In the second of these occasional look backs at tales from our history in the FA Cup we look at the game that a future England manager described as the most memorable game he ever played in. There is a brief mention of crowd problems when Spurs played in the competition’s final. There are also some magic moments and we have a cautionary tale for people building stadiums.
Strangely one of our most dramatic cup ties over the years was played out over two games and both sprang to life in the dying minutes. It was the Fifth round in 1936/37 and Second Division Tottenham were away to Everton.
The home team were awarded a penalty after a foul on their famous striker Dixie Dean. Dean took the kick but it was saved by our goalie John Hall. The ball went loose and Dean shot again. Again Hall saved and this time cleared down field. Jimmy McCormick got on the ball and scored. It has been said by both witnesses and the press this was against the run of play. Then just when it looked like we might snatch a win they equalized. The two teams would meet again on the Monday evening. Could there be an even bigger finish to the game?
With just seven minutes to play in the second game the visitors were leading 1-3. Tottenham’s goal had come from Morrison. Joe Mercer (later England manager) took a throw in for the blues down their left, receiving the ball the Everton winger turned inside the box and was fouled. Penalty. It was then after awarding the kick the referee saw the linesman signaling. He told the ref that it had been a foul throw and the penalty was overturned as the ref awarded a throw in to Tottenham. A small point but with six minutes to play how could it affect the game. Then Morrison scored and it was 2-3. Into the last four minutes and winger Joe Meek picked up the ball went between the two defenders and scored 3-3. The terraces exploded with noise and relief. Yet there was yet another twist to come. The last kick of the game Morrison scored to complete a most amazing hat trick and win the match for Spurs. Descriptions of the scenes claim the sky was blocked out as it became filled with hats, programme’s and newspapers flung in celebration.
As the hats landed they were thrown back up. Long lines of dancers were seen jigging through the amazed White Hart Lane crowd. Everton’s Joe Mercer wrote later “I just stood there, I could not believe that we had lost. That day I hated the game. Today it stands as the greatest in which I ever took part, a belief in which I must be joined by everyone who was there.”
More than 100,000 saw that tie. Fifty seven thousand were at the first game and just under 50,000 witnessed the replay. Tottenham’s cup run that season had started away at Portsmouth and Spurs had beaten the highly rated Pompey team 5-0. This result was such a shock that historian Bob Goodwin wrote ‘Even those at the game double checked the papers to make sure their eyes had not been playing tricks.’ Morrison scored another hat trick that day. The fourth round had seen us beat Plymouth at home by the only goal. Following the Everton game the quarter final and a then record crowd of 71, 913 watched Tottenham’s dream die as Preston won at the Lane.
The first FA Cup ( which was commonly known as the Little Tin Idol) and the rules of the competition were that (like the first World Cup) the first team to win it three times would keep the trophy. The first final was in 1872. When Wanderers won it for the third time in 1876 the rules were changed so the cup was always returned.
Lets now turn our attention to when Wembley opened, (a cautionary tale for those building stadiums).Work on Wembley was completed only days before the 1923 final was to be played (Bolton V West Ham). Unlike today when there has to be endless trial events the first time the public saw the inside of the stadium was Cup Final morning. It was thought the ground would hold 125,000. Several of my family attended, even as Spurs fans they, like thousands of others, wanted to see this new stadium. Whilst there was still vast rivalry football wasn’t as ‘tribal’ as it is today. Remember this was just two years after the scenes of London’s last victory (2,3) and Tottenham’s ‘Victory for London.’
right - the towers on the old stadium under construction.
Chaos would rule the day as many reports estimate the crowd at between two and three hundred thousand and the police and stewards were unprepared for what happened. The stadium’s owners did issue a statement afterwards claiming the gates had opened at 11.30 and the ground was full by 1.45. They then gave the order to close the gates. However public transport was still delivering vast crowds outside. After the gates were closed several were broken open and people flooded into the ground. There are photos of people climbing over turnstiles and up walls. The press shared the blame around, the Mirror claiming poor stewarding as ‘there was plenty of room as the upper tiers which were not filled.’ They and the Daily Mail called for a public inquiry. The Express led with “Stadium Scandal- who is to blame?”
Amazing enough at that point the King arrived and the crowds outside parted to allow his car entry. At the same time more police arrived, many coming by taxi. The mounted police also arrived and the star of the day was Billy, a white police horse (described by the Express as snow-white and prancing) whilst the Mirrors headline was ‘Officer on a White Charger, Hero of the Day’. Billy finally cleared the pitch and the game kicked off an hour late. Bolton took an early lead but another incursion took place when West Ham went close and another ten minute delay followed. The Mirror reports that the police had to move spectators in order for a corner to be taken (1) The players stayed on the pitch during the half time break. One West Ham player that day was future Tottenham, manager Jack Tresadern, he claimed at one point the couldn’t return to the pitch as he was trapped by the crowd as Bolton won 2-0.
Little wonder then that the 1924 final was the first all-ticket final.
The 1901 Tottenham Cup Final had experienced similar crowd trouble but on a much smaller scale. After the events in 1923 the Mirrors reporter recalled the earlier game, “The crowd at Crystal Place had stormed the gates, but on that occasion an adequate police presence had ensured the pitch remained clear.”
Top picture, The ground staff at Wembley 1923.
Below Wembley in 1924.
In the next Cup Adventures a legend recalls his day at Wembley
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
1 - There is a picture of the goal mouth area in Talking Tottenham 45.
2 - Tottenham and the Roaring 20’s
3 - Talking Tottenham 48
Thanks - Daily Express, Daily Mirror, BBC, The Times, THFC, Neil Wilson, The FA, Phil Sour, Bob Goodwin.
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