As Tottenham Hotspur heads towards another trophyless season, what better antidote could there be than to spend the night in the company of two gentlemen for whom that was the exception rather than the rule?
So on Friday 13 April 2007 I made my way to Cheshunt Football Club to listen to Dave Mackay and Bobby Smith, two members of Tottenham’s illustrious Double-winning side of 1960/61.
The evening took the form of a question and answer session, with the audience of around 50 people invited to ask the two legends about their careers, colleagues, opponents and Tottenham then and now.
Beside them was a table with various photographs for sale. Inevitably the famous picture of Mackay hoisting Billy Bremner off the ground by his shirt was there. So the first question to Dave Mackay was “What did you say to Billy Bremner?”
It was a question he must have been asked a thousand times, but Mackay still smiled and was happy to answer it. He explained that he had just returned from a second broken leg, which he suffered in the game when making a comeback from his first broken leg. Bremner, a Scotland team-mate, came and whacked him on the same left leg. “So I just grabbed him and called him a dirty little bastard!”
That’s all in the past now, and the proceeds from the sale of the famous photograph go to Bremner’s widow.
The Great Double Side
The first question to Bobby Smith was “Why did the Double-winning side win the league only once?” Smith mis-heard this as a question about the current Tottenham side and his answer was “Too many foreigners!” When it was explained to him, he tried to cover by referring to the number of Scottish and Welsh players they had in the side!
But he gave an immediate reply when asked which defender he feared most: Jack Charlton. “Jack came up to me and told me that I was in his Black Book!”
In answer to the question “How good was Dave Mackay?” Smith said “He was worth two men. You were guaranteed that he would give 100%”. Between 1959 and 1968, Mackay made 318 appearances for Spurs, scoring 51 goals.
He also mentioned some of the other great players, and with reference to Jimmy Greaves said “I never stopped giving him goals!”
I stuck my hand up and asked whether Bobby remembered anything about Bill Nicholson’s team talk, either before or during half time of the European Cup Winners’ Cup final of 1963. Smith replied:
“Bill Nick told me that their centre half would come up and hit me hard the first time. And he did. The second time he tried it, I elbowed him in the gut. The ref came up to me and said “Well done!”
“Before the game, one of our directors said to me that we wouldn’t win because he (points at Mackay) was injured and wasn’t playing. But we won! Afterwards I went up to the director and said “We f**king showed you, you ****!”
Signing For Spurs
Dave Mackay was asked how he came to sign for Spurs. “No idea!” he replied, “I was a Hearts supporter! But Tommy Walker (Hearts manager) said to me ‘Bill Nicholson is coming to see you’. As soon as I met Bill, I decided to sign. The great thing about Spurs was that they scored goals…”
At this point Bobby Smith jumped in: “I scored 35 goals in the Double year!” to which Mackay could only reply “I scored one!”
Smith then related how he for signed for Spurs. In 1955 he was at Chelsea “but Ted Drake (Chelsea manager) hated my guts”. So when the opportunity to go to Tottenham arose, one of his fellow professionals Roy Bentley advised him to go. “I must thank Bill Nick for that. I went on to play for England, and Spurs were a great side”.
Smith played 276 league games for Tottenham, scoring 176 goals, 32 FA Cup games (22 goals) and 14 games in Europe (10 goals). His England record was 12 goals in 15 appearances between 1960 and 1963.
A propos nothing at all, he added that “Arsenal will struggle next season”. Yiddo!
During the break, both players were happy to chat, autograph memorabilia and have their photographs taken. It was a unique opportunity to talk to a pair of genuine Tottenham legends who have the medals to prove it.
I got the chance to speak with Bobby Smith. He agreed with the point that Jimmy Greaves made in his book “The Heart Of The Game” that in his day, as footballers earned about the same as other people, they were much more in touch with the fans. They saw themselves as equals, just doing a different job.
with legendary Spurs Double-winning centre forward Bobby Smith.