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By Tony Attwood
This is a momentous season for Tottenham Hotspur and as we approach the home game with our nearest rivals, and as such it is only right that we should give space to the celebrations that will now follow.
For this is a big one. Indeed one could say it is The Big One. It is, as you might have guessed, fifty years since Tottenham Hotspur won the league.
This is the time when Sky, the BBC and the rest will drag out those pictures and recite the name of the team, hoping that by mere repetition of names they will somehow tell us that this period, 50 years ago, was of significance and importance, rather than a minor interruption to the normal course of events. Brown, Baker, Henry (they will say) Blanchflower, Norman Mackay, Jones, White, Smith, Allen, Dyson. Well there you are, I’ve said it for them.
In 1960/1 Tottenham H. won the Football League Division I, as it was then called. It was the first time they had won it since 1950/1, and was in fact the last time they won the league. They have in fact, in all the years of trying won it twice. 1908 to 2011. 103 years in the Football League. Two first division titles. Once every 51.5 years. Hence the wild celebrations that are planned this season.
Arsenal too will join in, for we are not churlish on such matters, and I am sure the Ems will swell this weekend with the chirpy little ditty:
You won the league (you won the league) in black and white (in black and white)
And so forth.
It is hoped that hymn sheets with these lyrics on will be made available to supporters of the Tinies so that they too can be part of the show (otherwise they might have difficulties with the words).
Part of the celebration for Tottenham is not just that it is now 50 years since they won the league, but also that win in 1961 was a poor season for Arsenal (we came 11th out of 22). Tottenham also won the FA Cup that year, so we must give them their due. Winning the double is important, and should be celebrated each time the club does it.
Unfortunately for Tottenham they have only done it once. (But let’s not be unfair. They have won the league twice. The last time in 1961, 50 years ago. Sorry I think I have already said that.)
In 1961 Tottenham were hotly pursued in the First Division by Sheffield W, Wolverhampton W, Burnley, Everton, and Leicester – all big names from the top level of football. Newcastle U and Preston NE were relegated.
Ipswich and Sheffield U came up from division II, while Portsmouth and Lincoln went down to the third. Bury won the third division, Peterborough the fourth (where incidentally Crystal Palace came second).
By this era, fifty years ago, Tottenham H had registered 28 seasons in the first division and 15 in the second (compared with 45 in the first for Arsenal and 13 in the second).
Arsenal by this time had knocked up a total of 1958 points in the first division while Tottenham languished on 1139.
In fact I can just about remember Tottenham winning the league 50 years ago, and somewhere in my collection is a copy of the programme of the final game of the season. Our neighbour (a kindly but sadly Tot supporting gent in the flat downstairs in N17 where we lived) went to the final game at WHL and gave me the programme with suitable droll comments on it. (I went to WHL too – a match at Wood Green Town, who actually did play in White Hart Lane, unlike Tottenham, who only pretend to.)
The feeling at the time was, I think, that Arsenal were on the slide and Tottenham on the up. This was particularly because Tottenham had for once had two decent years in a row and Arsenal two bad years. In 1959/60 Tottenham were third and Arsenal 13th in the first division, and with Arsenal hardly improving and Tottenham winning the league in 1961, that seemed to secure the matter.
For Tottenham the 60s was a good decade by their modest standards – after their double they got another couple of FA Cups and a Cup Winners Cup. But no more league titles. Not one. Not a sausage. Nothing. Zero.
And long term it was a hopelessly false dawn for Tottenham, for by the end of the decade Arsenal had won the Fairs Cup (well 69/70 to be correct) and had then gone on to emulate Tottenham with a double. And not even our only double. Just the first in a series.
Just to complete the picture of Tottenham’s wonder years from their first league championship to their second, and the tail end with the cups, in 1950/1 the top of the league was
- 1: Tottenham H
- 2: Manchester U
- 3: Blackpool
- 4: Newcastle U
- 5: Arsenal
Down at the bottom we had Sheffield Wednesday and Everton relegated, with Chelsea just missing relegation on goal average. Preston NE and Manchester C came up from the second division (Cardiff City just missed out), Nottingham F came up from the Third Division South, and Rotherham U from the Third Division North. Crystal Palace came bottom of the Third South, but survived re-election. New Brighton in the Third North however were not so lucky. They were ejected from the league and were replaced by Workington Town.
Rather annoyingly for them Tottenham’s first attempt at a “golden era” didn’t last. By 1953 Arsenal were champions again, with Tottenham down in 10th.
We’ve covered many other issues about Tottenham here in the last year – some might say too many, so after this weekend’s game I’ll give them a bit of a break. But in case you are interested there are a couple of links at the end on the other Tot related pieces on this site.
But here’s a new bit of info. Tottenham have had many nicknames over the years, some of which are now considered unacceptable, some rather dull. But of all of these I rather like calling them the Tiny Totts. This name comes from PG Wodehouse, who in some of his novels refers to events at The Mammouth Publishing Company, owned and run by Lord Tilbury, and situated in Tilbury House, Tilbury Street (off Fleet Street). Tiny Tots, was its children’s weekly; it also published a series of salacious gossip mags plus British Pluck Library, which included the tales Gridley Quayle, Investigator, written by Ashe Marson.
I can just imagine Lord Tilbury as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur FC publishing the British Pluck Library. Somehow it all seems to fit.
Tottenham Hotspur: the dark history. In 1892 Arsenal attempted to start a new Southern League, and Tottenham applied. But when the votes for members were cast they got none (other than the one they cast for themselves.) Why? A look at Tottenham until 1919.
How Tottenham has taken over Arsenal’s history How Woolwich Arsenal and Tottenham H became rivals
Arsenal’s fixed promotion. The story of 1919 told by Tottenham H is that Arsenal bought their way into the first division – but it is a story designed to hide the corruption of others, corruption that the League really didn’t want exposed. Parts of this story are told in the top two articles above, but this is the complete detailed report.