Percy Smith took over as manager in January 1930 after over one hundred people applied for the Tottenham managers post following Billy Minter stepping down. The Board interviewed at least eight men, before appointing Percy Smith from Bury. After the events described in ‘The Forgotten Years’, Percy started to rebuild the aging side he inherited which had finished 12th in Division 2 the season before. The lowest point in our history, still better than many clubs can claim. The Thirties as a decade included promotion and relegation, as well as a variety of stories worth recalling. It was however overall a most disappointing time for the club. Smith’s first full season did get off to a flyer with a 7-1 win at home to Reading and two days later defeating Burnley 8-1.
Ted Harper struck five times in the Reading game and two against Burnley, adding two more hat tricks as he hit a record 36 league goals. This club record stood until 1962/63 when Jimmy Greaves broke it. Ted had been the League’s top scorer with Blackburn back in’26 and was thought to be past his best when he joined Spurs in ’29. That season came down to a tussle between ourselves and West Brom who would be promoted with Everton. Then at the end of March Harper was injured. George Hunt a 20 year old was brought in and scored five in nine but lacked experience as we missed out finishing third. Our home form was excellent, one only defeat coming on Christmas Day. Of our 21 games we won 15 and managed 64 goals at home, conceding 20. At the Port Vale game Tottenham played entertained two Indian Princes, (1) see ‘Connections- India.’ One of the players to debut for us was Walter Alsford, who would win one England cap, but he was the first lad to come through from the Northfleet nursery to become a full international.
The following season, 1931/32, saw Spurs slip to eighth in the final table. Just ten points came from the first thirteen games. The problems were at the back as we scored just one goal less than the season before but conceded 23 more. Harper managed just three games (one goal) but Hunt notched 24 in 37 league games. In November we beat Swansea 6-2 and then Port Vale 9-3 in the next home game.
left - The Club Handbook marks our promotion.
Success for Spurs would arrive in 1932-33 but after another poor start. The first eight games saw us pick up six points, although that did include beating Manchester United 6-1, we were in the relegation places until October. Smith kept swapping players to find the right balance, leaving out experienced players in place of youth. The new pace these lads produced soon earned the team the nickname ‘Smiths Greyhound’ playing a slick one touch football style of football. The turning point came on 8th October with a 6-2 win at Preston. Julian Holland described it in his history of the club as ‘the warm light of victory suddenly shone on the club.’ The forwards suddenly regained their confidence scorning 17 in the next four games as we moved up the table. After that we dropped just one point in the next nine matches, losing just three times in the rest of the season. In December we moved into second place in the table with a 7-0 win over Swansea.
The game at Fulham on 19th December saw the home side awarded a penalty, which was struck so hard it hit Joe Nichols our goalie in the face and rebounded to the half way line, with Nichols requiring treatment for several minutes before he could carry on. Later in the game one of the new stars, a local lad, George Greenfield who was tipped for the England team broke his leg. With Spurs two down and with ten men they fought back to draw 2-2, both coming from Hunt. After Greenfield was injured Percy Smith convinced the Board to bring in Willie Hall without delay from Notts County and he would go on to be one of the biggest names in our history before the war (2). Then Taffy O’Callaghan was injured for six weeks during the run in but the side held there nerve under Bill Felton who had joined as captain from Manchester City.
Spurs were promoted back to Division One on 29th April, we actually lost that day away to West Ham but Fulham the only club that could catch us also lost. Stoke topped the tale by one point so Spurs were promoted for the third time in their history, five points ahead of Fulham. They were the only team in the top two divisions not to lose at home that season and scored 96 times 12 ahead of anyone else. With the club winning promotion in the season that marked the 50th anniversary of the club being founded. A ‘grand concert’ was held to mark the two achievements. George Hunt had scored 33 times and three more in the Cup. Willie Evans on the wing added another 28 and 1. At the start of April George Hunt won the first of three England caps and scored away to Scotland.
At the AGM of the Football League in 1933 Tottenham managed to get the suggestion players shirt should be numbered on to the agenda. There was some support but the idea was rejected. It would be another six years before the suggestion was adopted. That summer would also see Taffy O’Callaghan and Willie Evans as part of the Welsh side that won the Home Championships. They would repeat this in 34 and 37.
