Alan Gilzean’s death on the 8th July, from a brain tumour, hit me for six. It was only at the beginning of the Wembley campaign that I met up with him for the umpteenth time. Every time he saw me we chatted about past matches, past events and then giving me his informed opinion about how Spurs were going to do at that given time.
I first met Alan Gilzean when he arrived at Spurs in December 64. I didn’t really know much about him then (I was only 9), but I remember my dad pointing him out to me (in the car park). I also remember the weather then, very cold with plenty of snow on the ground, unlike now where the weather is a lot warmer for the December period. A week after joining Spurs he made his debut and was a hit with the supporters.
Spurs had paid £72,500 for him, which was a lot of money in those days. A player of his magnitude would be worth his weight in gold in today’s figures. The game he made his debut in was against Everton, he didn’t score but Greavsie did (who got two in a two-all draw). Gilzean ended that season with 16 goals (including five in the FA cup). The year he joined was the same year that John White was killed by lightning, another great player I had met.
Nineteen sixty-four saw a lot of activity. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, The Beatles held the top five positions in the Billboard Top 40 singles charts, and America saw Race Riots across the country. The first pirate radio station, Radio Carolina started broadcasting from the seas. Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton for the first time, and Mods and Rockers fought pitch battles at British Seaside Resorts. So that gives you a taster of what was happening the year Gilzean joined Spurs. I can imagine some of the younger ones saying “who are the Beatles?” Let us just say, think of “One Direction,” but with talent who play their own instruments and can write a tune or two.
Anyway, over the years I enjoyed watching Gilzean entertain us by scoring and making great goals.
His final season with Spurs was 1973-74. The year the world had Glitter groups and singers dazzling us. The year that a Heath Government gave us national unrest and strikes. A year later the people turfed Edward Heath’s government out and replaced him with Labour’s Wilson, Bill Nicholson resigned in the same year as manager of Spurs. The 70s were turbulent times for all.
Gilzean eventually made 343 appearances for Spurs and scored 93 goals. For his loyalty and dedication to Spurs, he was rewarded with a testimonial match. Spurs played Red Star Belgrade in November 1974, to recognise his ten years of service as a Tottenham player.
Gilzean stated, when he was a player, that he disliked football and had no intention of furthering his career, but after he left Spurs, he went to work in Africa. Gilzean returned to England, to become manager of Stevenage Athletic. After one season – 1975 to 1976 – he had enough and found work outside football.
His love for Spurs endured, and he was often seen at White Hart Lane over the years, where I often bumped into him. He apparently had a good memory as he would always recognise me and shake my hand.
When I last saw him, he seemed to be in good health and enjoyed talking to the fans, who would mill around him for autographs and photos. He never tired of giving… a real trooper and gentleman to the end.
It was George Bernard Shaw who said, of a gentleman “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out,” and Alan Gilzean undoubtedly was that person.
RIP Alan, at least you are now with Bill Nicholson, discussing stories and adventures that you both had while at this great club of ours.
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