Robert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower, former Northern Ireland international footballer and football manager, is born on February 10, 1926 in the Bloomfield district of Belfast, the first of five children born to John and Selina Blanchflower.
Blanchflower is educated at Ravenscroft public elementary school and is awarded a scholarship to Belfast College of Technology. He leaves school early to become an apprentice electrician at Gallaher’s cigarette factory in Belfast. He also joins the Air Raid Precautions and, in 1943, joins the Royal Air Force after lying about his age. By 1946, after a trainee navigator course at St. Andrews University and further training in Canada, he is back at Gallaher’s in Belfast and building a reputation as an outstanding footballer.
Blanchflower signs with Glentoran F.C. in 1946 before crossing the Irish Sea and signing with Barnsley F.C. for £6000 in 1949 at the age of 23. He transfers from Barnsley to Aston Villa F.C. for a fee of £15,000 and makes his First Division debut in March 1951. He makes 155 senior appearances for Villa before being bought by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in 1954 for a fee of £30,000. During his ten years playing at White Hart Lane he makes 337 League appearances and 382 total appearances.
The highlight of his time with the Spurs comes in the 1960–61 season, while serving as captain, the Spurs win their first 11 games and eventually win the league by 8 points. They beat Leicester City F.C. in the final of the FA Cup, becoming the first team in the 20th century to win the League and Cup double and a feat not achieved since Aston Villa in 1897.
In 1962, Blanchflower again captains the Spurs team to victory in the FA Cup in 1962, narrowly missing out on a second double when they finish a close third in the league behind Ipswich Town F.C. and Burnley F.C. In 1963, he captains the team to victory over Atlético Madrid in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, making Spurs the first English team to win a European trophy.
Between 1949 and 1963, he earns 56 caps for Northern Ireland, often playing alongside his brother Jackie until the younger Blanchflower’s playing career is cut short as a result of injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster of February 1958. In 1958, captains his country when they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
On December 4, 1957, he captains the Northern Ireland team against Italy in Belfast in a bad tempered game that comes to be known as the “Battle of Belfast.” Blanchflower attempts to keep the peace as the game turns nasty.
Blanchflower announces his retirement as a player on April 5, 1964, having played nearly 400 games in all competitions for the Spurs and captains them to four major trophies.
Following his retirement as a player, Blanchflower coachs for the Spurs for a number of years. Manager Bill Nicholson intends for Blanchflower to be his successor but, when Nicholson resigns in 1974, Blanchflower is passed over in favour of Terry Neill. He leaves the Spurs and becomes manager of Northern Ireland for a brief spell in 1978 before being appointed boss of Chelsea F.C. The team wins only three of fifteen games under his charge and he leaves the team in September 1979.
On May 1, 1990, Tottenham holds a testimonial match for Blanchflower at White Hart Lane, but at this point he is in the early stages of what is later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He is eventually placed in a Staines nursing home where he dies as a result of pneumonia on December 9, 1993, at the age of 67.
Blanchflower’s hometown of Belfast has honoured him with an Ulster History Circle plaque, located at his childhood home at 49 Grace Avenue, recognising the late sportsman as one of the greatest players in the history of Tottenham Hotspur FC.