The midfield maestro is as much a part of Tottenham Hotspur’s identity as the white shirt and the cockerel badge. One of the earliest exponents of the art of the playmaker at Spurs was Jimmy Seed, a player who had been written off after being gassed in the trenches of the First World War.
Born in Consent in the north east of England, Seed grew up in the coastal community of Whitburn, leaving school to work down the local coal mine. He also played for Whitburn FC in the local league, where he was picked up as a 19-year-old by Sunderland after scoring 80 goals. He continued scoring for Sunderland reserves but his career was interrupted by the war and he signed up to fight. He was drafted to France where, in the last weeks of the war, he was gassed.
After a period of convalescence, Seed returned to action for Sunderland but had such a poor game that the directors decided he’d never make the grade. He was given a free transfer to Welsh side Mid-Rhondda, where he begun to establish a reputation as a playmaker. It was there that he was spotted by Spurs manager Peter McWilliam in 1920.
McWilliam’s team was walking away with the Second Division, but the manager knew there was room for improvement. He saw in Seed a player who could not only score goals, but also bring his teammates into the action by linking the play, with the strength and courage to hold the ball up and the guile and skill to pick out the right pass at the right time.
Seed scored twice in the five games he played at the end of the 1919/20 season, and was pretty much ever-present for the next seven seasons in the top-flight. He played every game in the successful FA Cup run of 1920/21, scoring five goals in the six matches, including a hat-trick against Bradford City in the second round. Throughout this golden spell, Seed was the tactical mastermind on the pitch for Spurs, virtually every move flowing through him. And he continued to score goals, 17 in 1920/21; 13 in 1921/22 and 19 in 1924/25.
In 1926, a serious ankle injury kept Seed out of the first team. The talented Taffy O’Callaghan replaced him, and manager Billy Minter decided that, when Sheffield Wednesday made an offer for Seed in 1927, he could afford to let Seed go. As Spurs historian Bob Goodwin remarked: “The decision must rank alongside the departure of Pat Jennings as one of the worst made by Spurs”.
Seed went on to captain Wednesday and, in 1927/28, inspired the Yorkshire side on a late run that saw them leap above Spurs and send the London club down into the Second Division. He went on to lead Wednesday to successive League titles in the next two seasons.
A knee injury ended his playing career in 1931, but Seed was not finished with football. He went into management, first with Clapton Orient and then Charlton Athletic. He stayed with the south London club for 23 years, steering them through one of the most successful periods in their history, including promotion to the First Division for the first time in their history and, in 1947, to victory in the FA Cup final. To this day, one of the stands at Charlton’s ground The Valley still bears his name. He went on to briefly manage Millwall, where he became a director until his death in 1966.
About the Author:
Martin Cloake is a writer and editor who lives in London, UK. A Spurs season ticket holder, he has followed the team since 1970, travelling all over the UK and Europe to support them. His latest book, Sound of the crowd, is a look at changing fan culture in England with an emphasis on Spurs supporters. He is a regular contributor to Spurs fansites and podcasts. He also writes more widely on football and the football business for a variety of publications including the New Statesman.
Martin Cloake’s books about Tottenham Hotspur, including ebooks that can be downloaded directly to your computer or mobile device, can be ordered from his bookstore.
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