No more, no less. A homage to the White Hart Lane number 10 from Chris King.
Think of a number. Times it by your hopes and dreams; add a sprinkling of magic then take nothing away.
If you’re a “Mancunian” or “Scouser”, chances are the number you’ve reached is seven; a Geordie will hit number nine. West Ham and England fan; let me think – is it six?
If you are a Tottenham Hotspur supporter then there really is only one number that will instantly spring to mind. 10, is our magic number.
Before Sky changed the course of football’s history, every child brought up as a Spurs fan would have had a number 10 in their bedroom. Be it on a poster or a match day programme; a magazine cut out, or those iron-on felt numbers that your parents would inevitable attach, in a slightly jaunty manner.
We may have had some fine number fours like Danny Blanchflower or Dave Mackay and Steve Perryman at six; Paul Gascoigne in the eight shirt or even our 11s like Chris Waddle and Garth Crooks. But were they really as good as the number 10s in their side?
Blanchflower and Mackay might just have the edge over Les Allen (father and uncle to future Spurs’ stars Clive and Paul) in the 1961 FA Cup final; with Mackay or Gilzean arguably top dogs over Venables in 1967. It would even be right to suggest that Paul Gascogine, who would have been a natural Spurs number 10, was better than Gary Lineker; though Lineker was still on the pitch to collect his winner’s medal at the end of the 1991 Cup Final - so honours are possibly even for that match at least.
Just by looking at Spurs’ biggest games alone; you can see the importance of the number 10 to the club. Les Allen in 1961 leads us on to Jimmy Greaves in the 1962 FA Cup Final. Although well before my time, it’s hard to think of a better number 10 for both Spurs and England. He may have been one of football’s nearly men – joining Spurs just after their double success. Signing for £99,999 so he wasn’t the first £100,000 and sitting on the bench as Geoff Hurst stole the limelight in the 1966 World Cup – but Jimmy’s goal to game ratio was absolutely phenomenal. In his time at Spurs, he bagged an impressive 30 goals or more in six of his nine seasons with us – hitting 30 from 31 games played in that 1961/62 season.
He also wore the number 10 shirt in the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Atlético Madrid – scoring twice as Spurs became the first British side to bring home a European trophy.
His record was even better when he replaced the cockerel 10 with the three lions 10. Jimmy notched up 44 goals from 57 appearances – at a rate of one every 117 minutes; that’s five less than the leading scorer, Bobby Charlton, who played 49 more games than him.
Terry Venables wore the shirt proudly in the 1967 FA Cup Final. Greaves was still in the side, but for the next two decades the number 10 shirt sat proudly in the midfield for the lilywhites. Venables clearly appreciated the honour attributed to our magic number, as in his time as manager, he brought Gary Lineker in to fill the shirt.
Another World Cup winner wore the shirt in the early 1970s. Martin Peters may have come to prominence as a West Ham player, but he reached more domestic and European finals with Spurs. His medal haul includes one UEFA Cup and two League Cup medals – and an Anglo-Italian League title as well.
Martin Chivers wore the shirt in the two unsuccessful UEFA Cup runs of 1973 and 1974 – losing the semi-final to Liverpool in 1973 and the final to Feyenord in 1974. He scored an impressive eight goals from 10 matches played in the 1973 run, and is still Spurs’ most prolific European striker with 22 goals from 32 games played. The closest of the current squad is Defoe, with nine from 11.
The next decade saw the shirt dominated by one man – Glenn Hoddle. I can still remember my old bedroom wall dominated by a life size poster of Hoddle in the Centenary Shirt; standing majestic, waiting to unlock another hapless defence.
If Greaves was the goal scoring machine that brought the shirt to prominence, Hoddle was the embodiment of the spirit the number came to represent. During that period – bookended by our dark days in Division Two to his failed swansong in 1987, Hoddle was the person every Spurs supporting kid wanted to be. We all wanted a foot and a footballing brain – if not necessarily the hairstyle of our magic number legend. Opposition players site him as being an inspiration to them as they were growing up (Read: Dennis Bergkamp), and even though he was unable or not trusted to impart his magic on the International Stage, the two FA Cups (1981 and 1982) and the 1984 UEFA Cup were his lasting legacy to the club. Admittedly he missed his finest hour in 1984 due to injury – replaced by the not-so-talismanic Gary Stevens – but you can still see him on the bench, guiding the side on. Our magic number even spent many a year on the opening the credits of Match of the Day as Hoddle, with back to camera, chipped Steve Sherwood in the Watford goal.
With Hoddle moving on, Spurs fans did wonder if we would ever be able to fill the shirt – and although a different kind of player, Gary Lineker’s move to the club at least gave us a name the number deserved.
He wasn’t particularly prolific during his time at the club, breaking 30 only once in his three seasons – but he did enough to attain hero status with his two goals against Arsenal in the 1991 FA Cup Semi-Final; as well as looming large at the back post, forcing Des Walker in to the error that saw him put in to his own net in the Final. Lineker was also a Spurs player on that night in Turin when he scored and converted a penalty in England’s narrow, World Cup semi-final defeat to West Germany.
Has the shirt shone so bright since those days? Well, quality did follow Lineker. Teddy Sheringham wore the shirt for six years, Les Ferdinand for two – with only Sir Les winning a League Cup in that time. Neither player broke 30 goals, with Ferdinand failing to even hit double figures in his time as our number 10 – his best return in his preferred nine.
In addition to those two we’ve had Steffen Iversen, Robbie Keane and Darren Bent – wearing the shirt more so to signify their role as the club’s main striker and recent transfer target, than a genuine contender as the best number 10 to play for the club. In fact it could be stated that the fan’s preferred strikers of the last five years have been Dimitar Berbatov, who was given the nine shirt as Keane was already there, and Jermain Defoe – who opted for the 18 shirt as a mark of admiration for Jurgen Klinsmann (Iversen did the same when he first joined).
So as the Spurs players walked off the pitch, having secured their most important European result since the 1980s with an away win against AC Milan in the “San Siro”, the one question that lingered in the mind – where was our magic number? Well, no doubt with feet up, resting an injury sustained during his loan spell at West Ham. It shouldn’t have been that way.
When you consider the players that have worn the shirt; and consider that for England alone those number 10s listed above have scored 149 international goals – it suggests our 10 can sit comfortably alongside any other magic number you care to think of.
But will we ever get our magic number back? Will it stop being used simply as a squad number to usher in the next big money centre forward signing? West Ham retired their number 6 as a mark of respect to Bobby Moore, much like the Americans do with their sporting greats; but I feel this is the wrong move. I want to see a day when another Spurs great fills that number 10 shirt with pride – scoring goals like Greavsie or playing a cross field pass with the grace and poise of Hoddle. I want to see that shirt in a Champions League final, or in a Premier League champion’s DVD. Such things may only ever happen in my dreams – but then our magic number is the stuff dreams were made of.
And with a nod to this website, even the greatest player of them all – Diego Armando Maradona - wore the number 10 in Osvaldo Ardiles’ testimonial as Spurs beat Inter Milan 2-1. Hoddle giving up the number to ensure Diego played.
Chris King is a Tottenham Hotspur supporter living in Leeds. He writes about life, family and sometimes sport on his blog www.northernwrites.co.uk and can be found on twitter: @NorthernWrites