Cliff Jones - Electrifying pace & skill
In the 1960s Cliff was widely regarded as the best winger in the world, an accolade that few footballers from these islands have ever received. Cliff was born in Swansea, Glamorgan and first played League football for Billy McCandless' Swansea Town in 1952, appearing only 25 times as a winger for the club before being called into the Welsh national side. He was part of the Wales side that beat England 2–1 at Ninian Park on 22 October 1955 and always credited the winner he scored as his best ever goal. He played in all five of Wales' games at the 1958 FIFA World Cup, and also made a total of 11 appearances for them in World Cup qualifiers between 1957 and 1968. He played 59 times in all for Wales, scoring 16 goals. He was bought by Tottenham Hotspur in 1958. On the day of his debut game he arrived by public transport and walked through the main gate together with all the Spurs supporters of the day. Henceforth he became a key part in the double-winning side of 1960–61. He was also a member of the successful Spurs sides in the 1962 FA Cup Final and 1963 European Cup Winners Cup Final.
Aston Villa goalkeeper, Nigel Sims, dives for the ball as Cliff Jones (diving, right) scores a goal, watched by Spurs player Bobby Smith (centre) during a match, March 10th 1962. Spurs would go on to win the game 2-0. This was a 6th round FA Cup game at White Hart Lane, with captain Danny Blanchflower also scoring, that propelled Spurs into a semi-final against Manchester United, winning 3-1, and eventually lifting the coveted trophy when Spurs overcame Burnley 3-1. Note the condition of the pitch which was normal in those times and yet the less than perfect surfaces could not prevent Cliff from electrifying crowds with his superb displays.
Back row (L-R): Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Ron Henry, Bill Nicholson (Manager), Danny Blanchflower, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay
Front row (L-R): Cliff Jones, John White, Bobby Smith, Les Allen, Terry Dyson
Juventus and Athletico Madrid were reported to have offered Spurs £100,000 for this brilliant player, whom most critics rated the finest winger in the world but manager Bill Nicholson, who had paid Swansea £35,000 for Jones in Feb 1958, rejected the offer, calling Jones "priceless".
Back Row (L-R)
John Smith, Terry Medwin, Ron Henry, Peter Baker, Bill Brown,
Maurice Norman, Bobby Smith, Mel Hopkins, Dave McKay,
Front Row (L-R)
Les Allen, Cliff Jones, John White, Danny Blanchflower, Tony Marchi, Jimmy Greaves, Terry Dyson, Frank Saul
There were times when he skimmed across the White Hart Lane mudbath of a pitch as fast as a top-class sprinter, ball at his feet, perfectly under control, defenders trailing in his wake. Then there were those soaring leaps as he came hurtling in from the wing to climb high above friend and foe alike, meet the ball full on the forehead and send it like a rocket into the back of the net. Not to mention those moments of sheer madness when he would fling himself low into a posse of flying boots in the six-yard box in the hope, however forlorn, of getting the faintest touch to deflect the ball home. Cliff netted an incredible 25 goals in 42 League and Cup appearances in 1959-60 as the double-winning side took shape. All these and more make up the inspiring memories that made Cliff Jones so revered in his 10 years at Tottenham. Ten years in which he was a crucial element of the team that took Spurs to the peak at home and in Europe. He was not a winger in the old sense of the word, hugging the touchline, beating his full back and content to cross the ball. He could play that way but Jones was unorthodox. Although right-footed, he spent most of his time on the left, picking up the ball deep in midfield, running straight at the defence, beating opponents with speed and skill, a dip of the shoulder and a sudden swerve while heading straight for goal. Then he would turn, confusing defenders, before slipping the ball to Bobby Smith, Les Allen or Jimmy Greaves or unleashing a fierce, accurate shot. A member of the teams that won the FA Cup in 1961, 1962 and the European Cup-winners’ Cup in 1963, Cliff gave some of his finest performances on the European stage, his mere name on the team sheet instilling fear in the opposition. Never knowing what to expect, he would terrorise opponents with his pace and control and stun them as he responded to the roughest of challenges, sometimes pure thuggery, by simply bouncing up to his feet and going back for more. He was outstanding against Athletico Madrid, creating the first two goals and running the Madrid defenders ragged for the full 90 minutes. Cliff’s bravery was legendary, and it often left him with nasty injuries but it took something serious to keep him out of the team.
Although the knocks and age began to slow him down, he still turned out regularly until October 1968 when his great service to Tottenham was rewarded with a cut-price transfer to Fulham. My own opinion was that Cliff should have been given a free transfer for his meritorious service to the club. He signed off in the best possible way with a goal against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw, Alan Gilzean scoring the other.