“Nobody will do the double this century,” declared Herbert Chapman after winning his fourth English top-flight title in 1933. Twenty-seven years later, the chances of lifting the First Division and FA Cup trophies in the same season had seemingly receded from an improbability into an impossibility. Not, though, to a club whose motto was ‘To dare is to do’. Tottenham Hotspur dared; Tottenham Hotspur did.
That ground-breaking double remains the capstone of Spurs’ existence, though 1960/61 was not their solitary season in Shangri la. FIFA.com delivers the tale of the London giants who became the first British club to win a major European trophy in 1963, seized the UEFA Cup in each of the following two decades, and have won eight of the nine FA Cup finals they have contested.
Birth of an institution
As a majority of pupils studied intently during a bible class in a north London grammar school in 1882, a minority of them were fervently plotting the birth of something that would become a religion to millions of their cockney descendants: Hotspur Football Club, or Tottenham Hotspur as it would be rechristened two years later.
Tottenham’s first friendlies unfolded on the local marshes, where conflict would rage over which teams performed on the more kempt pitches. Spurs, therefore, relocated to a new office, Northumberland Park, in 1888. Tottenham turned professional in 1895, which facilitated their admission into the Southern League, and four years later moved to White Hart Lane, which has remained their home ever since.
Making of a legend
Although it took Tottenham until 1908 to gain admission into the English Second Division, it didn’t take them as long to gain admission into the FA Cup’s sanctuary of sensations. Indeed in 1900, they beat top-flight opponents Preston North End, Bury, West Bromwich Albion and finally Sheffield United to lift the coveted trophy and become the first, and to date only, non-league team to have won the world’s oldest knockout competition. It is arguably the most shocking conquest in FA Cup history and will almost certainly never be repeated.
Spurs won the Second Division in their maiden season there, but their infant years in the upper tier proved taxing and, when World War I sent football into a four-year recess in 1915, they had just finished bottom of the league and suffered consequent relegation. However, when the First Division was expanded from a 20-team competition into a 22-team one upon its resumption, Tottenham expected to be reinstated into the elite alongside Chelsea, who had finished second-bottom in 1915. To their disgust, that distinction was given to local rivals Arsenal, who had only finished sixth in the last edition of the Second Division. The minor rivalry the teams had previously shared was immediately transformed into the major one that has existed thereafter.
Captained by the infallible Arthur Grimsdell, Tottenham won their second FA Cup in 1921 and finished runners-up in the First Division the following year. That proved merely an abrupt period of success, though, as they largely struggled throughout the remainder of the pre-World War II era.
Spurs installed Tottenham-born former player Arthur Rowe into their hot-seat in 1949, and the move would reap rapid and rich rewards. A visionary manager, he cultivated employment of the one-two, which thrilled supporters and flummoxed opponents in equal measure. They clinched the Second Division in 1950 and the following year, belied their status as newcomers to became English champions. Ted Ditchburn, Alf Ramsey, Ronnie Burgess, Bill Nicholson, Eddie Baily, Sonny Walters and Co remain they only team to have conquered England’s top two tiers in successive seasons.
Nicholson was an outstanding player, but an even better manager. Handed the Tottenham reins in 1958, he staved off the threat of relegation in his maiden term before guiding them to the First Division crown in 1960/01. One week after the league campaign ended, Spurs beat Leicester City 2-0 at Wembley to became the first team since Aston Villa in 1897, when football was consequentially less competitive, to do the league and FA Cup double.
Winger Cliff Jones, mercurial inside-forward John White and striker Bobby Smith all made heavy contributions to that historic double, but it was most indebted to an incomparable engine-room tandem: the indomitable Dave Mackay acted as its enforcer; the immaculate Danny Blanchflower as its creator. Tottenham bolstered their ranks by signing goal machine Jimmy Greaves from AC Milan, and captured the FA in 1962 and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup one year later, becoming the first British side to claim a major European trophy in the process.
As the stars of that iconic team drifted into retirement, Nicholson assembled another attack-conscious outfit - starring goalkeeper Pat Jennings, midfielders Steve Perryman, Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, and forwards Alan Gilzean and Martin Chivers - which won two League Cups and the UEFA Cup in the early 1970s before the legendary manager quit following 16 years at the helm.
Tottenham returned to prominence with back-to-back FA Cup triumphs in 1981 and ’82 – both following replays. The former was settled by a wonder goal from Ricky Villa, who had arrived alongside Osvaldo Ardiles after the pair helped Argentina lift the FIFA World Cup™, while the latter’s match-winner was Glenn Hoddle, an extraordinary passer who wowed the Spurs faithful during 12 years at White Hart Lane.
Spurs have only managed to add one FA Cup and two League Cups to their trophy cabinet thereafter, but their supporters have relished seeing Gary Lineker, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham, Jurgen Klinsmann and David Ginola, among others, thrill in the white, gamecock-adorned jersey.
Tottenham moved to White Hart Lane in 1899, renovating it from disused nursery. Its record crowd was registered in 1938, when 75,038 begrudgingly witnessed Sunderland beat their heroes 1-0, though the ground was regularly rocking to its capacity during the club’s halcyon days of the 1960s. Until 1972, White Hart Lane was one of very few British football grounds that featured no advertising hoardings.
Tottenham failed to find a consistent rhythm under George Graham, Glenn Hoddle, Jacques Santini, Martin Jol and Juande Ramos following the turn of the century, but they have thrived since the 2008 appointment of Harry Redknapp. Indeed, they improbably finished fourth in the 2009/10 Premier League to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, in which they topped a group containing holders Inter Milan.