The Festival of Britain was held in the summer of May 1951 and was meant to be seen as a ‘cultural celebration of the British Isles.’ The inclusion of sport seems to have been almost an afterthought but sport certainly took up the challenge.
Tottenham, as brand new league champions, entertained two of the top sides from Europe and were involved in two other games as well as a festival event at The Empire Pool, next to the stadium in Wembley where they got to show off their cricketing skills!
As far as football was concerned it offered the opportunity for teams to play each other who would never meet otherwise. The idea was a festival rather than competition, although some regions held tournaments.
First up for Tottenham was FC Austria who visited White Hart Lane on 7th May. Tottenham had finished their league campaign on the Saturday before, having won the title previously. On the Monday a full strength side went down by the only goal. The papers ran the headlines ‘Austrians shock the Champions.’ The visitors attractive style of play caught the eye being described as ‘by playing the ball quickly and their use of space, they took the lead after 16 minutes’ After the goal ‘the Spurs then took charge of the game’ and Tottenham ‘to their credit refused to be thrown out of their stride but could not break down an excellent defence.’
At the end of the game the ‘Austrians lined up in midfield and were given a great ovation by the 30,000 crowd.’ (4).
On the Thursday (10th) a Spurs XI made their way to Scunthorpe. The local paper tells us that the 0-0 draw was a fair result with Spurs ‘the better craftsmen’ in a game played in a sporting spirit. However the sprightly wind preventing the fourteen thousand crowd from seeing the ‘Rowe magic’ Many of these were drawn by the hope that United would feature some famous guest players.
After the game the sides held a banquet, (1). The Tottenham side featured four first team regulars, Ditchburn, Withers, Bennett and McCellan.
All who would also be involved in both the first team games that week. The rest of the side was reserves and a few youth players. Strangely having never met before the sides then clashed in the following seasons FA Cup third round, Spurs winning 3-0 in Lincolnshire.
Left - Action from the game at Scunthorpe.
Two days later the first team entertained Borussia Dortmund at White Hart Lane Tottenham overcoming the German side by 2-1 with Baily and Murphy getting our goals.
After which Spurs left to play a game in France with Racing Club de Paris on the 16th whilst on the same day a Spurs side played Ebbw Vale, who you will be aware acted as a nursery club for Spurs around this time,(5). There are two match reports from this game, you wont be over surprised that the details seem to vary. The Western Mail suggesting that Spurs sent ‘a strong side,' The three Spurs men mentioned Harmer, Reynolds, and Ludford, none had played in the previous League campaign, although all had good careers with Spurs, (6).
The ‘8,000 enjoyed a delightful exhibition in which both sides played attractive football.’ The home side started well but it wasn't until the second half when they took the lead after Spurs failed to clear the ball. ‘Tottenham replied with plenty of vigour and the Spurs forward line gave the home defence some anxious moments.’ The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham equalised with a goal by Harmer who turned the ball past the unsighted goalie, (South Wales Argus) while the other report thought it was a hard drive.
Before that however Spurs got to show off their cricketing abilities on the Friday and Saturday (the same day as the Dortmund game) when they took part in a Festival of Sport at Wembley Empire Pool in the presence of King George VI. On the Friday evening it was an indoor cricket game V Alf Glovers XI (Surrey cricketer). Then later in the evening we played Brentford at football. Sorry I have been unable to track down any results of either event so cant tell you if they reached the final the following day.
Left - Part of the programme detailing the Spurs involvement. The photos include Eddie Baily of Spurs and Ted Ditchburn was also featured.
Top Image - Is the Wembley programme cover.
Which features Alf Ramsey.
The various international club side games around the country was very well received by the fans and several sources called for ‘annual festivals’ It would be five years before the first European Cup (2).
I also found an item in the Northern Ireland press under Festival of Britain results which said ‘Arsenal 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0.’ Could this be a youth fixture? We have a history of sending youth teams to the province for summer tournaments while Arsenal are one of several major clubs who the mainland press claimed had taken no part in the Festival.
It wasn’t just the clubs getting involved. The four home nations all played games. Argentina became just the second side (after Scotland) to meet England at Wembley on the 9th.
Alf Ramsey played in the game whilst the Argentinean goalie, Rugilo entered into the sense of occasion by swinging from the crossbar during the game and earning the nickname Tarzan, with England winning 2-1.
The South Americas had been spectators at the Spurs V Liverpool game on the last day of the league season.
England played at second game when they met Portugal at Everton on the 19th. Alf Ramsey took over as captain (3) whilst Bill Nicholson made his international debut and scored with his first kick as England won 5-2.
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Thanks to my regular sources and to Phil Moody, Aled Bont Jones, England on Line,
Notes / Further Reading
1 - This will be featured in the next 'Spurs Collection' when we look at more Tottenham artifacts. There is also another image from this game and that will appear in the next edition of ‘Every Picture’
2 - See The First Europeans -
3 - What the Papers said -http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/what-the-papers-said
4 - The club used the same programme cover as they had for the Saturday match. A cartoon of Ron Burgess being presented with the league trophy.
5 - This includes Bert Hall, who we featured recently. Our 'Connections' series will be examining our Welsh links and will run throughout the coming months.
6 - Tommy Harmer -http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-tommy-harmer
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