Monday, August 08, 2011

Tottenham Hotspur Pre-Season Matches - 1960s Style

Spurs completed their pre-season preparation with a 2-1 win over Atletico Bilbao at White Hart Lane thanks to two goals early in the second half from Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe.  This season has seen the club visit South Africa where they won the Vodacom Challenge, playing three games against Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs.  They also defeated Brighton and Hove Albion in a friendly which marked the opening of the south coast club's new stadium.  These matches were used to provide match practice for the senior squad while a number of Spurs XI games were played to improve the fitness of the younger members of the playing squad.

This has been a much less active series of games compared with recent seasons which have seen the club visit the Far East, USA, Europe and the UK.  In the summer of 2004, new coach saw Spurs play a massive 12 games in the weeks leading up to the season which was not ideal preparation for a new season.  Last year, Harry Redknapp found the amount of travelling involved in the trip to the United States to be a hindrance to his preparations.
However, looking back over the years it can be seen that clubs preferred to prepare over a shorter period and much closer to home in their build up to a new season and the number of games they played prior to the start of the season was greatly restricted compared to modern day trends.
In the 1950s and 60s the only opportunity Spurs supporters had to see the team playing before the first game of the season was in the annual 'Public Trial' game - 'Whites' v 'Blues' played between the 1st team and the Reserves at White Hart Lane on the Saturday prior to the start of the season.  On occasions these games could be quite feisty affairs and frequently raised more questions than answers for the manager as the reserve players endeavoured to make a point about their non-selection.

In fact, on the Saturday before the start of the 1960 - 61 season after three weeks training Bill Nicholson watched as the reserves drew 4-4 with the soon to become famous 'Double' team.  In that game, watched by 11,677 spectators, the full strength team of Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay et al took a 4-1 lead mid-way through the second half but such was the determination of experienced players like Tony Marchi, Tommy Harmer and Terry Medwin and a young prospect called Frank Saul that they scored three quick goals to draw the game.  Cliff Jones had given the 'Whites' the lead from a hotly disputed penalty and Mackay doubled the lead before half-time.  Terry Dyson added the third before Medwin pulled one back for the 'Blues'.  Les Allen increased the lead but then Saul and Jimmy Collins (2) levelled the score.  Saul obviously impressed the manager as he made his League debut a few weeks later as replacement for the injured Bobby Smith in the derby match at Highbury when he scored as Spurs won 3-2 to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

This had been the customary preparation throughout the 1950s and it was only in the mid-1960s that changes occurred in the preparations teams made.  In the two seasons following the 'Double' success Spurs had the privilege of playing in the Charity Shield game, the official curtain raiser for the new season.  In 1961 they defeated and FA XI and the following year they took revenge on Champions Ipswich Town by winning 5-1 at Portman Road.

To this point there had been no pre-season friendly games played at home or abroad.  It was more customary for clubs to undertake extensive overseas tours at the end of the season and in the 1950s Spurs had twice visited North America on lengthy tours while at the end of season 1959 they visited USSR.  The first pre-season friendly that is recorded is in August, 1964 when Spurs went to Holland and lost 2-3 to Feyenoord - their only pre-season game.

August 1965 saw the introduction of a short tour to take part in a two day tournament in Spain.  Spurs won the Costa del Sol trophy after defeating Valencia 2 - 1 and then Standard Liege 1 - 0 in the Final.
The following year they returned to defend their trophy and retained it with victories over Malaga and Benefica, both 2 - 1.

In 1967 Spurs had the Charity Shield game at Old Trafford but a week earlier they went to Hampden Park to take on European Champions, Celtic and drew 3 - 3.  Strangely, the game against Manchester United ended with a similar scoreline but even more strangely, Pat Jennings was one of the Tottenham scorers that day.  Pre-season matches were now becoming more high profile and so it was to continue in the coming years.

For the next four years, a game against Glasgow Rangers became a regular feature of the pre-season fixture list and while rarely does anything memorable occur in such matches, the 1968 game against Rangers at White Hart Lane saw the debut of a young centre-half signed for £5,500 from non-league Chelmsford City.  Peter Collins scored twice in that game and although his career was ended prematurely through injury he will be remembered for the part he played in the successful 1971 League Cup campaign when he replaced the injured Mike England.  In 1968 Spurs also played in Austria while the following year saw Spurs renew acquaintances with Hearts, their Europa League opponents in ten days time.  In the mid-1950s the two clubs had participated in a short-lived Anglo-Scottish floodlight competition which lasted for a number of seasons.

The 1970 pre-season saw Tottenham also return to Spain to play in the Palma de Mallorca Tournament but there was no repeat of their previous success in Spain as they lost both games by a single goal to Cologne and Atletico Madrid.

In the years that followed the number of matches played remained at three or four.  It was in the mid to late 70s that saw additional games played with an increasing number overseas.  The tendency then became to take the players away to a foreign training camp where a number of games were played against local sides before returning to participate in more high profile games in the final weeks of preparation.

Every club does it differently and every manager has his own ideas on the best way to prepare but nowadays a club like Tottenham will include a tour to a destination where they can try to heighten their profile and create a new generation of supporters who will improve the financial standing of the club through increased sales of club merchandise.

At the end of the day pre-season results are meaningless, it's the result on the opening day of the season that really counts and how the team progresses from that point.  On occasions Spurs have gone through pre-season games with an unbeaten record with players scoring for fun but when the real games started their form has been poor but at other times the reverse has occurred - a poor pre-season run is followed by an exciting start to the new season.

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