John Cameron is an iconic legend in Tottenham’s history. Last year we published a profile of this amazing man (1). This article was based upon the nomination papers designed to persuade the committee at Hampden Park to look favourable upon John’s nomination to enter the Scottish Hall of Fame. Therefore it did have a more neutral balance rather than Tottenham related.
It is disappointing to report that John despite being shortlisted was not inducted into the Hall, although his nomination goes forward for consideration next year. This despite the support of all the clubs he played for his family and many other supporters. Here in this second article we look in more detail at parts of his life and his teachings.
Without doubt John is one of the most important and influential figures in our history. He helped establish and development the creed at Tottenham that winning wasn’t everything but playing entertaining football was. When John became our first (and only) player /manager, replacing Frank Brettell who had signed him, he was only 26.
One story we touched upon but demands greater coverage is that whilst he was in Ruhleben, civilian detention camp on the old racecourse in the Spandau district of Berlin during WW1. He was only one of a number of professional players; at least six of them were internationals, held there. During their internment the football teams in the camp often took names of famous clubs and in November 1914 the camp cup competition was won by Tottenham Hotspur who beat Oldham Athletic in the final. Then in May 1916 John captained a World XI when they played an England XI.
Amazing as it may seem the ‘England’ team captain that day was John Brearly, who had been signed from Everton by Cameron for Tottenham in 1903. Thus we provided the captains for both teams. The prisoners even produced a ‘handbook’ and this report on the game ‘England were unexpectedly defeated. The finish was a truly memorable one. With only ten minutes to go the Rest were two goals behind, but playing up gallantly they scored three fine goals and veritably pulled the match out of the fire. The exhibition of football given was of a high standard and was so thoroughly enjoyed by the large crowd that by their request a second game was played on May 2nd.’ That game was ‘played in a downpour of rain but a large crowd congregated and were amply repaid for their wettings by witnessing an exhibition of football from the English side which was reminiscent of first class football at home and will live long in our memories.’
It seems the English took exemption to their late defeat by winning the second game 4-0. Our reporter continues “But the Rest were in no way disgraced by succumbing to such great combination.” These games were played in front of more than a thousand lining the touchlines.
Several respected sources have stated how important the sporting side of that interment was in helping men survive both physically and mentally. In addition to the league competitions on the two soccer fields the prisoners also developed a five hole golf course. John was a leading light in the tennis club.
His book ‘Association Football and How to play it’ written over a hundred years ago but contains much which is relevant today. I’ve included a couple of his comments for your consideration.
On Goalkeeping - Goalkeepers, like poets, are born, not made…….I never had any desire to figure there. My ideal for that position would be a man who stood six feet and weighed at least thirteen stone, with an eye as keen as that of a hawk. He must be able to divine where and when the opposing forward is about to shoot. All the great goalkeepers have been of a fearless disposition, practically throwing themselves at the ball, even at the risk of receiving a kick from the attacking forward. Fearlessness is undoubtedly a tremendous asset in the making of a great goalkeeper. He must also have a perfect understanding with his backs, and they must trust him infinitely, which makes his responsibility all the greater…….
I have often been asked the question whether the goalkeeper should train as regularly as any member of the eleven, and I have replied without any hesitation "Certainly." In one way he does not require such a severe course as a half-back, who has to go through much more work than he does. He should go in for plenty of short sprinting, so that when running out of his goal to meet any forward who has broken through he will be able to meet the ball quicker than his opponent. The reason for this is obvious, as half a yard in twenty will make all the difference between a goal being scored or not. I do not believe a great deal in gymnastics for footballers in general, but this method of training does a goalkeeper a world of good……...I have often seen a goal scored simply through a poor return by the goalkeeper.
On penalties - When I was Manager of the 'Spurs I always made a rule that a goalkeeper should have plenty of practice in this department. I found that in a big match things were certainly different, and especially if there was a large crowd present. The eye of the multitude is concentrated on the keeper and the kicker, and there is a great strain on both, although to my mind the goalkeeper has the advantage in this way. If a goal is scored no one blames him, as it is expected. If the forward fails there is usually a loud groan.
On protection the goalkeeper is given - The goalkeeper, like the policeman, has a very happy time in comparison with fifteen years ago. In the olden days one could practically do as he liked, and it was not at all uncommon to see the goalie bundled over the line ere the ball came near him. He is protected now in every way, and he cannot now be charged except when in actual contact with the ball. This is a good rule, and has done a great deal for the game. It seems football hasn’t changed as much as some would think.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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Notes - 1 – Hotspur Towers – John Cameron
2 - The link to this book on- line is in part one
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