Friday, March 16, 2012

Ten people I'd love to have met - Alfie Conn

I thinking of the ten people I’d love to meet / have met, the list wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t a Spurs hero in there. Let’s face it by my current estimation thinking about Spurs accounts for about 30% of my waking time.

The player I have gone for is not one of the established stars but he is repeatedly top of the Spurs fans voting charts as ultimate club cult hero. He also hit my consciousness at a very, very relevant stage of my life, in the final months leading up to the Leaving Certificate (trauma number 1) and as Spurs faced relegation for the first time since I was born (trauma number 2). I dealt with the first trauma myself and Alfie Conn sorted out the second one for me.

The Spurs fansite mehstg (my eyes have seen the glory) in its’ tribute to Alfie describes the run-in to the 74/5 season well and the matches referred to are vividly etched in my mind – so much so that I can remember where I was when the results came. Sweetest, for obvious reasons was the Chelsea game, which was followed on the radio in Rich Hudson’s house in Waltham Terrace.

From mehstg:

Spurs were in desperate trouble during that season, but Alfie managed to keep the crowd enthralled by his brilliant skills and flair. He scored a sensational goal as Spurs beat Wolves 3-0 at the Lane and was absolutely brilliant throughout the game, leaving Spurs just six games to go to stay up. A 1-0 away win at QPR was followed by a 2-1 home win over Luton. When Spurs went on to lose 2-3 at Burnley, things looked bad. However, Alfie lifted Spurs to great heights in the next game at home to Chelsea when 50,998 watched the game. Chelsea had both the Wilkins brothers in their team, with a young Ray Wilkins as captain. His brother, Graham was sent off and Spurs survived the pressure well to win 2-0 with Alfie Conn again brilliant in his dribbling and shooting and creating chances for the others from the wing.

Now there were just two games to go. A 0-1 reverse at Highbury against Arsenal left Tottenham having to win the last game of the season to stay up. It was at home to Leeds on Monday 28th April and Leeds had a European final to play later that week. Spurs were absolutely brilliant that night and Alfie's skills inspired Spurs to a 4-2 win and he bagged one of the goals. The others were scored by Cyril Knowles (2) and Martin Chivers.

It had been a breathtaking end to the season and Alfie had been in inspiring form as Spurs stayed up. Conn had made 17 League starts in the season and scored six goals. The next season Alfie suffered an injury and made just eight appearances in the starting line-up as Spurs finished 9th. His final season for Spurs was in 1976-7, when he made just 13 appearances.

Conn was a maverick, with dirty unkempt looks which embraced sideburns and long hair (a la 70’s) and an individual style of play which actually promised the unpredictable. The kind of skill that is beaten out of players nowadays. He was lovingly and humorously arrogant, not in a manner that is spawned by continual success but more out from an apathetic I don’t give a damn attitude. Robin Friday springs to mind.

Surprisingly Conn was Bill Nicholson’s last signing for Spurs and he also chose Celtic ahead of Rangers when leaving England to go back north purely because of the influence of Jock Stein. A peculiar affinity between two hard-working gentlemen of the game and the wayward genius. In many ways, not dissimilar from Best’s relationship with Matt Busby.

And so, Alfie, great to meet you, tell me about your days at Spurs………...