Over the last season we have looked at various aspects of Tottenham’s history from a hundred years ago when events changed not just football but the world. The one area we haven’t examined is the clubs footballing progress. This week’s mini-series that runs over three parts starts with us entering the Football League and carries us over the next ten years until the end of World War One.
Today we start with those first two vital seasons and
“20 things you don’t know about …1908 – 1910”.
1908-09 and Tottenham's entry into Division Two.
1 –At that time the Football League season started on the 1st September, no matter what day of the week it was. That might seem rather strange to us now but that’s how it was then, quite possibly a lingering connection to the days of amateurism and a sport played by gentleman. In 1908 this fell on a Tuesday (1). There was heavy rain that day and a number of very attractive fixtures were being played in London. Tottenham however drew 20,000 the biggest crowd of the day in the capital to White Hart Lane. The visitors were Wolverhampton Wanderers who had several months earlier won the FA Cup. We won that opening fixture 3-0, with two goals from Woodward (the first after just six minutes) and one from Morris (a cracker from 30 yards). The press described the Spurs as “playing charming football.’
2 – Tottenham did very well at home that first season. Our first home defeat (of only two all season) came on March 13th (West Brom) after 10 wins and 4 draws. In fact we only conceded 1 goal in our first eight home games, scoring 19 in the process.
3 - Away from home the side found it harder going. The first game was at Leeds City (2) and our first League win on the road came at the 6th attempt at Gainsborough Trinity, after two draws and three defeats.
4 – All this was achieved without a manager. Fred Kirkham had left at the end of the previous season. He had been a deeply unpopular man both within the club and with the fans. The Directors then took charge of the team. Whilst it may seem strange today at that time this was not at all unusual. Many clubs appointed a manager and his job was to do everything from arrange fixtures to organizing the ticket office, whilst a trainer would oversee the players. Many clubs especially in the ‘lower revenue streams’ would appoint a Club Secretary and a Trainer and not have a manger at all. In fact Tottenham were mangerless until Boxing Day 1912 when they appointed Peter McWilliam (3).
5 – January 23rd 1909 and Tottenham register their first ‘league double’ and take maximum points from a team for the first time when they win 1-0 at Bolton with a goal from Bobby Steel. This follows from a 2-1 win at home in September. The Steel brothers (Bobby inside left and Danny center half) had both played in that first game of the season. The next year in a game V Bradford City they would be joined by Alex. The only time Tottenham have fielded three brothers in the same side. Tottenham also completed the double that season over Chesterfield, Grimsby, Fulham, Burnley, and Bradford Park Avenue.
6 - Remembering it was two points for a win, we finished the season Ply 38 won 20 drew 11 lost 7,scored 67 conceded 32, with 51 points, (that would translate to 71 if three for a win). That meant we finished in second place and one point behind Bolton and ahead of West Brom on goal average. (Average not difference, see note 4).
7 – Our first attempt to win the FA Cup as a league side started at Manchester City and we won 4-3 in the first round. We them beat Fulham 1-0 at home before drawing 0-0 at home to Burnley and losing the replay 1-3.
8 – In what must have been slightly confusing on 27th March we gave debuts to three players all called Fred. That’s Boreham, Massey and Wilkes. All three had been signed from Gainsbourgh Trinity.
9 – Having finished that first season as our top scorer with 19, Woodward left the club’s playing staff but remained a Director. Middlemass and Minter both scored 14 that year.
10- The club then spent the summer touring South America. Where they met fellow English side Everton, it is believed that this was the first time that two club sides had met each other in both hemispheres of the globe.
This brings us to the second season and our first ever in the top flight, 1909-10. Many thought Tottenham were now in their rightful place and would be able to play the cultured football that the club was already known for. The truth is the club found establishing themselves in the top flight a little harder than some expected.
11 – Our first Division One game was a defeat 1-3 at Sunderland. Out first top flight goal coming from Tom Morris, who had scored on the opening day the previous season). Walter Tull (5) was the only debutant that day having impressed on the summer tour. We would lose our second game away to Everton and draw the third 2-2 at home to Manchester United. R Steel getting both our goals, both penalties.
12 - Our first win did not come until the fifth game of the season. A 3-0 win at home to Sheffield Wednesday, Danny Steel getting the first, Minter and Curtis the other goals.
13 – The team again found it very hard away from home and our first win came at Bolton in the last away game of the season in a 2-0 win. We had previously only picked up four draws on our travels.
14- Minter scored our first top flight hat trick at home to Blackburn Rovers on March 29th. Billy (6) would be our top scorer with 15 that season. He top scored for the next two seasons.
15 - Our first Football League meeting with the Plumstead based Woolwich Arsenal. Came on 4th December and we lost 0-1 away in front of 18,000. Nearly 40,000 saw the return game at home in April was a 1-1 draw (10). Our first League goal against them coming from Curtis.
16 – The last day of the season saw us playing Chelsea at home (7) Whichever side lost would be relegated. We won 2-1 on a pitch which was described by one reporter as glorious turf. A description that might just have reflected the reporter’s mood rather than actual conditions.
17 – That victory lifted us from the relegation zone to 15th place. Woolwich finished 18th and Chelsea was relegated with Bolton, as Aston Villa won the title.
18 – In the FA Cup Percy Humphries scored our goal as we drew 1-1 at Plymouth. We won the replay 7-1. Percy scoring our first hat trick as a top flight team in that competition. We then beat Chelsea 1-0 away before falling to Swindon Town in the third round.
19 - We did reach the final of the London Charity Cup. Beating Nunhead, Croydon Common and QPR on the way with Middlemass also picking up two hat tricks. We then lost the final to Fulham.
20 – The opening day of that season had seen the West Stand opened. It had taken five years to build. This stand was demolished in 1980(8). Later that year the Cockerel would be placed upon its roof (9)
Next time in ‘Hotspur Towers – Five Seasons,’ we explore the period up to the war starting.
Keith Harrison. HT60
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
Top image - Tottenham Hotspur beleived to have been taken January 1908.
Further reading – Hotspur Towers 23 and 30.
Notes – 1- Tuesday and not Thursday as some sources would have us believe.
2 – See - Hotspur Towers – What the Papers Drew.
3– McWilliam of course would create the great team featured in Tottenham and the Roaring 20’s mini-series.
4 - Goal average was something I never fully understood and meant that teams could miss out on promotion by point zero seven of a goal. It was used until 1977 before the change to goal difference. To work out a goal average you divide the goals scored by the number conceded. This favoured the teams who have scored fewer goals.
5 - Hotspur Towers - Walter Tull
6 - Billy Minter is featured in Hotspur Towers - 100 club.
7 - Hotspur Towers 17.
8 – Hotspur Towers 46 & 58.
9 – Hotspur Towers 50 – The Cockerel.
10 – You may recall that we attracted bigger crowds than Woolwich in the league even when we were still in the Southern League.
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