What ho. If I’ve been doing this right seasoned visitors to AANP Towers should know that as of this Saturday the book “Spurs’ Cult Heroes” becomes available to buy in shops. To mark the occasion and whet your appetite, I have posted a world exclusive no less – below, for your visual delectation, is the Introduction to Spurs’ Cult Heroes.
Before you dig in, just a few public notices: Gary Mabbutt, the last man to lift the FA Cup for Spurs, will be signing copies of the book at Waterstones in Enfield, this Saturday (6th March), from 12 – 2pm. If you prefer the comfort of your computer-box, the humble tome can also be purveyed at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play
Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Introduction
“We Tottenham folk have been spoilt. Admittedly it does not always seem that way, as we look on aghast at our heroes so regularly ensuring that ignominy is snatched from the jaws of glory; or when that rarest of beasts – a settled management structure – is slaughtered, seemingly on a whim, and we have to start again from scratch. However, when dipping nib into ink in order to write Spurs’ Cult Heroes – and even when simply compiling the list of 20 players to be featured – I realised that we have, other the years, have boasted riches of which other sets of fans can only dream. With good reason does Tottenham Hotspur have a tradition for glory glory football, for when one considers the array of talent that has purred around the White Hart Lane turf, it would have been plain lunacy to have adopted any other approach than that of devilish, breath-taking entertainment.
So how to select from the rich band of swashbucklers, goalscorers and servants so loyal that directly beneath the cockerel on their shirt one suspects they also had that same cockerel tattooed on their chest?
It was a glorious conundrum – so, inevitably, I initially went down the Ossie Ardiles route, and tried to include the whole ruddy lot, every player who has ever had the regulars at the Lane gawping in awe-struck wonder. Just as Ossie discovered however, it quickly became evident that this Tottingham line-up just would not accommodate quite so many big names. In a moment of realisation that has no doubt struck countless Spurs managers over the years, I reluctantly concluded that for all the wonderful talent available, some semblance of order would be necessary in order to set the wheels in motion.
For a start, all those featured had to rank amongst the very best White Hart Lane has seen; no room for those players whose glaring inadequacies we gloss over just because we love them and they love us. A stringent criterion perhaps, but after over 125 years of trophies, goals, loyalty and downright mind-boggling flair, it seemed a legitimate parameter. (As a crucial addendum, such greatness must have been achieved in a Spurs shirt, rather than, say, from the halfway line whilst adorned in the colours of a Spanish outfit – even if the victims were that ‘orrible lot from down the road).
Nor was this just to be a list of the 20 best players – they also had to be the sort who, to this day, will make the most foul-mouthed South Stand die-hards suddenly go misty-eyed, and profess their undying love. Popularity counted, a criterion which ought to answer any queries from the Campbell and Berbatov households.
A difficult balancing act? Those of a certain vintage have argued that the task straightforwardly involves selecting the entire Double-winning team of 1961, and throwing in Greaves, Hoddle and Gazza. One appreciates the sentiment, but one vital requirement of the Cult Heroes collection was to capture the long tradition and very essence of the club. Tottenham Hotspur were formed in 1882; won the FA Cup in 1901; became the first English side to win the Double in 1961; the first British side to win a European trophy, two years later; and won the centenary FA Cup Final in 1981. In the words of the White Hart Lane faithful every matchday:
”And if you know your history, it’s enough to make your heart go woo-ooo-oooah…”
An effort has therefore been made to convey this glorious, if allegedly ineffable, history of the club, those elements which make Spurs one of the proudest and most famous teams in the country. I pre-emptively hold up my hands and offer a mea culpa straight away, for the absences of any players from the 1921 FA Cup-winning side (Jimmy Dimmock and Arthur Grimsdell having been popularly supported). Similarly, star names from our first ever League Title-winning team of 1951 (Ted Ditchburn, captain Eddie Baily and Len “The Duke” Duquemin sprang to many minds) are glaring omissions. Naturally, in gauging popular opinion, much of the focus fell upon those from the latter half of the twentieth century, and the content of Spurs’ Cult Heroes reflects this. However, the chapter on Sandy Brown, whose extraordinary goalscoring feats helped bring the FA Cup to White Hart Lane in 1901, is aimed at conveying the sense of the club in its nascent years, as well as paying tribute to an individual Cult Hero. Likewise, the late, great Bill Nicholson, whose association with the club spanned over 60 years, was a member of the 1951 League Championship winners, and deference is duly shown to this team in the relevant chapter.
Of those not included in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, few players had their credentials promoted quite as vigorously as John White. An attacking midfielder, White was crucial in driving Spurs to the Double in 1961 and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, but was tragically killed on 21 July 1964, when struck by lightning whilst sheltering under a tree at a golf course. That he is not included amongst the final 20 is due primarily to the quality and popularity of so many of his peers. The list already includes Blanchflower and Mackay, as well as Cliff Jones and the manager of that glorious team, Bill Nicholson, not to mention Jimmy Greaves, signed in the winter of 1961. While White’s case for inclusion was strong, it was felt that another member of the team from that era would skew the balance of the final list; but such an opinion is by no means definitive.
Others conspicuous by their absence include Lineker, Sheringham, Crooks and Archibald, while wide-eyed rants of fury were also directed this way for the omissions of Cameron, Ditchburn, Ramsey, Smith, England, Coates, Peters, Neighbour, Conn, Thorstvedt and Freund, to name but a handful. The compilation of the final list of 20 was rather unscientific at times, but a huge number of opinions were sought and reminiscences collected.
Disagreements about the personnel may be inevitable, but it is to be hoped that Spurs’ Cult Heroes does at least capture much of that tradition of the club – not just the silverware, but all those other factors unique to Spurs. Football played “the Tottenham way”. Glorious European nights at the Lane. Gleaming white shirts. Years ending in “1”. Magic Wembley moments. Audere est Facere. Questionable musical offerings. Big-name signings. Exotic foreign arrivals. Flair players; club servants; the occasional hardmen; and goalscorers so prolific you almost wanted to offer a consoling pat on the shoulder of the hapless goalkeeper who would soon be left wondering what had hit him.
Tottenham Hotspur’s history is packed with heroes. If the White Hart Lane turf could speak – well, I would like to think it would pretty much read from these pages.”
All are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding the players featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here. Also featured in the book are Sandy Brown and the late, great Bill Nicholson.