Whilst the fans had the hope of good times ahead many critics felt that Percy Smith should have strengthened the side as his forward line was too small for the top flight season ahead, 1933/34. None of the players stood more than five foot eight inches. Smith however replied on his Greyhounds and Tottenham sat at the top of the table in November 1933. Defeats over the Christmas period left Tottenham struggling slightly and we finished the season in third. The club and fans both felt that after such a long time in the wilderness the club were back and looked forward eagerly. In May Spurs won the Dewar Shield (3) beating the Corinthians 7-4.
That season there had been first caps for Willie Hall and Arthur Rowe as well as Alf Day for Wales. Hunt had scored another 32 goals, including five hat tricks. There was also three points from Arsenal (two for a win).
During that summer of 1934 Allan Taylor, Walter Bellamy, Willie Hall and Jimmy McCormick represented Spurs at Tennis. Playing in the Professional Footballers Lawn Tennis Championship they beat Charlton 5-0, then West Ham 3-2. In the final we fell to Chelsea 2-3.
The new season (34/35) dawned and the fans hearts would be broken as disaster befell us as we self-destructed. Whatever Smith tried failed, a long series of injuries meant he used 36 players (the season before it was just 20), including 12 on debut. Smith struggled to field the same team from week to week. The difference was easy to see the year before the goal difference had been 79 – 56 this season it was 54-93. Tottenham had sold Cyril Poynton to Ramsgate and Bill Fenton who had been the captain the previous year had been released. We then lost Arthur Rowe to injury in December for the rest of the season and he was never the same player upon his return, but he would play a major role in the Clubs fortunes in the years ahead. We were always struggling after taking two points from the first four games. On Boxing Day we had won at home to Grimsby 2-1 we did not win again until 19th April (Blackburn 1-0). George Hunt scoring just 10 goals while Willie Evans topped the list with 12.
Percy had been at loggerheads with the Board all year. It has been suggested the Board who had seen promotion provided by a team of home grown youngest were disinclined to dip into the transfer market. There was a wide spread belief the Directors had been interfering in team selection. Something that was strongly denied and they issued a statement claiming the team selection was the manager’s responsibility and that they the Board accepted the blame for the clubs failure to retain its place in the top division. It was clear that the Board would be making changes during the summer.
Smith handed in his resignation and would leave the club at the end of the season. Despite a win over Blackburn on April 19th our return to Division Two was sealed and Smith walked out.
Above - George Hunt attacks the Arsenal goal.
Wally Hardinge had been appointed reserve team coach in the January and some felt he would take over but there were rumours that Peter McWilliam who had been so successful in the Twenties would return. Hardinge was in charge for the last three games of the year, two defeats away and with their fate sealed, a 5-1 home win over Liverpool with Willie Evans scoring a hat trick.
During this period the club opened the new East Stand, described at the time as the most impressive structure on any ground in the country. It had cost £60,000, and was still not fully paid for and the club had an overdraft. £60,000 equates to the total profits the club had made since the First World War to that point and the Stand had only been completed with the understanding support of Barclays Bank. Maybe it is not so surprising the Board needed to be persuaded to dabble in the transfer market with the Stand literally looming over their heads. The club would twice later in the century sail very close to financial shipwreck because of the costs of new stands. Against that the club had made a profit that season of £8,776 and were regarded as one of the wealthiest clubs in the league.
If the league standings during the early 30’s were disappointing, the FA Cup didn’t bring much cheer with us not progressing past the 5th round during Percy’s reign. We did reach the final of the London FA Charity Cup in 1931.
Smith who as a player had won the league twice with Blackburn would later manage Notts County and Bristol Rovers. Tottenham did approach McWilliam, he was then scouting for Arsenal. McWilliam wanted to take the job but Arsenal refused to release him from his contract. This would not have been helped by Tottenham making their approach public. Forced to look elsewhere they advertised the post and over 200 hundred people applied before they appointed Jack Tresadern.
left - Percy in his Preston days.
Top picture - 1932, Tottenham beat Charlton 4-1, in front of Paxton Road and East Side crowd.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Notes - 1 - Connections- Indiahttp://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/connections-india
2 – Hotspur Towers - Willie Hallhttp://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-willie-hall
3 – Hotspur Towers - Charity Shieldhttp://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-spurs-and-the-charity-shield
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