Main Report: Football’s Best Ever XI – Tottenham 1961

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Who is the greatest player to have played for your favourite team? What was your greatest moment as a fan? These and other similar questions are often asked by football supporters all over the world and so on this week’s main report we ask what has been the best ever side in your favourite club’s history with Damian focusing on the Spurs team from 1961-63. This report has a transcript below and explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases also have meanings explained.


As many of you will know I am a Spurs fan and though we are regarded as a relatively big club that has won many honours both domestically and overseas, I have never seen my team win the English league title. Indeed, Tottenham have only won the English league title on two occasions: in 1951 and in 1961 when they went on to become the first team to win the double in the 20th century. The UEFA Cup winning teams from 1972 and 1984 have rightly gone down in Spurs’ history, while the club’s 8 FA Cup titles sees them in third place overall on the winners list. Spurs have also had a host of wonderful players down the years: Gascoigne, Lineker, Klinsmann, Ardiles, Villa, Jennings, Hoddle, Archibald and Waddle but none of these ever played on a title-winning team and so for this reason it has to be said that the best ever team to represent the club is the 1961-63 side.

The 1961 Double

Managed by the wonderfully astute Bill Nicholson, the team won its first eleven league matches – an unprecedented feat – and went on to score over 100 goals to win the league by 8 points from second place Sheffield Wednesday. David Goldblatt in his book, The Ball is Round, noted that Nicholson ‘insisted on a game built on possession and position, thinking spatially, and short accurate fast passing’ – a style that is similar to that of the present day Barcelona! Tottenham had a wealth of talent in their team: a strong defence that included Scottish international Bill Brown in goal and England defenders Norman and Baker, while in midfield another Scot Dave Mackay combined with Irishman and captain Danny Blanchflower to dominate opposing teams with their power and intelligence. Up front the pace and trickery of Welsh wizard Cliff Jones complemented the power of England’s centre forward at the time Bobby Smith.

Spurs only lost their first game in November – their 17th league game of the season – and went on to match the record points total for league winners at the time, while also setting a new record for most wins in a season, demonstrating their attacking intent. Danny Blanchflower was chosen as Player of the Year for the season and then in May he picked up the the FA Cup trophy after Spurs comfortably beat a Leicester side that had to play with ten men for much of the game. The Irish captain was the heartbeat of the side and insisted on playing the game the right way – it was, as he said himself, all about the glory.


Spurs retained the FA Cup the following season – this time defeating Burnley – but they were unable to win the league title and instead finished third. They did play in the European Cup and were unlucky to go out to holders and eventual winners Benfica from Portugal. They almost overturned a 3-1 deficit at White Hart Lane in the second leg but just fell short. The European experience served them well the following year however as they became the first team from Britain to win a European trophy when they destroyed Spanish side Atletico Madrid 5-1 in the final in Rotterdam.

One league title, two FA Cups and a Cup Winners Cup may not seem like a lot but as Ken Jones from the Daily Mirror said at the time: ‘Thankfully, there is more to Soccer than the Record Book. There is character, personality, mystery, elegance and glamour. And here lies the secret of Spurs pulling power’.


we are regarded as a: are seen/viewed/thought of

won many honours: The team won many titles and cups

UEFA Cup: The secondary European competition, played for by teams that finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in their respective leagues.

a host of: A lot of, many

an unprecedented feat: Something that has never been done before

astute: Very clever, wily, sharp

had a wealth of talent: A lot of very good players

Up front: The forwards

to match : To equal

attacking intent: Their main aim was to attack, they were not interested in defending

overturned a 3-1 deficit: To come back and win (from 3-1 down)

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2010-11Episode 105