There was a time when association football was played best where it was played first, in England. Soccer for decades was a respite and a religion for gray-capped millions from Britain's industrial concentrations. Later the game added color to lives under the welfare state, and in the prosperity of the '50s it acquired allegiance from the intelligentsia. But in those same years British soccer, which stressed speed and body contact, lost its world leadership to European and Latin countries whose tactics were based on agility and ball control. Now a London club, Tottenham Hotspur, has managed to combine the old drive (typified by Forward Dave Dunmore, right) with a new subtlety and versatility.
The Spurs were established in 1882 and have been playing on the same ground—White Hart Lane in London, where they average almost 50,000 fans a game—since 1900. Their high point came during the seasons of 1949-50 and 1950-51. First they won the league's second division, thereby gaining promotion to the first division, and the next year they won that too, sweeping to the top of the tree in one bloomin' go.
Manager Billy Nicholson, 41, who was a halfback on the 1949-51 team, about which fans still speak in awed tones, is about ready to admit that" this season's club is even better. Most of the 1959-60 star Spurs have been purchased from other clubs over the past six years, for a total of some' $700,000. They form the heart of this precise, pattern-weaving team, which can work its powerful and subtle game on icy as well as muddy surfaces. With over half the season gone, the Spurs have a firm hold on first place.
Twisting in pain after collision with an opponent (in striped shirt), Center Forward Bobby Smith is treated by Trainer Cecil Poynton, while referee looks on.
Rapt fans, once solely from working class, now come from all walks of life, follow game closely. The 46 games played each Saturday in England average about 20,000 spectators apiece.
Talking tactics in Spurs' dressing room during half-time recess, Coach Billy Nicholson demonstrates a maneuver to tea-sippers Terry Medwin and Dave Mackay, as teammates listen in.
92 TEAMS, 1,000,000 FANS
The 92 teams that make up the English Football League are divided into four divisions. When a season, which begins in August and ends in May, is over, the teams at the bottom of one division drop down to the next. The teams that finish near the top move up. On an average Saturday, almost a million fans watch professional soccer in England. Admission prices range from two shillings, about 25�, to 12 shillings sixpence ($1.75), for the equivalent of a box seat. Despite the fact that the players are the idols of millions and the subject of a weekly gambling pool in which a third of Great Britain's adult population participates, none of them, no matter how valuable, is allowed to earn more than �20 ($78.40) a week, plus �4 for each victory and �2 for each tie. This is to protect some of the smaller clubs that would not be able to handle high payrolls. It is also designed to maintain team spirit, which might be destroyed if stars received more money. But leading players, like the top professional athletes in this country, make good money on the side from endorsements, from radio and television broadcasts, and even, in the case of Danny Blanchflower, captain of the Spurs, from writing unghosted books about the fine art of soccer.
Watching the watchers, police constable's chief duty is to usher crowds in and out of stadium. English fans are usually orderly, show their wrath only by booing.