White Hart Lane memories and that greatest show on earth
Sunday is expected to mark my last ever visit to White Hart Lane, or the current White Hart Lane. With work well underway on the new stadium, they are set to to move out of the old ground at the end of this season to allow construction to continue and so the only potential for another visit is in the FA Cup and given our record in that competition in recent years I’d suggest it is unlikely.
My first visit was for the FA Cup tie in 1966 when, despite a Willie Irvine hat trick, we were beaten 4-3, but I have seen us win there on three occasions. In both 1973/74 and 1974/75 we beat them 3-2 in First Division games and then there was that incredible night in 1983 when we came from a goal down to beat them 4-1 in the Milk Cup to land a semi-final tie against Liverpool.
Some football grounds I like, others I don’t. There’s never been any logic to which side of the fence particular grounds fall but White Hart Lane definitely falls into the ‘like’ side of the fence despite the fact I’ve seen a few heavy defeats there.
Ahead of this likely final visit I wanted to write about one of the games I’ve seen there and I would suspect surely that Milk Cup win would be high on the list to select from. Instead I think it is only right, even though I wasn’t there, that I’ve selected a game that was played over 56 years ago when our two clubs had the best teams in the land.
The game was played on 3rd December 1960. To set the scene, Burnley were champions of England and three days earlier had played a European Cup tie in Paris against French champions Reims, losing on the night but winning through to a quarter-final against Hamburg on aggregate.
Tottenham were league leaders. In the days of two points for a win they were already nine points clear of second place Sheffield Wednesday with fifth place Burnley a further two points behind. Sheffield Wednesday were the only team to have beaten them and they would go on to win the league and FA Cup double, becoming the first team to achieve that honour in the 20th Century.
Life wasn’t perfect for Burnley though. We’d been reported by Brentford for fielding an under strength side against them in the new League Cup competition. We drew 1-1 against the Third Division team before winning the replay 2-1 three days after this game against Spurs. Bob Lord was far from impressed with the West London club who I’m sure were knocked off his Christmas card list. He wasn’t happy with the league entertaining their complaint either; we didn’t enter the competition for the next four seasons.
I was a mere youngster who, at this time, hadn’t been to an away game. As always, with my dad, I was at the reserve game watching us draw 3-3 against Huddersfield with goals from Ronnie Fenton, Billy White and Gordon Harris.
For the record, the team I watched was: Colin McDonald, David Smith, Mick Buxton, David Walker, John Talbut, Jimmy Scott, Ian Towers, Billy White, Andy Lochhead, Ronnie Fenton, Gordon Harris.
Besides being able to watch the reserves, it was the only way you could pick up any news from the first team game. Jeff Stelling was at school at that time, and there were certainly no goal updates to be found on television with the only news coming from the teleprinter with the final scores. I think Jeff might just have enjoyed this one as the goals went in one after the other. It really was unbelievable.
It all started well enough with no goals in the first 17 minutes but then things changed as goals went in and all at the wrong end.
A long pass by Dave Mackay was headed home by centre-half Maurice NORMAN and we were behind in the 18th minute. A minute later, Mackay was involved again, this time with a long throw. Bobby Smith headed it on for Welsh international winger Cliff JONES to convert.
Soon after it was 3-0, JONES getting his second as he converted a left wing centre. Three goals in three minutes and Burnley looked to be heading for a heavy defeat.
It settle down for a while after that but ten minutes before half time the final nail looked as if it had been hammered in when a MACKAY shot was deflected past Adam Blacklaw to give Spurs a 4-0 lead.
When, two minutes later, news came through of a fifth goal we really did begin to wonder how many they would score. But the news was better, this goal was ours. John CONNELLY had reduced the arrears after a linkup between Jimmy McIlroy and Brian Pilkington down the left but it was still a very dispirited looking Burnley team who left the field at half time with the score at Tottenham 4 Burnley 1.
I don’t know what had happened, but the next goal news to come through to us at the reserves was thirteen minutes into the second half. Were we now 5-1 down or had we pulled it back to 4-2? Neither was the answer, it was 4-3 with two goals in two minutes to report.
Jimmy ROBSON had nipped in to turn a Pilkington centre home and then Ray POINTER took a return pass from Pilkington to score and take Burnley within one goal of Spurs.
He’d started the comeback, and CONNELLY finished it when he received a pass from Robson before slamming the ball into the back of Bill Brown’s net. It was 4-4. It could go either way and both teams missed chances with John White missing an open goal. It would have been unfair on Burnley had that gone in. How can you deny a team a point when they’ve come back from 4-0 down to level at 4-4?
The People newspaper rated all the players out of 10 in their report. Twenty of those players were given 9; the other two, McIlroy and Tottenham’s Danny Blanchflower, were given the maximum 10. Another Sunday newspaper described it as The Greatest Show on Earth.
Reporting the following week, the Burnley Express correspondent wrote: “If there were a roll of honour whereon could be inscribed in golden letters the most meritorious deeds of any club, irrespective of whether they be in the competition embraced by Cup or League, then the performance of Burnley at White Hart Lane would be given most careful and special recognition.
“For a team to fight back for a draw away from home after being four goals down was remarkable enough. To accomplish such a feat against the all-conquering Tottenham Hotspur was something which can only be described as superlative.
“Team work, courage, the refusal to acknowledge the existence of the word defeat, made Burnley the most talked of League side on Saturday night in London.
“Burnley covered themselves with mud and glory. To the delirious Burnley contingent, every man in claret and blue – Blacklaw included – was a hero; and I believe that even 58,000 Tottenham supporters who defied the rain and travel difficulties had to agree with them.
“It was a classic – a match of the season which for once lived up to its reputation.”
The teams at White Hart Lane on that December day in 1960 were;
Tottenham: Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Ron Henry, Danny Blanchflower, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, John White, Bobby Smith, Les Allen, Terry Dyson.
Burnley: Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Walter Joyce, Tommy Cummings, Brian Miller, John Connelly, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson, Brian Pilkington.
Referee: Mr R. H. Windle (Derbyshire).
Attendance: 58,737.Follow UpTheClarets:
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