60 years ago - Dave Mackay signs
Nicholson, Jones and Perryman on an all-time great
Sat 16 March 2019, 10:31|Tottenham Hotspur
Dave Mackay joined the Club from Hearts on this day 60 years ago – 16 March, 1959. The heartbeat of the team that would make history in the early 1960s, Dave, who sadly passed away in March, 2015, was later chosen by the great Bill Nicholson as his best-ever signing.
Does that make him the Club’s best-ever signing? That argument will rage on, probably forever.
But what cannot be debated is the impact this born winner from Musselburgh, Scotland, had on our greatest-ever team, a group of players who would win the league championship and FA Cup double in 1960/61, retain the FA Cup in 1962 and become the first British team to win a European trophy in 1963. Dave captained the side to a third FA Cup success in 1967 before departing for Derby in 1968 - after 318 appearances and 51 goals. And let’s not forget, he also recovered from breaking his leg twice, almost unheard of in that era.
Here is what three key men in the Club’s history had to say about Dave Mackay – Bill Nicholson, who dedicated a chapter of his autobiography to him, team-mate Cliff Jones, there the day Dave walked into the Club and throughout his Spurs career and Steve Perryman, who arrived at the Club as an apprentice in 1967. Of course, Steve would go on to become our all-time record appearance maker with 854 between 1969-86, captain for 10 years and lift six major trophies.
Below, we’ve an extract from Bill’s autobiography and we spoke to both Cliff and Steve for their memories of Mackay, 60 years after he first walked through the gates at the Lane.
The manager – Bill Nicholson
“There were many outstanding players at Tottenham during my years as manager, and when I was asked which one I considered my best signing I always declined to answer. There were so many, including Jimmy Greaves, Pat Jennings, Cliff Jones, John White, Mike England, Alan Mullery, Alan Gilzean, Cyril Knowles, Martin Chivers, Martin Peters and Dave Mackay.
“I suppose most people would assume my choice would be Greaves because he was the best striker of his era and the game is about scoring goals. Greaves had a far superior goal record than any of his foremost contemporaries, including Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton. It is very hard to choose between half a dozen of my players, but I think I must select Dave Mackay as my best-ever signing. Not only did Mackay make such an enormous contribution on the field but his dynamic character was also a major influence in training, and everywhere he went and in everything he did. The effect on the other players was remarkable.
“He was a truly great player with far more skill than he was ever given credit for. He had a delicate touch, two good feet and was such an intelligent reader of the game that it came as no surprise to me that Brian Clough converted him into a sweeper at Derby.
“In midfield for Tottenham, Mackay was a mighty player, powerful in the tackle and very fair. I will always remember the first day he arrived at our training ground after I bought him from Hearts. The other players were shaken by his commitment and drive. They looked at each other as if to say ‘what’s happening here?’ At the time, we had a collection of seasoned professionals, most of them internationals, and Mackay was able to stir them up. He brought a new surge into every aspect of club life, particularly in training.
“Mackay would have been my first choice as captain, except we already had a great one in Danny Blanchflower. When Blanchflower retired, Mackay took over for a while. He inspired and stimulated the team. There was no doubt we had a first-rate team before he arrived, but he seemed to provide an extra spark and give added momentum. Mackay probably did more than anyone to forge a team capable of winning the Double.”
From Glory, Glory – My Life With Spurs
The team-mate – Cliff Jones
“When people ask me about the double team I always say that the most influential player I ever played with was Dave Mackay. Bill Nicholson went up to Scotland in 1959, Hearts had won everything and one of the main reasons for that was Dave Mackay. Bill Nick signed Mackay and he brought that will to win, that commitment and we took off from that moment.
“We were a top, top side but if we lacked anything, it was that added desire, a will to win, however you want to describe it. We really took off when Dave arrived. He was one of the biggest reasons why we were so successful in those glory days. Bill Nicholson was the main man, of course. On the field of play, Danny Blanchflower, our captain, took over. He made decisions on the pitch. But the engine room was Mackay. He was a born winner.
“People always talk about how tough he was and of course he was, but he was also very skilful. He had the lot, the whole game, he had the skill that was right up there with the best of them and mixed that with his commitment, his will to win. He was a special player.
“He eventually left us for Derby (in 1968), Brian Clough recognised his ability and they took off as well. They won the championship soon after. He was a special character.
“Away from football, he was a great lad, enjoyed his life, loved a round of golf and was involved in everything that was going on. He was a great character. That was one of the reasons we did so well. We were all different characters and temperaments, we all got on well socially and we took that onto the field. And Dave Mackay was always right in amongst it all!”
The kid who would be king – Steve Perryman
“I never played with Dave, probably played against him in practice matches, but all you were aware of was the influence of this man in a place that was littered with greatness from the manager, Bill Nicholson, downwards. The manager was top of the tree, the goalscorer (Jimmy Greaves) was top of the tree, the goalkeeper (Pat Jennings) was looking that way, Alan Gilzean, Mike England, Cyril Knowles and yet in all this greatness, what made Dave Mackay stand out was leadership and that he had a voice – not that the others didn’t – but it was obvious his was the voice.
“We got into training first every morning as apprentices. We’d do a couple of laps around the track to then give us time to do exercises before we went into the gym and we’d stay there until the first team came in. The door would then bang open and that big chest would walk through the door. He wouldn’t look at you to say ‘off you go’, he wouldn’t say it, but the look said it, ‘I’m here’. You could hear the bellowing coming through the walls and the biggest voice you’d hear was Dave Mackay. You could hear his voice all the time.
“It created an atmosphere and an impression on you as a young player that this was a special man leading a special group of players. That was then followed up when we watched matches on those little stools from pitch level, watching this player in amongst all the wonderful players we had then, and he was leading them. He led with a strong voice and an opinion. He was full of opinions, Dave, and one of the rocks that 1960s team was built on. Just think, what a combination, Mackay and Danny Blanchflower. Wow. That brain and thinking with that competitiveness. My word. But Dave was no mean player, either. When he needed to stand up, he stood up.”