Summer Reading For Spurs Fans. A Harry-Free Zone

Two e-books worthy of your consideration. And look, we’re all busy people, credit crunch and all, so what can I say – they’re cheap. Very good, mind. Have a look.

Arthur Rowe – a Neglected Spurs Legend Whose Legacy Lives On

We become Spurs fans via a variety of routes. Local team maybe or, more likely these days, your dad was once a local. Dad’s a fan so you are. Or your dad’s a gunner and you want to do everything possible to not be like him because that’s what kids do. One trip with your mates and you were hooked or one great game on the box. Perhaps you were struck by the name. Whatever the reason, you quickly learn one fundamental thing about the team that becomes an indelible part of your life and soul. Tottenham Hotspur strive to play good football. Sure we want too much, yep, seldom really comes off, although with many notable exceptions in this season past, but that’s Spurs. Get it down on the floor and pass it.

This defining characteristic is the lasting legacy of one man, Arthur Rowe, who was first a player before the war and then afterwards took over as manager, taking Spurs from the second division to the league title in two seasons. Spurs remain the last of only three teams ever to have won the second division and then the first in successive seasons, a feat that is highly unlikely ever to be repeated. [edit: my thanks to a regular commenter – Ipswich were another team to achieve this, my fault for not checking, certainly not the authors].

In an age where everything has to be in the here and now, where players receive giant loyalty bonuses for staying put for a single season and Sky deny that football existed before the Premier League, Rowe has been consigned to the sidings of history. Spurs author Martin Cloake rights this injustice in this succinct and fascinating e-book, the third in a series he and his co-author Adam Powley created with the aim of writing punchy and accessible profiles of Tottenham players.

Rowe was born in Tottenham in 1906 and played for the club straight from school. These days there’s much debate about the pros and cons of reserve sides versus loaning out youngsters to lower league teams but there’s nothing new under the sun. Spurs had a link with Northfleet, a club in north Kent (I pass its modern incarnation, Ebbsfleet, every day on my way to work) so Rowe and others spent time learning their trade. They were taught how to do things right but the young Arthur absorbed his lessons more than most, going on to play for his team and country.

More significantly, he developed ideas about a flowing, passing game that stood in contrast to the then prevalent style of of getting it forward quickly to the big men up front. Beginning to sound familiar? After retiring, unusually for those days he travelled Europe both to learn from others and share his methods, which culminated in the famous Spurs push and run championship winning side in 1951 and whose purpose and techniques we are still trying to master to this very day. That is achievement enough but he became a huge influence on others – Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsey most notably in this country, and there is a direct link to the mesmerising total football of the Dutch.

A quiet man ill-suited to what passed for celebrity status in those days, Rowe nevertheless was a respected pundit and figure in the game after he left Spurs. We owe him so much yet he’s never had the credit due his status as one of the most influential figures in the club’s history and indeed in English football. Typically Tottenham overlooked him – I remember him as Palace manager, they gave him the testimonial Spurs never did – but with this little gem you have no excuse:

“His story is one of great innovation and ambition, of joy and real, crushing sadness. It is a story that is fading both because of the passage of time and because of the light it subsequently enabled to shine. And it is a story that deserves to be told again so that it can regain its rightful place in history.”

Arthur Rowe (Sports Shots) by Martin Cloake

E-book. Kindle edition from Amazon price: £2.74

Glory Nights:From Wankdorf To Wembley

Dodging the crazies on the all-night bus. Running from the opposition while running a raging fever. Trapped next to the blocked toilet on a coach to Germany, then searched by armed police. Blizzards close British roads, save for a single carload of Spurs fans sliding up and down the M1, risking life and limb to rescue a forgotten passport in time to catch the ferry. The road to glory takes many twists and turns.

From Wankdorf to Wembley is the entertaining story of long time Tottenham fan Mel Gomes’s european tour during Spurs first, and perhaps only, season in the Champions League. It begins with the outburst of unrestrained joy that greeted Peter Crouch’s late winner at Manchester City that took us there and ends at Wembley but sadly not with Spurs as he blags a freebie to share in Barcelona’s delight.

Mel takes us to all the matches home and away, together with a bunch of faithful travellers, and invokes memories of those glory glory nights that raise goosepimples at the thrill of it all. An engaging companion, join him as he recreates not only vivid match reports from a fan’s perspective but also the numbing minutiae that are essential elements of going away. The anxious dashes for connections as he runs dangerously late, how tricky it can be just to get into a football ground, wasted hours in airport lounges and the all-important search for a beer or two.

Mel is good  company but unobtrusive, a welcome change from other fan books where ego dominates. He’s your mate who is the quiet one of the group, in the background but you can’t have a good time without him. This book is not about him, it’s about the experience and wherever he goes, Mel stops to smell the coffee rather than rush to the local equivalent of Wetherspoons to get bladdered. He’s curious about his surroundings and the people he meets along the way.

He discovers glory in some unlikely places. ‘Wankdorf’ is the name of the Young Boys of Berne stadium where it very nearly all ended before it had begun, 3-0 down and not even half-time. But the reader is left under no illusion that the pursuit of glory is the essence not only of this journey but of being a Spurs fan, as this blog’s byline unashamedly declares. The book begins with Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, where everyday life becomes the setting for a drama of escape and the fulfillment of dreams. It’s about daring, romance and passion, seeking magic and redemption in our everyday surroundings. Despite his (and my) disillusionment with the modern of version of what will always be the European Cup, the competition remains precious and special. The opening chapter sets the scene, with a young over-excited Mel waiting impatiently for dad to get home from work then jumping into his car to watch Spurs play Hadjuk Split in an era when we played magical names from mysterious far-flung places.

Writing this on the day that Redknapp’s firm determination not to resign almost certainly means he’s going to be sacked, ironically this book could form part of his epitaph. A prelude to the true glory days or the best we ever had? What is clear is that From Wankdorf To Wembley is a labour of love that Spurs supporters will enjoy. It’s also testament to the loyalty that blinds us to reality as we pursue our dreams. Wasted days, endless expense, itineraries planned with military precision, the craziness of fans whose compulsion to be there is unfathomable to those who don’t understand this wonderful game.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley by Mel Gomes

Illustrated by Lilly Allen

E book Kindle edition from Amazon price £4.27

Also in other formats including PDF on Smashwords

4 thoughts on “Summer Reading For Spurs Fans. A Harry-Free Zone

  1. — “taking Spurs from the second division to the league title in two seasons. Spurs remain the last of only three teams ever to have won the second division and then the first in successive seasons”

    Hate to say it Al, but Ipswich did it in 1961-62.

    Still thanks for the gen on the books


    • Heh heh teach me to not check things, Obsessively check usually to the point of not getting thins done because I’m checking back. On this occasion, I didn’t. The info re Spurs being the third team to do the 2nd/1st double is in the book but being the last team to do is my misinterpretation – duly corrected in the tex.

      Thanks for this, Regards, Al


  2. thats true however it’s interesting to note that the manager at that time was one Alf Ramsey so the point is not substantially changed as Ramsey played in Rowe’s Spurs team that did it ten years earlier.


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