Monday, 23 August 2010

Latest download

One of the perks of writing In Search Of Alan Gilzean was that I got to meet a number of Spurs legends; players whom I grew up idolising and who had been merely names on the pages of the books I read. That all changed on the day I started the book. Suddenly, I was being forced to brass-neck it with guys I had idolised. I learned a lot about myself during my initial phone calls with them. Those initial calls would eventually become sit-down meetings. To a man, I found them charming and fascinating. But the one former player that stood out most for me - probably because he was part of the first Spurs team I remember from childhood - was Steve Perryman. Steve roomed with Gillie for many years and his fondness for the man remained undiminished despite not having spoken to him for well over a decade. I hope his warmth for Alan shines through in the following download - the last before the book is released - which BackPage Press have recently made available here:

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

More from the diary

Saturday 2nd May
Received an envelope stuffed with cuttings from Bill Hutcheon, the editor of the Dundee Courier and Advertiser. There are no match reports just news articles and interviews from titles across the DC Thomson network. A three-part series of interviews, which appeared in The Weekly News in the early 70s, is particularly insightful and speculates that an anti-Anglo bias explains why Gilzean won so few Scotland caps. This is intriguing because Gilzean suggests in Kenny Ross's book that there were two reasons why he left Dundee for Tottenham: the first was financial, the second because he feared his international career would suffer if he remained at a club which enjoyed sporadic success.
Another notable gem is the revelation that Gilzean is not Coupar Angus's only famous son. Dr John Bain Sutherland, who after emigrating to America as a teenager in the 1920s, went on to become one the most successful coaches in American Football history as a coach of Pitt University, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. His portrait is hanging in the town's council chambers on the day Gilzean is presented with a watch for scoring the winning goal against England at Hampden in April 1964, a victory which sealed a hat trick of Scottish victories over the Auld Enemy.

Friday 8th May

I've ramped up my research on the back of reading Kenny Ross's book.
I went to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow today to look at their back catalogue of Herald newspapers. There are a number of articles of interest from the 1961-62 season. The first concerns a supporter who died in police custody after scuffles involving Dundee and Celtic supporters after the sides' league meeting on November 4th.
In an outside column at the foot of the sports pages the newspaper reports that a 20-year-old Celtic supporter, Peter Richard Gilroy, had died in custody after being arrested following one of the incidents which followed the Dundee-Celtic match at Dens Park.
Gilroy from 15 Porterfield Road, Renfrew passed away at Dundee Police Office. Mr James Clark, procurator fiscal, said he was investigating the matter. A post mortem was carried out on November 6th. His family were told of his death on Sunday 5th November after his sister Mrs Ruth Neill went to Dundee to identify the body.
The Herald gives substantially more coverage to the match, however, noting that: “The feat of Gilzean, Dundee's inside left who scored four of their goals must surely force the Scottish international selectors to reconsider their plans for the World Cup play-off match with Czechoslovakia. Not only did Gilzean, who has been an Under-23 cap, score four times but he was within inches of scoring four more and in every aspect he was the superior of [Ralph] Brand, Rangers' inside left.”
However, for whatever reason, Gilzean wasn't named in the team. The man who lined up at inside left? Rangers' Ralph Brand.
It adds significant weight to the idea that there was not just an Anglo-bias but a provincial bias, too.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A first phone call

I promised blog followers that I would provide regular updates by way of diary entries that I kept during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean but so far I haven't really delivered on that promise.
One of the major challenges in writing the book was trying to juggle the arrival of a new-born son with finding time to get words on to screen. Believe it or not, now that the book is finished the challenge is proving even more demanding. So I've had a rummage around in the attic and blown the dust off a couple of books to give you another flavour of what kind of journalistic endeavours I was involved in just over a year ago.

