Football is, nay, was a working class game. The crowd was mostly made up of working class men, watching footballers they could identify and empathize with. Games were a mass gathering of similarly minded people, enjoying a sport that was not dominated by money, unlike their lives which were dictated by the upper classes and their swelling money-bags. Football’s not like that anymore, it’s not been like that for a very long time, and the players, managers and crowds have changed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, all seater stadia and a safer atmosphere are just two reasons for why football is better than it used to be, however the game has lost a lot of the character it used to possess. Robert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower is evidence of this loss of character, for few, if any, modern day footballers are blessed with the wit, talent and charisma this man had.
- Before the world class stadiums and £5.99 hotdogs, football was a rough, working-class, passionate game
Born in Belfast in 1926, Blanchflower started his senior career at Barnsley, before moving to Aston Villa. After a fall-out with the club management, the defender joined Tottenham Hotspur for a then astronomical amount of £30 000, and a match made in heaven was born. It is believed that Blanchflower left Villa because he disliked the club training sessions, and instead believed that clubs should concentrate more on training with the ball. This attitude was rewarded at Spurs, as the Irishman helped Spurs become one of the world’s most attractive teams in his ten year stint with the club.
It is a tribute to Blanchflower’s ability that his name is now synonymous with the club’s incredible 1960/1961 season, when Spurs became the first team since Aston Villa in 1897 to do the league and F.A. Cup double. Blanchflower was captain for that immortal season and was imperious at the back, winning a number of accolades for his fantastic performances. He won the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year award, and rapidly became a Tottenham legend, thanks to his faultless performances and courageous leadership. Blanchflower retired two years after he scored a penalty in the F.A Cup final to once again lead his team to cup success, after playing 337 times for his beloved club. The fans adored him and he regularly spoke of his affection for Tottenham; Blanchflower was now a Spur through and through.
- Two Tottenham legends: Bill Nick and Blanchflower
The great man dipped his toe in the world of management like many other players and had limited success, he was boss of Northen Ireland for three years and also took control of Chelsea, yet he won only 5 of 32 games in a disappointing tenure at the Blues. Soon after his brief stay at Chelsea, Blanchflower moved into the world of football punditry, where he instantly became a cult hero. Never one to shy away from a confrontation or argument, Danny’s spot-on observations and often hilarious quotes saw him become a small screen hero, despite worrying CBS executive’s in America after he mercilessly slammed the quality of the U.S League.
Danny passed away in December 1993, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The legend was 67 years old, two months away from his 68th birthday. In those 67 years, Blanchflower had touched many people. Fan’s, fellow professionals and TV bosses all paid tribute to his talent and his superb sense of humour and the Irishman was inducted into the English Football hall of fame 10 years after his death. Blanchflower is still missed by fans to this day and was voted the best ever Tottenham Hotspur player by the Times, and the defender is an example of old-fashioned, traditional, heart-on-sleeve football. In an age of Cristiano Ronaldo’s and Dimitar Berbatov’s, many would do well to remember the legacy Danny left, and remember both his quality and personality.
ROBERT DENNIS “DANNY” BLANCHFLOWER: 1926-1993
- ‘The great fallacy is that the game is about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory.’
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