There are no more glory nights at the Lane left, and only 90 more minutes until closing time is called.
Bill Nicholson’s gates have gone already, The Shelf has one last tremble left in it and one rendition of ‘Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur’ is ready to scratch and squeal out of the soundsystem before the lights are switched off for good.
There’s an odd dichotomy to Tottenham leaving White Hart Lane, their home since 1899. They’re leaving home forever, but also returning there after one season. It is the same site after all, even if bricks and mortar are swapped for glass and steel.
But there’s history soaked into the bones of the idiosyncratic old ground that will be gone forever except in the minds of those who were there; history largely defined and shaped by those who have graced its pitch.
In tribute to the old ground and ahead of the last ever home game there against Manchester United on Sunday, Sportsmail is here to run down the 20 greatest players to have crossed the white chalk (or titanium pigment) line in N17.
20. Christan Eriksen, midfielder (2013 – present)
There is a prevalent thought process around playmakers; they’re luxury players who flash brilliance but don’t jog more than a few yards a game. They’re a liability.
Eriksen breaks the mould of the traditional trequartista, and not only because he plays a modern version of the 10 role in which he switches and shares creative duties with Dele Alli.
The Dane runs. He runs a lot. He’s covered 253 miles on the pitch this season, the second highest total in the Premier League behind only Gylfi Sigurdsson. When you combine his workrate with the fact he is leading the league in assists (12) this season, you get a a sense of just how special a player he is.
19. Dimitar Berbatov, forward (2006-2008)
Neil Young once sang that it’s better to burn bright than fade away. Berbatov did just that, illuminating the White Hart Lane pitch with coruscating brilliance for two short, sweet years before leaving with the crowd wanting much, much more.
His swaggering arrogance was backed up by nimble feet and a nonchalance rarely seen in the modern era. The Bulgarian danced to his own rhythm. He was the type of player who made you feel something, and there’s not much more you can ask for than that.
18. Harry Kane, striker (2012 – present)
Kane’s explosion to prominence caught all but the most hardcore of Tottenham fans off guard. Unproductive loan spells at Norwich, Millwall and Leyton Orient hinted at little.
Then, in 2014/15, he started scoring and he hasn’t stopped since. 21 league goals came in 2014/15. 25 came the following season to earn him the golden boot. 22 and another golden boot followed in 2015/6 and this season, despite only starting 26 of Spurs’ 35 games because of injury, he’s still managed 21 goals.
He is the first Tottenham player to score 20 or more goals in three consecutive seasons since a certain Jimmy Greaves. At 23, there’s still plenty of time for him to rocket up this list.
17. Jurgen Klinsmann, striker (1994-95 and 1997-1998)
Klinsmann appeared like a shock of light in the dark in the mid-1990’s, thrusting star power into Tottenham’s team during their darkest period in the Premier League. They were rocked by a 12-point deduction, £600,000 fine and FA Cup ban that would eventually be overturned in favour of a £1.5million fine and had finished just three points above the relegation in the 1993/94 season under Ossie Ardiles.
The free-wheeling Klinsmann, with his shock of blonde hair and knack of finding the net injected some much needed fun at the Lane; indeed, the games began from the moment he turned up in a convertible VW Beetle with a bag slung over his shoulder and continued with his infamous celebratory dive after scoring on debut against Sheffield Wednesday.
Spurs hadn’t had a shiny new toy to play with for such a long time and, for the briefest of times, there was something to smile about. ‘This is a club that needs heroes,’ said Ardiles at the time. They finally had one.
16. Pat Jennings, goalkeeper (1964 – 1977)
‘There have not been too many like Bill Nicholson in the world.’ Goalkeeper Pat Jennings was as astute as he was assured in goal.
The Northern Irish shotstopper must have been quite something to play for Tottenham, only to leave for Arsenal and return seven years later – and still be considered a hero.
He played 673 games for Spurs after he was signed by Nicholson in 1963 aged just 19 for £29,000. It may well be the best 30 grand the club have ever spent.
15. Teddy Sheringham, forward (1992 – 1997 and 2001 – 2003)
There are few players like Teddy Sheringham. He traded in craft and guile. Jurgen Klinsmann described him as the most intelligent strike partner he ever had.
But there was more to him than that. Sheringham is ninth on Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer list and won the golden boot in the Premier League’s first season after moving from Nottingham Forest.
