Willie Hall is best remembered for scoring five goals in one game for England including the then fastest international hat trick and still the fastest one for England, (1). He was the first player to do it since 1896 and is still one of only four players to do so. A skilful inside forward he was known for being versatile, indeed his last games were actually at full back. One account claims he ‘had an easy dribbling ability and passing perfection.’
George William Hall, after winning schoolboy international honours signed for Nottingham County from his local works team. Willie moved to Tottenham in December 1932 for £2,600 plus another £500 when he made his England debut.
His uncle had played for England at amateur level and his two brothers were both professionals. His Spurs debut came a few days after his transfer against his old team. In his first season Tottenham won promotion from Division 2. The following season they would be third in Division One.
With the outbreak of World War 2 he applied to join the services but failed a medical due to the injuries he had received on the pitch. Thus he stayed at Spurs, later becoming team captain whilst also working with the police.
Such was his versatility that as Spurs sometimes struggled to field teams during the war its said he played in every position at different times.
Willie would win just ten international caps over a five year period, partly due to a series of injuries. His debut actually coming at White Hart Lane in a friendly V France in 1933 aged 21years. He scored nine international goals, six of them coming in the 1938/39 season, when he only managed eleven for his club.
Apart from the five against Ireland the other international goal that year was in the game V The Rest of Europe played to celebrate the FA’s 75th birthday. Weirdly 67 years later FIFA downgraded this game from full international BUT allowed the international caps count to remain unaltered.
The FA still class this match as a full international (2). He also appeared again for England at White Hart Lane against Czechoslovakia in 1937. Thus he is the only Spurs player to feature in two full internationals at White Hart Lane. Willie also appeared for England in war time internationals.
His right wing partner that night V Ireland was Stanley Matthews who described the scene after the game. ‘Willie was full of emotion back in the dressing room, and cried unashamedly as each of his team mates in turn congratulated him on his outstanding performance and his England goal scoring match record. He was the most unassuming of men, modest to a fault. His unselfish play and great contribution to a game was never truly appreciated by the sports writers of the day’.
His display that night was described as “England were one up when Willie met a ball from the right and got his first. Straight from the restart he scored low from inside left. Just over a minute later a ball from the left gave him the hat trick. He then waited a full 15 minutes before a ball from the right and Willie with his back to goal hooked it home the press describing it as an incredible goal. Ten more minutes and he got his fifth (England’s 6th) another ball from the right.”
The club recognized his England heroics in the next home programme saying, ‘Hall, we salute you! You have made football history, and in doing so you have brought renown to the football of the country, and you have enormously enhanced your own reputation. We are all proud of you. Accept through this programme a tribute of the most sincere admiration from the Directors, the Staff, the Players, and the many thousands of Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur'.
England center forward Tommy Lawton said ‘Willie was a ball player of the highest class, he could make a football do the most alarming tricks’. Bill Nicholson remembers as a young player that Hall was club captain and always showed great interest in the younger lads.
In February 1944 a serious leg injury caused him to retire from playing. He turned to coaching and became the youngest manager in the Football League. Illness caused him to have both his legs amputated but this did not stop him from continuing to coach. Willie played in 205 league games for Tottenham scoring 27 goals and creating many more. Despite his heroics for his country he only scored one Spurs hat trick. That came in the 7-2 win over Swansea in 1935. He also featured in 20 FA Cup ties. Both his goals in this competition came in a 7-1 win over Watford in 1939.
In 1946 he was awarded a testimonial by the club, and more than 30,000 turned up to see us play a FA XI. Then when the Spurs Supporters Club was formed he became its first vice president.
In 1959 he became one of the first footballers to be featured on the ‘This Is Your Life’ show on TV. During which he was described as ‘A football genius and true gentleman who won his own battles and helped other people to win theirs’.
He died in 1967 only a few days after having watched Spurs win the FA Cup. The club donated The Willie Hall Memorial trophy to Newark FA and this became the main cup competition for the area. The original trophy was returned to the club only last year and it is now on display at White Hart Lane. A new trophy also carrying Willie’s name is now competed for. The Newark Alliance stating “Willie Hall is the best played Newark has every produced.“
In 2001 he was voted into the a top 50 greatest Tottenham players of all time list. 2006 saw his induction into the Tottenham Hall of Fame. Then in 2013 Newark Council unveiled a plague in his memory at his old school in Newark.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume reserved for THFC matters)
Notes 1 - Connections England 1.
2 - Which should give you some idea of the confusion you can face researching these details.
Thanks - THFC, The Nottinghamshire Archives, England on-line, The Big Red Book, Douglas Lamming,
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