“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It’s nothing of the kind.
The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” Danny Blanchflower, 1972
When the question of Tottenham’s greatest ever player comes up, thoughts instantly turn to the double winning side of 1960-61.
Fifty years on that pioneering team that won the first double in England, followed that up by defending the famous jug-eared trophy the following season, and then won the first European trophy by any English team, the Cup Winners Cup, could provide a full XI of Tottenham’s greatest. Blanchflower is arguably the greatest.
Signed from Aston Villa for a then massive £30,000 for a 28-year-old, Belfast-born Blanchflower made 384 competitive appearances for the Lilywhites, often directing the team as if manager.
It was this string pulling that led him to fall out with Jimmy Anderson , then Spurs manager. When Bill Nicholson took over he dropped Blanchflower completely, and the Northern Ireland player requested a transfer.
With Tottenham still struggling Nicholson recalled the ex-Barnsley player and the team played with a renewed confidence. Nicholson returned the captain’s armband to Blanchflower, and with the signings of Dave Mackay and John White Spurs midfield was a perfect blend of skill, power, and hard work.
They certainly played their part in Spurs success. Blanchflower’s return for the Cup Winners Cup final against Atletico Madrid was decisive in winning the game.
Despite the early struggles under Nicholson, captain and manager had a similar outlook on the game.
The supporters were the most important part of the club, winning had to be accomplished in style, and despite his confidence Blanchflower was surprisingly reticent when receiving accolades. He even turned down an appearance on ‘This is Your Life’, the first person to do so. Despite this, his skill was recognised as he was voted Player of the Year twice, in 1958 and 1961.
Amongst plenty of legends of Tottenham’s history, Blanchflower’s ability to not only make a personal mark on the game with a goal or assist but to direct his team mates in a true Captain’s role marks him out as a player that would play in any era, for any team.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.