THE MEN WHO MADE SPURS
In this latest series, Martin Cloake looks at some of the key figures who have made the club what it is.
If ever a footballer epitomised the image of the English sporting gentleman, it was Vivian Woodward, one of the earliest exponents of the style of play that Spurs would come to be associated with. He was a popular figure, called “Sir” by his contemporaries, and refused to indulge in foul play or dubious tactics on the pitch. His place in Spurs history comes because he scored the club’s first league goal, and became the first Spurs player to be capped for England.
Woodward was born in Kennington, south London and qualified as an architect. He started playing football for non-League Chelmsford City, and was soon noticed by the big clubs. In 1901 he was invited to play for Spurs reserves and within two years became the club’s first-choice centre forward.
While the strikers of the day relied on determination and brute force, Woodward was an elegant player, full of guile. His control of the ball was superb, as was his dribbling and passing. He would glide past defenders, draw the goalkeeper and then slam a powerful shot beyond his opponent’s grasp. He was an intelligent player whose ability to stay cool under pressure made him one of the deadliest goalscorers in the game.
He was called up for international duty, playing 67 amateur games for England and the United Kingdom, and a further 23 full internationals for England. In those 23 appearances, many of them as captain, he scored 28 goals. He was also captain of the UK football teams that won the Olympic titles in 1908 and 1912, and was regularly invited to play exhibition matches abroad. In one game, against France in 1906, Woodward scored eight times in a 15-0 win. He held the English national team’s goalscoring record for 47 years.
All this, plus the obligations of his architectural practice, meant he was often unavailable to play for Spurs, especially in midweek. But the club stuck by him, and he repaid its loyalty by turning down the frequent offers from other clubs.
When the club went professional in 1908, it was Woodward who scored the first league goal, against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 1st September 1908. He went on to be the club’s top scorer that season, with 18 goals. But the following season, as Spurs looked forward to their first season in Division One, Woodward announced his retirement. There was another shock to come a few months later. Woodward joined Chelsea.
Despite the circumstances of his departure, Woodward remains a key figure in Spurs’ early history, scoring 63 goals in 132 appearances over eight years. One of the most celebrated players of his time, he went on to play for Chelsea until 1915. When war broke out, he enlisted in the British Army Footballers’ Battalion, eventually reaching the rank of captain. But the wounds he received on the western front forced his retirement from top-class football. He died in Ealing, London, in 1954, aged 74.
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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