Northern Ireland

Danny Blanchflower to be honoured with plaque

Danny Blanchflower
Image caption In a 2009 poll, Danny Blanchflower was ranked as the greatest player in the history of Spurs

Plans are in place to honour Danny Blanchflower, one of Northern Ireland's greatest ever footballers, with a commemorative blue history plaque at his former east Belfast home.

A native of the Bloomfield area, the midfielder made 56 appearances for Northern Ireland during a glittering career that included a 10-year spell at Tottenham Hotspur.

In that time, he captained the side to the league-and-cup double in 1961.

In 2009, The Times ranked him as the greatest player in the history of Spurs.

Honour

Now the man, who once said "the game is about glory", will be honoured by the Ulster History Circle, who are finalising plans to place a blue plaque in commemoration.

Blue plaques are awarded for individuals who have a made a unique and lasting contribution to Northern Ireland's history.

According to the organisation's chairman, Chris Spurr, there are dozens of people under consideration.

However with last year marking the 20th anniversary of the footballer's death, Mr Spurr said the time was now right to honour him.

"It is very competitive and we have quite a long list of people waiting to receive plaques," he said.

"However Danny Blanchflower has got to the top of the list because he has been dead for 20 years and it is a good idea to honour him at this time.

"Our rule is that a person cannot be considered until they have been dead 20 years, because it gives a bit of thinking time to consider the person's status and also avoid anything coming out after their death."

RAF

It is expected the plaque will be placed at a home in east Belfast where the Blanchflower family lived for a period of time, pending permission from the current home owners.

"We're hoping to have it up by the summer," added Mr Spurr.

For Danny's daughter, Gayle, the honour came as a "delightful surprise".

"I will never ever get over how he's still remember after all these years," she added. "Not just by the Northern Irish people, but throughout the world."

To her, the honour is not just testament to her father's sporting exploits, but also his natural charisma and remarkable life.

In 1943, the young Blanchflower lied about his age in order to join the RAF where he served with Welsh actor Richard Burton.

The RAF then awarded him a scholarship to St Andrews to study maths, physics and applied kinetics.

Gayle said: "He wasn't the greatest runner as a footballer, but he applied his brains to the tactics of the game."

Privacy

Sports broadcaster Jackie Fullerton agreed. He said: "His brains were so sharp, he read the game beautifully and could pick a pass.

"Most footballers kick a ball, but Danny Blanchflower was one of those players who had that class and charisma. He caressed the ball.

"He was a footballer, journalist, philosopher, raconteur, engaging company and a wonderful man."

After being voted footballer of the year in 1958 and 1961, he was considered one of the best players in the UK.

However despite the increased attention, the Belfast man still valued his privacy.

In 1961, while live on-air, he turned down an invitation to appear on This Is Your Life.

Jackie said: "The presenter, Eamonn Andrews, cornered Danny who said, 'no I'm sorry, I'm not going on'. Because it was live, it threw the whole programme and BBC into chaos."

Wonderful

He also recalled another occasion when, as manager of Northern Ireland, the former Spurs man was being interviewed by journalists ahead of a game against the Netherlands.

Jackie said: "I remember the journalists asked him if the game would be won or lost in midfield.

"And Danny, in that wonderful voice of his, said, 'well, the goalposts are at either end of the pitch. I've never seen a goal scored in midfield'.

"These guys were completely bemused by this wonderful man."

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