Everyone is aware of Sandy Brown’s achievement of scoring in every round of Tottenham’s FA Cup run to the final and their triumph in 1901 and that it has never been matched.
There is however a much sadder tale regarding Sandy that occurred the following season. Everything looked so promising for him as he took the field on the 5th April in 1902. He was wearing the colours of Scotland and was about to play against England, winning his first cap at Ibrox Park in the British Home Championship.
Then tragedy struck.
Sandy was not only about to win his first international cap and he was to become the first Tottenham player to represent Scotland. The game started before 68,114 (1). Scotland needing a point to take the Championship, while England must win. Sandy even gave the Scots the lead midway through the first half with a low shot. England equalized just before the break.
The open West Tribune Stand (later renamed Broomloan stand) at Ibrox Park (It was renamed Stadium later) had been subjected to heavy rain the night before. The large crowd were ‘stamping and swaying’ and one report of the time described the scene as ‘packed with a seething crowd of humanity.’ There was believed to be a surge forward to see the play in one corner of the pitch. The stand had a steel girder frame but was mostly wooden. When a section near the top of the tier cracked and gave way. There was quickly panic and people pushed forward on to the lower terracing, the running track and the pitch. It has been estimated that a large number of others fell through the hole that appeared but escaped with minor injuries. Rescuers called it ‘a scene of indescribable horror and confusion’ with some spectators trapped, dangling from the wooden structure above their heads
Twenty five people were killed and more than 500 required treatment. The game restarted after 20 minutes, it was decided that this would avoid all the crowd leaving at once and a mass evacuation might lead to further panic. Indeed many present were unaware of the extent of the incident until later. Although the players who had a much better view are said to have played most of the remaining game in a non-competitive manner.
The two FA’s agreed the game should be declared void. Thus Sandy did not win his cap and would not be selected again in his time as a Tottenham player. The two sides met again following month at Villa Park and the proceeds were given to the disaster fund.
Sandy would finally win his Scottish cap in 1904 after he left Tottenham.
After the disappointment of Sandy not representing his country quite amazingly considering the number of Scots who have played for Tottenham the first to wear the dark blue as a Tottenham player would be Dave Mackay in 1958.
This disaster led to a change in Stands throughout the UK with reinforced concrete and earthworks used to provide additional support. The builder was prosecuted but acquitted. The Scottish FA paid compensation to the those who died and injured and it was on the brink of bankruptcy, some reports claiming it had less than twenty pounds in the bank.
The Stand had been designed by Archibald Letch who would later design much of WHL including the East Stand.
It is staggering that the Glasgow Rangers grounds saw another incident in 1963 two people were killed in the crush leaving the ground. There have been several other incidents of people being injured at the ground. Then in 1971 an even larger disaster occurred when 66 died in a crush leaving the ground just before the end of a game. A first it was thought that the crowds roar made people turn back to watch the action but it was later thought it might have been a child being carried fell and caused a chain reaction of bodies piling into each other.
A tale with a Spurs connection, but a tale that shouldn’t be forgotten.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Notes - 1 - Other reports claim the crown was as high as eighty thousand. This was the first time the two sides had been made up of just professional players.
thanks - The Scottish FA, Scottish National Museum, the Herald Newspapers, England on line.
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