The Cockerel Chorus


On reflecting on 40 years of marriage in 1973, and celebrating one’s Ruby anniversary, one fondly remembers the music of the day, either by what we sang along to or danced to, etc.

Honeymooning in the paradise isle of Jersey, what music were my thoughts addressed to?

Was it, ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ by Chuck Berry, or ‘Can’t Keep It In’, by Cat Stevens or, ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ by Slade, or, ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’ by Paul Anka?

‘Na, Na, Na’ said Cozy Powell! This was no ‘Shotgun Wedding’, said Roy ‘C’.

No! My then favourite was, ‘Nice One Cyril’, by The Cockerel Chorus. It reached number 14, in the popular music charts of the period.

Written by Harold Spiro (1925-1996), this was a celebration of his team, Spurs, with particular focus on Cyril Barry Knowles, born in Fitzwilliam, Yorkshire, in July 1944. Cyril was Tottenham’s much-loved left-back of the period.

As a youngster, Cyril spent a year at Man United, where he was played at outside-left. He wasn’t progressing there and returned home. Later, he chose to go to Wolves’ nursery, but it was a case of deja vu.

He put pen to paper and wrote to Middlesborough FC, asking them to take him on at full back. He succeeded in this and in time, he turned professional with the club, making 39 appearances, between 1962 & 1964.

Bill Nicholson signed him in 1964 and initially deployed him at right back, moving him to left back, when the then incumbent, Ron Henry of ‘double’ fame, was no longer first choice.

Knowles, Pat Jennings and Maurice Norman formed a very prodigious, steely, defensive core, which much benefitted the club.

He was similar in stature to John White, who was sadly killed, just after Cyril joined. His slight frame was very deceptive, in that he was difficult to shake off the ball, his tough Yorkshire grit and determination, being particular features of his game.

Knowles didn’t restrict himself to defensive duties, as he loved to go forward as an overlapping-full-back, determined to provide good ball for his forwards.

This is what he was famed for. His crossing ability created countless opportunities from open-play and at set-pieces, thus spawning the ‘Nice one Cyril’ mantra.

In all, he spent twelve years at Tottenham, (1964-1976) making over 400 appearances and scoring 15 goals.

Cyril’s footballing honours were: FA Cup in 1967; FA Community Shield in 1967; Football League Cup in 1970-71 & 1972-73. Also, the Anglo-Italian League Cup in 1971; UEFA Cup in 1971-72 and as runners-up, in 1973-74.

The Cockerel Chorus was fronted by Harold Spiro and, Jamie Phillips sang the operatic intro. Harold was a season-ticket holder at Tottenham. The Chorus went on to make an album.

Spiro wrote many songs and his most productive period was when he hooked-up with Valerie Avon, in the 1970s. Together, they wrote among others, for, Peter Noone (of Herman’s Hermit’s fame), Tina Charles, The Troggs and Georgie Fame.

Now, if you are of a certain age, and know the words, sing along:

‘Nice One Cyril, nice one son,
Nice One Cyril, let’s have another one!’

‘White Hart Lane is the ground, for the best team around,
And to see them, just fills you with wonder,
So, we’ll sing them along, with a Spurs football song,
Tottenham Hotspur, the pride of North London’. Etc, etc.

Cyril’s song won an Ivor Novello Award for Spiro.

Sadly, Cyril died in 1991 of a brain tumour, aged just 47.

Tottenham’s best-ever left back.

Nice One Cyril: thanks for the memories.

‘I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday’. (Kris Kristofferson).

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  1. Yup GREAT memories – start going to Spurs as he was leaving …. lucky to have caught him in action for a few matches…


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