Tottenham Hotspur legends: Danny Blanchflower

Say the words ‘Tottenham Hotspur legend’ and many fans will immediately picture the late, great Danny Blanchflower.

The Northern Irishman captained Spurs during a memorable period of early 1960s success and has become synonymous with the club in the years since his retirement in 1964.

Known for his slick passing and ability to control the flow of the game from deep in the park, Blanchflower had perhaps the greatest influence of any player on the culture and style that is still embedded in the very DNA of the Lilywhites to this day.

His perception, that football was and is about entertainment and ‘glory’ rather than results, influences how supporters perceive Tottenham even in the modern era.

The right-half’s first exposure to English football came in 1946, when he transferred from Glentoran to Barnsley for a fee of £6,000.

He then signed for Aston Villa in 1951 and made 155 appearances in a little over three years in the Midlands, before finally making the switch to North London in 1954.

It seems ludicrous now, but he could actually have chosen to join rivals Arsenal instead and we could very well be discussing a Gunners legend had that been his decision.

Thankfully, he opted for Spurs, but those first couple of terms proved difficult with finishes in the lower reaches of the table and uncertainty on the pitch.

Blanchflower was bought in as captain but manager Arthur Rowe retired soon after, with the club promoting assistant Jimmy Anderson in his stead.

The two did not see eye to eye and the playmaker was stripped of his role, regaining it only when Bill Nicholson took the reigns in 1958, in the process forming a partnership the likes of which the club has not seen since.

With Blanchflower leading the side on the field once more, Tottenham really found their gear in the early 1960s and set a record of 11 straight top-flight victories at the start of the historic 1960-61 season.

It ended in a remarkable league and cup double; Spurs won the old First Division by a clear eight points and beat Leicester City in the FA Cup final.

Despite slipping to third the following year, they did manage to retain the cup and Blanchflower netted a penalty in a 3-1 win at Wembley over Burnley.

Fans could have been forgiven for getting used to silverware at this stage and their captain had his hands on another trophy in 1963, when the Lilywhites became the first British outfit to bring home a European title.

The Cup Winners’ Cup was sealed with a convincing win over Atletico Madrid and so ended the greatest period in Tottenham’s history.

Although another FA Cup triumph was confirmed in 1967, the club never quite managed to recapture that incredible streak of success once Blanchflower hung up his boots, even accounting for a decent record in the early 1970s.

The inspirational midfielder went on to work in broadcasting and journalism at various stages over the next few decades, whilst also managing the Northern Ireland national team for three years and Chelsea for nine months.

As for Tottenham, despite achieving a handful of FA Cup wins, they were never able to translate that into league success.

A testimonial for Blanchflower was held at White Hart Lane in May of 1990, but by that point he was in a deteriorating state of health and eventually passed away with pneumonia three-and-a-half years later.

The Times named him the greatest player in Spurs’ history in 2009 and it is hard to argue that anyone could top the Belfast-born star.

Blanchflower was ahead of his time and it is easy to draw a line between his philosophy on the game and that of, say, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola today.

Believing that football was designed to be played on the turf, he embodied that with his performances on the pitch and set a trend that has passed from generation to generation of players.

The talents of Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne, Jurgen Klinsmann and David Ginola kept alive his memory in the manner in which they expressed themselves at White Hart Lane.

And it is that possibly above all else that makes Danny Blanchflower a true icon, a behemoth, of Tottenham Hotspur.

The two-time Footballer of the Year has a lasting legacy that transcends the ages and still permeates every corner of the club.

When considering the finest to play in the lilywhite strip, Blanchflower is often rightly considered the pinnacle.