Tony Marchi (1933-2022)
To mark the passing of Tony Marchi, below we have published Julie Welch’s piece – written while he was still with us – on a true Tottenham cult hero from Issue 1 of the fanzine.
Some players never reach the heights they should through no fault of their own. Tony Marchi was a wing-half whose prime fell into the crack between two great sides, Arthur Rowe’s push and run and Bill Nicholson’s glory boys. He made his debut at 17 in 1949, became Spurs captain a few years on and then in 1957 he disappeared.
This is what happened. Back then Italy had a semi-embargo on foreign players but they’d accept one with an Italian relative, and though Marchi was Tottenham born and bred his grandad had emigrated from Italy as a boy. Juventus went after him, offering £42,000 with a £7,000 signing-on fee. He and the missus were flown to Italy and shown all the riches on offer. At Spurs he was on £20 a week and a £4 win bonus. Did he stay or did he go? Spurs, at the time managed by the hapless Jimmy Anderson, told him they weren’t bothered either way, so he went.
Coming from Spurs the Italian defensive system, catenaccio, was a total culture shock. His first game, he looked around after ten minutes and thought, What’s different? They had seven defenders, one midfielder and two up front. When you got the ball and attacked there was hardly anybody to pass to. It was a right struggle to go out there and enjoy it. He stuck it out for two years, by which time Bill Nicholson was in charge and bought him back for half of what Juve had paid. Marchi thought, Danny Blanchflower’s nearly a middle-aged man, only got another year left and anyway Bill had dropped him. So Marchi expected he’d just pick up where he left off. But then Bill signed Dave Mackay, Danny was rejuvenated, and Marchi ended up a spare part. He was plugged in all over the place, defence, midfield, wherever; six games in the Double year, and in the 1962-63 season no end of big matches when Danny and Dave were crocked. When Dave broke his leg, he was captain again for a while. But he was more famous for not playing than for playing. The press called him ‘Britain’s most expensive Reserve.’
I met Tony Marchi when Rob White and I were researching The Ghost of White Hart Lane, our biography about Rob’s dad, John, who in his playing prime was killed by lightning at Crews Hill golf course. Tony was wry and eloquent, and the last Spurs player to have a conversation with The Ghost. It was July 1964, and pre-season training was about to get under way with the usual first-team photocall. Tony was told he wasn’t wanted, so he went to Crews Hill to hit a few balls. After he was done he went into the locker room and found John sitting there. John said he was waiting for a few mates to join him (they never did), and as Tony drove away he looked up at the gathering thunderclouds and thought, John’s going to be lucky. He wasn’t, of course.
As for the Double, Tony didn’t qualify for a medal because Football League rules dictated he hadn’t played enough. In 2018 they changed the rules and Spurs hunted down a medal to give him – 57 years too late but at least they were bothered.
by Julie Welch