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Greatest Eleven – Tottenham Hotspur

March 28, 2011

Introducing a new feature for The First Eleven – Greatest Eleven. Basically, this is a run-down of the greatest players to ever pull on the shirt of your beloved club. We want to mix the club legends who retired years ago, with the new hotshots of the team who are still plying their trade today.

Each team will be selected by devoted fans of their club, blessed with the inside knowledge of their own club.

Kicking us off, Mel Gomes lists his all-time favourite Tottenham Hotspur line-up.

Goalkeeper: #1 Ray Clemence

A controversial selection to start with, from a club where Ted Ditchburn and Bill Brown were keepers in title winning sides, and Pat Jennings dominated for many years; Ray Clemence had supreme ability and his addition to the club in 1981/82 is recognised by many players from the time as being the “final piece in the jigsaw” of a great side. A very strong character who brought with him a track record of international experience and an array of medals, he had great reactions as a ‘keeper, and time and time again had the ability to make world class saves when required.

Right-back: #2 Danny Blanchflower

The Leader of the Band and the Captain of this team. A footballer ahead of his time, he was credited with inventing the defensive wall at free-kicks, and was prescient in his belief Spurs would become the first team to do the double in the twentieth centaury. He played at right-half when he led Spurs to that great triumph but in this team he would be best suited to right-back, where he could still join the midfield and influence play. Twice Writers Player of the Year, he led the club to four major trophies in three years, culminating in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963. His words about the Glory Game Tottenham play will always be the philosophy of the club.

Centre half: #6 Dave Mackay

For this team, Dave Mackay would be a centre-back, where he was later to play for Derby County, before leading them to remarkable success. At Tottenham he was central to the double-winning team at left-half and was arguably the club’s best player of all-time, supremely skilful as well as hard. Terry Venables later said of him he was one of the best one-touch players had ever seen. He played in the 1958 World Cup for Scotland before joining Spurs later the following season. In Tottenham’s Centenary year in 1982 Bill Nicholson reflected that Mackay, legendary in training, transformed the team with his competitiveness and professionalism. He came back from a twice broken leg to win his third FA Cup with the club in 1967 as Captain.

Centre half: #5 Ledley King

Ledley King, in common with most players in this squad, is both footed, comfortable on the ball, and exudes class. Always assured on the pitch and also great in the air, he has rightly been acclaimed by many an opponent as the best centre-back in Europe of his time, which was exemplified by his performance for England against France in Euro 2004. Injuries have hampered his career, but Juande Ramos gave an excellent analogy in 2008, when comparing giving Ledley a run-out to taking the Rolls Royce out of the garage. Deservedly went up the Wembley steps to lift the League Cup that season, and while he won less honours than other great Spurs centre-halves of the past, King is the classiest with great positional sense, a superb touch, fantastic at timing tackles and interceptions, and even when effectively playing with one knee, always has pace to burn. A home grown talent who has been loyal when it has been unfashionable, Ledley King is someone the club can be extremely proud of.

Left-back: #3 Gareth Bale

The only player in this squad who has yet to peak as a player, in 18 months Gareth Bale has already shown he deserves to be in any team in the world. While Bale has had most of his notable performances further forward, he has been the best player on the pitch from left-back before, and would no doubt have the ability to be the dominant force in a match from this position at the highest level, where he has more ground to run into to devastating effect. Like a modern day Superman with his relentless energy levels coupled with his magical left foot, he is a pleasure to watch week-in, week-out and excelling on the biggest stage. His progress is a testament to his brilliant professional attitude – his main ambition is to be playing week-in, week-out; he is proud of the fact he doesn’t drink; and unusual in feted players in the English League of today he doesn’t leak or agitate behind the scenes for a greater personal financial reward or a move. A potential match-winner every time he steps on the pitch.

