Alfie Conn: A Rare King of White Hart Lane

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It’s strange how some players are loved at a club, despite never really contributing on the pitch. Why else would Ralph Milne appear in a top 50 of those men who have represented Manchester United?

Down in North London, Scottish international Alfie Conn appears to have achieved similar notoriety. Six goals in 38 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur across three seasons isn’t exactly the stuff of dreams. Conn could do little to arrest a slide that eventually saw Spurs relegated in 1977 but, for many who watched him, he was royalty.

A Brief Reign

In a tribute sung to the tune of the Christmas Carol Noel, there may have only been four players to be dubbed the ‘King of White Hart Lane’ by the Tottenham faithful. Alan Gilzean was the first and Alfie Conn was next before the two Scotsmen were followed by Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle.

There is some conflict over future names in the frame, but let’s focus on Alfie Conn. Considering that record, why was he so loved? The great Bill Nicholson didn’t share any affection. Spurs’ greatest-ever manager made Conn his last signing from Rangers, but it’s clear from reports that he didn’t like him.

It was arguably solely down to his long hair and Nicholson may have had a similar opinion about Steve Archibald in later years.

Three of those six goals came in a 5-2 win at Newcastle in December. An early hat trick always helps to get the crowd on your side and it’s thought that the new King of White Hart Lane was crowned on that very day.

Injuries dogged his Spurs career, but the midfielder cropped up again as he team were facing relegation. At the very end of the campaign, he scored vital goals in wins over Luton and Chelsea.

Needing a win to beat Leeds on the final day, Conn was on the scoresheet again in an unlikely 4-2 victory. Late in the game, he took the ball into the Leeds half and sat on it. It’s an act that would have angered compatriot Billy Bremner, but it endeared him to the Spurs faithful from then on.

Lacking Creativity

Alfie Conn had no great pace but he had exceptional close control and an eye for goal. His dribbling skills stood out, even on the dense muddy pitches of the 1970s.

Tottenham could certainly use such a player as they prepare for 2023. The main aim for the club is a top-four finish which would guarantee them Champions League football for next season.

As Premier League teams returned from the World Cup break, Spurs were clinging on to fourth with Manchester United close behind. It could be a straight battle between those two sides for the final UCL slot as the betting markets make them joint-favourites for the last qualifying place.

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Beyond the Lane

An Achilles problem prevented Alfie Conn from contributing much beyond his debut season. Frustrated by his lack of involvement, Spurs moved him on as he joined Celtic in 1977. The transfer meant that he became the first post-war player to feature for both Old Firm clubs.

His returns didn’t do him justice, but Conn was loved at Spurs because he bought into the club’s ethos. As Danny Blanchflower said, the game is about glory, not waiting for the other lot to die of boredom.

His career was largely unfulfilled but, at Tottenham Hotspur, Alfie Conn will never be forgotten.