Order this book. As a Spurs fan, you must, or else drop so many hints to your loved ones that you wake up on Christmas morn to find ten coffee-table book sized parcels under the tree. Between now and then, listen to the radio, read the blogs, watch TV and make a note of how many callers and pundits say either that the Champions League is vital for financial survival or that finishing fourth defines success.
Then read the Glory Glory Nights. Take a quiet moment, all to yourself. Turn the pages slowly. Take in every detail of the photographs that cover every page. Read the text that describes the exploits of bygone times, of heroes whose time has passed but who will never be forgotten by those of us who ever seen the all-white strip with the proud cockerel.
Now close your eyes. Under lights, your world is spread before you. Nothing exists beyond the shimmering bright rim, not for 90 minutes at least. Close your eyes and feel the chill in your lungs, the breath billowing steam from 50,000 pairs of lungs rising high into the dark north London sky. Feel the Lane shaking beneath your feet. This is what Europe means to Tottenham Hotspur. Glory. It’s what football means. Read and marvel at the glory of those european nights and anticipate nights to come.
This loving history takes its title from a book written in the mid 1980s and commissioned by Irving Scholar, which co-author Martin Cloake wryly describes as the best thing he ever did for the club. It keeps two key elements of the style too, the liberal use of photos and incorporating quotes and headlines from the following morning’s backpages, which gives a sense of time and place. As Martin says, until comparatively recently fans relied on the papers for an account of the match because there was no other way of finding out what happened. Even the radio was confined to the bigger ties.
However, this is no mere revamp. It stands up in its own right as a tender tribute to a glorious past and brings out the enticing beauty and wonder of this entralling, all-consuming passion. The unobtrusive but insightful text sets the match reports, one for every single game, in context. Then, it allows the reader to explore the story for themselves as it unfolds. The images are stunning, chosen with care by Doug Cheeseman with an eye for the drama and passion the glory glory nights inspire. While the book rightly gives due regard to our modern successes, the black and white images are irresistibly evocative. Fans with rattles and cut-out cups gathering at the gates, players celebrating together and plenty of goals frozen in time. Mixed in is the surreal too; the Double team on an open-top bus with a man dressed as a clown clutching a stuffed monkey toy, Peters leading out the team past a row of giant Romanian urns in the tunnel or a man dressed as an ‘Aspurnaut’ parading round the pitch in the early 70s.
As a kid I had no doubt as to the meaning and significance of Spurs in Europe. My glory years began in the early seventies. We may have put 9 past Icelandic part-timers Keflavik but I knew I was part of a great tradition, the first British side to win a European trophy. Erratic and underachieving in the league (nothing changes…), play in all-white under the lights and we were transformed, a team that could beat any side in the competition. Frequently the glory glory lifted us to new heights, and to see Spurs win the UEFA Cup on our own ground not once but twice will live with me forever.
The book does my memories justice. There are extensive interviews with managers and players. In an age when we tend to think of players as primarily motivated by personal glory and vast wads of cash, it’s refreshing to see that they too bought into the myth. Europe was special to them and still is. The book avoids falling into the trap of becoming just a nostalgia-fest by giving due prominence to our remarkable Champions League run. Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson both fully recognise the magic of the Glory Glory Nights and were inspired by them. Make no mistake: those games away and home versus Inter or the astounding away victory at Milan rank up there with the best of the best.
European ties were magical affairs in far-off, mysterious places. It’s not that long ago, for example, when Spurs would kick-off not having seen their opponents play before. They had to think on their feet, changing tactics at half-time in order to cope with the unknown. And Spurs were pioneers; the Cup-Winners Cup in 1963, the first to win two trophies, the first fans to fly abroad to watch their team. It tells the story of why Spurs and Europe have a special relationship, the tale of what it means to be a Spurs fan. Simply wonderful.
The Glory Glory Nights: The Official History of Tottenham Hotspur in Europe by Martin Cloake and Adam Powley published by Vision Sports. Click here for a special site to see inside the book
Look out for an interview with Martin Cloake, coming soon.
Why do we do it? The heartache and pain, the time, energy and money, the fury and frustration, all expended in support of a cause over which we have absolutely no control or influence whatsoever. Because we support Tottenham Hotspur. Read Julie Welch’s lovely, insightful and touching book and you will be inspired all over again.
