Lucas Moura part of a Tottenham team with proud tradition of skilful wingers from Cliff Jones to David Ginola and Gareth Bale

28 Aug

Skilful, direct and terrifying to defenders. That’s what good attacking players are and it looks like Tottenham have that in Lucas Moura.

He enjoyed a strong pre-season and has started his first full Premier League campaign with a classy finish against Fulham at Wembley before tearing Manchester United’s defence apart at Old Trafford.

Lucas Moura’s class was evident when Tottenham thrashed Manchester United 3-0

Signed from Paris Saint-Germain as a winger for £25m in January, the Brazilian wasn’t even operating in that role against United, but still provided the trickiness the White Hart Lane faithful have come to expect from players who possess technique like his.

They’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to flair players, going way back to Les Medley and Cliff Jones, Chris Waddle, David Ginola and Gareth Bale.

Gareth Bale is one of the best players Tottenham have ever had and was eventually sold to Real Madrid for £85m in 2013

And Jamie Carragher thinks Moura appears to be the nearest Spurs have come to having a player like the Real Madrid superstar.

“Since Bale they’ve never had anyone who can really scare people. Maybe he is that man,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s one game so let’s see going forward but in that position where he plays just off Harry Kane, he can really cause problems, and that could be the difference to take Spurs to another level and win big away games.”

That ‘level’ Carragher is referring to, the one where winning trophies is the norm, hasn’t been seen at Tottenham for a long time, but Spurs were once the team that turned the traditional British way of playing football on its head in order to incorporate these flamboyant, crowd pleasing players. And the results were spectacular.

Arthur Rowe, who played for and later managed the club to league success in 1951, used wingers having enhanced the principles learned under previous White Hart Lane boss, Peter McWilliam.

Under Rowe, the approach became known as ‘push and run’. Rowe’s name hasn’t carried quite as much as Bill Nicholson’s, but it was he who established what is still known as ‘the Tottenham way’.

Arthur Rowe, second row from the top on the far right, with his Tottenham squad in 1949. Bill Nicholson can be seen third from right on the same row, while former England manager Sir Alf Ramsey is standing on the top row, second from left

It was about style just as much as winning; the attack was beautiful and the defence was mean. Full-backs were told to play shorter passes and the ball was brought out from the back with wingers playing slightly further back.

“An attack could start from Ted Ditchburn, in goal, and be carried from man to man through the defence, the half-backs, and on to the forwards, without any recourse to hefty kicking,” Ron Burgess, a member of the 1951 league winners, wrote in his book, Football – My Life.

Nicholson, a player in that first title triumph, continued in a similar vein when he became Tottenham manager in 1958 and with him at the helm, the club entered a golden period. First they won the league and FA Cup double in 1961 with Cliff Jones being one of the key men, Cup success was repeated a year later, the Cup Winners Cup followed in 1963 and Spurs won the FA Cup again in 1967.

Tottenham’s 1961 double winners with Cliff Jones, bottom left

These well-organised, swashbuckling footballers were the team of the decade and their style was so ingrained into fans’ psyche that when Nicholson set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation for a game at Leicester in December 1971, a great fuss was made.

Spurs won the game 1-0, but it wasn’t a great spectacle and Nicholson admitted later all he cared about was getting a win, their first away victory of the season.

Imagine Pep Guardiola telling his Manchester City players to hoof it and the reaction that would bring. Well, it was sort of like that at Spurs.

Hunter Davies, an author who spent the 1971/72 season travelling with the team saw Nicholson’s decision making first hand.

“In Tottenham’s great days, in the 1950s and 1960s, they would never have considered such an arrangement,” he wrote in his book, The Glory Game.

“They’d always played at least one conventional winger, such as Cliff Jones, and the emphasis had always been on attacking, flowing, creative football.”

Some teams make no bones about putting focus on defence and midfield, but not Tottenham. Tottenham win trophies playing the ‘Tottenham way’.

Nicholson is one of Tottenham’s most successful managers

“The teams of the 1950s and 1960s played football that was right for the times,” Nicholson explained to Davies. “The game has become more defensive, more negative. “Supporters aren’t interested in good teams that lose,” adding that avoiding defeat is the first rule for a manager.

After Nicholson came the Keith Burkinshaw era where, despite relegation in 1977, glory days kept coming in the form of back-to-back FA Cup success in 1981 and 1982 as well as UEFA Cup glory in 1984. Even after Burkinshaw’s tenure, when things were going wrong behind the scenes and debt was mounting, players such as Waddle were there to wow fans on the pitch.

And then in the very forgettable 90s when the club flirted with relegation, fans were distracted by the dazzling talent of Ginola.

David Ginola was hero worshipped by fans at White Hart Lane in the 90s

‘The Tottenham way’, though, eventually became a stick to beat the club with until Mauricio Pochettino arrived as manager and made it mean something again.

Former manager Martin Jol, who guided Spurs to European qualification in successive seasons in the last decade, acknowledged the proud connection the club have had with those dynamic, tricky players.

“I was talking to one of Spurs’ double winners Cliff Jones,” he explained in 2017. “I said the only player they lack now is someone like him, a winger. If they put in one player like [Eden] Hazard or [Riyad] Mahrez, then wow and Cliff said he agreed.

Pochettino is popular with Spurs’ fans for bringing style back to Spurs

“Tottenham have always played with wingers but this is the first time I’ve seen a Spurs side playing without them but still playing in the Spurs way. Push and run. Lots of crosses and shots at goal. They play to the strength of the players and that comes from the coach.”

The swagger is certainly back and although Spurs may not have signed anyone in the summer, it’s still a time to quite rightly be excited.

Lucas Moura could be just as dangerous as Gareth Bale was for Tottenham, Jamie Carragher believes

“Picture the scene: Heung-min Son on one wing, Moura on the other and Harry Kane mopping up in the middle; delicious,” Spurs blogger @TalkingTHFC once told talkSPORT.com.

“I believe we can do a big season, win a trophy,” Moura said at the start of the season. “That’s why I am here, to win a trophy because I believe in the team, the project. We have the capacity to make history here.”

Music to the ears of supporters.