Alfie CONN

Tottenham Hotspur

Alfie Conn - Tottenham Hotspur - Biography of Spurs career.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 28 March 1975

Click on image to enlarge

      Saturday, 05 April 1952
      Kirkcaldy, Scotland.
  • Tottenham Hotspur
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 7th December 1974 as a sub in a 3-0 win at home to Newcastle United (Aged: 22)
    • Club Career
      35 League apps (+3 as sub), 6 goals
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Alfie CONN - Tottenham Hotspur - Biography of Spurs career.

                                                      (Part 1) 1974-1975.

A  peerless Tottenham great, Danny Blanchflower, once memorably described his football philosophy: "The game is about glory, doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom". Many Spurs fans have adopted this as an article of faith and those of a certain age have anointed Alfie Conn as the keeper of the flame. Alfie, whose father Alfie senior had played with distinction for Hearts, was born and brought up in Kirkcaldy. He attended a rugby playing school, playing for the school on Saturday mornings and a junior football club in the afternoon, where he was spotted by Rangers. Success came quickly for this precocious youngster. By his early twenties he was a first team regular with Cup Winners Cup and Cup Winner's medals to his name, when, aged 22, he became Bill Nicholson's last signing, joining Spurs for £150, 000 in July 1974. Nicholson was undoubtedly enticed by the prospect of another in his long line of successful Scottish imports, a skilful, ball-playing, pacy forward to invigorate an ageing team. With his shaggy hair and matching sideburns, moustache and apparently indolent approach, Conn's attitude infuriated his old-school manager, but in the event he played only one game for the great man, debuting as a sub in a league cup game at home to Middlesbrough on September 2nd 1974.


Injuries precluded Alfie from any further appearances until his league debut in December, coming on as sub at home to Newcastle, by which time Nicholson had ended his long reign. Conn's breakthrough performance was in the return at St James Park five weeks later. Struggling under new manager Terry Neill, Spurs lay 16th in the league and earlier in the week Nottingham Forest, then in Division 2, had knocked them out of the cup in a home replay. Alfie notched a hat-trick in a 5-2 win, stroking home the opening goal in the 14th minute after early Newcastle pressure. His second and Spurs' fourth came shortly before half-time and then in the second-half he seized on a loose ball in the goalmouth to score his third. He played in all of the remaining league games that season bar one, cementing his place in the hearts of the fans who swiftly became entranced by his breathtaking dribbling and daredevil impudence. Nominally a right-sided midfielder, Conn was irresistibly drawn inwards, running headlong at defences with an heroic recklessness. His balance and control unhinged the most reliable and organised opponents, shirt outside his shorts, bony frame and straggly hair weaving intricate patterns, defenders left trailing in his wake. Close control and wit saw him through, rather than sheer pace. Without apparent tactical acumen, caught up in the moment he responded to instinct alone.


However, the newly crowned King of White Hart Lane failed to herald a change of fortune. As the end of the season approached, Spurs were firmly mired in the quicksand of relegation. When they faced Luton in April, Spurs were third from bottom, their opponents one place below. Minutes from the end, Conn took the ball round the keeper to score the winner to secure a precious 2-1 victory. He scored again in the next home game, a 2-0 victory against Chelsea but when they reached the final game of the season at home to the then mighty Leeds, Spurs needed to win to stay up. They began with an intensity to match the passion of the crowd and went one up early on with a Cyril Knowles curling free kick. Conn, inspired, destroyed the legendary fortitude of the Leeds defence, culminating a superlative performance in a surging run, beating three men to score Spurs' final goal in a 4-2 victory. He promptly compounded the torment by taking the ball into the Leeds half and sitting on it. Bremner, Giles and co were distinctly unamused, but Alfie simply could not resist the moment. (Alan Fisher).



Photo of Alfie Conn playing for Tottenham Hotspur in 1976 taken by George Herringshaw.  ©      


                                            (Part 2) 1975-1977.


 Alfie Conn made just 7 league starts in 1975-6, his season ending in November because of an achilles problem. His only goal came in a single League Cup appearance against Crewe. He did, however, manage two caps for Scotland, against Northern Ireland and then England, winning praise for a typically buoyant individual performance in a 5-1 drubbing. If Alfie didn't know exactly where his enterprise would take him, then neither did his team-mates. Every direct strike at the heart of his opponents was balanced by a meandering cross-field route, by passing better placed colleagues. Workrate was something he left to others. He fared little better in 1976-77, 12 games, no goals. Add the injuries and an unsympathetic manager who played him out of position on the left side of midfield, and the club's patience was exhausted. Cutting their losses, Conn was transferred to Celtic for £60, 000 in 1977, becoming the first man post-war to play for both Glasgow clubs and going on to win two Championships and the Scottish Cup. He remains a figure respected by both sets of fans, perhaps in part explained by well-honed diplomatic skills; when asked which club he preferred playing for, Celtic or Rangers, quick as a flash he replied, "Spurs".


However great that respect, it is exceeded by the esteem in which he is held by Spurs fans of that era. Hugely talented, often frustrating, genuinely memorable, Conn's appeal lay in his distinctive individualism in an age dominated by tactics, a creative force battling the dumbing down of the age of the ubiquitous ball-winning midfield destroyer. Although he was obviously well coached as football ran in the family, there's a sense that he never quite escaped the bravado of the playground. He never lost the simple joy of running with a football, the exhilaration of taking it past your man, and then doing it all over again, just because he could. The fact that in his career he performed his delicate, devious skills in front of crowds amongst the most passionate in the world appeared immaterial. (Alan Fisher)