Holding midfielder: #4 Steve Perryman

If Bill Nick wasn’t already known as ‘Mr Tottenham’, it would have be an appropriate moniker for Stevie P. A working-class hero from Perivale, his intelligence even at a young age was evident in Hunter Davies’ 1971-72 insider portrayl of the club. Perryman made his debut at 17, before first captaining the side aged just 20, and then going on to break every Tottenham appearance record in the book, winning the Players Writer of the year and an MBE in the process.  He proved to be a real leader both on and off the pitch to the side that regained top flight status in 1978 and then went on to thrill and compete on all fronts in the early-eighties. Criminally under-rated as player, he was only given one England Cap, but he was highly valued by the club, for whom he was consistent and loyal. He started as a midfielder under Bill Nicholson in the sixties, where he scored two vital goals against Milan in the 1972 UEFA Cup semi-final. Also comfortable as sweeper and centre-back, he was instrumental to the team’s success in the ‘80’s at right-back, although he returned to midfield during the latter stages of the 1984 UEFA Cup winning run; for this team he would be perfect anchoring the midfield, where he could break-up opposition play, start attacks, join play further forward when necessary and add bite to the skill he, and the rest of the team, have in abundance.

Central midfielder: #10 Glenn Hoddle

Argentina had Maradona, Brazil had Zico, France and Platini, and England had Glenn Hoddle. Unfortunately, he wasn’t appreciated by the national team, but every Spurs fan knew he was the greatest English player of his generation, and he proved it time and again for Tottenham in 13 years as a first-tem player, before going onto to feel more appreciated in France, where he won personal accolades and league championships with Monaco. Look back on the 1981 FA Cup Final Replay now, the breakthrough for the glorious team of the eighties, and Hoddle was the best player on the pitch, doing things he was not associated with, tackling, heading and tracking back. But it was his amazing technique and vision that made him stand out, even in a team of other supremely skilful players. To say he was comfortable on the ball, both-footed and had the ability to continually put a ball on a postage stamp are all vast understatements. Throughout his twelve seasons in the first-team at Tottenham he scored a number of high-quality goals that will never be forgotten, and to many he will always be God’s Footballer.

Central midfielder: #7 Osvaldo Ardiles

The perfect partner for Hoddle, Ardiles himself recognised that while he himself was a “Number 10” in his own right with fantastic close control, great passing ability and could run with the ball he was also had other attributes, and was able to feed Hoddle, to benefit the movement of the team. Ossie seemed to cover more ground than any other player in a match, and he was also stronger than his size might suggest, able to hold of players in an era when talented players such as himself received little protection from the targeting they received from opposing teams. He had a great reading of the game, a chess fan both on and off the pitch. A world-cup winner in Argentina, whose home will always now be the one made when he first came to Tottenham in 1978.

Forward: #9 Chris Waddle

Chris Waddle had everything. He could dribble like a latter day Stanley Matthews, he could pass both short and long range with both feet like Glenn Hoddle, and he scored goals, including headers, like Jimmy Greaves. The day he went to Marseille was a sad day for the club, but unsurprisingly he went on to achieve further personal success, winning three championships and playing in a European Cup Final. He was outstanding in the 1990 World Cup, when he and John Barnes were finally allowed to play in free roles off the main striker, a role he would have in this team, and a role he would now be given if he was playing for any of Europe’s leading clubs today, where he would shine and be ranked alongside Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Forward: #8 Jimmy Greaves

A natural born goalscorer who after he was signed from Milan, had his best years at Tottenham, scoring an amazing 266 goals in 379 appearances for the club, 220 of those goals coming the League. In his first season at the club he scored at the highest level as Spurs were unlucky not win the European Cup, but he did win the first of his two FA Cups at Tottenham, scoring in the final. He also scored two goals in the European Cup Winners Cup Final the following season, as Spurs became the first club to win a European trophy, trashing the holders and the favourites Athletic Madrid 5-1 in Rotterdam. Bill Nick later spoke about how he would pass the ball into the net, and there is also plenty of footage of him gliding past players before finishing as well as instinctive poaching in and around the six-yard box. Like a number of other English players in this team, he could have been treated better at international level, but deservedly got his World Cup Winning medal for 1966 a few years ago.

Forward: #11 Cliff Jones

Cliff Jones is a true legend of the club, and was a major part of the all conquering side from 1960-63, playing in all three winning finals plus 29 league games on the way to the title. He would be a perfect partner with Waddle in this team, as they could both play on either side, and swap at will. He could beat players at pace, but as well as being thought of as the best winger of his time, he was also renowned for being brave and he scored many a header as part his big goal contribution: he weighed in with 15 goals in the League in the Double winning season, with a further 4 in the FA Cup. He now works for the Club’s corporate side on matchdays.

