Your Life" in 1961 claiming it was an invasion of privacy, whereas every other subject had accepted the focus on their past time up until then. He later took part in a Channel 4 documentary in 1985 named "The Keller Instinct" about his long standing friend Hans Keller, who had a belief in creative football tactics.
Suffering with Alzheimer's Disease, with a loss in money to help him in his old age, Spurs staged a match of Tottenham v Northern Ireland at White Hart Lane to raise funds for their former star. It was a sad decline for one with so sharp an mind.
Danny Blanchflower died at home in London on 9th December 1993.