Archive for March, 2015

The Mighty Mackay

Friday, March 6th, 2015


One of my football heroes, Dave Mackay, passed away early this week at the age of 80. Dave’s prominence in the football world coincided with my initial interest in the glorious game. He was a member of Tottenham Hotspur’s double winning team of 1960-61 and I have been a Spurs fan ever since.

Danny Blanchflower and John White were regarded as the creative architects of that superb team, but Mackay added the steel, the defensive nous and no shortage of footballing ability and skill on the ball. Mackay protected his team members and provided the space for Blanchflower and White to weave their magic. No better judge of a footballer than Alex Ferguson claimed that Mackay was so talented he could have played any position on the field.

Mackay quite rightly had the reputation of being a hard man, but he was never dirty unlike some of his contemporaries Norman Hunter, Ron Harris and Tommy Smith. Despite his reputation he was never sent off. The late  George Best called him the hardest and bravest man he ever faced on a football field. Mackay twice broke his leg; once against Manchester United and the second time occurred when he was in rehabilitation.

Football- Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United 1966

The iconic picture of Mackay grabbing Billy Bremner by the throat was the result of Bremner kicking  Mackay’s leg which had been broken twice, and Mackay was so incensed he wanted to throttle the little shit. Mackay detested this picture because he believed it made him look like a bully. Indeed he wasn’t. He was a giant of the game but he only stood 5′ 7” in his stocking feet.

Mackay returned stronger than ever, and captained Spurs to another FA Cup  Victory in 1967.


Mackay only won a desultory 22 caps playing for Scotland probably because he was made one of the scapegoats for Scotland’s humiliating  3-9 defeat against the auld enemy, England. The real culprit was goalkeeper Frank Haffey who had a nightmare in his one and only appearance for Scotland. Furthermore, the Scottish FA didn’t take kindly to Scotsmen plying their trade over the border and consequently were reluctant to select them with dire results.

Tottenham unaccountably decided that at the ripe old age of 35 Mackay was surplus to requirements. Derby County’s young manager, Brian Clough, paid Spurs a mere 5000 pounds for his services, and under Mackay’s captaincy they gained promotion from Division 2. In 1972, a year after Mackay had left the club Derby seized the League Championship, and suffice to say he played a huge part in laying the foundations in Derby’s success.

Mackay succeeded Clough as manager when the latter called the Chairman’s bluff once too often. Mackay guided Derby to a second title a couple of years later, but his success as a manager was short-lived and never recaptured the dizzy heights of his playing career.

But I would prefer to concentrate on his record and influence as a player which was second to none. If Heaven has a football team then they have a spellbinding half back  trio: Duncan Edwards, John Charles and Dave Mackay. I don’t believe they would need to bother with formations; just pick up George Best, Bobby Moore, Ivor Allchurch, Roger Byrne, Bert Trautmann, Alfredo Di Stefano,  and a couple of others and take on all comers. Somehow I believe Dave’s ex team mates, Danny Blanchflower and John White, would be in the mix somewhere.