Danny Blanchflower: Spurs fans spruce up gravestone

By Mike McBride
BBC News NI

Published
Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Danny Blanchflower made at total of 382 appearances for Tottenham, scoring 21 goals, including a penalty in the 1962 FA Cup final

Danny Blanchflower, one of Northern Ireland's greatest footballers, has had his gravestone spruced up by a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans.

Blanchflower captained Spurs in the 1960s as they won the League, FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup.

Belfast-born Blanchflower also made 56 appearances for Northern Ireland and later managed the international side.

Fans cleaned up the headstone in a cemetery in Surrey, which had been left badly weathered.

The group of Tottenham-mad supporters, all in their 60s and 70s, heard about the condition of the gravestone at St Jude's cemetery in Englefield Green, and decided to take action.

It was the first time the group of friends from England had met up since lockdown together and wanted to do something memorable to mark the occasion.

'A sporting hero'

Mike Collett, a life-long fan of the north London club, said he was "shocked" when he discovered his sporting hero's grave had been left faded by the elements.

"You could barely read the inscription on the headstone to know it was his," Mr Collet told BBC News NI.

Image source, Mike Collet
Image caption,
Shaun McDonough cleans up the headstone to reveal the inscription

The group chose to visit the grave of the former captain to mark a very special anniversary for the club.

"On 20 August, 1960, Tottenham Hotspur beat Everton 2-0 at White Hart Lane in the opening game of their double-winning season," Mr Collett said.

The club won the Football League First Division and the FA Cup, one of the most successful seasons in the club's history - captained by the Belfast-born footballer.

Image source, Mike Collet
Image caption,
The group laid flowers by the headstone and left a Tottenham scarf as a thank you to their beloved club captain

"We shared stories, we talked about football, a lot about football and we paid our respects to arguably Tottenham's greatest ever captain," Mr Collet said.

The group laid flowers by the grave and left a Tottenham scarf as a thank you to the much-loved captain.

'Very flattering'

Richard, the only son of Danny Blanchflower, said it is "amazing that his dad is still being held in such high-esteem".

"My dad passed away many years ago and it is just lovely to see people still remembering him so fondly," Richard told BBC News NI.

"My dad had a great sense of humour and he would've loved this," he added.

Robert Dennis Blanchflower - who became known as Danny - was born in Belfast in 1926. He grew up as the eldest of five children in the Bloomfield area in the east of the city.

As a teenager during World War Two, the apprentice electrician lied about his age in order to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). He trained as a navigator in Scotland and Canada.

At the end of the war, he began his professional football career with the east Belfast club, Glentoran.

After four years with the Glens, he moved to England, playing for both Barnsley and Aston Villa before moving to Tottenham Hotspur.

He made at total of 382 appearances for Tottenham in his glittering 10-year spell with the north London club, scoring 21 goals, including a penalty in the 1962 FA Cup final.

His greatest achievement on the international stage was arguably when he captained his country to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Sweden in 1958.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
A commemorative blue plaque outside his childhood home on Grace Avenue in east Belfast

In 2009, the midfielder was ranked by The Times as the greatest player in the history of Tottenham Hotspur.

The Belfast man was also among a rare group of players to have been awarded the title of English Footballer of the Year twice, winning in both 1958 and 1961.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Blanchflower, far left, lining up for Northern Ireland to play Italy at Windsor Park in 1958

In later life, he went on to coach Chelsea and the International side before pursuing a successful career in media.

He died in London in December 1993, aged 67.