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Spurs win 1900-01 FA Cup.

Spurs famously first won the FA Cup in 1901 when a "non-league club". Since the beginning of the Football League in 1888 the FA Cup had been the exclusive domain of the the northern and midland clubs who dominated the early Football League. The turn of the century saw this dominance challenged by Southern League clubs, with first Southampton making the final and then Spurs winning the cup.

The story of the 1901 FA Cup run is told in the following extract from the Official History of Tottenham Hotspurs, published in 1948 as part of the 'Famous Football Club' series written by Fred Ward.


It is in recalling that period of noble endeavour and perpetual frustration that we come to Hotspur‘s Cup Romance Number One. Within two seasons of having earned exemption from the qualifying rounds, the Spurs won the Cup—in 1900-1. Can any other club in the country rightly claim success so rapid? I would risk a few bobs on a wager that no other club has equalled that performance ; but, as some statistical enthusiasts (we call them statistical “fiends,” when they bowl us out or hit us for six) may prove me to be wrong, I will not state here that the feat is unique. Still, my offer of a wager remains if anyone wishes to get rich quick !

Well I remember that season of 1900-1. Those of us in the Midlands and in the North scorned the idea of the Hotspur surviving the first round against Preston North End, even at Tottenham. When that game was drawn, “ Just mother ‘ gate ’ for Preston ” was the general opinion. So firmly fixed was our mistaken judgement that, after the replay at Preston, when we read “ Preston 2, Hotspur 4 ” in the evening papers, We decided to wait for the mornings for confirmation. Sure enough there it was—-a London club had ousted the pride of Lancashire.

Just to give you an idea of what a sensation this victory was, I mention the fact that, thus early in the history of the Football League (only twelve seasons had been completed at the time), Preston had won the championship twice (1888-89 and 1889-90), were runners-up in the three following seasons, and were Cup Finalists in 1887-88.


" Sheer irnpudence ” it was for a London club to beat a team with such a reputation and thereby hangs a tale of a Birmingham bookmaker. A London friend of mine staying in the Midland city and full of Cockney fervour told me he would like reasonable odds about the Spurs winning at Preston. Fortunately for him we were in one of those places which are patronised by bookmakers frequently, and by iournalists occasionally, on the morning of the replay. He took five to one of those pretty-looking and musically-sounding coins known then as " Jimmy O’Goblins."

Same evening of the same day in the same place, the bookmaker mumbled something about waiting for the " All Right ” to go up — he just would not believe the papers were correct. " Well," said my friend, “ what will you lay me against the Hotspur winning the Cup ? ” “ Hundred to one," snapped the bookie. Well, I saw that cheque for £606 and six of us had a very nice dinner. That is the sort of thing that assists one's memory. The aforesaid friend, to me, had seemed rather stupidly rash to plank his £6 down; but enthusiasm sometimes leads one the right way.

It is unpleasant but it is a duty to place on record here that, in that selfsame season, Preston flopped down into the Second Division, the which may be regarded as removing some of the gilt from the Tottenham gingerbread. The North End went through one of those depressing periods that have often succeeded unexpected defeats in the Cup.

That memorable replay was marked by what some called a "panic team change," for the controllers of the Hotspur at that time decided to withdraw two half-backs, McNaught and Stortnont, and include Hughes and Jones. Most of you who are Welsh and also Hotspur supporters will remember with pleasure that great club trio Morris, Hughes and Jones—all Welsh names, but Morris had preferred to be born in Grantham.

They became the stock half-back line, and what a sound one, for many years, and yet they were chosen “ in the middle of a cup-tie,” so to write—between the drawn game and the replay.

Good sportsmen of Preston shared the general opinion as to how easily the North End would win at Deepdale for, without exactly boycotting the match, the attendance was so small that it was obvious that not many had thought it worth while to take the day off from business, doing which was not so much of a crime in those days.

Newsboys raced through the streets of Preston with the half-time score, and customers looked at their papers, then at each other with open, astonished mouths and as a journalist of the time wrote : “ A great hush went through the town, as one would expect at the news of a national calamity." Preston 0, Hotspur 3—it was unbelievable; but the fact remained.

