The Magnificent Seven(teen)

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Image: SpursWeb

In the month that Harry Kane reached the milestone of 100 goals in competitive matches, I thought it timely to celebrate the 16 other players to achieve the feat for Spurs.

Looking at the list of players in the 100 club it is satisfying to note how they seem to represent every significant era in Tottenham’s history.

The first to score 100 goals for the club was Billy Minter, a stalwart of the pre-WWI days when Spurs struggled to establish themselves as a truly competitive Football League side. Straddling both the pre- and post-war era was Bert Bliss, perhaps Tottenham’s first truly great goalscorer. Whereas Vivian Woodward had been a clever, subtle player perhaps ahead of his time, Bliss was very much a man of his time, an efficient and clinical inside forward who became a hero to a generation of Spurs fans. Minter would cement his place in the affections of Spurs fans when, as manager, the trauma of overseeing the club being relegated proved too much and he was forced to resign through ill health, such was his love for the club.

Next was winger Jimmy Dimmock, a homegrown talent who went on to win England honours and who served the club loyally for many years. Sadly, like many professional sports people of the era, he fell on hard times in later life when his playing days were over. Dimmock was a winger, perhaps the greatest in Spurs history until Cliff Jones came along in the late 1950s. Cliff was not only (and remains) a remarkable athlete but his goalscoring prowess from either wing, and particularly with his head, is something to marvel. It’s not an overstatement, I don’t think, to compare Cristiano Ronaldo to him in this respect.

Cliff, too, was the finest Welsh forward the club had seen since Eugene ‘Taffy’ O’Callaghan. While many may regret the sale of Jimmy Seed to Sheffield Wednesday (subsequently going on to win the league title with the Yorkshire side) hastened by the good form of O’Callaghan in his place, Taffy gave Spurs good service through the late 20s and 30s, mustering 100+ goals in the process. O’Callaghan was a member of the famous Spurs forward line of the early 1930s, known as The Greyhounds for their pace. In the centre was George Hunt, for many years Tottenham’s most prolific marksman. Like O’Callaghan before him, Hunt got into the team in place of a much more senior professional, the remarkable Ted Harper who, including friendly matches, scored more than a goal a game. However, injuries blighted and curtailed the career of perhaps Spurs’ first natural goalscorer and the young Hunt took his chance and was a mainstay for much of the 1930s.

Hunt, in turn, was replaced with a younger model in the form of Johnny Morrison, who took on goalscoring duties for the remainder of the 30s as Spurs tried in vain to return to the First Division up to World War II. As his career came to an end, two more began and Len Duquemin and Les Bennett were the main beneficiaries of Arthur Rowe’s Push & Run philosophy of the late 1940s. Duquemin was the archetypal battering ram of a centre forward, perhaps not as subtle as the likes of Stan Mortensen, but almost as deadly. Alongside him was Bennett, an energetic and clever player with a particularly good understanding with midfield schemer Eddie Baily.

Duquemin’s natural successor was Bobby Smith, and with the young man from Chelsea all Tottenham’s previous goalscoring records tumbled. He was deceptively short for a centre forward, but could certainly put himself about and it was perhaps his reputation and determination more than his height that made him the scourge of defences for nearly ten years. Smith was the focal point of the team that promised much in the late-50s and delivered so convincingly in the 1960s.

Even his exploits, though, were overshadowed by the incomparable Jimmy Greaves. There is no need to rhapsodise about his instinct for goal, his work-shy training ethic or his remarkable goalscoring records, this much we all know. What I would add to the list of skills, traits and foibles would be a remarkable turn of pace, exquisite first touch, elegance of movement and ability to share with others his love of the game (and occasionally his frustration with it too).

The late 60s saw he arrival of Martin Chivers from Southampton, and after a slow start proved himself a giant in an era of many: Osgood, MacDonald, Channon, every side of the early 70s seemed to have their star centre forward and much that Tottenham achieved in this period was thanks in no small part to Chivers. Not least, of course, the 1971 League Cup victory and UEFA Cup final in 1972.

Chivers’ powers, though, were on the wain by the time he stepped out at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, in 1975 alongside a young Glenn Hoddle. The 17 year old surprised everyone, not least commentator Hugh Johns and goalkeeper Peter Shilton, with the first of what would be over 100 goals in over 400 games over the next 12 years. More than anyone before or since, Hoddle’s goals, from that first from 20 yards against Stoke to the last 12 years later against Oxford United when he rand through from his own half, are embedded in the DNA of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The free kick in the mud at Mansfield, volley against Forest, the 35 yard screamer against Liverpool, the flick and chip against Watford; these are the images that are conjured when envisaging what Tottenham stands for.

Perhaps what is remarkable in this modern era where there is apparently no loyalty anymore, when players are transient figures in an ever-changing squad, when the 2-3-5 pyramid has been inverted to 5-3-2, is that four of the Magnificent Seventeen have come in the Premier League era. Teddy Sheringham was a free-scoring young striker at Millwall and Nottingham Forest and then his early Spurs days before becoming the thinking-man’s forward, dropping off the main striker to turn provider of many a goal for the likes of Klinsmann and Shearer for club and country. Much of his scoring, though, was done in this early period before the far less progressive teams he inhabited upon his return to the Lane from Manchester United, when the sight of Sheringham collecting the ball in the centre circle from his centre-half was not uncommon, such was the dirth of creativity around him.

A similar fate would often befall Robbie Keane, similarly equally creative and deadly.
Keane spent much of the 00s in a kind of unofficial stand-off with Jermaine Defoe, with a long line of managers either unsure they could play together or trying and failing to make them so. Their styles seemed diametrically opposite, and chalk and cheese is very often the stuff of dream strike partnerships, but in the case of Keane and Defoe it was rarely thus. But, remarkably, the two (who both, like Sheringham before them, returned to the club after being sold before their use-by date) had almost identical goalscoring records. As others (Kanoute, Mido, Berbatov, Pavlyuchenko) came and went (in many cases came, failed, and went) Keane and Defoe could often be relied upon to bring the spark, the sharp shot with little back-lift, that was needed to get Spurs going.

And so we come to Harry Kane. He is, surely, close to being considered in the “world class” bracket he openly covets. Whatever the future holds for him, he is undoubtedly already a Spurs “legend” worthy of being named alongside the greats of the past. And in him are surely echoes of those great players. A homegrown talent like Dimmock, his love for the club matching that of Minter, the determination of Smith, the guile of Sheringham and Keane, the ability to score important goals like Bliss and Defoe, and finishes that will stand as all that is great about Tottenham Hotspur, that will be replayed in compilations for evermore like those of Hoddle before him. In this, Kane can count himself the epitome of a Tottenham striker, and we can count ourselves very lucky he’s one of our own.

(A final addendum: in this we should perhaps not forget Albert Gibbons, who scored over 100 goals in Spurs colours during wartime. Almost forgotten, he would surely have been in the list had world events not conspired against him.)

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