An ode to the great Danny Blanchflower – My Spurs hero (with a foreword from Eddie Clayton):
Eddie Clayton: “ Danny was a very professional footballer and when he played he was very attack minded. He played with a smile on his face although he was still very serious about his football, but with Danny it was all about attacking football, he never thought about defending and that’s why he clashed with Bill Nicholson who was very defensive minded. Whereas Danny was attacking minded, he used to say look if they score one then we’ll score two, if they score two then we’ll score three and so on, and that’s how he was. That was Danny’s way of playing football, he was happy if we won 10-9! As a player Danny was very skilful and he was very good on the ball. He was also a good passer of the ball and even though he wasn’t very quick, his positioning and his reading of the game was very good. He was a good captain who was friendly, and he loved a bit of a laugh. However, he was still a serious guy and I would call him a true professional. ”
For many Spurs fans Danny Blanchflower remains one of the greatest and most influential ever players to pull on the famous Lilywhite shirt of Tottenham Hotspur. With his exceptional vision and incisive passing ability, the Belfast born right half was the on the field brains behind Spurs‘ double winning success of the 1960/61 season. The on the field manager as he has been described by former teammates, had a profound impact on the history of our great club throughout its most successful period. Blanchflower was a visionary, a man light years ahead of his time. He was also a hero to so many Spurs supporters including myself, even though he was long, long before my time. Robert Dennis Blanchflower was born in East Belfast on the 10th of February 1926, Blanchflower would later attend Ravenscroft public elementary school and then the Belfast College of Technology. Having started out with Northern Irish side Glentoran, Blanchflower earned himself a move to English team Barnsley who paid £6,000 for him to join them in 1949. After a spell in Yorkshire, the Ulsterman then moved to Aston Villa before transferring in 1954 to Tottenham Hotspur a club whose name he had liked the sound of since he was a young boy. Blanchflower would spend ten years at the Lilywhites and while he did clash with Jimmy Anderson during the former Spurs managers reign at the club in the 1950’s. Danny’s time at Spurs was overwhelmingly positive and along with manager Bill Nicholson and that great team that we had during the early 1960’s he helped to shape the history of Spurs.
Captaining them to winning the double in the 1960/61 season, the versatile and adaptable Belfast man also helped Spurs to win a further FA Cup, and also the European Cup Winners Cup in 1963 before he went abroad to play for the likes of Toronto City, Boksburg and Durban City. After retiring from playing the beautiful game, Blanchflower turned his hand to management, taking charge of Chelsea and Northern Ireland (had Bill Nicholson have had his way then Danny would have replaced him as Spurs manager in 1974). He would later become a hugely respected football journalist where he wrote about the game for the Sunday Express. In this piece I am not going through Danny’s illustrious career with Spurs and Northern Ireland but instead focusing on his legacy and his impact on Tottenham Hotspur FC and on a generation of Irish supporters. Danny passed away almost 27 years ago however, his name and his many eloquent quotes are still commonly repeated by Spurs fans and followers of the club to this day. For me ever since I was a very young boy the name Danny Blanchflower has always been relatable with glory and triumph, the very best of Spurs. Being of Northern Irish heritage were it not for Blanchflower then my father and I and many others in Ireland would not have not have supported Spurs. In fact Blanchflower’s legacy has helped to make Spurs huge in Northern Ireland (still not rivalling Liverpool and Manchester United mind you!).
Since I was a young boy I have read extensively on that famous double winning team of 1960/61, and watched all of the available footage, and I have always been fascinated by their captain fantastic. Blanchflower as a player and as a captain was a great all rounder. A maverick in his thinking, Danny Blanchflower had the ability to galvanise his teammates. However, as a player he could tackle, make an incisive pass, shoot and track back. He was a stylish player who loved to attack. He also believed that the game should be played with panache, and that it was about glory. Some saw Danny as a professor, others as a visionary however, no one, absolutely no one can argue his impact on our great club. He was in many ways the on the field manager of that double winning side. Possessing a remarkable footballing brain he had the ability to change a game. My hero and our captain, Blanchflower was a fascinating character and I am truly grateful for all that he did for Spurs. I have been very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to research Blanchflower’s footballing career over the last couple of years. I am also truly grateful to all of his former teammates who have shared their memories of Danny with me over the past couple of years. Blanchflower was an inspiration to many including myself however, from extensively reading old match reports and watching old footage I have been able to get a little taste of what a wonderfully unique footballer Danny was.
A highly influential individual who captained Spurs’ first team on 265 occasions, Blanchflower with his speed of thought and great ambition helped to make history in English football. All fans dream of their respective club having a charismatic and truly great captain who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, Danny was exactly that. Had the Irishman had been able to manage Spurs after Bill Nicholson’s tenure had ended in 1974, then who knows we may well have done the double again with Danny’s unique style of management. A man who loved books and was very much an intellectual, as former Spurs scout Ronnie Clayton recalled to me a recent interview, Blanchflower also famously refused to appear on the well known television programme “ This is your life ” in 1961, he was very much his own man. Spurs and Ireland have such a rich history however, Blanchflower is undoubtedly the most influential Irishman to play for Spurs and arguably their most influential captain. His great legacy lives on and will continue to live on, and Blanchflower makes me extremely proud to be a Spurs supporter. Thank you Danny for all that you did for Spurs!