Spurs star of the Sixties, Cliff Jones, has vivid memories of the time when the Football League bowed to player power to end the maximum wage and Tottenham Hotspur became the first British club to win a European trophy, the Cup Winners’ Cup – on this day in 1963. In particular he remembers a conversation he had with his new teammate Jimmy Greaves...
In December 1961, Jimmy Greaves had joined Spurs after a short, unhappy stay with AC Milan. He cost Tottenham £99,999, a figure that, rather quaintly by today’s standards, was considered a kindness to the player. It spared him, the reasoning went at the time, from being tagged the first footballer to cost six figures.
When Greaves, a Chelsea player before he went to Milan, switched to White Hart Lane, the maximum wage that professional footballers could earn – £20 a week – had just been scrapped. Cliff Jones, by now an established star in a Spurs team on the up, recalls an interesting conversation with Greaves soon after his arrival.
It went like this:
Greaves: ‘What are you getting paid, Cliff?’
Jones: ‘Fifty quid a week.’
Greaves (who, according to Jones, was on ‘top money’): ‘You should be getting more than that, you’re the best winger in Europe.’
‘At the time you could say I wasn’t far short of that,’ Jones says, ‘because I’d had two great seasons.’
Greaves: ‘You should go and see the manager [Bill Nicholson] and ask for a rise.’
‘I plucked up courage,’ Jones says, ‘and went in to see Bill. He used to sit at this table and he’d be up there and you’d be down there.’
This time there was a very different conversation from the one Jones had had with Greaves:
Nicholson: ‘What’s up, Cliff?’
Jones: ‘Well I’ve come in for a rise.’
Nicholson: ‘Oh have you. On what basis do you want to have a rise?’
Jones: ‘I think I’m the best winger in Europe.’
Jones says he knew straightaway that he had said the wrong thing.
Nicholson: ‘Is that right, son. I’ll tell you now that’s a matter of opinion. On the way out close the door behind you.’
‘Yeah, that was it,’ Jones says. ‘He didn’t mess around, Bill. But I had another terrific season, banged in a few goals, Spurs won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and Bill said, “Cliff, about that rise. OK, I’ll give it to you.”
‘I went up then to £70 a week. It was a big jump and in a successful week I could be knocking off £100, which was good money compared to the man in the street, the working man.’
This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback.