Danny Kelly has spent his adult life indulging his twin passions, sport and rock and roll. Back in the golden age of music journalism he was editor of the world’s best music magazines, NME and Q. He has been talking about sport on TV and radio for 25 years and what he lacks in expertise, he makes up for in enthusiasm - an enthusiasm that Tottenham Hotspur have tested to the limit. Here, he picks his greatest ever Spurs XI in a 4-4-2 formation - “currently as fashionable as flared trousers, but it’s what I know so I’ll stick to that.”
Goalkeeper: Pat Jennings (1964-77 and 1985-86)
A mixture of skill, athleticism and charisma, made Big Pat a legend at Spurs, Arsenal (for whom he accidently played for a couple of years) and Northern Ireland. His famous one-handed catching (a legacy of his time as a Gaelic footballer) added to a battery of skills that meant he was the best goalkeeper in Britain during an era that included Banks, Clemence and Shilton. Enough said. I almost chose: Hugo Lloris.
Right back: Steve Perryman (1969-86)
A single England cap (half a game in Iceland) was scandalously scant reward for a man who played over 850 times for Tottenham and was Footballer Of The Year in 1982, 13 years after he made his club debut. Combative, skilled and with the heart of a lion that’s been at the schnapps, he is the most under-rated player in this XI. And the easiest to pick. I almost chose: Chris Hughton.
Centre back: Ledley King (1999-2012)
And lo, after the agony of Sol Campbell’s snaky departure to North London’s other club, god smiled upon his people in N17 and delivered unto them an even better player, and one whose blood coursed the most navy of blues. King was a shy, speedy, two-footed, genius; only his dodgy knees prevented him from gaining 100-plus England caps. Even crocked, he was good enough to make the national team for the opening game at the new Wembley… in midfield! I almost chose: Mike England.
Centre back: Dave Mackay (1959-1968)
I only saw this all-time giant of British football in the latter days of his time at WHL. But I wanted to pick him as a link to Tottenham’s unmatchable Double team of 1961. Tough as Scottish granite, and a beautiful footballer, Dave would have been a star in any era. At his recent funeral, no less an authority than Sir Alex Ferguson said he was the best player he ever saw. Good enough for me. I almost chose: anyone except Sol Campbell.
Left back: Gareth Bale (2007-13)
I know, I know… he’s a bang average defender, but I’ve got to fit him in somewhere and the midfield’s pretty crowded. In 12 months, Gareth turned himself from an expensive cry-baby wearing a schoolgirl’s hair grip into the most exciting young footballer in the world. He did it with a running power (at speed, with the ball) that I’ve never seen before or since. In a modern game obsessed with systems and stats, he returned the sport to one of its absolute fundamentals, raw physical power. A phenomenon. I almost chose: Cyril Knowles.
Midfield: Glenn Hoddle (1975-87)
“God”. If you want to know why English football will never repeat its 1966 World Cup win, look no further. Supremely skilled, a brilliant finisher, an unmatched passer and much harder working than given credit for, Hoddle was, viewed with suspicion by the press and successive England managers. Too soft, they said, not consistent enough. The fools, the utter fools. One of those footballers who make you fall in love with the game forever. I almost chose: Chris Waddle.
Midfield: Paul Gascoigne (1988-92)
The man who invented modern football and the Premier League. His performance, and tears, at Italia 90 turned football from a working man’s pastime into a soap-opera that gripped every living room. Smart men with money decided they’d like that audience every week: bingo! The game we know today. Gazza’s juvenile antics and later-life personal problems shouldn’t detract from what he was in his pomp: the best English player of the modern era, a game-changer without peer. I almost chose: Alan Mullery.
Midfield: Ossie Ardiles (1978-88)
Incredibly, given the previous two names, the best midfield player I ever saw at the Lane. Indeed, the best player full-stop. Tiny, tireless, fearless, and with a mind like a Field marshal, Ossie arrived from winning the 1978 World Cup like something from outer space. We’d never seen a footballer like him; my fear is that we never will again. Oh, and as a trained lawyer, he also managed to referee. He was already dominating as a player. A great man. I almost chose: Luka Modric
Midfield: Tony Galvin (1978-87)
Every team needs some concert pianists, and some blokes to carry the piano; Irishman Galvin was one of the latter and a (if not the) key player in Spurs’ excellent team of the early 80s. A degree in Russian showed he had brains; an uncanny ability to hold and run with the ball (while being assaulted by a generation of footballing thugs) showed he had the brawn and courage to match. I’m picking him ahead of Waddle and David Ginola: if you don’t remember Tony, that should give you some idea of the esteem in which he’s held. I almost chose: Martin Peters.
Striker: Jimmy Greaves (1961-70)
Someday soon Wayne Rooney will become England’s highest ever goalscorer; he will never be his country’s GREATEST goalscorer. That title will forever belong to James Peter Greaves. You can study the stats (hundreds of goals, SIX times leading scorer in England’s top league). I’m lucky to have seen the sure-footed, devilish, clinical finishing-machine with my own eyes, so I can tell you this without fear of contradiction: Jimmy Greaves would stroll into any side these islands have produced in my lifetime. Get well Jim. I almost chose: Gary Lineker
Striker: Jurgen Klinsmann (1994-95 and 1997-98)
Breaks my heart to omit my teen-crush hero Martin Chivers, but Klinsmann is impossible to overlook. When he played abroad, we all thought he was a diving Teutonic pantomime villain. In two short spells at Spurs, he charmed the entire country and reminded us, again and again, what a thrilling thoroughbred of a centre forward he was. And (attention young footballers!) he was a World Cup winner who came to work in a Volkswagen Beetle! I almost chose: Martin Chivers.
Manager: Keith Burkinshaw (1976-84)
Unheralded and unfussy, KB took Spurs from a single season in the Second Division to major trophies at home and in Europe. And he achieved all this in the giant shadow of Bill Nicholson, one of the towering managerial figures of the century. Spurs have spent a lot of money since on flasher, and more expensive, coaches; they have never found a better one. I almost chose: me, playing Football Manager into the small hours of the night.
Explaining his choices, Danny said: “Great football teams are seldom mere amalgams of brilliant individuals; if they were, football management would be a very easy gig. So, it’s impossible to see how this group might gel together and perform.
“In Perryman, Mackay, Bale, Galvin and Klinsmann the side has physical power; in King, Ardiles, Gascoigne and Hoddle it has creativity oozing from every pore. And in Greaves they have a spearhead certain to turn collective flamboyance and hard graft into that most precious, and elusive, of commodities: goals.
“I’ve only picked players I’ve actually seen play, but since I first went to White Hart Lane in 1967, that includes an awful lot of footballers, several copper-bottomed geniuses, and quite a bit of dross! I honestly can’t say how fantastic they’d be; I do know that I’d love to see them running out together, the White Hart Lane floodlights causing those perfect white shirts to glow like new-born stars.