Tottenham legend Les Allen in 1961 Double talk
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
With this week marking the anniversary of Tottenham’s 1961 league title triumph, we share the thoughts of one of their star names from those years.
Les Allen spoke to Lee Power about the historic Double winning season for an article which first featured in ‘Marching On’ – a magazine to celebrate the club’s move from White Hart Lane to their new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Here is that piece once more:
Les Allen scored arguably the greatest goal in Tottenham’s history but could hardly be more modest or humble about it.
Allen netted the winner in a 2-1 success against Sheffield Wednesday at White Hart Lane on April 17, 1961 to clinch the league title and first half of the famous ‘Double’.
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Yet, given the chance to hark back to that glorious, glorious night, the Dagenham-born 81-year-old said: “It was nice to get that under our belts and then enjoy the last few games of the season.
“I didn’t have any favourite goals really. It didn’t sink in until later on. We were pretty successful and got used to it.
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“But then it was a case of ‘Bloody hell, we’ve won it!”
Allen was in his first full season at the club, having signed for Bill Nicholson from Chelsea – who took Johnny Brooks in a swap deal – in December 1959 at the age of 21.
But he had made an instant impact, scoring twice on his debut against Newcastle and then give times in an eye-boggling 13-2 FA Cup win over Crewe Alexandra.
He said: “When leaving school I was tempted to be a professional and was given a trial by West Ham but nothing came of it. I wasn’t quite up to the standard they said.
“I went to get an apprenticeship as a model maker and started playing for Briggs Sports. We lost to Bishop Auckland in the semi-final of the Amateur Cup, who were a very good team, but it was quite an achievement.”
That was in 1954 and the semi-final was played at Newcastle’s St James’ Prk in front of 54,000.
Chelsea were also watching the young Allen and he signed for them at 17.
“My dad was in charge. West Ham came back in and dad told them what to do!” added the boyhood Arsenal fan.
“I was doing a five-year apprenticeship, so was only part-time, training in the evenings and played weekends when I could.
“I went full-time after finishing my apprenticeship and played some first-team games and was decent against Spurs and Bill Nic followed me up after that.
“I’d only been a full-time pro for three months at Chelsea and Ted Drake called me in and said ‘I’ve had a call from Tottenham, would you be interested?’. I said ‘of course I would’. I was pleased it was an upgrade.”
Allen hit the ground running with his debut brace and nap hand against Crewe – “I held the record until George Best broke it!” he says – but revealed it wasn’t until the following summer when he began to feel truly settled in his new surroundings.
“It took quite a while, most of that first (half) season. But the pre-season after that, we got together as a team and took off from there,” he said.
“I didn’t realise how good a team we had really. It was a terrific side. Bill Nic, being a very good manager as he was, had a lot of good players in reserve and if you were not doing the business, he’d have us out and another one in.
“I played 60-odd games that year and did quite well with scoring.”
Spurs raced out of the blocks in the autumn of 1960, winning their first 11 matches and, after being held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester City, adding four more successive wins.
But nobody was talking about a potential title bid, apparently.
“We didn’t get carried away. We just kept digging and getting results,” said Allen.
“It was such a good side and the one-touch football was exceptional. We’d do it in training and it would come out in matches.
“We’d score goals, going from one end of the pitch to the other, without the other team getting a touch.”
Allen finished with 27 goals in all copmetitions, striking up a great partnership with Bobby Smith as Spurs safely navigated their way through the FA Cup, beating Sunderland 5-0 in a quarter-final replay after a 1-1 draw at Roker Park, then Burnley 3-0 in the semi-finals to book a final date with Leicester.
But not many were thinking of becoming the first side since Aston Villa in 1897 to complete a Double.
“Bobby Smith would unsettle a few. He was a very good player, a strong guy who didn’t stand any nonsence,” added Allen.
“Like all cup games you can get knocked out, but we went through quite easy. But it never got to that stage. If I’d known, I’d have put a few bob on it!”
With their league winner’s medals already secured, the grand day out at Wembley Stadium was almost one game too many for the champions.
But goals in the final quarter of the match from Smith and Terry Dyson secured a 2-0 win and a place in Tottenham folklore forever.
“The final was one of the only games we never played well in,” said Allen.
“It wasn’t a great game to watch we were told, compared to how we’d played. But they can’t take that away.
“It was a big thing and I was fortunate to play there again with QPR and win the League Cup.”
All great teams need great managers and the 1960-61 Tottenham vintage certainly had one in the legendary Nicholson.
A league champion in 1951, he would enjoy a 36-year association with the Lilywhites, winning eight trophies in 16 years as manager, and this was his finest hour.
“He was more advanced in management than others,” said Allen.
“Training was always interesting and different. Others tried to follow him in the following years. He varied it a lot which was nice.
“They were the best bunch of lads for joking. One or two of them smoked and we’d take the mick out of them. It was 100 per cent a group. We were a team with good players.
“He’d tell you what he thought, always picking you up on what you didn’t do and what you did do.
“He was hard at times and kept you on your toes, but he did well. I think the night we won the league was the only time he really enjoyed himself.
“I couldn’t have been in a better team and the results proved it. Bill Nic, when I left to join QPR, we played Spurs at home and he was chatting to me after the game and said ‘I only made one mistake with you and that was I got rid of you two years too early!”
Allen, who saw son Clive and nephew Paul go on to represent the club in their own distinguished ways, was invited back to say goodbye to the old ground, along with many other former greats and legends, and is excited by what the club’s new home might hold in store.
“I managed to get there and had a good day. There’s only a few of us left unfortunately,” he said, referring to the fact only seven of the 17 players useds in the Double season survive to this day.
“I went to see the new stadium when it was half up. It’s quite outstanwding and will be great for them in the future.”
Les Allen certainly played a great part in Tottenham’s past.