More than just a history, The Biography of Tottenham Hotspur reaches into the heart and soul of the club. What marks out this club from most others is that it stands for something. Danny Blanchflower’s famous statement that it’s not just about winning, it’s about glory and doing it in style, isn’t mere aspiration but articulates explicitly a culture and identity that dates back to the origins of the club in the 1880s on Tottenham Marshes.
For Tottenham Hotspur, it has to be good football, creativity and innovation. The Spurs Way is the right way. The pass and move approach lauded at Barcelona brought Spurs a league title in 1951 when Arthur Rowe called it ‘push and run’.Back in the early 1920s another great manager Peter McWilliam defined his tactics in exactly the same way. The mixture of flamboyance and exasperation, the sublime and the erratic that is familiar to readers of this blog would be instantly recognisable to Spurs fans of past generations.
As befits a biography, the book describes the club’s history while allowing the character to unfold and open up. Like Spurs, the writing is easy on the eye and draws you in. This is no dull history textbook. Rather, Julie is a storyteller, engaging and curious. She communicates her passion without allowing her voice to intrude or detract from the telling of the tale. It’s a measure of her skill and dexterity that she makes the journey from Tottenham Hale through the industrial landscape that covers the old marshes to our first pitch sound enthralling. And she’s not averse to the occasional gratuitous dig at our rivals: after all, she is a lifelong fan.
She freshens familiar tales such as the success of the Double side, the Nicholson era or the sordid conspiracies that brought the Gunners from Woolwich to north London, and by placing them in the broader context of the club’s culture and origins, enables the reader to look anew at more recent events that we’ve lived through. It kind of sneaks up on you, involving you in the story then in a couple of killer sentences nails its wider significance like a fine historian should. Be warned – set aside some time when you first open the covers because you’ll want to keep the pages turning, just to see what happens next.
Not all of which makes for pleasant reading. The late eighties onwards was a sobering read. Gross, Graham and Francis, and the inglorious reigns of Spurs idols Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle, goodness me how dispiriting they were, but as the current side teeters on the brink of new glory or yet another near-miss, it brings a vital sense of proportion. Being a fan isn’t about instant gratification. Read it and I defy you to rant on about the all-consuming Champions League.
Nothing really changes. Around the turn of the century the club was run by two dynasties of Jewish businessmen. ‘Up and coming club taken over by wealthy businessman in order to enhance his prestige. Club moves ground’ – 1890s or early 21st Century? ‘Club buys Scots, leads to great team’ – 1890s or 1950s? ‘Finances restricted by ground improvements, team slumps only to be rescued by a saviour who changes fortunes totally’ – that’s just page 58.
This is an enduring love affair. For better or worse. In any long-term relationship, there’s some give and take, although I suspect we supporters have put more into the relationship than the club has given back over the years. Through the anger and disappointment, having been let down so many times, it’s worth it because when she touches me, nothing else matters. It’s a passion that makes us swoon and shake with unbridled joy, an experience like no other. Share that with thousands of others at the Lane and these are the unforgettable moments that make life worth living.
By the time you reach the end of the Biography, you feel closer than ever before to the club. You will know more about the club and about yourself. About why you do those crazy things to watch a football team. About what it means to be a Spurs fan – about flowing football, pleasing the fans, about good football. About what it means to be you.
Look out for an interview with the author Julie Welch, coming soon.
The Biography of Tottenham Hotspur by Julie Welch is published by Vision Sports
Luka, goodbye and good luck. I’ll only remember the good times, and they were rich, plentiful and sweet.
The finest midfielder to wear the shirt since Gascoigne, on his day he made the team hum with energy and purpose. He was the link between defence and attack, taking the ball from the toes of the back four and looking up, always looking up. In his mind’s eye he saw not what was happening but what could happen. Pass and move, the ball had barely left his foot before he was gone into space, finding some where before there was none. Available and ready, pass and move.
Loutish uncouth opponents clattered in, lured by the thin, bony frame,but they arrived and he was gone, riding the challenges and away. Pass and move. The Tottenham way. This was his home. Many looked his way, we made eye contact and began a 4 year love affair that sadly ended as all affairs do but the ecstatic pleasure will last until I’m old and grey.
