Down Memory Lane: Magical Madrid victory was Danny Blanchflower’s finest
One of Danny Blanchflower’s most cherished moments in a glittering career was collecting the European Cup Winners’ Cup after the 5-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in Rotterdam.
Spurs, who tonight battle for Champions League survival against Berne Young Boys, had reached incredible heights that dramatic night in the giant Feyenoord Stadium. Two years earlier they won the English League and Cup double with Blanchflower and Dave Mackay the inspirational figures. Spurs fans described it as a partnership made in heaven.
Blanchflower, born in Dunraven Park, Bloomfield on February 10, 1926, had struggled for three months with a right knee injury sustained against Rangers in an earlier round of the tournament. Surgery proved necessary and it was touch-and-go if he would be fit for the final. Spurs certainly missed him for they lost 2-0 away to Slovan Bratislava but, fortunately, got back on rack to whip them 6-0 in the return.
For the always active Ulsterman it was an irritating prolonged rehabilitation programme during which manager Bill Nicholson, a crusader a modest man of conviction who lived in a semi-detached a short walk from the ground, appointed him his assistant — a sudden elevation that brought no change in outlook or attitude. He remained, well, just Danny the bright young man who passed the milk in the cornflakes TV advertisement.
Blanchflower, footballer supreme, visionary, philosopher, dreamer romantic, was a one off. “He’d talk over your head at times which was a failing for a coach, especially with young players, but for the other lads it was enjoyable revealing,” said Cliff Jones, one of the icons in that Spurs early Sixties team of all the talents.
He limped his way through the 1963 season, had fluid removed from the knee two days before travelling to Holland for the Final. Everyone had fingers crossed he would make it. His very presence in the dressing room inspired as team-mate centre-half Maurice Norman explained: “His talks were stirring. We needed reminding we were a good side and Danny had us walking out on to the pitch believing Atletico were not in our class. They weren’t for we blew them out of the park, slaughtered them.”
And they certainly did in no uncertain manner with two goals each from Jimmy Greaves and Terry Dyson, the other coming from John White, who had been transferred from Falkirk to Spurs on Danny’s recommendation after watching play for Scotland against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. He rated the Cup Winners Final triumph as his crowning moment.
“The win was all the greater for us because we finished the thing off properly,” said Danny in his biographer Dave Bowler’s excellent profile. “I carried that Cup high because I felt we had truly earned it. We had wandered through foreign fields and we faced our moments of trial and tribulation and frustration but in the end it was deservedly ours.” It was the end of the road for Danny who retired as a player, took up management but eventually found his true calling — a sporting columnist for the Sunday Express. That night at White Hart Lane when he walked out on to the pitch at the testimonial organised by his Northern Ireland friends he was given a fantastic reception.
The scourge of Alzheimer’s was beginning to take its toll and he died at his London home in 1993, aged 67.