Tuesday 14th April
Phoned Ronnie Scott who works for the Sunday Post and who was once of the Dundee Courier. He has interviewed Alan Gilzean in the past and he tells me that he was recently at the Dundee Hall of Fame dinner when Alan was voted in. “He wasn't there to pick up his award, his son Ian picked it up for him,” he tells me “he's quite reclusive, as I'm sure you've already discovered.”
“Have you read the Hunter Davies book The Glory Game?” I tell Ronnie that I have.
“There's the famous story in that where Alan goes to a Greek restaurant the night before a game and the owner says to him 'Your usual, Mr Gilzean' and then plonks down a bottle of Bacardi and four cokes in front of him.”
Ronnie informs me that Ian lives in Carnoustie and I tell him that I will arrange to meet up with him, if and when, I arrange a sit down with Ian. I have a home number for Ian which I had assumed to be an old one but I check the dialling code for Carnoustie and it is the same as the number I have.
“Hello?” asks a young voice. “Hello, is Ian there?” I ask. Silence.
“It's for dad,” whispers the voice, as the phone is passed to someone else.
“Hello,” asks a woman, who has an undeniable east coast of Scotland twang.
“Hello, is Ian there? I repeat my question. My heart's in my mouth and it's constricting my throat.
“He's workin, whose callin?”
“My name is James Morgan. I am a sports journalist with The Herald in Glasgow. I'm thinking about writing a book about Ian's dad and was wondering if he would be amenable to meeting up with me to discuss it.” Amenable? I think, where did that come from?
“He won't be home for another hour. I'll get him to call you back.”
“Did you get my name okay?”
“Yes, it's James Morgan.”
I give my number, hang up and wait.

Monday 20th April
12.30 I telephone Craig Brown, the former Scotland manager and erstwhile team-mate of Gilzean's at Dundee. His voice sounds frail and distant like he's speaking from inside a box. I ask if it's a good time to talk and he tells me he's on his lunch and in the car driving but he says he'll happily tell me a few stories if I call back later. He adds this caveat: “He's a hard man to track down.”
2.00 I try Craig Brown again. Fortunately, the line is significantly better. He tells me he is driving from Preston, his English home, to Prestwick, where he has a home in Scotland. “I've got a dental appointment in Glasgow, tomorrow,” he adds. It's a good start: if he is prepared to give me small seemingly unimportant details like that, he is unlikely to hold back on other information. Brown proves to be a charming interviewee.
From the off, it's clear he recalls Gilzean with a measure of awe but also with genuine fondness. But it his descriptions of Gilzean the player that interest me most. So far, I have read little about what type of footballer he was, although the one thing I'm certain Brown will impress upon me is Gillie's aerial prowess.
“He had a great reputation for his ability in the air particularly crosses from the right rather than the left. All strikers have a favourite side and his was the right.” Bingo.
“At Dundee, Gordon Smith provided excellent crosses for him. He was very, very good on the ground and this has often been overlooked. His touch was excellent and he had medium to good pace. He had many great attributes; he was athletic, and he seemed to glide about the pitch – that wonderful gift that some people have and he had a wonderful ability to finish. He was never flustered when he had a chance to score, he was always calm.”
“We wore white shorts at Dundee and after the game we would come into the dressing room and everyone's shorts would be filthy and muddy but his shorts would be immaculate. He was not the kind of striker who put himself about. He was a gentleman's striker. He wasn't rushing into tackles and chasing up ball. He had this zip about him and although he was not the hardest worker a lot of people said that's why he had that extra zip.”

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

[69/70] Tottenham v Manchester City, Sep 13th 1969

Another defeat for Spurs but contained in this video are two exquisite examples of the G-Men in full flow. For children of a certain vintage the name Stretch Armstong will have a particular resonance and at one point in this game Gillie manages to contort his neck into the kind of shape Stretch (a pliable kids' toy) might have struggled with (1.18). Gilzean's reverse flick for Greaves' acrobatic volley (2.17) - which is subsequently disallowed - demonstrates why Spurs fans were so in love with the pairing.