When he played, Tottenham played. He dictated the shape and pace of the whole game. He oiled the cogs and powered the engine. He demanded attention so his team-mates had more time and space. They made a run, knowing Luka would find them. Too often he paused at the edge of the box, instinct compelling him to roll the ball into channels, only to find others on a different wavelength. But when it worked, Spurs sang a song of joy. Flowing, easy movement as natural as breathing yet breathtaking given the ferocious pace and physicality of the modern game. Too late now but watch him from pitch level. We spectators merely have to sit, not worry about a bouncing ball or stalking defenders, but he sees gaps where you see massed ranks of defenders, he sees opportunities where you see only threats.
Every great player has their trademark, something which makes them stand out from the rest. Luka could pass short into the channels or take half a team out of the match with a sweeping diagonal stretching 50 yards. He buzzed around the edge of the box or drove us onwards from deep. But I will always fondly recall the way he took a ball under pressure, often his own half and with his back to the onrushing tacklers, and with a dip of the shoulder send them one way as he went the other into clean, fresh air.
For many the undignified end to his time at Spurs has tarnished his reputation. Whilst I have no wish to either ignore his refusal to play or make excuses for him, frankly it didn’t much matter. Sorely peeved after his move to Chelsea was vetoed last season, he knuckled down and gave his best. This summer, he was always going to leave and everyone knew it. Pointless to play him for just 2 games if we are rebuilding the team, although goodness knows we missed his creativity. If he went on strike as is rumoured, we probably saved a few bob on his salary. We can’t begrudge him a move to one of the two most famous and illustrious club sides in the world, and he had the good grace to shun Chelsea and United.
Even so, this isn’t the way to remember him. Players come and go, only we the fans are constant, lasting, loyal. And what do we have if we don’t have good memories, golden exuberance that balances out the drudgery and pain. That’s what supporting a club is all about, the precious moments that linger for a lifetime. Ask yourself this – when you tell your wide-eyed children or grandchildren about this wonderful game, this great club and its heroes, what story will you spin? Majestic players who left the crowd spellbound, or contract negotiations?
Some say Luka Modric is not all that. Over-rated. Ineffective. Never mind show me your medals, show me your stats. Where are the goals? Where are the assists? He should have scored more, of course he should, a man with his sublime touch couldn’t connect cleanly, I can’t understand that. But he played deep, he made the pass to the man who made the pass yet that’s discounted. He lifted the side when times were rough. Miserable and wretched stats, the curse of the modern game where there’s no need to make up your own mind, to have an opinion, to even watch the match, just count.
Let’s therefore expunge the memory of the Tottenham greats. Let’s rid ourselves of the others who don’t match these standards, starting with another midfielder who only played in 20 minutes spells, who couldn’t kick a dead ball for toffee, who scored only 16 times in over 220 appearances, who tired as the game went on. Ossie Ardiles, a peerless maestro who ran the game in those 20 minute spells and picked up a World Cup winners medal along the way.
With Ossie as with Luka, remember them for what did rather than what they did not. They conjured magnificent creations of joy and wonder on the pitch. Luka, thanks for memories. I’m glad my children could see in their lifetime a midfield player as good as you. They understand. I wish I could have seen you, for one last time, not to change your mind but just to say, I miss you. Good luck, goodbye.
He departed in the manner that befits the man. News of Ledley King’s retirement slipped out on the official site, no press conference or media blitz, just a few heartfelt words in tribute to the club he served with unswerving loyalty, tinged with unspoken regret at what might have been.
King never sought to draw attention to himself. Rather, he preferred to get on with the job at hand, protecting the Spurs goal from all-comers. This is the main reason why he’s not better known throughout Europe and the world, not his injuries. Debilitating and cruel though they were, never could they fully diminish the talent of the finest centre half of his generation and unquestionably an all-time Tottenham great.
No fist-pumping exhortations to team-mates. Perhaps if he had, more kudos would have come his way. Just the example of do as I do, show your skill, demonstrate dedication and committment and Spurs will triumph. Such a shame only some chose to follow his lead. Neither did he possess any one single attribute to distinguish him from the rest. He was tough, strong in the air but without the physical presence of many top centre halves. To the causal observer he didn’t have lightning pace or perfect touch. That’s why other, inferior players were noticed, praised to excess, demeaning the language with the use of words like legend, greatness, words that belong not to them but to Ledley King, a virtuoso of the defender’s art who made strikers sing to his tune.