Preston's trouble was started by that magnificent inside right, Jack Cameron, a much-missed friend of mine who subsequently became manager of the Spurs. He astonished Peter McBride with a shot so fast and so well placed that even the “ greatest of all goalkeepers," as Peter was called with lots of justification, could not get to the ball. That was about five minutes after the start. Brown scored the other two, and the Hotspur were content that Preston should win the second half, by two goals to one.

Spurs were not the darlings of fortune in the draw for the next round for they were called on to meet the holders, Bury, but, fortunately, at Tottenham. Therc was something strange about the demeanour of the conquerors of Preston at the start of that second round tie.

As a general rule, holders of the Cup are met by eleven men, each of whom walks on to the field rolling up his sleeves and wearing a determined, chin-out expression eloquent of trouble for someone. It is on record that the Spurs went on to their own pitch looking doubtful as to whether they had any right there. In writing that, I am relying on the critics of that period.


Anyhow, the opinion got support when the holders, playing at a great pace and with a cleverness befitting their distinction, scored a goal in the first two minutes. There followed half an hour of sad, forlorn, endeavour until Brown put his heart and soul into a shot which made the scores level.

Even so, there was no sign of Bury wilting. In fact, we are told, they piled on the pace so hard that those fine defenders, Clawley, Erentz and Sandy Tait had just about the busiest time of their lives until the Bury hurricane blew itself out and Brown headed a second goal just a few minutes before the end.

In this history-making season of 1900-1 the Hotspur had the good fortune to keep clear of injuries serious enough to compel a change after the one, already referred to, between the draw and the replay with Preston.

It was also thought by many people at the time that the Spurs were lucky in their third-round tie at Reading where the Berkshire club gave them their biggest shock of the season. Reading at that time had a team which could not be regarded as playing classic football ; but they had some remarkable tacklers—those right-through fellows who get the ball or put opponents out of their stride. You know the type I mean. Not dirty players, but men who were certainly on the fierce side.


Even if you are too young to remember the players personally, you are likely to have read of such tip-top craftsmen as Smith, Cameron, Brown, Copeland and Kirwan. Those five forwards liked to play nice, picturesque stuff'—and the Reading fellows knew it ! Those self-same fellows decided to waive all right to be entertained by prettinesses and they just wiped it clean out of the match.

When a Spur sent the ball to a colleague, it seemed as if he had also sent a Reading player attached to it, so frequently did ball and opponent make a dead heat of it. There ‘is no doubt that this quick tackling by the Reading players put the Hotspur right out of their usual form. Anyone watching the Spurs that afternoon could not have imagined that they were watching the eventual winners of the Cup.

So well did Reading mark their men that the visitors looked as if they were encumbered by invisible manacles. The inside forwards could not draw the defenders out of position—not even Cameron and Copeland could lure half-backs or backs away from the men they decided to mark. It was like trying to shake off particularly persistent adhesive fly-paper from the fingers.

It was all very disturbing to the thousands of Hotspur supporters who had gone to watch what they hoped, and felt sure, would be an easy victory for their favourites. On the small ground the players were so close to each other that they reminded onlookers of those wrestling events in foreign countries where two men are put into a small pit, the winner being he who comes out alive.

It can be said that the game was not particularly rough—it was a case of each set of opponents taking an intense dislike to seeing any one on the other side trying to kick the ball twice in succession. You know the kind of match that happens when every player on the field says no himself : “ If we get licked, they will not be able to say that I was responsible.”

In such turmoil and a goal down (Reading scored a quarter of an hour after the start), Hotspur might have been excused had they cracked. After the interval the fellows from Tottenham played a different kind’ of game. They took positions wider of each other so that Reading’s pursuit of the smashing-up tactics, which had been so successful, meant far more running about for them and also gave the Spurs more time in which to pick out the colleagues best placed for making use of the ball.

In short, they straggled the home defenders and got themselves freed occasionally from the avalanche of defensive rushes that had so upset their ideas. Kirwan ran in from the touchline and, getting a nice, easy ball, kicked towards goal as hard as he could. It was one of those shots which are the terror of goelkeepers — when they can see the ball all the way from the boot but cannot stop it./

One of those penalty incidents that are talked of for years happened late in the game when the score was 1—1.

People were ready to swear that when the ball dropped behind Clawley it must have gone over the line but for the fact that Sandy Tait, that unruffable back of greatly pleasant memory, stopped it with his hand.

