Peter McWilliams might not be a well known name to the younger supporter but he holds a special place in the clubs history. Our longest serving manager he developed ‘The Spurs Way’ of playing and was a major influence on the careers of future championship winning managers Bill Nicholson and Arthur Rowe.
He won the Second Division title and led Spurs to the best finish by any London club in Division One and brought the FA Cup home.
Bill Nicholson and Arthur Rowe amongst others have credited Peter McWilliam with being a major influence on them and their own style of management. He believed football should be played in a positive attacking style and that the ball was your best friend. Apart from his personal success the players he guided went on to great success in this country and his influence is clear on the great footballing sides of Hungary and Holland.
Peter first became Tottenham manager on Boxing Day 1912 and in two spells in charge of the club he became our longest serving manager as he built one of the greatest Spurs sides in our history.
As a player Peter was one of the best half backs of his day. Starting at Inverness Thistle before joining Newcastle where he would become captain. The fans dubbed him Peter the Great as he won the league three times and reached four Cup Finals, winning it in 1910. He was described as having ‘snake-hips’ and invented the 'McWilliam Wiggle', when he slipped around defenders.
McWilliam trivia – When Newcastle finally won the FA Cup in 1910 they played Swindon at White Hart Lane in the semi final.
Peter, born in Inverness in 1879, he won eight Scottish caps. Some sources claim he also captained his country but this is not supported by the Scottish FA. It was during the game with Wales in 1911 he suffered a knee injury that ended his career.
left - 1905.
Despite his footballing legacy he had a simple approach. Pick the best players possible and make sure they were fit, then largely let them get on with it saying if you were good enough to be in the team they didn’t need to be coached. He had his style of play and the players reveled in it. He was a firm believer that the game should be played on the ground and not in the air. He felt the ball should be passed with care and consideration, belting the ball with an anywhere-will-do mentality has no place in the Tottenham way of doing things.
An astute observer of the game with an eye for young talent he wanted to bring in the best young local talent and to get all his sides from the juniors to the first team playing the same way thus making individuals progress easier. He was the master mind behind introducing the Northfleet nursery (4).
Right - with hat, in the players lounge, July 38.
When first appointed he didn’t really have the time to build a great Spurs side before the outbreak of World War 1. However when the Football League recommenced in 1920 his team ran away with Division 2, winning the title by six points and being fourteen ahead of the third place. By winning 70 out of 84 points he set a record that would not be equaled for nearly thirty years. The following season saw the clubs second FA Cup triumph thus Peter became the first man to captain and then manage a FA Cup wining side and having won the Charity Shield as a player he now added it as a manager. That was followed in 1922 with the runners up place in the league, the highest finish by a London team till that point and a FA Cup semi final.
The story of those glory years was told in ‘Spurs and the Roaring twenties’ (1). The team spent the next few years in mid-table (2). Until in 1926 Middlesborough offered him double what he was being paid at Spurs. McWilliam did not want to leave and offered to stay if the Board would raise his pay just £150 from £850 to £1,000 a year. They declined and Peter moved north.
He couldn’t repeat his success in the north east and moved on to coaching and scouting duties. During this period he turned down the opportunity to become Arsenal’s manager but was their chief scout. Spurs attempted to bring him back to the club when Percy Smith left in 1935 but Arsenal refused to release him and it wasn’t until 1938 he was able to return (3).
After just one complete season in charge, once again world war broke. He did however give debuts to Bill Nicholson, Ron Burgess and Freddie Cox.
He would remain manager till 1942 but ill health to both his wife and himself forced him to resign and returned to his Yorkshire home, having married a local girl and died there in 1951.
Peter was a quiet well liked man and described by his players as a firm disciplinarian but a good friend. He left them in no doubt when he was disappointed but would work tireless with individuals quietly on any weakness.
Peter’s two spells in charge makes not only our longest serving manager but one of the most successful ones while insisting the team play the ‘Spurs Way’. We can only wonder how he might have fared if both his spells in charge had not been interrupted by war. That’s apart from being a major influence on both the managers who have brought the league title to Tottenham. Peter who has yet to be admitted to the clubs Hall of Fame retains a special place in our history.
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notes - 1 – The Roaring Twenties -
2 – The Forgotten Years -
3 – Mcwilliam's return - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-mcwilliams-return
4 - Northfleet - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-northfleet
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