DAVID DOCHERTY takes a look back at the ca­reer of The Tank, Tot­ten­ham and Eng­land… who shone in the white of Ful­ham,

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - PROFILE -

ALAN Mullery has the rare dis­tinc­tion of be­ing a leg­end at not one, but two, Lon­don clubs – Ful­ham and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

A hard, tough-tack­ling mid­fielder whose nick­name of ‘The Tank’ per­fectly en­cap­su­lated his style of play, he rarely missed a game dur­ing an 800-plus match ca­reer which spanned 18 sea­sons.

Mullery was the very model of con­sis­tency. His CV also in­cludes an im­pres­sive 82 ca­reer goals. One par­tic­u­larly spec­tac­u­lar ef­fort was a volleyed ex­o­cet past Eng­land goal­keeper Peter Shilton in an FA Cup match against Le­ices­ter City at Craven Cot­tage which won him the 1973-74 Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Sea­son’ award – check it out on YouTube.

Born in war-torn Lon­don in No­vem­ber 1941, he joined the Ful­ham ground staff straight from school and in Fe­bru­ary 1959 he made his top team de­but as a 17-year-old against Ley­ton Ori­ent along­side his men­tor Roy Bent­ley and other past, present and fu­ture Eng­land in­ter­na­tion­als in Ed­die Lowe, Johnny Haynes and Ge­orge Co­hen.

Ful­ham won 5-2 and in Au­gust of that same year he scored his first league goal for the club in an­other 5-2 home win, against Manch­ester City.

Ful­ham were by that time a First Di­vi­sion club hav­ing se­cured pro­mo­tion dur­ing his de­but sea­son af­ter a sev­enyear hia­tus. He con­tin­ued to progress and in No­vem­ber 1960 he won the first of his three Un­der-23 caps in a 1-1 draw with Italy. When the hugely in­spi­ra­tional Haynes was side­lined for most of the 1962-63 cam­paign fol­low­ing a se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent, Mullery was the ob­vi­ous choice to take over the role of cap­tain. It came as a huge shock to Mullery when he learned that he was be­ing sold to Tot­ten­ham in March 1964 for £72,500 – money which Ful­ham were des­per­ately re­quired to find to finance the cost of much-needed ground im­prove­ment work in the form of a roof for the Ham­mer­smith end of their river­side ground. Tot­ten­ham needed a re­place­ment for their icon­o­clas­tic cap­tain Danny Blanch­flower and, although as play­ers they had hugely con­trast­ing styles, Mullery rose to the chal­lenge de­spite an in­aus­pi­cious start which saw him col­lect just three win bonuses from his first nine starts. Af­ter three tro­phy-less sea­sons, Spurs even­tu­ally got back to win­ning ways in April 1967 when they de­feated Chelsea at Wem­b­ley to lift the FA Cup for the third time in the decade. Mullery earned spe­cial plau­dits in the firstever all-Lon­don fi­nal for his man-of-the-match per­for­mance. When club cap­tain Dave Mackay was en­ticed to join Brian Clough’s ex­cit­ing young Derby County side at the end of the fol­low­ing sea­son,‘Mullers’ was viewed as his nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor. Hav­ing been se­lected for Eng­land against the Nether­lands in De­cem­ber 1964, it took him an­other two-and-a-half years to win his sec­ond cap but from May 1967 un­til April 1971 he was an Eng­land reg­u­lar, missing just a hand­ful of his coun­try’s 38 matches dur­ing that pe­riod. He is per­haps best re­mem­bered for the way he nul­li­fied the great Pele in a World Cup match in the sear­ing heat of Mex­ico in 1970. Other per­sonal mile­stones came in 1969 when he was se­lected along­side such lu­mi­nar­ies as Ge­orge Best, Bobby and Jackie Charl­ton and Billy Brem­ner for a Rest of the UK rep­re­sen­ta­tive side to face Wales in Cardiff and in 1971 when he was asked to cap­tain his coun­try against Malta in the ab­sence of his good friend and col­league Bobby Moore. In sharp con­trast, the low­est point of his 35-match in­ter­na­tional ca­reer came in June 1968 when in a mo­ment of rare in­dis­ci­pline he ‘lost it’ and kicked out reck­lessly at a Yu­goslav

op­po­nent who had raked his calf, draw­ing blood in the process. It meant he be­came the first ever Eng­land player to do ‘the walk of shame’.

The League Cup was won by Tot­ten­ham in 1971 with a com­fort­able 2-0 vic­tory over As­ton Villa at Wem­b­ley and a year later Mullery again cap­tained the North Lon­don­ers to Cup glory with a two-legged ag­gre­gate UEFA Cup fi­nal win over Wolves.

A painful pelvic con­di­tion had kept him out of the side for the long­est time ever but, whilst on a short re­cu­per­a­tive loan spell at Ful­ham, he was re­called in dra­matic cir­cum­stances.

In his typ­i­cally in­spi­ra­tional Roy of the Rovers style, he went on to score the de­ci­sive goals against AC Mi­lan in the semi-fi­nal and against Wolves in the re­turn-leg of the fi­nal it­self.

That vic­tory proved to be his last in the white of Spurs and in June of 1972 he re­turned to Ful­ham in a £65,000 deal.

The fact that Tot­ten­ham re­couped al­most 90 per cent of their initial out­lay speaks vol­umes for Mullery’s many qual­i­ties as a player, leader and man.

He proved as com­pet­i­tive as ever and in 1975 he not only cap­tained Ful­ham through an 11-match marathon to a first-ever FA Cup Fi­nal but also won the foot­ball writ­ers’ vote and was named as Foot­baller of the Year. It was fit­ting fi­nale to a great ca­reer.

Twelve months later, af­ter 412 ap­pear­ances for Ful­ham and 373 for Tot­ten­ham, he de­cided to hang up his boots to en­ter the pre­car­i­ous world of foot­ball management.

In­ter­est­ingly for quiz-set­ters, his only ever sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ance in club foot­ball came in his very last match for Ful­ham – at West Brom.

Spells in charge of Brighton, Charl­ton, Crys­tal Palace, QPR and Bar­net fol­lowed over the years with his time at Brighton be­ing par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful. He also proved to be a huge suc­cess as a TV pun­dit but it is as a player in the white of Ful­ham, Spurs and Eng­land that Alan Mullery will be best re­mem­bered.

Sparks would oc­ca­sion­ally fly when Mullery launched into a tackle but he played in the days when full-blooded chal­lenges were an ac­cept­able and essen­tial part of the game – sim­u­la­tion and ‘card-itis’ be­ing still some­way off in the fu­ture.

There was noth­ing craven about this par­tic­u­lar son of Craven Cot­tage!

A hard, tough-tack­ling mid­fielder, Alan Mullery rarely missed a game dur­ing an 800-plus match ca­reer which spanned 18 sea­sons

Pop­u­lar: Alan Mullery had two spells with Ful­ham Call-up: On Eng­land duty

Suc­cess: Vic­to­ri­ous Tot­ten­ham skip­per Alan Mullery is held aloft by his team-mates af­ter win­ning the UEFA Cup in 1972

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