Tottenham In Russia: Back In The USSR And The Double Team


Tottenham’s first experience of visiting Russia was in the summer of 1959 when they undertook an end of season tour to the USSR, the old Soviet Union. Their competitive matches against Russian opponents in European competitions have been restricted to recent times.

The Double team [Photo: Logan Holmes]The Europa League draw has placed Tottenham in the same group as Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala. The game against Anzhi will be only their second competitive match in Russia. They were also drawn against a Russian team in a previous UEFA Cup competition but it was only a home match.

Last Time in Russia

Tottenham were drawn to play Rubin Kazan in the Europa League group stages two years ago. Spurs won the home leg with a goal scored by Russian international Roman Pavlyuchenko. He scored direct from a free-kick with a tremendous shot, inspired when facing his fellow Russians. Season 2011-12, was the year Harry Redknapp used the squad and young players for the Europa League matches and it was an inexperienced team which travelled to Kazan. They held out well until early in the second half when a mistake by Sebastien Bassong led to the home team scoring to take the three points. Rubin Kazan topped the Group with Spurs finishing 3rd behind PAOK Salonika with Shamrock Rovers fourth.

Team: Cudicini; Fredericks, Gallas (Parrett), Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Livermore, Carroll, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko (Kane)  Subs: (Unused) Gomes, Stewart, Nicholson, Pritchard, Lancaster

Russian Opponents

Tottenham Hotspur played Spartak Moscow in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup group stage, Luka Modrić and Tom Huddlestone scored as they came back from 2-0 down at White Hart Lane to draw 2 – 2. The match was played in December, 2008 and Spartak were two ahead with just over half an hour played. The Spurs revival didn’t start until mid-way through the second half. Modric scored after 68 minutes with Huddlestone equalising 6 minutes later. The fightback enabled Spurs to secure their place in the knock-out stages of the competition.

Back in the USSR – The ‘Double’ Team

Spurs undertook a three match tour to the USSR during the close season in the summer of 1959. It was their first visit to the country and in ‘The Double’ a book written by Ken Ferris, the Russian tour is identified as the time when Spurs ‘began to lay the foundations of a great side’.

Both Nicholson and Blanchflower began to realise that there was the makings of a great team. Many of the players were already at the club and with a few more signings and a little tinkering, the great team of the early sixties would appear.

27th May, 1959  v Torpedo Moscow  Won 1 – 0

A goal from Terry Medwin gave Spurs a win in their first ever game in Russia.

1st June, 1959  v Dynamo Kiev  Won 2 – 1

In this match in Kiev which is now in Ukraine, two goals from Johnny Brooks gave Spurs their second victory of the tour.

4th June, 1959  v CCCP Select XI  Lost 1 – 3

Dave Mackay

Weariness from the excessive travel contributed to Tottenham’s defeat in the final game of the tour which was played in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.

Johnny Brooks was again the Spurs goalscorer. The party included eight of the players who would form the foundation of the success in the early 1960s – Peter Baker, Ron Henry, Danny Blanchflower, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay, Terry Medwin, Bobby Smith and Cliff Jones.

The tour was a great success, bringing the players closer together and Dave Mackay is quoted in Ferris’ book, as saying,

"I shall always believe we laid the foundations of the team-spirit and genuine friendship which has since played a notable part in the success of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club."

Other players, Cliff Jones and Ron Henry support that view with similar comments, ‘That’s where we saw the first signs,’ (Cliff Jones) and ‘It all came together in Russia.’ (Ron Henry)