The nine-month transfer window

There used to be a time when finding out that Tottenham had signed a new player was a surprise. This was an era long before 24-hour, wall-to-wall media coverage, blink and you'll miss it updates and quotes from Harry Redknapp on just about anyone with a pair of fitba boots.
Transfers seemed to be so much less protracted in the past: one day said target was another team's player the next day he was your team's and channels for the information were confined to P302 on Ceefax or one of the red tops. It helped, of course, that there was no such thing as a transfer window and clubs could sign players practically all year round. None the less Gillie's own transfer from Dundee to Spurs was six months in the making and turned into a bit of a saga before he eventually signed on at White Hart Lane, a week before Christmas 1964. Two newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, had the story. Another far cry from the present.
Now journalists across Britain indulge in a fastest finger in the west style gunfight to see who can be first to pull the Twigger [sic]. And that's if they get the news first. Club websites, both official and unofficial, Sky Sports News, the BBC website and fans forums all vie with each other to be the first to 'break' the news. A recent example was the Efrain Juarez transfer from UNAM Pumas to Celtic. The Mexican newspapers reported that Juarez was all set for Parkhead, the Scottish newspapers picked up the story the following day and by day three the Mexican press were quoting the Scottish press as having said the deal was almost done. It's a long way from the days when Jim Rodger of the Daily Express used to set up transfers for talented Scottish players who wanted to make a career down south and then break the story the following day. Rodger or 'Scoop' as he was better known, was effectively one of football's first agents and helped facilitate Gilzean's move to Tottenham, having been requested to watch him repeatedly by Bill Nicholson. Often times, Rodger would pick Nicholson up at Glasgow central on the overnight train from London and the pair would drive off into the morning mist in search of a potential target.
Anyway, in deference to the good old days of blissful ignorance and a time before Manchester City-induced stasis, I've included my five favourite transfers in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

Danny Thomas This transfer in June 1983 sums up how things were done back in the pre-agent football world. Thomas was one of English football's brightest young talents and, in the summer of 83, he celebrated a call up to the England national team with a £250,000 transfer from Coventry City to Tottenham. He quickly established himself as one of the best right-backs in the country and won a UEFA Cup winners' medal the following season despite missing a penalty in the shootout with Anderlecht. I loved Danny Thomas as a player. He was quick, skilful and fearsome in the tackle, and he should have had a glittering Tottenham career but for a sickening challenge by Gavin Maguire, the QPR defender. But what I loved most about this transfer is that I found out about it in the pages of Shoot! as a nine-year-old newly smitten with football and especially Spurs.

Jurgen Klinsmann Another one which reminds me of the days before the interweb. The summer of 1994 had been a fairly fraught time in Tottenham's history what with a 12-point deducion in place from the Premier League due to transfer irregularities. All talk had been about whether Spurs would stay up ahead of the forthcoming season but it dissipated just as soon as the club made the annoucement that Klinsmann had signed a two-year deal on Alan Sugar's yacht in Monaco. Again what I loved about this transfer was the alacrity with which it took place and the relative stealth with which the deal was done. My brother phoned me at work to tell me that we had signed the German striker - it was the first time I had heard his name even connected with the club.

Gary Lineker The England and Barcelona front man arrived at a time when Spurs were on the up. Terry Venables had managed to steer the club to a sixth-placed finish in the previous season (88/89) and with Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne starting to click as the campaign drew to a close, the addition of Lineker hinted at the outside chance of a title challenge. All the good work (Lineker cost just £1.5m, a steal given the goals he would score at the club) was undone, however, when Waddle was sold to Marseille for £4.5m a few weeks later. The Geordie would finish second in the European Footballer of the Year awards the following season - an award he should have won. Nevertheless, for those brief few weeks, Spurs fans had the chance to dream again.

Jermain Defoe Defoe arrived at Spurs on my 30th birthday in 2004. I thought he was our Ian Wright, a theory that was reinforced to me when the diminutive striker scored on his debut against Portsmouth. That game lives long in the memory. I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) for the game. She had tears in her eyes as the teams came out 'because of the emotion' but by the time Gus Poyet stabbed in Tottenham's winner she was fast asleep. The score? 4-3 to Tottenham. She still refers to JD as 'wee Defoe' but I'm still waiting for him to become 'our Ian Wright'.

Luka Modric I was lying in bed nursing a hangover early one Saturday morning when I received a text which simply read 'We've signed Modric'. The Croat had been linked with a string of Europe's top clubs. He had been vaguely linked with Tottenham but it was more or less recognised that his destination would be Chelsea or Barca or some other big hitter. It was almost inconceivable that he would join Spurs. The transfer revived memories of the good old days and gave me an indication of what it might have been like to be a Spurs fan when the club signed Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. I got to meet Ossie and Ricky during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean. Indeed, they autographed a book for me which I had bought for Steve Perryman for an auction night to raise funds for Exeter City's youth development. Steve being Steve thanked me but told me to keep the book which he signed, too. I intend running a competition on the blog in the near future with the book as a prize. I will, though, insist that you buy a copy of ISOAG in order to enter.