Martin Plaskow has been attending Spurs matches for over 80 years. The lifelong Spurs supporter from South Tottenham, attended his first Spurs match in 1942. Martin has since been a regular at Spurs matches, and he is a loyal Spurs supporter, who I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of talking to, at length, about his Spurs memories.
How did you come about supporting Spurs? And what are some of your earliest memories of watching their games?
Martin: I lived in South Tottenham, which is obviously not very far from the ground, and would take about 3/4 of an hour to walk to. My father wasn’t really a football man, but he did take me to a couple of away games. Also, my friends from school were all Spurs supporters, and that’s how it all started. The first Spurs game that I actually saw was during the Second World War (1942), but the actual first match was actually Arsenal versus Brentford, as they used to share the same ground as Spurs. Then the first Spurs game that I ever saw, was in October of 1942, when they played Aldershot in the league south. Spurs won 4-0, and they had an amateur playing for them called AH Gibbons, who was a centre-forward, and he scored four of the goals. Aldershot had the international half-back line of Britton, Cullis and Mercer. After that my friends and I started going regularly to Spurs, and a little later on I attended Tottenham Grammar School, which was even closer to White Hart Lane. So from there it just developed and developed, and we went more regularly to games as we got older.
When Spurs were playing away from home, then we would go to what we thought might be the best game in London. Generally it was Arsenal, as we thought that they were quite good, and also to teams like Leyton Orient, but it was always Spurs who were our first love. We used to go to away Spurs matches in London, as they were easy to get tickets to, but further afield we didn’t go a great deal, because of our age. But we did go to see a semi-final at Villa Park, and also to Leeds, to see Spurs play in the FA Cup, and also at Sheffield United, as well. I’ll always remember that we went up to Sunderland for a cup match, and I think that it finished 2-2, but the amazing part was that we were in the enclosure with Sunderland supporters. And even though they had bottles of beer, we were all friendly and jovial, and it was just quite a nice atmosphere.
What your early days of watching Spurs in the 1940s like? And also what was it like watching Spurs during the following decades?
Martin: There was probably a crowd of about 6,000, but in those days you had a league south with other London teams and southern teams, because of the war. We used to get a taxi from Stamford Hill to the Spurs ground. There was six of us, but they only allowed five in a cab, and so one of us lay on the floor. It cost us one and six pence to get to Tottenham, which was seven and a half pence each, in money today. To get in the seats at Spurs (the old White Hart Lane West stand) it would cost 15p in today’s money. But if you gave the man on the turnstile half of that, then you’d go under the turnstile. So going to Spurs was a regular thing, and we used to stand on The Shelf. At the time there used to be an orange programme which was a single sheet for just one penny. And during the war they didn’t know who was going to turn up on the programme, so they used to put in AN Other, or something like new man. So one match that I saw this AN Other played a brilliant game, and then in the next home match that we were at, I said to my friend that the AN Other was not on the team-sheet, but the reason is that the AN Other was just written down, because they didn’t know who was going to turn up. So I don’t even know who I saw that day!
During the war they used to put the player’s rank in the services, on the match day programme. So you had people like Roy White, who was a lieutenant, but you also used to have corporals and captains in the team, as well. You used to see all of the fixtures being put up on the board at White Hart Lane, and then you had the Enfield central band, who gave us the entertainment. As the war started to finish we started getting bigger crowds at the games. In 1949/50 season Under Arthur Rowe when we got promoted from the second division, and then in 1950/51 we saw the push and run team, who won the league (the first division) that season. However, the 1960/61 season was the greatest period of football that I have seen. I saw the first game that Bill Nicholson took charge of as manager, which was against Everton, when we won 10-4. I couldn’t believe it!
From your first three decades of watching Spurs play, are there any matches that really stand out in your memory?
Martin: A lot of those games were high scoring ones. I saw us beat Nottingham Forest 9-2, and I also saw us beat Crewe Alexandra 13-2 in the FA Cup. It was an incredible match, but when I got home that night my father said to me that I must of enjoyed myself at the game (he’d been watching a sports programme on the television) and that he was surprised that it had finished 10-1. But then I told him that that was only the half-time score! Another exciting game that I attended, but disappointing, was the return match against Benfica in the European Cup, our first season in that competition. We’d lost the first leg 3-1, and then we were 2-1 up in the second leg. If we’d have got another goal in the return leg then we’d have played extra time. However, the referee disallowed goals and penalties, so it was a very frustrating game, but we played well although we didn’t do it. Also, another memorable game in the European Cup, we played Gornik (that’s when the people dressed up as angels appeared at White Hart Lane). Going back in no particular order to the first year after the war (1947/48), when we played our first game in the second division that season (against Sheffield Wednesday), we had a player called Johnny Jordan playing. That was his league debut and he scored two goals as we beat Sheffield Wednesday.
