On this day in 1994, Tottenham were fortunate to get a draw against Heart of Midlothian in a pre-season friendly. With the new season only a fortnight away no-one realised that Bill Nicholson would have stepped down as Spurs manager before the end of the month.
Tottenham On This Day
3rd August, 1974
Hearts 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (Pre-season Friendly)
Team: Jennings; Evans, Naylor (Pratt), Beal, England, Conn (McNab), Pearce (McGrath), Perryman (Holder), Jones, Peters, Coates
The game was very low key, Spurs were playing their first of three pre-season friendlies and were without Martin Chivers, injured, and had Chris Jones leading the attack. Spurs had their summer signing from Glasgow Rangers, Alfie Conn, making his debut.
Hearts had an early goal disallowed for off-side but went ahead with a penalty after 14 minutes when Mike England handled the ball. Pat Jennings made a number of saves to keep Spurs in the game and it was not until the 84th minute that Tottenham equalised. The goal was scored by substitute John Pratt and had a touch of good fortune about it as it was from what looked like a decidedly off-side position – but they all count!
It was a very lack-lustre display by Spurs but over the next week they won both of their other friendly games against Portsmouth and Fulham in preparation for the season ahead.
The start of the 1974-75 season didn’t go as planned with Tottenham losing the opening four games and scoring only one goal. Before the end of the month Bill Nicholson had decided to resign.
The Directors accepted his resignation but the senior players tried to persuade him to change his mind but without success. Many reasons have been suggested for Bill Nicholson’s decision, including the scenes of violence at the UEFA Cup defeat in Rotterdam the previous May.
In his excellent book, Bill Nicholson Revisited, Norman Giller writes,
‘It was heartbreaking for those of us close to Bill to witness him losing his enthusiasm for the job that had been his life. It was a mixture of the hooliganism of the 1970s and the growing greed of the players that made him fall out of love with the game at the age of 55…………
He festered and fretted throughout the summer, waiting for the new season for the first time in his career without enthusiasm……He had suddenly lost the ability to motivate his players, and he slipped into a deep depression as Spurs got off to their worst start ever……..Bill felt exhausted.’
The departure of Bill Nicholson from Tottenham Hotspur brought to an end an era of success that the club had never experienced previously and haven’t experienced since.
On a Personal Note
On holiday in Edinburgh I went to this game and when Spurs scored I was the only person celebrating in the stand – much to the concern of my girlfriend. On the way out she then insisted on walking away from the ground as close to the nearest policeman that she could find.
It’s the one and only Spurs’ match she has ever attended, or is likely to, and we’ve been married 38 years but thankfully she puts up with my obsession with Tottenham Hotspur.