Tottenham On This Day: Dave Mackay Breaks Leg As Spurs Exit ECWC


Dave Mackay stretchered off at Old Trafford [Photo: Logan Holmes]

Manchester United 4 Tottenham Hotspur 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup (2nd Round 2nd Leg) [Lost 4 – 3 on agg.]

Spurs’ hopes of defending their two goal lead from the first leg took a severe knock when they conceded a goal after six minutes. A greater blow occurred two minutes later when their inspirational captain Dave Mackay was carried off with a broken leg. The ten men defended heroically until early in the second half when United levelled the scores. Spurs rallied, however, and Greaves scored a few minutes later to restore their lead in the tie.

Jimmy Greaves’ goal at OT in ECWC [Photo: Logan Holmes]United scored a third to level the scores overall and it was only with two minutes remaining that they managed to score and win the tie. 

The Beginning of the End for the ‘Double’ Team

Sadly, Spurs heroic performance marked the end for the ‘Double’ team – Mackay was out for over eighteen months, Blanchflower retired, Bobby Smith left at the end of the season, age caught up with others and sadly John White lost his life when struck by lightning the following summer. So quickly, the most successful team in the history of Tottenham Hotspur disintegrated.

Match Report

The opening paragraphs of a match report provides a summary of the events at Old Trafford that night under the headline:

A Glorious Night for Heroes

[Photo: Logan Holmes]‘They reached the end of the European soccer road, for this season at any rate, but they went out in a blaze of glory on a night that was tinged with drama and tragedy.

After eight minutes of this tense second leg of the European Cup Winners’ Cup they lost their dynamo – but the well tuned engine purred on smoothly.

Only a barnstorming goal by Bobby Charlton two minutes from time saved United from a replay at Villa Park which an eleven-man Tottenham would have undoubtedly won.

It was a tragic start for Spurs. After six minutes a Herd header dented their hard-earned two goal advantage.

But the great tragedy came two minutes later when Dave Mackay crashed to the ground with a fractured leg after a tackle with Cantwell on the edge of the penalty area. Immediately it was obvious the injury was a serious one. Straight away a stretcher was called for. Bill Nicholson came down from the stands and raced on to the pitch. But iron-man Mackay was sitting up on the stretcher as he was carried off.

No-one would have thought that a 10-man Spurs team could withstand this Old Trafford onslaught. However, they retained their poise and won the admiration of the Lancashire soccer fanatics for their polished, well controlled game. There was no panic – and certainly no surrender……’

Team: Brown; Baker, Henry; Marchi, Norman, Mackay; Jones, White, Smith, Greaves, Dyson

A Tottenham supporter who was at that match has a slightly different memory of the home fans reaction to Mackay’s injury and the events that followed. He posted on Facebook last week, commenting on being at White Hart Lane for the 1st leg game. Eddie wrote:

‘I was there, what an atmosphere…….I was also at Old Trafford the following week, when we lost 4-1 after Dave Mackay, broke his leg….Their so called fans, started throwing things at Dave while he was being carried off on a stretcher….Denis Law (What a player he was) went mad with them, and went off with Dave….Later on found out Denis went to the hospital because he could not stand the scum manure fans?? ….That is the reason I hate them so much, they are still scum….’

They Said

Tottenham manager, Bill Nicholson said,

"My boys played extremely well under their extreme handicap. I thought we deserved a play-off at least."

Denis Law said,

"I came down from the stand when Dave Mackay was injured, hoping to cheer him up. But I’d have come down anyway after such a short time – I just can’t bear to watch football matches."

Another Broken Leg

Early the following season, Dave Mackay was to break his leg again in a reserve match against Shrewsbury Town Reserves. Many doubted Mackay would recover for a second time but Mackay displaying his usual determination and commitment proved all the doubters wrong and returned to the Tottenham team at the start of the 1965-66 season.