The old football adage goes that ‘things even themselves out over the course of the season.’ In many cases this will be true – close calls for off-side, a goal given or disallowed or a penalty awarded for or against. However, Spurs still await retribution for the Mendes 'goal' at Old Trafford a few season's ago.
Perhaps, in the case of Mendes disallowed goal, the wrong will not be righted in a season – it might be more like a lifetime. Having supported Spurs for forty years I can not recall any occasion when something similar occurred either for or against Spurs. However, just three months before I was born Spurs benefited greatly from a referee making a serious mistake.
On Wednesday afternoon, 2nd April, 1952 Spurs were at home to Huddersfield Town who were bottom of the table fighting against relegation while Spurs as defending Champions were in fourth position. The game attracted the lowest attendance of the season, 22,396 and was playing out to an uneventful and dull scoreless draw when Spurs were awarded a corner in the final minute. The referee took up a position nearer the corner flag than the goal and when Eddie Baily took the kick the ball hit the referee and rebounded to him. Baily immediately played the ball a second time, putting in a cross which Len Duquemin headed into the Huddersfield goal. The referee awarded a goal which brought uproar from the Huddersfield players and officials but even after consulting the linesman, the referee stood by his decision.
The referee had made a serious mistake as Baily should not have played the ball twice without another player touching it. Huddersfield should have been awarded a free-kick from the position where Baily played the ball for the second time.
At first, the Huddersfield players refused to re-start the game but there was no mass harassment of the referee and although everyone knew there had been a mistake the result had to stand. In the next programme, Spurs commented on the incident, ‘The referee’s decision is final, and even if we have been the gainers in this instance there have been previous cases in which we have been the sufferers.’
At the end of the season Huddersfield were relegated by three points and while the point they lost that day did not relegate them mathematically, an extra point from that game may have inspired the players to greater efforts in the final six matches of the season. Spurs went on to finish second behind Manchester United and ahead of Arsenal on goal difference so for once Spurs managed to put one over their North London rivals as a result of that game.