He left to join Manchester United two years before they won the treble, and returned in 2001. Some of the old magic was gone, but he still had a few tricks up his sleeve.
14. Luka Modric, midfielder (2009 – 2012)
Luka Modric is a player whose beauty can be found in his feet and in his mind.
The Croatian may not look like much, and at 5 foot 7 isn’t the most imposing, but his grace on the pitch with the ball at his feet made him a giant amongst an emerging Tottenham team. He is blessed with that rare quality bestowed only on the very best; he seems to be able to control time, finding pockets of the stuff to analyse, asses and execute even when under pressure.
Modric honed his skills in his war-torn homeland and joined for a fee of £15million, and left for more than double that after a messy exit to Real Madrid which included an attempt to force his way out of the club.
13. Ricky Villa, midfielder (1978 – 1983)
Those who produce iconic moments are often reduced to having that moment define them. But Ricky Villa was so much more than his winding FA Cup final goal against Manchester City in the 1981 replay.
The Argentine 1978 World Cup winner, with his shaggy locks and wristbands, embodied swagger and style; he arrived in north London to a ticker-tape parade and launched another in 1981 at Wembley.
He exuded arrogance and class in equal measure, two attributes always likely to resonate with the Spurs faithful.
12. Martin Chivers, forward (1968 – 1976)
Third on the all-time scoring list at Tottenham, Chivers initially played second-fiddle to Jimmy Greaves when he arrived at the club in 1968.
Overall he bagged 202 goals in 415 appearances for the club, while winning more than 20 caps for England.
He was part of the 1971 League Cup winning side and played in the 1972 and 1974 UEFA Cup finals too.
11. Ossie Ardiles, midfielder (1978 – 1988)
Although it’s practically impossible to split Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles, the latter appears slightly higher up on this list because of his long-term contribution to Spurs.
Alongside Glenn Hoddle, he led Tottenham into one of the most glorious eras in the club’s history, helping them to win two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup in 1984.
Even a six-month break from the club because of the Falklands conflict couldn’t diminish Ossie’s Dream of winning a cup or two.
10. Steve Perryman, defender (1969 – 1986)
Two FA Cups, two UEFA Cups and two League Cups. Impressive figures but they’re dwarfed by an altogether bigger number; 861. Perryman played 861 times for Tottenham, making him their most loyal player of all time.
No man has ever, or will ever, touch the White Hart Lane pitch as often as he. There is simply no greater tribute to be had.
9. Gareth Bale, forward (2007 – 2013)
Players like Bale don’t come along so often. Despite his tricky start at Spurs and an unwanted record of 24 games without a win at White Hart Lane, the Welshman was always destined for greatness.
He started life as a left-back with an endless engine before morphing into the most modern of centre-forwards; a master dribbler and powerful runner who can score from any distance and angle.
There are fewer more vivid memories for Tottenham fans that his exploits against Inter Milan in the Champions League back in 2011; the year a star was born.
By the end of his time at Tottenham, he was dragging them kicking and screaming towards a top four finish with stunning goal after stunning goal in the 2012/13 season, only to see his side fall just short.
21 goals and fifth place proved to be his final effort before he became the most expensive player in history by joining Real Madrid.
8. Ledley King, defender (1999 – 2012)
Tottenham fan’s love of Ledley King is both interlaced with sadness of what might have been and enhanced by the romantic notion of a stricken, tragic hero blessed with talent but cursed with crumbling knees.
Until very recently, homegrown talent was hard to come by at White Hart Lane. While Harry Kane was still in an Arsenal shirt and Josh Onomah was in nappies, King ploughed a lonely furrow as the Lord of the Lane. He really was one of their own and the captain of a listing ship until the very end.
His legend was only enhanced by his call up for England’s squad to the 2010 World Cup despite his fatal fitness problems; his career summed up so succinctly as he broke down in the first game.
He retired in 2012 having played 264 league games for the club in 13 years.
7. Cliff Jones, winger (1958 – 1968)
Before Gareth Bale, there was Cliff Jones, the original Welsh Wizard.
In Tottenham’s greatest ever side under Bill Nicholson there are many who believe the Welshman was the most talented of all; he was the entertainer on the wing, dazzling with his dribbling skills.
Jones signed for Tottenham for £35,000 in 1958, the same month his national service ended – during which he played for an Army XI that included Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards.
