As Wales and Scotland prepare for their World Cup qualifying match in Glasgow, both countries have, in the past, provided many players who helped Tottenham become one of the top English clubs. Gareth Bale is the latest in a long line of distinguished players from Wales who served Tottenham loyally over the years and helped them to League and Cup success.
In the days before Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa heralded the influx of overseas players into English football, Tottenham frequently raided the Welsh valleys in search of players to strengthen their team. And very successful it proved to be in the 1950s and ’60s as many of them contributed greatly to the successful Tottenham teams of that period. Gareth Bale represents the modern Welsh player and his presence in the Tottenham team for the past three years revives memories of talented players from Wales who have previously enjoyed success at the club.
The great ‘Push and Run’ team was captained by Welsh international Ron Burgess. He joined Spurs in 1936 and progressed through the nursery team at Northfleet before making his debut in February, 1939. His football career, however, went on hold while he served his country during the Second World war. Burgess, like all players from that era, lost six years of his career to the hostilities but he still made over 300 appearances for Spurs. In the post-war seasons he was appointed captain and when Arthus Rowe became manager the ‘Push and Run’ team evolved. Spurs were promoted from the 2nd Division as champions in 1949-50 and went on to win the 1st Division title for the first time in their history the following season.
Ron Burgess was the powerhouse left-half who was an integral part of this team with his leadership and driving force, being regarded as one of the best attacking half-backs of his time. The team went on to finish second in the League the next year and reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1952-53.
Eventually age was to catch up with the team and saw its gradual disintegration. Burgess was also captain of Wales and played on 32 occasions between 1946 and 1954. He became player-coach of Swansea Town in May, 1954, later taking managerial control. He went on to manage Watford where he introduced a young Northern Ireland goalkeeper to League football – Pat Jennings.
Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin
Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin will never be forgotten at White Hart Lane for their contribution to the ‘Double’ team and the success of the early 1960s. Jones was a speedy goal scoring winger who served the club for ten years and played a major part in that success. For a small player, he showed great courage and could out-jump taller defenders and so headed many goals for the team. He arrived from Swansea Town in 1958 for a record fee of £35,000 but his early progress was hindered when he broke his leg in training the following summer. He played for Wales on 41 occasions and was a member of their team in the 1958 World Cup. Jones played in all the successful Tottenham teams in the early sixties and won a third FA Cup medal as non-playing substitute in 1967. In October, 1968, although still a member of the team, he was allowed to go to Fulham as reward for his loyal service to the club. With 159 goals Jones is fourth on Tottenham’s all-time goal scoring record.
Medwin also signed from Swansea, arriving in 1956, and was another goal scoring winger. He made 215 appearances, scoring 72 goals and in the ‘Double’ year he shared the left wing spot with Terry Dyson. The following season he took over that position and was a member of the team which retained the FA Cup by defeating Burnley in the Final at Wembley. He made 30 appearances for Wales but his career came to a premature end when he broke his leg on an end of season tour to South Africa in 1963.
Mike England brought a commanding presence to Tottenham’s central defence when he signed from Blackburn Rovers in August, 1966. Spurs started with a 3 – 1 win over Leeds United at White Hart Lane on his debut and by the end of his first season Nicholson’s new team won the FA Cup. They finished third in the League, having completed an undefeated run from mid-January. Further success followed at the start of the seventies but six months after Nicholson’s departure, England unexpectedly announced his retirement. He had made 300 League appearances for Tottenham and scored 14 goals. For many years after his departure Spurs sought a central defender to provide the dominance which England brought to the team. He played for Wales on 44 occasions and also captained the side and following his retirement he managed Wales for seven years.
Mel Hopkins was a full back who played in the period between the successful team of the early 50s and the ‘Double’ team. He joined Tottenham in 1951 and turned professional a year later and made his League debut six months later. By the 1958 World Cup he was a regular with Tottenham and Wales. It was an injury while playing for Wales in November, 1959 which provided Ron Henry with an opportunity to stake a claim to a place in the Spurs team. He grabbed it with both hands and Hopkins was unfortunate to miss out on being part of Tottenham’s history making team. He remained at White Hart Lane until 1964 but only as a reserve. In total he made 240 appearances for Spurs and played 34 matches for his country.
John L. (Jack) Jones
Jack Jones is worthy of mention as he captained the Tottenham team which win the Southern League in 1899-1900 and the FA Cup the next year, a remarkable feat for non-League Spurs. Tottenham signed Jones from Sheffield United in 1897 and at the time it was regarded as quite a coup as he was a Welsh international and Spurs had only played one season in the Southern League. During his career he played for Wales on 14 occasions. He was a skilful and inspirational player who captained the side from left half-back, even though the player-manager was a member of the team. He remained a loyal servant of the club until his transfer to Watford in 1904.
Tottenham’s playing records contain many players with the surname Jones and Davies plus others with Welsh connections but none have contributed as much to Spurs’ history and success. The introduction of players from around the world has increased competition for places in League football so we are fortunate to have the amazing talent that is Gareth Bale proudly wearing the white shirt of Tottenham. He is taking his place alongside the great Wales players of the past who have served Tottenham with such distinction.