Football world mourns for Tottenham Hotspur legend

The football world has been paying tribute to Tottenham Hotspur legend Dave Mackay, who died Monday evening at the age of 80.

The former Scotland international, who won 22 caps for his country and played in the World Cup Finals of 1958, lost his long battle with cancer and passed away at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham in the late hours. His death was announced by Spurs on their official website, in a statement which underlined the importance he played in their glory years of the 1960s.

“He was a superb player who possessed all the technique, passing ability and talent to be the complete footballer,” read the statement. “He was the heartbeat of our 1961 Double side, was a key member of the team that retained the FA Cup the following season and, although injury kept him out of our 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final win, he had played a vital role in getting us there.

“When [Danny Blanchflower] left us in 1964, Mackay took over as Spurs captain and led us to another FA Cup triumph in 1967. Dave Mackay will certainly always be remembered here as one of our greatest ever players and a man who never failed to inspire those around him. In short, a Tottenham Hotspur legend. We extend our condolences to the Mackay family at this sad time.”

Mackay, born in Edinburgh, began his career with Hearts, the club he supported as a boy, and won all three domestic honours in a six-year spell before joining Spurs in 1959. He would go on to play a key role in the league and cup double of 1961, and would also help them win a further two FA Cups and the European Cup-Winners Cup before inspiring Derby County to the second division title in 1969.

He spent the 1971-72 season as player-manager of Swindon Town, before leaving to take over at Nottingham Forest for a brief spell before returning to Derby in October 1973 as Brian Clough’s replacement. He led the Rams to a third-place finish in his debut season, but bettered this the following term when he guided them to their second league title four years.

After he was sacked following a poor start to the 1976-77 season, Mackay went on to manage Walsall from March 1977 to October 1978, and then had a nine-year spell coaching three different clubs in Kuwait. He returned to England to take up the reins at Doncaster Rovers (1987-89) and Birmingham City 1989-1991), before heading to Egypt with Zamalek and then the Qatar national side.

David Pleat, who has a long association with Tottenham as manager and caretaker manager, told BBC Radio Five on Tuesday morning, said: “He was a great man, inspirational. He was as tough as teak, led by example and was a wonderful leader of men. He represented everything that was wonderful about football in those days. He was a very polite, decent, humble and down-to-earth guy.”

There were also tributes from former Spurs players on twitter. Gary Lineker said: “Sorry to hear that Dave Mackay has passed away. He was a wonderful footballer, and a winner, both north and south of the border” whilst Micky Hazard posted: “Very sad news at the passing of one of our biggest and greatest legends Dave Mackay, a fantastic footballer and man” and Ray Clemence added: “Sad day to see that the legend that was Dave Mackay passed away last night. Great man sadly missed.”

Tributes were also issued from Derby, with former captain Roy McFarland telling the BBC: “The majority of pictures you see of Dave Mackay, he had his chest stuck out. That is how he played and that is how he lived his life. He had a tough legacy taking over as manager from Brian Clough, in terms of the atmosphere at the club, but he calmed and settled everyone down.”

And former Scotland manager Craig Brown wonders how much Mackay would be worth had he been playing in the modern era, telling BBC Radio Scotland: “Dave Mackay was the perfect midfield player and he would have been worth an absolute fortune today. When you see players like Gareth Bale going to Real Madrid you wonder what Dave Mackay would’ve been worth in the present market.”

Hearts, the club Mackay captained to the 1958 league title, paid their own tribute, saying of their former star: “A fearless defender regarded as the club’s greatest-ever player.”

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