He was, of course, instrumental in helping deliver the double to Tottenham while helping them win the FA Cup in 1962 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963.
6. Gary Lineker, striker (1989 – 1992)
Lineker’s time with Tottenham was short but sweet.
He arrived at White Hart Lane at the peak of his powers from Barcelona, where he became the highest scoring British player in La Liga history, until Bale took his crown recently.
Lineker’s goalmouth instincts are the stuff of legend and in his first season back in England he finished as the first division’s top scorer with 24 goals.
The former Leicester and Everton man’s most prominent contribution came when he scored twice to defeat Arsenal in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final, before helping the team to beat Nottingham Forest in the final at Wembley.
Overall, one of England’s greatest ever scorers finished with a record of 67 goals in 105 league games for Spurs and 80 in 138 in total before he departed to join Japanese side Grampus Eight.
5. Paul Gascoigne, midfielder (1988 – 1991)
Gascoigne’s burning meteorite of a career crashed through Tottenham between 1988 and 1991. The story goes that he turned down Manchester United because chairman Irving Scholar and boss Terry Venables had promised him numerous items if he joined Spurs, including a house, a car and a sun bed for his sister to use.
The chubby-cheeked, podgy-legged genius with a council estate haircut and a gift that is bestowed on so few shone brighter at Spurs than he ever did before, or ever would again, barring a renaissance at Euro 1996.
The line of good and evil runs through the hearts of all men and Gascoigne embodied that in two FA Cup moments; his howitzer free-kick against Arsenal in the 1991 semi-final and his tackle on Gary Charles that inexorably changed his career forever.
He only played 112 times for Spurs and scored 33 times, but his ability as one of the most talented English footballers of all time means he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest to have graced the Lane.
4. Danny Blanchflower, midfielder (1954-1963)
‘The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.’
384 appearances. The leader of the famous 1960/61 side. Footballer of the year twice. Winner of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963.
But perhaps most importantly he was the author of *that* quote; the words that every Spurs side must aspire to and are judged by.
He didn’t just utter those words either, he lived them on the pitch too. There simply are not many more greater, or more important, Spurs players than Blanchflower.
3. Dave Mackay, defender (1959 – 1968)
There is a famous picture of Dave Mackay. In it, he’s grabbing Leeds’ Billy Bremner by the scruff of the neck in 1966. Mackay’s face is contorted with anger as Bremner protests his innocence.
It’s an iconic picture. Mackay, often seen as the hardman of English football, loathed it.
‘I don’t like it because it portrays me as a bully, which I am not and never have been.’
Mackay’s portryal as a hard man betrayed his skill on the pitch; he scored 43 times for Spurs and was the foundation on which Nicholson’s title-winning team was built.
Still, you don’t get a reputation as being hard as nails for no reason and the fact he was able to come back from two leg breaks in succession was a testament to his character.
2. Glenn Hoddle, midfielder (1975 – 1987)
Above Gascoigne, Jones, Bale and Ardiles – Hoddle is considered the most skillful Tottenham player of all time.
The Englishman lit up the lane for more than 10 years with moments of magic that got the crowd on their feet.
In a team of diamonds he was the crown jewel as Spurs won two FA Cups and the FA Cup in the early-to-mid 1980’s.
He was considered a luxury player by some; a label Danny Blanchflower dismissed so eloquently. ‘Hoddle?’ he said. ‘No, it’s the bad players who are a luxury’.
1. Jimmy Greaves, striker (1961 – 1970)
Number one on our list is one of the greatest goalscorers in football history, Jimmy Greaves.
For Tottenham alone, he managed an incredible 266 goals in 380 games. He managed 366 league goals in his career, the most ever in Europe and a record that still stands – although Cristiano Ronaldo is closing in on it.
Signed by Bill Nicholson for £99,999 from AC Milan to avoid him becoming the first £100,000 player in 1961, Greaves’ arrival proved to be the final piece of the puzzle for what would go on to become the greatest Tottenham side ever.
Jimmy Greaves is still Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer and their greatest ever player
His instinctive ability to find the bottom corner of the net from all angles marked him as one of the most natural finishers to have graced the game.
The great man was given a hero’s welcome back to White Hart Lane in March after he suffered a life-threatening stroke. In one particularly touching photo, a wheelchair-bound Greaves is seen touching Harry Kane’s shirt in the dressing room. The torch has been passed on, but the memory of Greaves on the pitch shines as bright as ever.