‘I’m certain we can do it if we all pull together at least we can give it a trial.’ Those were the words with which Arthur Rowe launched his first season in charge at Spurs. That 1949/50 season would see Spurs return to the top flight after too long in the second tier. Rowe who had succeeded Joe Hulme had been born within earshot of the ground and had previously been a player with Tottenham.
With the exception of Alf Ramsey who joined at the end of the previous season Arthur used the same players but refined the tactics, (four other players would make their debuts during the season and totaled 20 appearances between them). He introduced what became known as ‘push and run’ although he never liked that name and preferred ‘give and go.’ Rowe himself said it was basically how Spurs had planned over the years with small variations. It was simple (but needed good players to make it work). Out went the longer pass and the ball was moved over 15 -20 yard distances. Nobody held on to the ball and it was kept moving with ‘wall like’ passes as men always kept moving into new spaces. Rowe summed it up ‘make it simple, make it accurate, and make it quick.’ Many attacks would be started by Ditchburn in goal playing it to the full back and the on to the withdrawn winger (unusual in those days) rather than the big thump down field which was common throughout the game.
That season started with two 4-1 wins, away at Brentford, and home to Plymouth. Spurs then lost by the odd goal in five at home to Blackburn. After which the side went on an unbeaten 22 game run (23 if you include the cup game with Stoke). Those 22 games saw us register 50 goals and be ten points clear at New Year.
This included putting seven past Sheffield United and five V Bradford. Spurs went top of the table in September and stayed there. The next defeat was away to Leeds in the New Year. By the end of April they were thirteen points clear then after securing the title they eased up and only won the league by nine points.
Was it pleasing to watch? The second division side had the best average attendance in the country, over fifty four thousand. The second best was first division Arsenal more than three thousand lower. The best gate of the year was over seventy thousand as we beat Southampton 4-0 in February. Spurs scored 81 goals on the way to the title conceding 35, both figures are the best in the division. Les Medley would top score in the league with 18 just ahead of Len Duquemin on 16. Walters and Bennett both finished on 14.
In the cup after Stoke we beat Sunderland (who finished third in division one) 5-1. This game in front of 66,246 had seen people queuing from 3pm the day before they went on sale. Walters and Bennett netted two each and Medley scored the other. We then lost at Everton in the fifth round from a disputed penalty for handball. That summer the second division champions supplied four of the team join England at The World Cup, more than any other club.
Nicholson, Ramsey and Baily, along with Ted Ditchburn would be selected for the England team to travel to the World Cup in that summer of 1950.
The season ended with a goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday who were promoted by a decimal point, from two other teams, in the days of goal average rather r than difference.
The question people now asked was ‘How would Spurs and this new way of playing in the top division?’ That next season would see Tottenham win the title by four points (still two for a win).
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By Royal Appointment
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