Tottenham Hotspur: Will a Year Ending in '4' Be Significant Again for Spurs?

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2014

How will Mauricio Pochettino's appointment as Tottenham manager in 2014 come to be viewed?
How will Mauricio Pochettino's appointment as Tottenham manager in 2014 come to be viewed?Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

As with any football club, dates play an important part in the mythology of Tottenham Hotspur.

Tottenham were founded in 1882. Their first major honour came when they won the FA Cup in 1901. The north Londoners are still the only non-league team to win the competition since the Football League was formed.

That started a tradition of winning trophies when the year ended in one during the 20th century. Only in two decades not interfered with by war did Spurs not do so. The club's 1991 FA Cup final song—"When the Year Ends In One," recorded by the team with Chas & Dave (see video below)—focused on that very theme.

As Mauricio Pochettino begins his reign as Tottenham manager in 2014, it is fascinating to look at just how many notable events in the club's post-World War Two history have actually taken place when the year ended in four.

Every decade from 1954 onwards, you can mark events that have shaped Spurs. Triumph and tragedy, the beginning and ending of eras—there have arguably been none more significant and eventful years than these.

Danny Blanchflower (far left) with his Tottenham team-mates.
Danny Blanchflower (far left) with his Tottenham team-mates.H. Tyn/Associated Press

Sixty years ago this December, Tottenham signed Danny Blanchflower from Aston Villa. Though there would be difficulties in his first few years at the club, the Northern Irishman would go onto captain Spurs in its historic run of success in the early 1960s, beginning with the league and FA Cup double of 1960-61.

Blanchflower was his manager Bill Nicholson's perfect on-field lieutenant. Committed and creative in equal measure, his intelligence was such Nicholson trusted him to adapt tactically during games as he saw fit (within reason). He was the personification of Tottenham's highly regarded style of football at this point.

Yet such an influential part of Spurs' greatest era almost ended up elsewhere. As Ivan Ponting recounted in his obituary for Blanchflower in The Independent:

Come 1954, he seemed set to break the British transfer record with a £40,000 move to Arsenal. But Arsenal appeared to get cold feet over the fee and instead Blanchflower joined Tottenham Hotspur for £30,000. It was the turning-point of his professional life.

Then-manager Arthur Rowe deserves enormous credit for making the most of the Gunners' oversight and recruiting Blanchflower. It laid a crucial part of the foundation Nicholson would build upon.

John White (second left among the players) joins his team-mates celebrating Spurs' European Cup Winners' Cup win over Atletico Madrid in 1962-63.
John White (second left among the players) joins his team-mates celebrating Spurs' European Cup Winners' Cup win over Atletico Madrid in 1962-63.Associated Press

One of these parts was John White. Prior to the start of the 1964-65 season, he was struck by lightning and killed, aged only 26.

The overriding tragedy was that it robbed his family of a father, wife, brother and son. The loss to Tottenham was of a friend to those who worked with him. As Bob Goodwin also put in his Tottenham Hotspur: The Complete Record (2011), "as Nicholson's great side began to break up, White remained destined to be an integral part of the new team he was building."

Nicknamed "The Ghost" because of his exemplary, deceptive movement on the pitch, White was technically superb in almost all aspects of his game. Spurs fared okay without him, going onto win the FA Cup in 1967 with his friend, fellow Scotsman and Double winner Dave Mackay leading the way. But as Blanchflower said of White—via Ponting's Tottenham Hotspur: Player by Player (2008): "There were no boundaries for John...he was going to be a king."

Tottenham Hotspur's most successful ever manager, Bill Nicholson.
Tottenham Hotspur's most successful ever manager, Bill Nicholson.Don Morley/Getty Images

The notable events of 1974 and 1984 were thankfully far less grave. Football-wise, however, there was a sadness about them for Spurs fans.

Just about a decade apart, managers Nicholson and Keith Burkinshaw each left the north London club. The latter's departure was tempered by the joy of Spurs' dramatic UEFA Cup victory over Anderlecht, but was similarly inspired by a despondency with the state of football at each point.

In '74, Nicholson's willingness to re-energise a waning team was dissipating. In his aforementioned book, Ponting wrote of the Spurs legend's resignation:

In truth, Bill was reacting not merely to current circumstances at White Hart Lane, but to what he considered were disturbing trends in football. He despised the onset of functional modern modes of play, was out of tune with the new, precocious breed of player, was disenchanted at the creeping commercialism of his beloved game and sickened by widespread hooliganism.

Burkinshaw was able to revitalise Tottenham, winning at home and in Europe while fashioning an entertaining team in the process. Like his predecessor, tpo removed, by 1984 he was disillusioned with commercially influenced changes becoming prominent. Goodwin recalled:

A manager in the old mould, he expected to manage the club from top to bottom, but Spurs' new owners had other ideas. Burkinshaw was not prepared to accept their plans for a continental system where he would coach but do little else.

Burkinshaw famously remarked "there used to be a football club over there." The financial difficulties that followed the club's floating on the Stock Exchange proved his concerns right. There was no escaping the modern world for Spurs or football.

Jurgen Klinsmann's team-mates bundle on him after the German scored on his Tottenham debut against Sheffield Wednesday in August 1994.
Jurgen Klinsmann's team-mates bundle on him after the German scored on his Tottenham debut against Sheffield Wednesday in August 1994.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The better side of that came in 1994 with a move that dragged Spurs properly into the glamorous new Premier League era. Following that summer's World Cup, then-chairman Alan Sugar managed to sign a bona-fide football star in the form of Germany international Jurgen Klinsmann (as well as Romanian standouts Ilie Dumitrescu and Gheorghe Popescu). He would not disappoint.

A more divisive aspect of modernity's creep into English football was in a structural move made by current Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy a decade ago. His decision to implement the continental system Burkinshaw is said to have scoffed at, set Spurs on a path to their present circumstances (coincidentally, 2004 also saw Spurs bid farewell to Nicholson for the last time after he passed away, aged 85).

Levy's initial team of Frank Arnesen (sporting director), Jacques Santini (manager/head coach) and Martin Jol (assistant manager) was not long for White Hart Lane. The chairman has tinkered with the system since then, abandoning it for a time under Harry Redknapp's management, but has since returned to a version of it with the hiring of current technical director Franco Baldini.

Despite subsequent up-and-downs, the initial move in 2004 was undoubtedly a turning point in Tottenham once again becoming competitive with the elite of the English top flight. On the pitch, better-planned, though not flawless player recruitment has improved the team results wise. Off it, a new training ground has been built and a new stadium is in the offing.

Now 10 years on, Pochettino's appointment is the latest attempt to settle on a figure who might take Tottenham even further. The club and its supporters will hope this current year which ends in four will come to be fondly remembered as the start of something great.