Friday, November 18, 2011

They Played for Tottenham and Villa

Danny Blanchfower, David Ginola and Alan Hutton have all played for Tottenham and Villa.  For the third successive match, Spurs play a team with former Tottenham players in their squad which always adds an extra something to the contest for both players and spectators.

Danny Blanchflower
One of the most important signings that Tottenham Hotspur have ever made came when the transfer of Danny Blanchflower from Aston Villa was completed in December, 1954.  When he retired through injury ten years later at the age of thirty eight, Spurs had experienced the most successful period in their history with a League and Cup 'Double', a second FA Cup success and become the first British team to achieve a European triumph.

Blanchflower grew up in Belfast and played for his local club, Glentoran.  He was transferred to Barnsley in 1949 and joined Villa two years later.  He was a great 'thinker' about football and wanted to play with style which often put him at odds with managers and coaches.  He complained that in training, players spent too much time on running and were denied the oportunity to practise with a football.

Tottenham manager, Arthur Rowe, signed Blanchflower, a Northern Ireland international, for £30,000 to replace Bill Nicholson who was nearing retirement.  He made his debut at Manchester City in a scoreless draw, taking Nicholson's place, and was ever present for the remainder of the season.  For the next number of seasons Tottenham's performances fluctuated and at times Blanchflower's graceful style of play didn't fit in with the endeavour that was required for a struggle near the foot of the table.

Blanchflower was appointed Captain and liked to take on-field decisions when he thought it necessary but that brought him into conflict with the manager on occasions.  Season 1955-56 was disappointing for Spurs in the League but they progressed to the FA Cup semi-finals.  In the 6th Round against West Ham at White Hart Lane on a very heavy pitch Spurs came from 2-3 down to earn a draw after as captain, Blanchflower, moved centre-half, Maurice Norman, forward to assist the attack.  The change worked as Spurs earned a draw and went on to win the replay 2-1.

They lost the semi-final to Manchester City but a goal down in the final minutes as Spurs battled for an equaliser, Blanchflower again moved Norman, forward into the attack as he had done successfully in the previous round.  It didn't work this time although Spurs nearly managed to equalise but the repercussions of the defeat went further than expected.  Manager, Jimmy Anderson was unimpressed with Blanchflower’s decision to make changes to the team during the game and in the ensuing row Blanchflower resigned as captain and did not take on the role for another two seasons.

Blanchflower won the Player of the Year award in 1957-58 season and captained Northern Ireland to a successful World Cup campaign in Sweden.

When Bill Nicholson was appointed manager, Blanchflower developed a better understanding with him which worked for the benefit of them and the team.  In the pre-season of 1960, Blanchflower boldly predicted that Spurs would win the 'Double'.  They did with a brand of exciting, flowing football that packed stadiums around the country.  The next year they reached the European Cup semi-finals, unlucky to lose to Benefica.  A second FA Cup triumph was achieved and they finished third in the League.  If they had won one of their two games against Champions, Ipswich Town, Spurs would have achieved a second 'double'.  The next year as injury started to take its toll on Blanchflower, he missed nearly half of the season but returned to inspire the team to the European Cup Winners' Cup success.  The following season he retired.

Blanchflower went into journalism and later briefly returned to football management.  On his resignation as Tottenham manger, Bill Nicholson recommended that Blanchflower, working with Johnny Giles, be appointed as his replacement.  The Board of Directors decided against such an appointment.

Blanchflower was one of Tottenham's most influential players and is a 'Legend' so important to the success that Spurs achieved at home and in Europe in the early 1960s.  He made 382 League and Cup appearances in his ten years with Tottenham.

Twenty five years after the Blanchflower transfer, the next transaction between the two clubs saw Gordon Smith arrive at White Hart Lane in February,1979.  A full back, he spent four years with Spurs as they tried to re-establish themselves in the 1st Division.  Injury problems delayed his debut and restricted his appearances so that he only made 45 League and Cup appearances before moving on to Wolverhampton Wanderers.  Not all transfers are a success.

