live in a cynical, mercenary and sometimes violent age. Then again every
generation have been saying that since time immemorial. Anyway, if the first section of this article strikes you as sentimental and soft, then please forgive me. It is a true story.
At Primary School, my best mate, Barry Ross, was one lucky gringo. Although eleven years old he was tall for his age and looked sixteen. I looked up to him like an older brother and with awe as he smoked ciggies and managed to get into X certificate films at the cinema. I suppose he was drinking pints in the pub at fifteen! His mum worked in the offices of British Railways and she could get free tickets for Spurs matches and complementary rail tickets. At the end of season 1960/61, Barry had seen all of the games Spurs had played, home and away in League and Cup. Not bad for a lad of 11, and he travelled on his own. That was except for one game on February 11th 1961, when Spurs played at Villa Park against the Villa in a league match. Although a regular at White Hart Lane, pocket money/paper round money permitting, I had only seen Spurs play away at Stamford Bridge and Highbury and now I had permission from my parents to go with Barry up to Birmingham.
My Mum had knitted me a navy blue and white bobble hat that I wore with pride as we boarded the steam train at Paddington. Then it was Birmingham, Snow Hill, with Barry guiding me though the packed platform to the bus stop outside the station. Along the platform were large straw skips with the lettering THFC stamped on them. "Look !" I cried .. "all Spurs' kit and stuff".
"That's right son, now move out of the way please" It was Cecil Poynton the Spurs trainer and kit-man, organising things.
I turned away and bumped into a tall man in a grey cashmere overcoat.
"Now, that's a nice tea cosy son" said the tall man as he took my bobble hat in one hand and ruffled my hair with the other.
The Northern Ireland accent and generous smile were instantly recognisable. On TV he had been advertising the Shredded Wheat cereal with the immortal lines..."Pass the hot milk please".
"Danny !" I exclaimed, and gave him an impromptu hug. Danny just smiled and gently placed my bobble hat back on my head. Barry and I watched him disappear into the forecourt and waiting Spurs coach. I shouted out "Never mind passing the hot milk Danny, pass the ball.. all right" He didnít hear me. I felt like the kid, Joey, calling after Alan Ladd in "Shane".
Barry pointed out that I had just spoken to a football genius. Spurs won the game 2-1
with goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson. Danny Blanchflower was in, as usual, superlative form. The following week Spurs repeated the dose with a 2-0 FA Cup win at Villa in the 5th Round. Barry was there of course. The last time I ever saw him was when I was queuing at White Hart Lane for the Euro Cup-Winners Cup 1st Round 1st Leg tickets against Glasgow Rangers in November 1962. He roared past me on his flash drop-handle bar racing bike waving his ticket in the air. "See you at Ibrox in the second leg" he yelled. Some hope. It was in the second leg at Glasgow that Danny sustained an injury that would hasten the end of his brilliant career.
Memories of Danny...........Flicking the ball between two Arsenal players as they charged in to tackle him. Danny jumped over the scything legs and carried on with the ball leaving the Arsenal players to collide with each other. His slide-rule passing, his chipped and flighted accurate crosses, his cool penalties and his reading of the game, enabling him to dictate the ebb and flow of the match. He would bring the ball out of defence and veer off to the central or left side, then with a drop of his left shoulder, step over the ball and reverse flick the ball with his right foot to the overlapping Cliff Jones or Terry Medwin.
As articulate off the field as he was on it, his calm demeanor hid a strong will and ego. He left Barnsley for Aston Villa because he could not stand the Yorkshire Club's training methods and lack of ball practice. He then left Villa due to his perception of their lack of ambition, and joined Spurs for a then record fee for a half-back, of £30.000, despite competition from Arsenal and Wolves. This was in 1954 and Spurs manager, Arthur Rowe, saw Danny as the man to rekindle and inspire his fading "Push and Run" side. Rowe resigned due to ill-health and coach, Jimmy Anderson, took over the managers role. As captain, Danny took it upon himself to change things on the field as he saw fit. This caused a rift with Anderson as a couple of results, notably the FA Cup Semi Final with Man. City, ended in defeat with Danny getting the blame for tactical blunders and subsequently being dropped. Even when Bill Nicholson became manager he thought the Northern Ireland international too adventurous, leaving the defence without cover in his attacking forays.
At the end of 1958/59 season Danny had re-established himself in the first team and had regained the captaincy. The eventual "Double Team" were falling into place. Within two seasons the impossible dream was done and Dannyís quest for glory reached itís summit.
For further reading :- THE DOUBLE AND BEFORE...Danny Blanchflower. Published by Nicholas Kaye, 1961.
DANNY BLANCHFLOWER ..A BIOGRAPHY OF A VISIONARY. Dave Bowler. Published in paperback by VISTA, 1998.
THE DOUBLE...THE INSIDE STORY OF SPURS' TRIUMPHANT 1960/61 SEASON. Ken Ferris. Mainstream Sport, 1999.
Vaya con Dios mi amigos .........................................Pete Hanscomb
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