The Glory Game by Hunter Davies

When I started blogging just over a year ago I thought it would be a good idea to write an appraisal of ten of the best books I have read on sport, well, here we are at what I consider to be the best book on the subject, it’s a book that I have read time and time again and the name of the book is The Glory Game, by Hunter Davies. Many sports enthusiasts may raise an eyebrow or two at my choice but I hope that when you read it you will understand why it is so close to my heart. Loaned to me by that avid reader of sports literature the legendary Richard Percy whose passion for sport know no bounds, the book was and is a compelling insight into the working of that famous London football club Tottenham Hotspur. When Davies wrote this book, Tottenham Hotspur, more commonly known as Spurs were at that particular time vying with Manchester United for the title of being the most popular football team in the country. For over a decade Spurs had played an effortless style of football that saw them become the first English team to win a European competition when they won European Cup Winners Cup in 1963. Managed brilliantly by the great Bill Nicolson, the team won a host trophies throughout the sixties and early seventies, throughout this golden period they had an abundance of great players such Blanchflower, White, Mackay, Greaves, Jones, Brown, Jennings, Peters, Mullery and Chivers, the list was practically endless but by 1972 times were changing and non-more so than in the world of professional football. To this day I am totally stunned by the amount access that the Spurs board allowed Hunter Davies to have. Davies virtually became member of the first time squad, with the only difference being that instead of playing Davies was writing down everything that being said and some of it was not pretty. Witness the arrival of Ralph Coates from the Lancashire club Burnley, already uneasy about his big transfer Coates is greeted warmly by his new teammates, but behind his back the very trendy Spurs players latch on to the fact that the up north in Burnley it appeared that flares, cheesecloth shirts and tulip lapel jackets have not reached the far flung reaches of the north-west. It is a world far removed from the one that manager Bill Nicolson and his trusted No 2 Eddie Bailey were brought up in, they had suffered the horrors of World war 2 and the years of austerity that followed, Nicolson lived just around the corner from the ground and if you cut him in two he would bleed Spurs, so it is easy to see why he would get annoyed when his flash long haired young stars were arriving to training sessions from places like Cheam, driving their Ford Capri’s and talking endlessly about the birds they are pulling. Nicolson and Bailey take long hair as personal insult and sees the standards that they have set slowly evaporating. Overall Spurs had a good 1971-72 season as well as finishing 6th in the league, they reached the quarter-final of the FA cup, the semi-final of the league cup and won the UEFA cup so, you would have to say they had great season, forget the success, where the book succeeds brilliantly is revealing the players insecurities, witness the despair of Alan Mullery when after getting injured he finds himself farmed out to Fulham then in the old second division, his Spurs career looks over till his young replacement John Pratt breaks his nose, forcing Nicolson to bring back Mullery for the UEFA cup semi-final against the Italians of AC Milan. I won’t spoil what happens, but it goes a long way to show the fickle nature of the game and just how much luck has to do with staying in the first team. Davies leaves no stone unturned and the book dissects everyone from the chairman all the way down to the fans on the terrace, all the chapters are extremely revealing about the everyday workings of the club but, Chapter 18 is my favourite and introduces us to something that is commonplace in todays game “the hanger-on” and in particular one Morris Keston. Nowadays these type of people are everywhere but back then they weren’t so obvious, Keston is widely disliked by the directors, but loved by the players mainly because he is willing to lavish his money on the players in one form or another, he never misses a game home or away and would love to become a member of the board which, is never going to happen as he is seen by the members of the board as a rather undesirable type, the type of person that Tottenham Hotspur do not want be associated with.  I have talked endlessly about this book and I could talk a lot more, the book is an absolute timeless classic, it should be read by anyone who has a passing interest in sport and should a must for everyone involved in football regardless of age,  I am not sure Hunter Davies was prepared for the reaction that the book would bring all I can say is that I am pleased that he wrote it.