Tottenham played their first ever game in the Football League at 5pm on September 1st 1908. The visitors to White Hart Lane that day for the Second Division game were Wolverhampton Wanderers the holders of the English (FA) Cup.
To prevent any author bias of what happened next I’ve drawn this article from the match report from the London Daily News. Which will demonstrate how much football has changed…. or has it.
To help clarify the report I’ll start with the team, it was Hewitson, Burton, Coquet, Morris,
D. Steel, Darnell (left), Walton, Woodward, McFarlane, R. Steel and Middlesmass.
Although the whole side were making their debuts in the competition, Tottenham debuts also went to three players that day. Robert Hewitson from Oldham, Doug McFarlane from Burnley and Robert Steel, joining his brother Daniel, with a move from Port Glasgow. I’ve added footnotes but indicated where the text did not appear in the paper.
The London Daily News for Wednesday 2nd September (1) carried the following day report written by ‘The Pilot’ under the heading ‘Cup Holders Routed’ and the subheading ‘Tottenham make a good start before a Large Crowd.’ The grammar is theirs.
‘Whatever may be the result of their first season in the Second Division of the English League. Tottenham Hotspur can always look back with pride to their initial match. They made a very auspicious start indeed. Defeating the cup holders (Wolverhampton Wanders) in no uncertain fashion in front of a crowd numbering fully 25,000 (2). The score – three goals to nil in their favour – was a true reflex of the play. For Wolverhampton from the start were playing ‘second fiddle’ and their display was quite unworthy of a team with such a reputation.’
Then after describing the Wolves faults it continues ‘the natural consequence was that the Wolves defenders were constantly struggling against the Hotspur forwards.’ And later ‘were time and again beaten for which every praise must be given to the North London team’s front line.’
'Hotspur’s Clever Forwards.
It is a long time since the Hotspur had such a good set of forwards, and I must confess that their display surprised me. In R. Steel the Port Glasgow youth they have discovered a player who, if he maintains yesterdays form, will make a reputation. Clever in controlling the ball, he was very quick in his movements and time after time he outwitted that brilliant amateur Kenneth Hunt (3) and he made very few mistakes in placing the ball. There was only one forward on the field who did better work, and that was Vivian Woodward who was clever in his best form. He scored two clever goals and also shot into the net on another occasion, but was palpably offside. He was too tricky for Bishop and Collins and if Walton had only made the most of his delightful passes Lunn would have been troubled much more than he was. The outside right was erratic in his centering but he appears to have completely recovered from the accident which kept him out of the field for the greater part of last season.
MacFarlane (8) the new center forward from Burnley worked hard without being very effective but the only one of the five who did badly was Middlemass who spoiled many promising movements owing to hesitation'
'Defenders Easy Task.
On the whole, however the impression gained is that Tottenham have little to fear so far as their forwards are concerned. As for the defenders I would prefer to see them again before passing any opinion. They did all that was required of them but that was very little. Hewitson had a quiet afternoon whilst Coquet and Burton were not greatly troubled. The latter struck one as being the safer of the two. Coquet’s judgement in tackling not being the best. He rushed about a little too much. Of the half backs Morris who is the only remaining member of the Hotspur’s Cup wining eleven was the outstanding figure. He worked with tremendous energy and had the satisfaction of scoring a goal. Steel also did excellent work in the centre (4). Darnell has an easy task owing to the weakness of …’ and again we return to Wolves failings.
'How the Goals were scored.
The football for the greater part of the 90 minutes was fast and interesting. Tottenham scored their first goal after the game had been in progress but eight minutes. Lunn (5) was penalized for carrying the ball and the Wolverhampton men crowded in front of their goal. D. Steel however played a clever trick upon them. He rushed forward giving his opponents the idea he was going to take the kick. But he swung his foot over the ball and Walton who was close behind sent in a traffic shot which Lunn turned aside only for Woodward to return into the net.'
'Tottenham until the interval did practically all the pressing but once the Wolves had set up a dangerous attack and Radford beat Hewitson but he was offside. The score at halftime was one goal to nil. A minute or so after the restart the Hotspur forwards rushed bodily towards Lunn. Jones stopped their progress but the ball was quickly returned and Woodward (6) with a fast low shot scored a second goal. Lunn making a good attempt to save. After this play became a little more even but when Morris from 25 yards out sent the ball against the crossbar and it turned into the net there was little further interest.'
(Woodward was already becoming a legend at international level. Tom Morris the scorer of the other goal that day may not be as famous but he is certainly one of the true greats for Tottenham).
'Twice however Pedley made good efforts and was unlucky to strike an upright with Hewitson well beaten. The ball went to Shelton but he shot wretchedly with Hewitson (7) on the floor.
So there you have it, Tottenham off to a good start as they enter the Football League in a game played in poor weather. Spurs will finish second in the table and be promoted alongside Bolton in their first season in the competition.
Jabez Darnell (top) joined Spurs in 1905 and was a regular until 1912 when he joined the reserves. Later recalled to the first team during the First World War. He played more than 300 games for the club before becoming Assistant Trainer until he retired in 1946.
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Notes – 1- A common error is this game is often reported as happening on the Thursday. If you don’t believe me or the press check out the calendar.
2 – Most databases claim it was 20,000. Either figure makes it the highest attendance that day for a game in London including first division games.
3- Regular readers will know that Hunt quested for Tottenham during WW1 and is the only ordained minister to have played for England. He also played in the first international game played at WHL.- Hotspur Towers - Rowels Park
4 – The three Steel brothers are featured in Spurs Steel, link ---http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-spurs-steel
5 – Tommy Lunn later played for Spurs.
6 – Woodward had returned to Spurs just in time having that summer captained the GB side to Gold in the Olympic Games.
Normally at that time of year he was still playing cricket but agreed to play as it was such a special game.
7 – Robert Hewitson was once suspended by the Football League for throwing a lump of mud at the referee.
8 – Here he is given an ‘a’ in MacFarlane. Most texts and the Lancashire press of the time spell his name McFarlane.
see also - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-two-seasons
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