From such small incidents does football history spring. Had the referee seen the situation as others saw it, the Cup history of the Hotspur might have been changed mightily. After all, one could not blame Tait for refusing to give his first-hand description of what happened. What’s the good of being a Scotsman if you “ canna’ be canny ”—at the right time ? To,one insistent newspaperman he said : “I was too excited to know what I did.” Well, that was something in the nature of a concession and a confession. The questioner could say that he alone had proof that it was possible for Tait to get excited in a football match and Tait himself had said it.


For my part, I must say that a man who beats opponents and the referee in the same action has displayed that calmness of mind which enables men to survive in the most critical of situations. Many a back has conceded a penalty when momentarily conscious of nothing except the necessity to save his side by deputising for the goalkeeper without due notice being given to the referee !

However, the Hotspur had the opportunity in the replay to improve their form and the same eleven players proved themselves to be about five goals better at Tottenham. They won (3—0) and Brown put the ball into the net four times-—two efforts were negatived by the referee.

So to the Semi-final with West Bromwich Albion. You should understand, here, that the Albion had made a great reputation as Cup fighters. By the way, why do clubs “ play ” in The Football League and “ fight ” in The Cup ? They had won The Cup twice and had been Finalists on three occasions. That was a pretty good record seeing that The Cup competition had been open to professionals for only fifteen years.

The Spurs were so confident in the ability of this very sound team (Clawley ; Erentz, Tait; Morris, Hughes, Jones; Smith, Cameron, Brown, Copeland, Kirwan) that when the Albion directors suggested that the semi-final should be played “ next door " to West Bromwich, on Aston Villa’s ground, Tottenham took the attitude “ Any good ground where plenty of people can see the game will suit us."

I lived in Birmingham in those days, and the thoroughfares of the city were resounding with the shouts and the clipped vowels of the Cockneys, as we called them. Those of us who knew our Midland football smiled indulgently at the perky comments of the Londoners. We " knew ” that their hilarity would soon die out and did not begrudge them their few hours of joyful anticipation. There was no restriction as to the number of excursion trains for football in those days, except that decided on by the railway companies, and people wearing blue and white rosettes, top hats, umbrellas and so on just took the place over to themselves.

We Midlanders it was who had the shock. By night time the very mention of the name “ Brown ” was enough to send hundreds of Albion supporters to seek consolation at fourpence, or less, per pint.

Sandy (it almost hurts even now to write the surname!) had scored four goals, all in the second half, and the Albion had not scored at all. . In those days the Albion had a fine defence. but their half-backs were so harried and hustled in this game that they had no time in which to assist their forwards. Fred Wheldon, one of the finest inside lefts of all time, must have grown weary of steadying his forward line and sending out perfect passes which were squandered in wild, purposeless kicks to anywhere but the right place.

So much was said about Brown's wonderful feat of scoring all four goals (old timers talk of it to this day) that I must place on record the fact that he owed an enormous lot to the manner in which he was fed by Cameron, Copeland and Kirwan. No centre-forward could have wished for a better trio of opportunity-suppliers. Copeland and Cameron had made reputations before this semi-final, but Kirwan put the seal on his football fame.

The Irishman had played for his country in the 1899-1900 season against Wales; but after this display he was capped in all three internationals in four successive seasons, 1903-4-5-6. Altogether this maker of model centres had seventeen caps for Ireland, all dating from his showing in this tie against West Bromwich with the exception of the one already mentioned. Kirwan, never showy, but ever reliable, was one of the best servants that his club ever had.

There you have a reminder of how the Hotspur became the second Southern club to reach the Final since 1885, when professionalism was first legalised and professional teams were admitted to the competition. It has been stated, erroneously, that the Hotspur were the first Southern professional club to get so far. However, they were certainly the first London professional side to get there and also the first Southern professionals to win the Cup. It might be as well to mention that the first Southern professional team to get to the Final was Southampton—beaten by Bury at the Crystal Palace in season 1899-1900.


To the Final. Remember that, in the other semi-final, Sheffield United had beaten a team which had won the Cup in 1886-87, 1894-95, 1896-97, and had been in the Final in 1891-92. That team was Aston Villa, so you will understand why the Hotspur were not favourites. How could they be against the conquerors of the Villa, who in addition to their Cup triumphs had won the League championship five times?

