The Glory Game
by Hunter Davies
Hardback (1972 Edition) – 332 Pages    Published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Hardback (1985 Edition) – 346 Pages    Published by Mainstream Publishing
ISBN – 1851580026
Softback (1985 Edition) – 346 Pages    Published by Mainstream Publishing
ISBN – 1851580034
Softback (1992 Edition) – 346 Pages    Published by Mainstream Publishing
ISBN – 1851583769
Softback (2000 Edition) – 384 Pages    Published by Mainstream Publishing
ISBN – 978-1840182422
Softback (2001 Edition) – 352 Pages    Published by Contemporary Books
ISBN – 978-0809293322
Paperback (1973) – 328 Pages    Published by Sphere Books
ISBN – 978-1840182422


Going back to read this magnificent book after about 20 years was a bit scary.  Would it still have as much relevance as when it was written over 50 years ago ?  Will the impact of Hunter Davies’ unfettered access to a team over the length of a season still hit home ?  Would the ups and downs of a professional football club still be the rollercoaster of a campaign that brought ultimate success ?

The answer was yes !

With the palette of the Spurs team of 1971-1972 to paint with, Davies weaves an intricate pattern of inter-linked story-lines that change as the season progresses and fortunes of both the team and individuals change.  With the hard to please manager Bill Nicholson and his un-PC sergeant-major assistant Eddie Baily, the team are constantly reminded of the club’s glorious past (of which they were both part), with the response to their methods sometimes at odds with performances on the pitch.

But this book was a unique opportunity for the author, who had not written a football book prior to this.  With the start of the Seventies being a time of change not only in football, but in society itself, the attitudes are very different from today, but in other regards, some are not that different.  The beliefs on the social side leaves a bit to be desired, but the frailties and worries of the players are probably not that different to those of today’s superstars.  Spurs players signed for big money are concerned about being able to live up to the price tag and are depressed when not playing – either because of injury or being dropped.  

Stars of the future are part of the story too, with Steve Perryman not having a great season, but establishing himself among the group as a player that could be relied on, while others such as Ray Evans and Tony Want try to break into the team to varying levels of success.  And among the youngsters, there are Bobby Scarth and Graeme Souness.  One was released at the end of the season the book covered and the other … well, you know what happened to him.

The writing is spot on and with a breadth of interest, the club is covered almost from top to bottom, with the player providing plenty of material for Davies to work with.  Their off the cuff remarks, often in the post-match moments, are sometimes the most revealing, but the lives of the footballers back then are very different from those of the modern day.  Yes, they were sufficiently better off than the average man in the street, but the passages about some of their lifestyles being like those of a bank manager and concerns about what might happen to them if their career is ended or when they have to give up playing are quite profound.  Alan Mullery claims vehemently that there is no way that he would go into management after seeing Bill Nick on match-days.

1971-1972 had come after a League Cup final win had handed Tottenham a way back into Europe for the first time since 1967.  The UEFA Cup was in its firsts season and the culture shock to the players who were experiencing novel trips to places such as Romania and Iceland was revealing in their comments.  Despite some lower than par performances and some harsh treatment along the way the team battled through and one man rose to the occasion when required to give Spurs the edge they needed.

However, this book is not only about the players, but the members of the Board are also heavily involved in the pages.  Their backgrounds, how they interact with directors of other clubs and how they see the game changing are all covered.  The backroom staff are also among the characters in Davies’ story and their importance to the team (and the old fashioned methods they employed) are not under-estimated. 

The scope of the book is not only restricted to what goes on within the club.  The fans feature heavily, with hooliganism starting to rear its head and with the author being in amongst it, there are some vivid tales of the aggro that used to regularly take place on the terraces and the lads who perpetrated it are all wrapped in as part of the match-day experience. 

Football life in 1972 is light years away from the current game.  The salaries are nowhere near comparable, the lives from this day and age being regarded as fairly average, training facilities that would be regarded as primitive now and the only surprising contrast to today was after an FA Cup defeat at Leeds, when the team return to London by train and encounter some Spurs fans.  Expecting to be on the end of their anger at having lost, they receive positive support despite the cup run being ended.

In the end, it is about a group of players, some who cost a fortune and some who have worked their way through the youth system, all trying to get a place in the first XI and do their best for the club.  Some are cocky and at the forefront of the banter, while others suffer crises of self-confidence and are happy to do their job, like Benoit Assou-Ekotto, regard it as just a job and haven’t much interest in football outside of their involvement.  Some have their heads screwed on and look to have something to fall back on, while others are happy to live the high life while they can.

The dates and the fashions change, but the game stays the same (apart from VAR and TV coverage).  It would be interesting to see what would be produced if Davies could do the same these days and if it wasn’t sanitised like the Amazon “All Or Nothing” fly-on-the-wall TV documentary.  

There is a passage in one of the foreword of one of the later editions (each has it’s own) that refers to a book being a classic, defined by its many reprints.  It’s not far wrong with “the Glory Game”, as it stands alone in the vast library of books on football because it is one that will never be allowed to be repeated.  Hunter Davies’ book is one that is well worth re-visiting and the slight niggle of a few errors (“Dave McKay” for example, corrected in later versions) don’t detract from the overall fascinating insight into the running of the club at a time when things were on the up for Spurs.  Let’s hope that is something that will be worth someone writing about soon.

Marco van Hip

1972 paperback edition 1985 edition 1992 edition 2000 edition 2000 edition
  2001 edition