For other people with the same name, see Alfie Conn (disambiguation).
Alfred James Conn (born 5 April 1952) is a Scottish former professional footballer, who was the first post-World War II player to play for both Rangers and Celtic.
Conn is the son of the footballer Alfie Conn Sr., who was one of the 'Terrible Trio' of Heart of Midlothian in the 1950s.
Conn made his senior debut for Rangers against Dundalk in the Fairs Cup tournament in November 1968. He was part of the Rangers team which lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and also helped the Ibrox team win the Scottish Cup in 1973, scoring their second goal in a 3–2 final victory over Celtic at Hampden Park.
Hee played for Tottenham Hotspur football club from 1974–1977. He was the last player to be signed by their manager Bill Nicholson. Despite playing only 35 games and scoring six goals, he was a huge fan favourite, dubbed the "King of White Hart Lane" after scoring a hat-trick on his debut in a 5–2 win at Newcastle. In the final game of the 1974–75 season at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur had to beat Leeds United to prevent relegation from the First Division. Conn scored a goal, set up two others and even sat on the ball in a 4-2 victory.
When at Spurs he made two appearances for the Scotland national football team at the end of the season in 1975.
He later, in 1977, won another Scottish Cup medal with Celtic when they defeated Rangers 1–0 in the final.
Heart of Midlothian
Conn Jr. followed in his father's footsteps by signing for the Tynecastle club in 1980, following a short spell playing indoor football in the United States with Pittsburgh Spirit.
Blackpool and Motherwell
Conn wound down his career with short spells at Blackpool and Motherwell before retiring in 1983.
On 5 February 2007 Conn was included in the Rangers F.C. Hall of Fame.
This week marks 40 years since Alfie 'King' Conn left Tottenham for Celtic and here, Retro Football Blog looks back at the long-haired trickster with balls the size of church bells. They'd have to be pretty big to play for BOTH Old Firm clubs and antagonise Billy Bremner among other things...
Picture this: It's the final day of the season and Tottenham are in danger of being relegated to the Second Division in 1975. To survive they have to play against a quality Leeds side who were about to play Bayern Munich in the European Cup final and counted the likes of Joe Jordan, Peter Lorimer and Bremner as players.
Leeds’ reputation was brutal, but on this day in April, Conn took the mickey out of them in front of 50,000 people at White Hart Lane when he found time to sit on the ball in the heat of battle. Tottenham were 3-0 up and the crowd lapped up this moment of theatre. They needed something to cheer about, didn’t they?
Admittedly, Bremner was seething, but football in the 1970s was bustling with this sort of style and flamboyance. Players such as Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh and George Best are the more celebrated rock 'n' roll footballers, but Conn deserves his place in that hall of fame, too.
As a 16-year-old he was actually on the verge of joining Leeds in 1967, but then Rangers made their interest known and there was only one place he wanted to be after that.
He grew up as a Rangers fan and was desperate to pull on that famous blue top meaning his dad, Alfie senior, a Hearts legend with more than 300 appearances for the club, had the unenviable task of phoning Elland Road supremo Don Revie to ask to have his contract cancelled. Thankfully, Revie understood what playing for his boyhood club meant to the teenager and immediately tore up the agreement, which he was eternally grateful for.
And pretty soon he was playing in the Rangers first team, replacing Alex Ferguson to make his debut in 1968 during an Inter City Fairs game against Dundalk. His finest hour, though, came at the Camp Nou in 1972.
This is where Rangers made history by beating Dynamo Moscow 3-2 to win the Cup Winners Cup final; the first and only European honour for the club. On two previous occasions they’d ended as runners-up, but they finally crossed the line having beaten Sporting, Torino and Bayern en route.
Conn had just turned 20 and believed he’d be on the bench for the game, but when he found out he was a late addition to the starting line-up, he ran to the loo and was promptly sick. “It was that big of a surprise,” he later said of a whirlwind 24 hours.
Along with the Cup Winners Cup, Conn collected a League Cup and Scottish Cup, but he’d have to wait until his controversial transfer to Celtic to be called a league champion.
Before that, though there was a three-year stint in north London which came about following problems with manager Jock Wallace. Tottenham offered £140,000 and Conn was heading south.
“According to Bill Nicholson at the time they'd actually been watching me for three years. We'd played down at Tottenham in a friendly and I must have made a wee bit of an impression,” he later told the Spurs website.
However, injury hampered his time in England, as did Nicholson’s resignation during the season after 16 years in charge. He didn’t see eye to eye with his replacement, Terry Neil and became part of the team’s second string until Pat Jennings and Cyril Knowles had a word in Neil’s ear.
The well respected and senior duo told the manager they believed Conn was too good to play in the reserves and it was advice Neil took on board because, with relegation looking increasingly likely, he gave the Scot his first league start in January 1975. It was an inspired decision, as Spurs thrashed Newcastle 5-2 at St James’ Park and Conn scored a hat-trick.
All of a sudden there was hope relegation could be avoided, although they had to wait until the final game against Leeds to beat the drop.
And while his ball sitting antics against the previous season’s champions delighted the home crowd, the main thing was that Spurs were safe, with Conn scoring one and creating two in a 4-2 win. He was quickly becoming known as the King of White Hart Lane.
Tottenham were eventually relegated in 1977 under Keith Burkinshaw, but Conn had gone by then. His reign lasted just 49 games, bringing 10 goals and when news of Celtic's £65,000 offer surfaced, it is said the offices at White Hart Lane were inundated with calls from fans begging the club not to sell a player they’d fallen in love with.
“He was a bit of a terrace cult hero,” Tottenham fan and talkSPORT presenter Paul Hawksbee explains.
“A lot of players in those days had long hair and Alfie pushed it to the nth degree. There was a bit of a swagger about him when he played and he seemed to be in the style of a Tottenham player. He played good football and had a little bit of edge about him as well.
"He was just a fun player to watch.”
The love was reciprocated and the player revealed that had circumstances been different he probably wouldn’t have left. "I loved it down south and had Bill Nicholson stayed on as manager for another couple of years, I don't think I'd have come back to Scotland."
Rangers’ fans, meanwhile, were not exactly thrilled to see their former star pupil – a ‘Barca Bear’ no less – don the green and white, especially when it was rumoured the club were keen to have him back.
But what choice did Conn have? He was playing reserve football when Jock Stein talked him into becoming a Celt. In his words, signing for a man of Stein’s standing was a no-brainer. “Religion-wise, I’m neither one thing or the other. I made a pure football decision to go to Celtic. I didn’t want to leave Rangers, don’t forget.”
From Celtic’s point of view, the fact they got one over their big rivals was no bad thing.
Despite injuries holding him back again, Conn took ‘crossing the divide’ in his stride and ended his first season as a Scottish champion. He also picked up another Scottish Cup winners medal following the 1977 final win against Rangers, but left Parkhead in 1979 and wound down his career at Motherwell in 1984 after spells at Hearts and in America.
He reportedly took a sizeable pay cut to swap Spurs for Celtic, but if he was playing today, he could fully expect to earn in the region of £100,000-a-week. Easy.
This first appeared on RetroFootballBlog.com.