FOOTBALL folklore used to say that when there was a 1 at the end of a year, Tottenham Hotspur would always win a trophy. Well, we’ve had 2011 and 2021 and the Spurs haven’t won anything since 2008. But way back in time, Spurs were triumphant in 1901, 1921, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991. Here’s a selection of the best teams to come from the white side of north London.
George Clawley, Harry Erentz, Sandy Tait, Tom Morris, Jack Jones, Tom Smith, John Cameron, Sandy Brown, Davie Copeland, Jack Kirwan, Ted Hughes.
Manager: John Cameron (player-manager)
Achievement: Southern League champions 1899-00; FA Cup winners 1900-01
Key men: Sandy Brown, Scottish forward who won a single cap for his country. A prolific goalscorer, he was nicknamed “the Glenbuck goalgetter” and scored 64 goals in 84 games for Spurs before leaving in 1902; Sandy Tait, full back who played over 200 games for Spurs. He possessed an excellent football brain and positional sense. Nicknamed “terrible Tait” owing to his ferocious tackling; John Cameron, Glasgow-born forward who played once for Scotland. Joined from Everton and was later an accomplished journalist. He worked in Germany and was interned during the first world war in Germany.
Perception: A skilful Southern League team that shocked Sheffield United in the FA Cup final of 1901.
Ted Ditchburn, Alf Ramsey, Arthur Willis, Bill Nicholson, Harry Clarke, Ronnie Burgess, Sonny Walters, Peter Murphy, Alex Wright, Len Duquemin, Eddie Baily, Les Medley, Les Bennett.
Manager: Arthur Rowe
Achievement: Second Division champions 1949-50; Football League champions 1950-51
Key men: Ted Ditchburn, brave and muscular goalkeeper who won six caps for England. He was responsible for the goalkeeper’s “short throw” which proved instrumental in Spurs’ success of 1951; Ronnie Burgess, Welsh international half-back (32 caps) and skipper of Spurs. Spent 15 years with the club; Alf Ramsey, better known for leading England to the World Cup in 1966, but also won 32 caps for his country. A full back, many felt he was too slow but he had an intelligent grasp on tactics; Sonny Walters, leading scorer in the title-winning year, a fast winger who not only scored frequently, but also created plenty of goals for his team-mates.
Perception: The famed “push and run” side of Arthur Rowe that introduced an innovative style that made full use of laying the ball off to a team-mate and then running into space. Much copied in the 1950s.
Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Ron Henry, Danny Blanchflower, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, Les Allen, Bobby Smith, John White, Terry Medwin, Terry Dyson, Tony Marchi, Jimmy Greaves.
Manager: Bill Nicholson
Achievement: Football League champions 1960-61; FA Cup winners 1960-61, 1961-62; European Cup-Winners’ Cup winners 1962-63.
Key men: Danny Blanchflower, whimsical and skilful Irishman who was signed from Aston Villa for £ 30,000. A sublime passer of the ball, he was named Footballer of the Year in 1958 and 1961. Won 56 caps for Northern Ireland and captained Spurs to four trophies; Dave Mackay, ranked by Bill Nicholson as the best signing he made in football when Spurs paid £ 32,000 to Hearts for the imposing half back. A brave player who suffered some cruel injuries, he was powerful and determined and an inspiration to his team-mates. Left Spurs to enjoy an Indian summer under Brian Clough at Derby; John White, a talented inside forward who sadly died at 27, struck by lightning on a golf course. Signed from Falkirk for £ 22,000 he won 22 caps for Scotland; Jimmy Greaves, one of the greatest goalscorers in football history. Joined Spurs in December 1961 from AC Milan after he had joined the Italian club from Chelsea. Won 57 caps for England, scoring 44 goals, but famously missed the 1966 World Cup final.
Perception: One of English football’s greatest teams, combining skill, fitness and guile. Bill Nicholson’s first notable Spurs side.
Pat Jennings, Joe Kinnear, Cyril Knowles, Alan Mullery, Mike England, Phil Beal, John Pratt, Alan Gilzean, Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers, Martin Peters, Roger Morgan, Jimmy Neighbour, Ralph Coates.
Manager: Bill Nicholson
Achievement: Football League Cup winners 1970-71 and 1972-73; UEFA Cup winners 1971-72.
Key men: Pat Jennings, with huge hands, he was the ideal goalkeeper and marvellously consistent. Joined Spurs from Watford in 1964 and played almost 600 games for the club before joining Arsenal. Won 119 caps for Northern Ireland and in total, kept goal for over 1,000 games; Alan Mullery, a deep-lying midfielder who joined Spurs from Fulham in 1964. Became a regular England player in the post-1966 years, winning 35 caps but was the first England international to be sent off; Martin Chivers, joined from Southampton for £ 125,000 in January 1968. Took time to settle, but between 1970 and 1973, he was one of the top forwards in Europe. Won 24 caps for England, scoring 13 goals.
Hugo Lloris, Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Achievement: UEFA Champions League finalists 2018-19
Key men: Harry Kane, England captain and centre forward who has scored well over 200 goals for Spurs and 41 in 65 appearances for his country (October 2021). A strong, forceful striker who is good in the air and powerful in front of goal; Son-Heung Min, South Korean international (and captain) with more than 90 caps, joined Spurs in 2015 from Bayer Leverkusen for £ 22 million. A fast, skilful forward who is a popular figure with the Spurs crowd. Ranked one of the top three Asian players of all time. Dele Alli, who was considered one of the best midfielders of his generation early in his career. Since 2019, his career has stalled, perhaps affected by the overall decline of the Spurs team. Has won 37 caps for England.
Perception: A team of nearly men who could have achieved more, but failed at the final hurdle.
These are just five of many Tottenham teams and the list is by no means definitive. Others, such as the cup-winning teams of the 1980s and the 1987 FA Cup runners-up have given fans plenty to cheer about, but never scaled the heights of the 1961 double winners or even the 2019 Champions League finalists. Doubtless, there will be more great Spurs teams to come.