Came the further query: How could a club from the despised South expect to succeed against players nine of whom had helped to win the Cup two seasons before when Sheffield United had beaten Derby County, 4-1 ? For the 1901 Final the United made but three changes from the 1888-89 side, Field being at inside right in place of Beers and Lipsham at outside left for Priest who had moved to inside left. By this time Lipsham's great speed and cleverness with the hall had made him famous throughout English football and it was generally agreed that the Spurs were up against a stronger side than that which had beaten Derby County.

It is worth while to get the hang of things over this period and the colossal part that the Hotspur played in lifting the Soccer of the South out of the obscurity in which it dwelt at that time. The word “ obscurity " is a mild one. Southern clubs were merely fair game for ridicule—the to-be-pitied babes and sucklings of the great game. Although Southampton had reached the Final in the previous season, the Midlands and the North still refused to bother about the writing on the wall—hence the huge shock when the Spurs won the replay, for even the achievement of a draw at the Crystal Palace did not shake the confidence of the northerner: in their ability to beat a mere Southern League club.

Let us jump a little here and recall the fact that Sheffield United won the Cup the next season. You see that is all very instructive as showing that the Sheffield club must have been playing unusually good stuff about that period and yet they were beaten by Southern Leaguers !

You know how the fame of most of that Sheffield team is fresh in the minds of football followers to this day. So long as football is played, or even remembered, we shall talk of Ernest Needham as the greatest of all little half-backs of his time. The only half-back who could be compared with Needham, in the description I have given, was Johnny Holt, the smallest fellow who ever played centre-half for England, which he did in five successive seasons—1891-2-3-4-5— against Scotland. In this respect I am not forgetting Wedlock, who was heavier.

Then there were Foulke (22st.), Thickett (once reputed to have worn a “ mile of bandages ” in a Cup Final), Boyle, Alf. Common (first five-figure transfer), Cocky Bennett and Bert Lipsham. Yes, there were players in those days and I do not think that the Sheffield side which beat Chelsea in the Final immediately before the 1914-1918 skirmish was as good as that which lost to the Hotspur in 1901. I saw them both and that is a well-considered opinion.

Many of you may not know how unfortunate the Spurs were to have had to replay this Final at all. Sheffield scored first in twelve ' minutes. Then Brown headed a goal and shot another one, giving the Spurs the lead. It was then that what has been described as “ one of the greatest refereeing mistakes that soccer has ever known ” occurred.

Let my friend, who had that 100 to I bet about the Hotspur winning the Cup, tell of the incident. He was a very good judge: of football, but I had better tell you that he was labouring under a grievance because of his wager. Anyhow, he told me that the United outside left (that would be Lipsham) shot, and Clawley fumbled a swerving ball on to his leg. The goalkeeper had advanced, and the ball might have gone over the goal-line for a corner, and the linesman signalled a flag kick to the ill-positioned referee.

The chief official walked towards the middle of the field and Clawley, seeing no sign of jubilation among his opponents, thought ‘the referee had given a goal-kick instead of a corner-kick. Oh, the howling and the hooting that came from the biggest crowd (110,802) that had ever attended any football match in the world when it was seen that a goal had been given!

Guessing, I should say that 90,000 people, or more, were yelling their protest, not in unison by any means, but together. If everything that the indignants shouted to the referee befell him, he had an unusually uncomfortable time. Please believe me when I write that it was a stupendous expression of dislike to the referee’s presence on the field—even on the earth.

Even to this day, I, as a perfectly impartial spectator, am sure that the referee, who had certainly not kept up with the play, should have consulted the linesman best-placed to see exactly what happened.

He did not do so, and I went back to Birmingham convinced that the Spurs had suffered. We in the Press box, though farther from the play than the referee, were higher up and could see Clawley‘s movements, and without being able to take an affidavit on the point were convinced that a goal had been awarded under extremely doubtful circumstances. That should never be done for all the best referees will admit that it is possible to be in error.

However, the referee is the fellow who matters on a question of fact (funny word to me under the circumstances) and if he awards a goal in spite of protests by players and or spectators, it will remain a goal. Is it not remarkable how referees’ errors even up the luck ? That no-penalty business at Reading in the third round might have meant that the Spurs were in the Final by reason of a referee’: oversight—or undersight.

I would not be so persistent about that extraordinary “ goal ” at the Crystal Palace but for the fact that the films (they called them tableaux vivants in those days) showed clearly that Clawley never allowed the ball to get on the goal-line—much less over it.

