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View from...a legend

Posted on 30 October 2009  - 12:00

Cliff Jones turns the clock back 51 years for his debut against Arsenal.

View from...a legend

It was 51 years ago, but Cliff Jones remembers his debut as if it was yesterday.

The greatest winger in the club's history was signed in February, 1958 and made his debut against Arsenal at Highbury later that month - incredibly, thinking back to our last visit to N5 last October, it finished in a 4-4 draw!

Tommy Harmer and Bobby Smith scored two goals each that day but Cliff, now 74, remembers the build-up to the game as much as anything - not least when he stopped from entering the stadium!

On the eve of our latest trip to Arsenal on Saturday, Cliff recalls the story of his debut...

"I was doing my National Service at the time and I was stationed in St John's Wood. Bill Nicholson (then first team coach to Jimmy Anderson) told me to meet at 1.30pm at Highbury and that I would be making my debut.

"I travelled across from St John's Wood by Tube to Arsenal, arrived at the entrance to the famous Marble Halls at Highbury and the big Commisionaire on the door didn't recognise me and wouldn't let me in!

"I said 'but I'm playing today' and he said 'yes, I've heard that one before, son' and left me standing there!

Mackay, Cliff, Bill


"All I could do was send a message in to Bill, he came out, pointed at me and said to the Commisionaire 'yes, that's him, good to see you Cliff' but he then looked down at his watch and declared 'by the way, you're late'. What a great start - I couldn't get in and then I was late.

"I got into the dressing room and then Bill looked at my football boots. In those days, there wasn't any screw-in studs or blades or anything like that, you knocked pegs into the soles of the boots. Bill said 'I'm not too impressed by your boots' but I couldn't do anything about it at that point.

"Anyway, about 30 minutes into the game, I came up against the Arsenal full-back Fotheringham, a big, tall lad. I cut inside him and then I had Jack Kelsey, the famous Arsenal goalkeeper and my Welsh team-mate, in my sights.

"I was just about to smash it past him and I slipped over. I completely duffed it.

"Of course, when I came back into the dressing room, Bill came up to me and said 'son, I told you - from now on, we'll be looking after your boots'! Even then, Bill left nothing to chance, he was very much a person for that sort of detail. My boots weren't good enough and he let me know about it!

"I always got a bit of stick off Bill - sometimes I got a pat on the back, but usually it was a kick up the backside!"

The story goes that throughout the glory, glory years, in amonsgt the doubles, cup wins and European glory, Bill would always tell his players that the two local derbies against Arsenal were the games to win.

Cliff said: "Bill would say to us 'this is the FA Cup Final, the league championship all rolled into one, this is the one we've got to win for the fans', he was so aware how important the game was for the fans.

"We always had cracking games against the Arsenal and my debut was no different, a 4-4 draw. It was an amazing start to my Spurs career, one I'll never forget."