Jan 4: The Spurs Angels
I stumbled on a recent Facebook post with this image, which immediately brought back fond memories flooding back of the Spurs Angels in 1961:
The Spurs Angels before the game at White Hart Lane for Spurs v Benfica (5th April 1961): acknowledgements to Getty Images
Spurs had won the League and FA Cup Double that year and entered the European Cup as England's League Champions. Their first ever game in European competition was away to Gornik Zabreze from Poland. They lost 2-4 and were dramatically accused of dirty play by the Poles - which was uncharacteristic for the Tottenham side, famed for playing such beautiful football.
Back in England, the allegation by Gornik that Spurs players 'were no angels' caused a huge stir - and contributed to their downfall.
When Gornik came to Tottenham for the second leg, Spurs fans were slightly downcast about the two goal deficit but half an hour or so before kick-off - with the ground already almost full - three men 'materialised' on the perimeter track, dressed up as angels. The crowd roared as they proceeded to wave placards, which used a 'heavenly' theme to deny the allegations of foul play and proclaim the innocence of our angelic team.
To their credit, the Club permitted them to continue parading in a full circuit all around the running track between the crowd and the pitch, until they eventually arrived back at their starting point. They then 'de-materialised' shortly before the teams came out, back into the 56,000 crowd - which by then was buzzing with excitement! To say that we were motivated by this innovative display from three Spurs fanatics would be an understatement.
The now familiar Spurs signature tune, "Glory, glory Hallelujah, and the Spurs go marching on..."* was born that night, sparked by the crazy antics of the three Spurs Angels. Maybe they even started the song themselves, I don't know for sure - but I wouldn't be surprised!
Then the players came out dressed in an 'angelic' all white strip and - boosted by the crowd - Spurs beat Gornik 8-1 (to win 10-5 on aggregate).
The Angels went on to appear before every home European match from 1961 to 1963, as I recollect. They deserve enormous credit for their good-natured rousing of capacity crowds, spurring them on before each Euro game and making those nights special. Maybe they will return one day, as they are part of Spurs history and I guess they were the forerunners of the 'Chirpy' mascot.
I didn't know these guys at the time but I met them in 1962. They were Pete Kirby, Dave Casey and Mick Curley. They were passionate Spurs fans (obviously), each with more than a slight touch of eccentricity and a dislike for injustice.
They were founders of a group called "We Want Wembley" (WWW), which campaigned against the Football Association's elitist policy of giving only 15,000 FA Cup Final tickets to the supporters of each of the two teams involved. Wembley's capacity at the time was nominally 100,000, which meant 70,000 people were there who had no association with either team - and tens of thousands of true supporters were denied tickets.
I joined WWW and we demonstrated monthly outside the FA Headquarters in Lancaster Gate, London on several occasions on a Saturday morning. On one occasion we were invited to send a two man delegation inside, to put our case to the General Secretary of the Football Association.
I was stunned (and unprepared) when Pete Kirby asked me to accompany him into that meeting. While we waited, we were shown into a timber panelled room, lined with show cases of various historical football trophies from the past. Then we spent fifteen minutes with Denis Follows (later Sir Denis Follows CBE), which was slightly overwhelming for me as a seventeen year old! To his credit, he listened to the case we put (mainly by Peter).
Pete, Dave and Mick didn't do things by halves. They organised an overnight march to Wembley before the 1963 FA Cup Final; and they even booked a rally in Trafalgar Square, which was quite amusing. Halfway though a speech at the foot of Nelson's Column, about the FA's lack of empathy with real football fans, a very well dressed "high class" lady intruded, grabbed the microphone and proceeded to inform the large gathering that the aristocracy and upper classes fully deserved to get their Cup Final tickets, much more than the 'hoi poloi' of the average working men, who should be grateful to the FA for getting any ticket allocation all...........!
She created a lot of controversy and copped some booing but her disruptive intervention was well reported in London's newspapers. They weren't to know that the lady was, of course, a 'stooge', set up beforehand as an elaborate publicity stunt by the trio of schemers: Pete, Dave and Mick.
The WWW campaign had some limited success in the late sixties and it was a catalyst which later resulted in the bulk of the Cup Final tickets going to the fans.
.... but back to Spurs European campaign:
Spurs reached the semi-final against the holders, Benfica and lost the away leg 1-3, thanks to some highly controversial refereeing decisions.
The night of the home second leg against Benfica, which is the subject of the picture above which triggered this article, was probably the most emotional that I ever witnessed at White Hart Lane. I was behind the Park Lane goal and 64,000 were crammed in for an unforgettable night of attacking football, which we won 2-1 but sadly we lost on aggregate 3-4.
However, we won the FA Cup for a second year in a row in 1962 and went on to compete in the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1962-3, which we deservedly won - but that is a different story.
Suffice it to say that the Spurs Angels deserve much more credit than they were given by club historians. They were thinkers, campaigners, innovators, motivators and comedians who brought a fresh new approach to supporting Tottenham Hotspur and were the inspiration behind the song that has inspired Tottenham. For decades now that song has been played over the loudspeakers at every home match and sung by the supporters, home and away. The Spurs Angels deserve more recognition.
I wonder what happened to them. During the couple of years that I knew them, they lived in a shared flat in Westbourne Green. They were a few years older than me, so if they are still alive, they must be getting long in the tooth by now. The last time I saw Dave Casey - arguably the zaniest of the trio - I was heading to Tottenham in a trolley bus which got stuck in traffic. I looked out of the top deck window and there was Dave, standing in the road, directing the traffic..........
They can do anything, those angels!
*Some years later the song morphed into "Glory, glory, Tottenham Hotspur........" but to those of us who were standing on the terraces during the early sixties, we still hanker for the original version.
After publishing the above story, I searched for more information and found very little but this article by Martin Cloake verifies my story about the Spurs Angels and adds a bit more.