Just a few weeks after the clubs 13th anniversary one of the founders, Bobby Buckle took center stage at a meeting at the Eagle public house. On the 16th December 1895, the Monday before Christmas the club met as a whole to debate if the club should turn professional. One of the most important dates in our history and a stormy affair it was.
It is worth noting the background to this move. At that point Tottenham were one of the strongest amateur teams in the south (according to the Lancashire Evening Post recording the event) yet they were without league competition. Just more than two years since the 'Payne Boots' affair that season they would compete in the FA Cup, reaching the first round, otherwise the fixtures were friendlies. The previous game had been on the 7th at home to London Caledonians and had attracted one of the biggest crowds of the season, just 3,000.
The clipping shown here is from the same issue (Dec 20th) of the Sporting Life that carried the report of the meeting and gives you an idea of the problem's facing the fixtures sectary at the time.
The subject in question had been ‘raging within the club since the summer’ (1) with John Over and Bobby Buckle being its prime supporters. The Weekly Herald recorded the event stating ‘Every other matter locally so far as football is concerned pales before the adoption of professionalism by the Spurs. For some weeks past the necessarily of adopting this course has become more and more apparent,'
The meeting that ‘lasted many hours’ was a ‘crowded and exciting gathering’ which ‘once or twice the meeting became very excited.’ It heard Bobby Buckle propose the move saying the time had come he felt that the lack of cover for players would lead to bad results and gates would dwindle. The motion was seconded by Ralph Bullock. The club chairman John Oliver and J. Thompson (snr.) both spoke supporting the move (2). The meeting was told the club ‘could not ascend the ladder of fame’ if the club did not take this step. Buckles comments were supported by The Herald who informed its readers that over the last few games it had become clear there was no cover when key players were absent. This had affected results and this had led to ‘grumbling’ from the spectators.
The Herald’s editorial stated ‘I’m not altogether an advocate of professionalism as I think it tends to make sport a business but under the existing circumstances and conditions I don’t know if the Spurs had any other options if they wished to maintain the prestige of the club.’ It was also suggested that acquiring professionals would permit intensive training and a higher standard of play.
The heated debate wanted to know if it was planned to form a limited company and the reply was in the negative, (3). The clubs finances were discussed and it was revealed at that point the club was twelve pounds in debt. It also owed John Oliver a further sixty pounds. Oliver made it clear to the meeting that if his recommendation was not accepted then he would resign from the club (and without saying require his money).
Left - Stanley Briggs , with his London FA shirt and cap.
A question was raised, what was the feeling of the players on the matter. Buckle said that most were in favour of such a move.
When the vote was taken one (Mr Roynan) voted against the move whilst several members abstained. Several players and fans would transfer their allegiance to other local clubs. One man absent from the meeting was Stanley Briggs, one of the finest players in the amateur game. He would be the only to continue to play for Tottenham, (4). Only he and Ernie Payne (5) would remain first team regulars by the end of the season.
What happened next is covered in the mini-series – Northumberland Days, starting next week.
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Top Image - The Eagle in the 1890's
Notes – 1 – Julian Holland's history of Spurs.
2 -Thompson the father of two of the founders and had previously helped the club as described in The Victorian Hotspur mini series.
3 – Although this step would take place three years later in 1898.
4 – A profile of Stanley Briggs is scheduled for the near future.
5 – Ernie Payne, of the ‘boots affair’ that is often credited with sparking what was inevitable. -Published earlier this week.
See also Bobby Buckle - http://www.indiaspurs.com/blog/hotspur-towers-bobby-buckle
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