David Ginola who was such a favourite at Tottenham during his three years at the club was transferred to Villa in 2000.  While at White Hart Lane he was a member of the Worthington Cup winning team of 1999 and brought excitement and skill to the team at what was a rather dull period in Tottenham's history.  He was signed by Gerry Francis from Newcastle United, played for Christian Gross and sold by George Graham.  On Graham's arrival it had been widely predicted that Ginola would be one of the first players to leave but he showed great application during this time and worked well for the team scoring a number of outstanding goals.  On returning to White Hart Lane the following season, to play in a rather dull scoreless draw for Villa, home spectators provided their own entertainment by cheering every time Ginola touched the ball.

Spurs Connections in Villa's Current Squad
Aston Villa's current squad contains three players with Tottenham connections in their past record.  Jermaine Jenas who is unavailable for this match as he is on a year long loan agreement with Villa joined Spurs from Newcastle in 2005.  He played in the Carling Cup win of 2008 and in the following season's losing Final team but has been a peripheral player at the club for the past two seasons.  A player of skill and endeavour, he too often failed to influence a game as much as his ability suggested he should and recurring injury problems restricted his appearances for Spurs as it has done at Villa.

Alan Hutton also joined Villa in August.  His transfer was completed as Kyle Walker who had finished last season on loan at Villa returned to White Hart Lane to claim the first team place and as former Tottenham player, Luke Young left Villa Park to sign for Queen's Park Rangers.  Hutton joined Spurs from Rangers in 2008 and a few weeks later was part of the Carling Cup success.  He fell out of favour following Harry Redknapp's appointment and went on loan to Sunderland.  It had been anticipated that he would leave sooner but he returned to the team in the first half of last season but out out again to Vedran Corluka.  A deal for £3 million was agreed with Villa in the summer and he expressed his disaffection for Spurs and the manager in articles in the press following his departure. 

Darren Bent was not happy at Tottenham following Harry Redknapp's quote after the striker missed an obvious goal scoring opportunity against Portsmouth.  He had joined Spurs from Charlton  Athletic in 2007 when Martin Jol was manager.  He never found his true goal scoring form with the club as he competed with Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe for a place in the team.  He was an unused substitute for the 2008 Carling Cup Final but played in the following year's losing team.  He finished leading goalscorer for Spurs in 2009 with 17 goals in all competitions.  He joined Sunderland in the summer of 2009 for £10 million after he had attracted attention with his infamous quotes on Twitter about which clubs he did and didn't want to sign for.

Since moving away from Tottenham Bent has shown much greater endeavour when playing against Spurs than he ever appeared to do when wearing the white shirt of Tottenham.  In his first game for Sunderland at White Hart Lane he lost his personal battle with Heurelho Gomes who saved his penalty awarded for what to many appeared to be a dive. as Spurs won 2 - 0.  However, in the return match he was fired up and scored two goals in the opening half hour, including a penalty.  In his continuing penalty shoot-out contest with Gomes, he lost out as Gomes saved two of the three penalties awarded as Spurs lost 1 - 3.  He joined Villa in January, 2011 for £18 million and has continued to add to his England appearances.

And there were Others
Other players who have worn both the claret and blue of Villa and the white of Spurs include:
Steve Hodge, Andy Gray, Colin Calderwood and Oyvind Leonhardsen. 

Older Players
Older players included Jimmy Cantrell who spent the early part of his career with Villa.  He joined Spurs in 1912 and was still an influential centre forward as Spurs won the 2nd Division in 1920 and the FA Cup the following season.  He was a few weeks short of his 39th birthday when he played in the 1921 FA Cup Final win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.  He retired in 1925 and played his last game for Spurs in April, 1923 - the oldest player to play for the club.

Cyril Spiers joined Tottenham from Villa in 1927 after a serious injury had led the Midlands club to believe that he would never be fit enough to play again.  However, he underwent surgery and after a successful trial joined Spurs.  He was their regular goalkeeper for over four seasons and was released in 1933 having made 169 League and Cup appearances.

Billy Cook and Ronnie Dix also served both clubs.


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