But we knew. Those of us who had the privilege of being there, close up, watching him work, we understood. Week in, week out. A forward would slip away, pull back his boot to shoot only to find the ball had gone. Darting at pace into the box but Ledley is first. Back to goal, surely now the striker is immune, then a nudge here, a toe there, and gone. Gone before they knew what was happening because when the strike came, it was clean and silent, the product of shrewd anticipation and impeccable, unrivalled timing.
Here are the master’s secrets. Anticipation: understand not just what is happening but what might take place. Be on the move: better to slip into place unnoticed off the ball than hammer hell for leather in pursuit, even though that might catch the eye of the uninitiated. Don’t commit too early: refuse to be drawn into tussles that can’t be won. Not too far away from the man he was marking or else lose him, not too close because risk being turned. Just the right place, right time. Turn quickly: superlative midfield maestros like Gazza or Modric drop their shoulder and are gone in the blink of an eye. Ledley did the same only in defence, on the move a fraction quicker than most, get ahead of the man, shoulder inside, make the tackle. Pace over five or ten yards: that’s what you need in the box. Quick off the mark, short jabbing strides like a sprinter out of the blocks, minimal clearance from the turf, all the effort geared towards one aim, to get their first.
No dismissals, only 8 bookings. Partly because he’s a decent man in the cesspit of the Premier League, mainly because he tackled clean and did not get caught out so had no need to foul. Henry: King was the only defender who got the better of me without resorting to foul play.
I weep at what might have been, shed tears for each time he hobbled off. Ledley fully fit along the way, yet his latter years will linger long in the memory because of his indefatigible determination to pull on a white shirt, navy blue shorts and play. Football is a physical game – he couldn’t train but still he carried on. Couldn’t run, had no sense whether he could last 9 seconds, 9 minutes or 95. Couldn’t play football with his son in the back garden, all because he wanted to, had to, play for the white shirt and navy blue. One club, our club, he’s my inspiration. I hope we deserved him.
His half a career eclipsed his contemporaries, the finest British centre half of his generation. Eventually, it had to end. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement was to stop the clocks for as long as he did. Look for mistakes in those later years and they are few and far between. December last and I wondered if the moment had finally come, but I should not have doubted him. Here’s what I wrote when we played Chelsea:
We mopped up many attacks but never quite picked up their runs from deep. Gallas rose to the challenge, becoming more assertive, while King was alert and quick. He and Sturridge set off on a chase. This was more than a dangerous throughball on the right wing. It was the old master versus the young pretender.
In the blink of an eye, it could have been the changing of the guard. Ledley has learned to turn quickly and maintain a chopped economical stride to coax the maximum effort from those battered, weary bones. He was ahead but the young man pressed from behind. Eager and willing, he sensed weakness and quickened. Shoulder to shoulder at full speed now, for a moment he eased ahead but Ledley stretched one last time and came away with the ball, the master still. Long live the King.
On the field, you never saw him moaning at refs or other players. Ian Wright: he made me mad because he never bloody said anything, all game, whatever I threw at him. Off it, no celebrity status, no transfer requests. Drunk once or twice, nothing more.
In fact, we know hardly anything about him but we understand the man because of the honourable way he played the game. That’s all there is to know. He carried himself with dignity, with the humble modesty of the truly great. My favourite, my all-time Spurs centre half, my unassuming hero.
This is a youtube video of King tackling Arjen Robben. You’ve probably seen it before but today I’m drawn to watching it over and over again. I was there. I recall the sinking feeling as Robben approached the goal. We were playing well at the time against opponents who always beat us, and in what seemed like endless minutes there was time to reflect on how we’d thrown it all away. Again. Ledley was in pursuit but he appeared as if from nowhere. Look again – at full pelt after sprinting 50 yards his intervention is clean and pure, no hint of a foul. Watch once more, this time focus on the crowd who leap joyfully into the air as if we had scored. Ledley could do that.