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Dave Mackay

Dave MackayThe stature of Dave Mackay in Tottenham folklore is vast and indisputable; indeed, to imagine Spurs' great sixties side without the vibrant Scot is to picture the Huns without Attila or the Alamo without Davy Crockett. Yet while it is right that so much is made of Dave's dynamic, warrior-like qualities - many have written that if Blanchflower was the brains of the team, Mackay was its heart - there is a danger of under-selling his sheer, unadulterated all-round talent.

In fact, his control was second to none, he was the cleanest striker of a ball at the club and he passed with the utmost precision. And how the mighty left-half reveled in his skill; in training he would astonish team-mates by volleying continuously against a wall from ten or even 15 yards - anyone who doubts the difficulty of this trick should attempt it for themselves - and later, as Spurs captain, he would run on to the pitch, kick the ball high in the air, then catch it infallibly on his instep, a subtle form of intimidation that demanded of his opponents. 'Can you do that?'

All this is not to say, of course, that the traditional image of Dave Mackay is a myth. Despite standing just 5ft 8in, he exerted an awesome physical presence, muscular thighs and a barn-door of a chest topped by features that were positively piratical. The man tackled like a granite avalanche, exuding a passionate will to win and apparently consumed by a devilish, ruthless relish for his work. Colleagues leapt to do his bidding as he drove them on, invariably by stirring personal example, often by melodramatic gesture and abrasive Caledonian invective. Though lacking in outright pace, he bustled tirelessly between attack and defence, typically winning the ball, flicking a pass, then surging forward to receive the return. On reaching enemy territory, he could finish venomously - as he proved with a hat-trick against West Ham in 1962- and another potent weapon was a prodigiously long throw.

Addicted as he was to winning at everything - Dave would pour his entire being into a casual game of snooker - it followed that he was devastated in defeat, a situation he strove so hard to avoid that in some 40 cup finals at all playing levels, he never finished on the losing side.the hard man Such unquenchable spirit was never more evident than in recovery from a twice-broken left leg -the first fracture came in a clash with Noel Cantwell in a European tie at Old Trafford in December 1963, the second nine months later on his comeback against Shrewsbury reserves. Such calamity would have ended the career of lesser men; in his case, it merely added to the aura of indestructibility that had enveloped him since his indomitable contribution to Tottenham's early-sixties triumphs. Yet, unthinkably now, the Scottish international might never have arrived at the Lane. In March 1959, Bill Nicholson had been making overtures to Swansea's Mel Charles, and had the Welshman not opted for Arsenal he would almost certainly have joined Tottenham instead of Dave. Later Bill maintained that it was Mackay he wanted all along, and was delighted to pay Hearts £32,000 for his signature.

Come the mid-sixties, Dave had taken over as skipper and, his mastery over ball and men undimmed, led Spurs to FA Cup Final victory in 1967. By then, he was operating in a mainly defensive role but the earlier years of midfield effort had exacted a toll and injuries became more frequent. Perhaps, too, he needed a new challenge and he found it at Derby, whom he joined for £5,000 {a reduced fee in recognition of his services) in July 1968. Under Brian Clough he played masterfully alongside centre-half Roy McFarland and in his first season helped the Rams lift the Second Division title, as well as sharing the Footballer of the Year award with Manchester City's Tony Book. Success in management followed, including a Championship at Derby, but it is to his fabulous achievements as a Spur that Dave owes his undying reputation. Nicholson called him his best signing, and he has been compared to the great Duncan Edwards. Nothing more need be said.

BORN: Edinburgh, 14.11.34.
GAMES: 318. GOALS: 51.
HONOURS: League Championship 60/1; FA Cup 60/1, 61/2, 66/7.
22 Scotland caps {57-65}.
OTHER CLUBS: Hearts 53/4-58/9 {135, 25};
Derby County 68/9-70/1 {122, 5}; Swindon Town 71/2 {26, 1}.
MANAGER: Swindon Town (71-72); Nottingham Forest (72}; Derby County (73-76);
Walsall (77-78}; Kuwait as coach (78-87}; Doncaster Rovers {87-89);
Birmingham City {89-91}; Egypt as coach {91-).


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