The big money signing of the new era was Ronald Tudor Davies, who had been doing a respectable job as Norwich City’s number 9 over the previous three seasons. He cost Saints a record £55,000. A lot of money for a player untried in the top flight, but with Paine and Sydenham proving as effective at White Hart Lane as they had at Gigg Lane, Davies hit 37 goals in his first season.
Davies shared the striking honours with George Best (of Manchester United) the following year, ’67-68, thereafter Ted became increasingly concerned with improving his defence. Ted and his scouts had a good eye for bargains, but not the money to compete with the big clubs when it came to wages, transfer fees and glamour. Again, well maintained and atmospheric though it was, The Dell was a major impediment to Saints’ progress. Over 30,000 could cram in, but even with crowds of around 25,000 standing on the terraces was a test of endurance and views of the entire pitch at a premium.
Saints qualified for Europe in 1969 and 1971, but they remained, to the sporting press, a plucky little club playing above its station – at least until Liverpool manager Bill Shankley accused them of playing “alehouse football” after Liverpool lost 1-0 at The Dell in September 1970. Meanwhile, the novelty of top flight football was wearing off: in 1966-67 average gates exceeded 25,000, they dropped by around a thousand in 67-68 and gradually declined to 22,000 over the following three seasons.
Were Saints dirty? Well, any team with John McGrath, Dennis Hollywood, Jimmy Gabriel and Brian O’Neil in it is going to relish the more physical side of the sport and by the 1970s it was being argued that the “professional foul” was no more reprehensible than grounding and opponent in rugby. In that regard Saints, for all their “over-enthusiasm”, were saints when it came to such other dark arts as diving, feigning injury and the hounding of referees.
If you need convincing that the football of the time transcended the boundaries of being a “man’s game” try and get hold of a DVD of the 1970 FA Cup replay between Chelsea and Leeds: 90 minutes plus extra-time that would have Quentin Tarantino crying for his mum.
The accolade genius is bunged about all too readily by football pundits, professional and barroom, and it would be easy to lumber Ted with such a label, but genius is exactly what he wasn’t. He was shrewd, certainly; careful; thoughtful; knowledgeable; and, most importantly, hard working. It might be added that he had the support of a board that shared most of Ted’s virtues and showed a united face in adversity. Ted made mistakes, and plenty of them, but their support was unwavering.
On November 15 1973 Ted eased himself out office for his anointed successor, in what must have been among the smoothest managerial changes in the history of the game.
Ted, as seen by his biographer David Bull and Sports Echo caricaturist Ron Davies
“Big John” McGrath, as depicted by Don Osmond in Mick Channon’s 1988 autobiography Man on the Run (Arthur Barker)
Terry Paine, as depicted by Don Osmond for Mick Channon’s 1988 autobiography Man on the Run.
Channon said of Paine: “I’ve played with some of the greats like Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, and Kevin Keegan. And I’ve faced Franz Beckenbauer and Johann Cruyff and George Best, but Terry Paine comes out top of the heap for me.”