On the pitch the 1895/96 season certainly saw some excitement. Our FA Cup run started with a win at Luton before we traveled to the Vampires in the Second Qualifying round. There we lost 2- 4 but after the game we appealed to the FA that the pitch was incorrectly marked out. They upheld it and the game was replayed at The Park. The FA also changed the rules so that any similar appeal had to be made before the game.
Tottenham won the replay 2-1 and then won at Ilford and at home to Old St Stephens. Thus we entered the 1st Round Proper, for the first time and received a very hard draw, away to Stoke which we played on February 1st and were well beaten.
That game at Stoke was our first competitive game as a professional club as on 16th December 1895, when Tottenham Hotspur who had recently celebrated its 13th birthday and more than two years after the day Ernie Payne had purchased his boots, held a meeting at the Eagle Public House at which the club accepted the proposal that they should turn professional, (1).
The proposal being made by Bobby Buckle, one of the founders. There was a heated debate and many questions, but from this distance it seems that there was only ever going to be one outcome. The story of that evening, one of the most important in the clubs history, is told at Spurs and the Eagle, (2). Tottenham Hotspur had embraced the future. The question was now still without regular competitive fixtures was, would it survive?
That year we had been given a place in the Amateur Cup 1st round proper and were drawn to play Chesham, however the meeting at the Eagle meant we now withdrew from the competition.
Our first game after that meeting was a game with the Casuals and as they were a strictly amateur side we could not play any professionals in our 3-1 win. Hunter, Payne and Clements scoring for Tottenham.
On the 11th April Aston Villa made their first trip to Tottenham and 6,000 set a new ground record. Villa unimpressed with the dressing rooms hired a room at Northumberland Arms public house, which Spurs had used in earlier days. The Birmingham side returned home winning 1-3.
It was now essential that we could provide competitive football which would give us a settled fixture list rather one than could change at short notice and would ensure healthy attendances to provide a regular income which in turn would facilitate us to attract players to improve the team.
Tottenham would join the Southern League the following year but only after what must have been a nail biting summer for the clubs directors. As we discover in a moment but first that last game as a non-league side (even if we were not aware of the fact) was the home tie with Woolwich Arsenal. Having won away to them in March 3-1 we completed the double over them with a 3-2 win on 30th April, Almond, Clements and Payne scoring the goals in front of 1,500 supporters.
In June 1896 we applied to join the Second Division Football League but finished bottom of the voting with Macclesfield on two votes each. John Oliver was possibly a little too ambitious and this result was hardly a surprise as all the top clubs, based in the North West and Midlands, were controlled by factory owners and they were careful with their brass. Thus they did not like long expensive trips south. Woolwich had been admitted earlier and that allowed the clubs to have an expenses paid trip to London for their wives once a year, the chances of any second club being admitted at that time was most unlikely. The Spurs then turned their attention to the Southern league, knowing that failure could be catastrophic for its survival.
John Oliver argued that the clubs reputation and attendance figures would be a great asset to the league. They clearly agreed as we were elected direct to division one, much to the surprise of some of the teams then in division two. The fact that several years earlier Oliver had donated the Shield for the winning team may have helped. The higher quality of the opponents and resulting improved attendances must have been very welcome. There was also progress at the ground with the ropes around the ground being replaced with iron railings and turnstiles were introduced to replace a man collecting money by hand.
Thus September 5th 1896 saw Tottenham’s entry into league competition, (apart from the short lived Southern Alliance). The first game in the Southern League was a 3-3 away game with Sheppy United and even that match has a strange story to tell as Spurs started with just nine players. Ambler (the goalkeeper) and Burrows arriving around fifteen minutes late when Spurs were already trailing, having missed their train. Spurs asked for the kick off to be delayed but Sheppy threatened to claim the match so Collins took over in goal, Sheppy were unsurprisingly the better team early on and went into a two goal lead before Crump scored one before the break. Tottenham took charge after that and Clements and Miliken both scored but the home side grabbed a late equalizer. The Sporting Life reports that ‘Spurs had a number of fouls given against them but deserve great credit for their plucky display when the game was going against them.’ The Tottenham line-up for that first game in a competitive league match was – Ambler, Burrows, Montgomery, Collins, Devlin, Crump, McElhaney, Milliken, Newbrigging, Payne and Clements.
In fact the first three games were all away and brought in three points (2 for a win) then on October 10th we played our first home game, losing to Chatham 2-3. One of only two home defeats that season. The following weekend saw our first home win, beating Gravesend 4-0.
The weekend after that we defeated Royal Ordnance 2-1 away but the result was later removed from the record books when they withdrew from the competition. Something that would affect Spurs several times in various competitions over the coming years. Tottenham finished that first season 4th.
They also competed in the United League, with all these professionals the games were needed to pay the bills. Spurs treated this as the second competition and as trials for new players. The side finished bottom of the table. It was however in this competition that we hosted Woolwich Arsenal for the first time in a competitive game and drew 2-2. The FA Cup saw us defeat two sides before falling to Luton in the 3rd qualifying round.
It was in the Wellingborough Charity Cup however that Spurs recorded a notably event, when they reached their first Cup final only to lose to the home side 0-2. The team was not helped with some off the field problems in the days leading to the final. The story of that competition and Tottenham’s first final appearance is told in (3).
In a busy season the club had played 41 competitive games winning 15, drawing 8 and losing 18, scoring 85 times and conceding 71. Finishing bottom of the United League did not help these figures. On the friendly front there were meetings with Blackpool away in the November, while Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers and Everton all came to The Park.
The summer of 1897 saw the club hold its first militarily tournament on the 26th June as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The event was the brainchild of C.D. Roberts who we will learn more about later. The event raised over one hundred pounds. The clubs first handbook was produced and was 40 pages in length. Meanwhile the club went to Scotland to recruit players and returned with nine. Scottish players were known in those days for their ball skills and playing the game on the floor. A number were moving south into England to earn a living and most of the ‘big’ clubs have half a dozen or more on their books. This did not go down well at home and they were often described as traitors or worse and was the start of the ‘Anglos’ situation (4). They certainly would enhance Tottenham’s reputation for playing exciting football. In fact it will be some year’s (1920) before we field aside in the league without a Scot present. We also signed Jack Jones, the Welsh international. Jones will go on to be the first man to win a full international cap while at Spurs and he will captain the first FA Cup winning team in 1901,(5).
The story of Tottenham's last two seasons at The Northumberland Ground will be told in
'The Park - The Later Days.' shortly.
f - https://www.facebook.com/keith.harrison.9659
My profile / archive is @ - View Full Bio
Notes - 1 – To show the hurdles a researcher has to overcome some accounts, even the Romance of Football, published by the Weekly Herald, suggest the meeting was at the Red Lion, when the papers own account at the time shows it was the Eagle.
2 – Spurs and the Eagle.- Previously published last week.
3 - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-the-wellingborough-final
4 – This was where Scots played were excluded from playing for their country and is described in Connection-scotland part 1.-http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/connections-scotland-1
5 – Jack l Jones.- http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-j-l-jones
Top picture is Jones in 1895 before he joined Spurs.
Acknowledgements at 1882 and all that -
See Also -http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-by-gaslight
And the mini series - A Victorian Hotspur
Flying Down to Rio
History of T.H.F.C.
Tribute to Bill Nicholson
The Road to Turin
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The 100 Year War
Interview with Marina Sirtis
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History Of THFC: Part 1
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Thanks For The Memories
Our Tommy Carroll
The AVB Files: Part1
You The Jury
The Hand Of Hugo
Connection - Argentina
Creating a Reputation
Flying Down To Rio