Substitutes

Pat Jennings

The gentle giant with massive hands, Jennings won an FA Cup, two League Cups, and a UEFA Cup in thirteen years at Spurs, where he played nearly six-hundred games for the club in all competitions. Supremely talented, and despite leaving the club, returned in 1986, and is still associated with the club now, and openly says Tottenham is “his club”. World class.

Chris Hughton

Only just edged of the first-team by the phenomenon that is Gareth Bale, Chrissie Hughton is so good that he keeps Cyril Knowles of the bench. Hughton was both footed, comfortable on the ball, could play full-back on either side, brilliantly both defensively and especially going forward. Once during a Match of the Day commentary in the early eighties, John Motson noted how the watching England Manager at the time, Bobby Robson, would be eating his heart out wishing that Hughton was eligible for England, rather than the Republic of Ireland, for whom he represented 53 times. A terrific player, and a Tottenham man.

Martin Peters

Like Blanchflower, a footballer ahead of his time, which Sir Alf Ramsey recognised early on. His ability to ghost in for goals on the far post was no fluke, but due to his supreme reading of the game. And coupled with great timing, he had superb ability, scoring goals with both feet and in air. He could play anywhere, and throughout his career he did, including sweeper, as a sole central-striker and all over midfield. Once at Norwich he even played at right-back simply because his manager realised that’s where there was most space in the game, and Peters was the only one who had the ability and intelligence to exploit it.  When in the last World Cup in 2010, England’s failings were crystallized by the lack of intelligence by their so-called golden generation when they had the ball, like many an England side since he scored in the 1966 World Cup Final, was crying out for a Martin Peters. A great player.

Paul Gascoigne

Despite highlights elsewhere, Gascoigne’s greatest form as a club player was at Tottenham Hotspur, where he came as close as any player could to almost single-handedly taking a team to the FA Cup Final, in 1991, which at the time was to become the club’s record-breaking eighth FA Cup Success. Gascoigne was world-class in his day, with a brilliant football brain, fantastic energy and superb technical ability. He was able to run at players with the ball, score all types of goals, and win games on his own.

Ronnie Burgess

With footage of the fifties rare, Ronnie Burgess gets just into the squad ahead of John White due to his legendary reputation as a talented player and inspirational leader. He captained the ground-breaking push and run Spurs side to the old Second Division title and then their first League Championship in successive seasons. He later managed the club, signing Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin, and later went onto manage Watford where he spotted and signed Pat Jennings, before he came to Spurs. Bill Nick, who played with him in the push-and-run team, is said to rate him as highly as a player as he rated Dave Mackay, which is high praise indeed.

Clive Allen

A proper player, and while he had spells at nearly every London club, is Tottenham through and through. His 49 goal season, at the forefront of one of the great Spurs teams in 86-87 will be hard to beat, short of Messi coming to White Hart Lane. He won the PFA and Writers Player of the year award for his feats that season, but should also have won winners medals in both domestic cups that year, with Spurs also challenging for the title, as they did in Allen’s first season 84/85, when he started the season with a brace away at Everton. He also got a couple against Everton at White Hart Lane in a 2-0 win in 86/87, but on both occasions Everton went on to win the League while Spurs finished third. Allen was still prolific though, particularly in 86-87, scoring crackers, like the one at Highbury in the League Cup Semi-final first leg, to tap-ins in and around the six-yard box. A top player and a top man.

Steve Archibald

The hardest final striker slot, keeping out his great striking partner Garth Crooks, as well as Gary Linekar, Jurgen Klinsmann, Martin Chivers, Bobby Smith, etc, etc. With a reputation for being his own man, he is a true fans favourite, with one of the best songs any player has had, adapted from an old BA advert of the time. He went onto prove his class at Barcelona under Terry Venables, who continued to rate him highly, and nearly brought him back to the club when he himself later became manager. He played every minute of all the four major finals and two replays in his four seasons at the club; he scored Tottenham’s only goal in the 1982 League Cup Final, which Spurs were three minutes away from winning, and also scored in the penalty-shoot out against Anderlect in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final second-leg at White Hart Lane, his final game at the club.

Mel Gomes is an occasional blogger on football. He can be found on Twitter at @melstarsg and is well worth a follow.

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