This Tottenham Mystery is a much darker tale than earlier stories in this series. This time we look at the life and sudden death of a former international player at just 26 years of age.
Tom Bradshaw was an excellent young player who joined Spurs aged 25. He would stay with the club just one season before moving and within a few months he died suddenly. Tom (or Henry as the northern papers tend to call him) was born in Liverpool August 1872 and played for Northwich Victoria and Liverpool before joining Spurs.
On the way he won the second division title, twice. Played for the Football League and won an England cap V Ireland in 1897. In doing so he became the first Liverpool player to play for England. He was also a fine all-rounder at cricket.
In May 1898 our manager, Frank Brettell (ex Liverpool) signed Tom from his old club. At that time the Mersey press described him as ‘a local amateur of some pretensions.’ He was a fast tricky winger who could also play center forward. The Lloyds Weekly newspaper said of him ‘undoubtedly ranks as one of the finest rising forwards in the country at the present time.'
He would only play for Spurs for one season during which time he played in the international trial game the South V the North and for an England XI V Scotland. In that one season he played a massive 69 games scoring 24 times, five of these were in the Southern League. He also played nine games in the FA Cup scoring five times, including the winner as we beat Sunderland and another V Stoke, both Football League sides, (1).
He had made his debut V Gainsborough Trinity on 1st September 1898 and two days later his first competitive match was with Thames Ironworks in the Thames and Midway league in which he scored.
Then to many people’s surprise he was one of three players which moved to Thames Ironworks (along with Kenny McKay and Bill Joyce) at the end of that season and was made captain. Some sources suggest they paid £1000 for the three players. We do know that Thames hired an agent at that time and that both the agent and Thames were found guilty of poaching players by the FA. At the end of that season Thames Ironworks were wound up and reformed as West Ham.
In the October Tom received a kick to the leg and it’s reported his health deteriorated from that point. On November 4th he played against Tottenham and Spurs won 7-0. A game Tom described as the worse moment of his career. Thames gave him two weeks off as he was not well and he played again on December 9th, and scored. It was to be his last game.
Left - Tom in May 1895.
Top - 1897.
On Christmas morning 1899 he watched Spurs beat Portsmouth at Northumberland Park, he still lived in Shelbourne Road, Tottenham. At that game he chatted to old friends and told a reporter he was nearly fit to return to action. After the game Tom joined some of the players in the Bell & Hare public house where the coroner later heard he had one whiskey and left about 2.15pm. Witnesses said he seemed in good spirits.
After he arrived home he complained of headaches and vomited and then it’s reported he fitted and passed away before the doctor could attend.
At the coroners court in January it was said that four years earlier playing for Liverpool V Millwall a player had stamped upon his head. The following week he had been kicked in the head again. At that time he was told his eardrum had been reputed. His widow said that since that date he often complained of headaches and a discharge from the ear.
Jack Jones, the Spurs player told the court he had known Tom since childhood and he had never been the same after those two incidents. That he had often complained of headaches and when he headed the ball he would sometimes stop and hold his head.
Dr. Davis said he had been called at 4pm and Tom was dead upon his arrival. A post mortem had been performed and the cause of death was a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. The rupture may have occurred when he had been kicked in the head. It might also have occurred due to excitement or by the violent vomiting. The Jury returned a verdict of death by natural causes, (2).
The Liverpool press noted on 30th December (before the Coroners court) ‘I would not be surprised if it was traced back to a kick which he received when playing in a cup tie for Liverpool – a kick behind the ear. The membrane of the cap appear to have been permanently damaged, cancer supervened and gradually ate its way into the brain.’
After the incident Thames actually felt that Spurs should have disclosed the fact Tom was ill before they signed him. Bearing in mind Spurs had not wanted him to move and that he had played so many games and performed so well this seems a strange comment.
The two sides did meet on 2nd April 1900 in a benefit game for his widow and two children.
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Notes – 1 – see - Hotspur Towers - The First Great Cup Run - due to be published this week.
2 - Amazingly some sources state he died of consumption.
Thank you – Illustrated Police News. The Lancashire Evening Post,
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