In a cup match against West Bromwich Albion which we won 3-1, there were 71,000 people at White Hart Lane. So that was another exciting game. Another cup match, this time in 1949/50, was against Sunderland (then a first division side). Two weeks before we had to go up to Tottenham to queue up for tickets, and we used to queue up from the Paxton Road end to get your tickets, and in fact they sold out very quickly. Then we won promotion during the same season, it was our last home match (which was against Grimsby Town) and having already won the league we thought that we’d walk it. But bugger me we lost 2-1. And we also lost our last home game of the season in 1950/51 as well, when we won the first division. When I was interviewed by Tottenham they asked me who was the best player that I ever saw? And I said Jimmy Greaves. He was just great, and he was in that six yard box, and in the right position at the right time, and he could sense where that ball was going to go. I saw him score his greatest ever goal for Spurs, against Leicester. He dribbled with the ball from the halfway line, and he was going past the Leicester players before scoring with a powerful effort.
On Jimmy Greaves I can remember his first game for Chelsea (against Spurs), and also his first game for Spurs, which I believe was against Blackpool. Individuals scoring goals for Spurs always stand out to me, and I can remember when Alfie Stokes scored five goals in a game against Brighton, which was similar to when Colin Lee scored scored four goals against Bristol Rovers some years later. Years ago if a player were to get injured in a match then they’d stick them out on the wing. And I can remember Charlie Withers in a game against Preston North End, when we recorded a 2-2 draw, and yet despite being injured he scored both of Spurs’ goals! A similar thing happened to Les Bennett when he got injured in a match against Middlesbrough, with a player called Ugolini in goal, and yet he scored four goals as Spurs won 7-1! And as for the 1960/61 team, they were winning games 6-1 and 6-0 against good teams. But a game that really stands out from the 21st century, was the Spurs 6-4 Reading game. We were winning, then Reading caught up, and then Dimitar Berbatov scored yet another goal at the end. Now that was an exciting game and mainly because there were a lot of goals in the game.
In an FA Cup match many years ago, Spurs beat Sunderland 5-1. And Sid McClellan scored a goal, but in the first ten minutes of the game he got knocked out, and had to be carried off the pitch. And although Sunderland were the much better team at the time, we still managed to beat them 5-1. So that game really stands out. One worrying/scary moment from when I was watching Spurs, took place in about October 1943, in a game against West Ham at White Hart Lane, in a league south game. Anyway, this doodlebug was spotted above the ground, and that was pilotless, and when the engine stopped, well that was when it was going to drop. The players as well as us supporters all went to the ground, as we didn’t know where it was going to fall! So anyway it ended up falling at the Angel, Edmonton. So that was V1, but later on when I was at grammar school in Tottenham, unfortunately this V2 landed on a teachers training college opposite. I went to the ground, and I also pushed a friend of mine to the ground with me, when it landed. And as I did that this sheet of glass came across the table where we’d been standing, but luckily we were on the ground.
Who are some of your favourite ever Spurs players who you remember well from your time watching Spurs in the 20th century?
Martin: Going back to the early 1950s, you had Ditchburn, Willis, Withers and Ronnie Burgess, who was a brilliant captain. You also had Bennett, Medley and the centre-forward Len Duquemin. But coming up to the 1960/61 side, which I saw, then you had players like Bill Brown, Dave Mackay, Maurice Norman, Blanchflower and John White and Cliff Jones, and also Bobby Smith. And Bobby Smith was as strong as an ox, but he was also a skilful footballer. So those Spurs teams played beautiful football, and then of course years later you had Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa playing for Spurs. So we’ve had some great individual players at the club, but I think that apart from a spell in the 1980s, after 1960/61, that we never really gelled again as a Spurs team, apart from also the Mauricio Pochettino team that also reached the UEFA Champions League final. Jimmy Greaves was my favourite player, because I loved his football and the way that he played the game. But there’s been so many great players for Spurs, like your Danny Blanchflower’s, and he was a real leader! Blanchflower was the governor for Spurs on the pitch, and he would switch the players’ positions on the pitch. Also, there was Dave Mackay, who was a hard player, but also a great footballer.
I feel as if the players from years ago for the Spurs had charisma, which I don’t feel as if the current players do. Other memories which stand out, were the UEFA Cup final at White Hart Lane in 1984, that we won on penalties, and also Paul Gascoigne’s free-kick goal against Arsenal in the semi-finals of the 1991 FA Cup.