Even in these days, when photo-finishes are accepted at horse and dog racing, it is doubtful whether the Football Association would consider taking action on such evidence. At present their own rules prevent them from doing so; but there is at least the germ of an idea now that so many games are being filmed and televised.


Having smashed all records for attendances the amazing Final at the Crystal Palace was followed by the smallest crowd of spectators ever known at a Final since it became the football attraction of each season. At Bolton, so handy for the Yorkshire club’s supporters, there were not 20,000 spectators, although Sheffield United had a big proportion to cheer them. Do not forget that this replay was on a Saturday; and yet the crowd was not half the size of any which had attended Finals at the Crystal Palace. It is interesting to note here that the first Final at the Palace, in 1895, attracted 42,560.

Chagrin among the Hotspur followers over that alleged goal lasted but a week; but during that week much dissatisfaction was expressed over the choice of Bolton for the replay. It looked something like handing the Cup back to the North again and to my thinking somewhere with more of a midway sound about it might have been chosen. I was in a position to know that Aston Villa's. ground was available and when the receipts were announced (£1,500) it is possible that officials connected with the Football Association, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur were all sorry that the game did not take place there.

However, good teams do not mind much where they play and although, once again, the Hotspur lost the first goal of the game, they fought back so gamely that none would deny that they fully deserved the honour of being the first club to take the English Cup to the South since the competition had been open to professionals.

That first goal was eloquent of what a truly great player can do for his side. Ernest Needham {“ Nudger” to his familiars) spotted how well the Hotspur half-backs and backs were marking their men and checking the orthodox methods of the Sheffield players. They did not have “ secret plans ” in those days—they just played football as well as they could play it. So it was that this little fellow of the terrier-tackle and masterful ball control decided on a bit of forward work for himself—and was ever a wing half-back a better sixth forward ?

Maybe he wanted to pass the ball, but every man Jack of the United forwards was marked by someone, and so the diminutive demon dribbled on until he was getting so close to goal that something had to be done about tackling him. Morris was compelled to leave Bert Lipsham, and Needham passed to his outside left, who was immediately threatened by Erentz. A quick pass to Priest, unopposed because Needham‘s move had succeeded in disheveling the Tottenham defence. Priest's shot was very well placed and successful. That was a few minutes before the interval.

Always beware of a team which goes to the midway refresher a goal down. The players are always apt to talk over what happened in the first half and there is so often one bright mind which can hit upon a scheme that inspires and encourages. Anyhow, from a first-half set of serious fellows sticking rigidly to the orthodox in football tactics, the Hotspur changed to a set of players who seemed to have convinced themselves that this was just another game at football and that the only way to defeat the beefy, stolid Sheffield defence was to do something out of the everyday-ness of things.

They did it. Copeland and Brown made a nice passing run, and just as everyone began to think that the passing was going to be overdone again, the ball was sent out to Jack Cameron. Not waiting for the ball to settle or even steady itself, the inside right kicked with the might of a back clearing his goal area, but with the nicely pointed toe which keeps the ball low. Two seconds of silence and then as much shouting and noise as an enthusiastic band of Hotspur supporters could make as Foulke’s twenty-two stones of flesh and bone stooped to retrieve one pound of leather and rubber from the net.

That interval talk had brought fruit in ten minutes and after that the Spurs carried on with positive blitheness—like a set of carefree fellows who were out for the afternoon and wanted to show how the game should be played. They even harried the usually stolid Needham (their most dangerous enemy in these two battles) into making a slip which sent the ball to Smith who put the Hotspur ahead.

Yes, to take half a chance to score rather than wait for the certainty was obviously “ the game,” and .the Spurs forced many corners, from one of which Brown headed a third goal-and that is how the Cup went South for the first time since the competition was opened to professional clubs.

The 1901 finalists were :—Hotspur : Clawley, Erentz, Tait, Morris, Hughes, Jones, Smith, Cameron, Brown, Copeland, Kirwan. Sheffield United : Foulke, Thickett, Boyle, Johnson, Morren, Needham, Bennett, Field, Hedley, Priest, Lipsham.


Note: You can find scans made from an original of the Official History of Tottenham Hotspurs booklet on the White Card Lane website (see pages 8-18).