Tottenham nearly missed out on signing Eddie Baily even though he had joined the club as a schoolboy and went on to become one of the club's great legends when they allowed his registration to lapse during the war when it was thought he had been reported missing in action.
Eddie Baily would spend most of his adult life at Spurs, first as a Championship winning player and later as Bill Nicholson’s right hand man.
Eddie first came to Tottenham’s attention as a 13 year old spotted playing for the local district school side. He would leave school at 14 and join a local printing firm but later became a clerk working at the London Stock Exchange. Playing for our junior side in the Wood Green League, alongside three other lads who would make the first team, Woodward, Chisholm and Walters.
At 16 we sent him to play for Finchley (an unofficial nursery side of the time) in the Athenian League and he netted a hat trick in his first game. It was with them he made his first appearance at Wembley as they won the Middlesex Red Cross Cup, his next visit to the stadium would be as a full international.
When he was seventeen he was called up for National Service and Eddie served across Europe finishing up in Germany where he played for the British Army. It was here he was spotted by Chelsea and having not heard from Spurs agreed to sign amateur forms with them. Tottenham believing he had been lost in action had allowed his registration to lapse. Upon his return to London he called into WHL to collect his boots when he met caretaker manager jimmy Anderson. When he discovered Eddie had agreed to join Chelsea he contacted them and explained and they released him. Eddie rejoined Spurs and signed professional forms the same day, (1).
Eddie was still in the army so his debut did not arrive until January 1947 (on the same day as Sonny Walters who he had been at Finchley with) in a win at home to West Bromwich.
Left - Training at WHL.
Below - V Newcastle 1952.
Eddie’s play has been described as quick of movement and thought with a razor sharp pass. Said to process great vision, he believed the game should be played with a smile. He quickly became known as one of the best inside forwards of his time as well as a vital part of the Spurs team that won Second and First division titles back to back. He is maybe best remembered for the goal in the Huddersfield game 1952 (2) which had been described as the most controversial ever scored at WHL.
He moved to Port Vale in 1956 having played 325 games for Spurs (69 goals) he later joined Nottingham Forest where he led them to promotion from Division Two before ending his playing career at Leyton Orient.
Eddie won nine International caps, the first coming at the 1950 World Cup finals, becoming just the second Tottenham man to play in the finals.
He also appeared for England B, the Football League and the Rest of the UK V Wales. During the summer he occasionally played cricket for Essex Second XI.
He returned to Spurs in the autumn of 1963 as assistant to Bill Nicholson where he was seen as a perfect foil with his cockney banter and ready wit. Everyone’s friend he could still ensure from the touchline any player (and much of the crowd) if he thought they were not playing as well as he wanted. Eddie insisted that his team play ‘the Tottenham Way.’
When Bill Nicholson retired he hoped to take over but the Board had other ideas and he moved on to scout for several clubs and later England. He later worked as a PE teacher and the club awarded him a testimonial game in 1993. Eddie passed away in 2010 aged 85.
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Notes - 1 - Some versions suggest it was a chance encounter in the street but several ‘older’ telling of the tale said it was in the ground and this is supported by Andy Potter, former Club Historian.
2 - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-22
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