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Norman Giller's Spurs Odyssey Blog (No. 74) (01.06.15)

Submitted by Norman Giller

Norman Giller writes for Spurs Odyssey

The John Cameron Story

As Tottenham return from their successful two match, two wins (all goals from Our Harry Kane) trip to the Southern Hemisphere, I invite you to join me in a journey of our own … deep into the past.

This dip into Tottenham’s proud history has been inspired by Keith Harrison, a Shelf resident in the 60s who now continues to follow Spurs from his new base in far-off India.

He has – through the India Spurs Supporters’ Club – been leading a campaign to get John Cameron inducted into the Scottish Hall of Fame, and you can support his nomination at

John Cameron - the first manager to bring silverware to Tottenham

All true Lilywhite fans should know the John Cameron story, and for those not familiar with one of the most influential people in Lane legend let me fill in the facts …

John Cameron was the first manager to bring silverware to Tottenham. He had a remarkable life that included being a prisoner of war and a pioneer of player union activities that got him blacklisted as a footballer. He was also the only player-manager to score an FA Cup final goal and, to underscore his name in the history books, he was – at 27 – the youngest ever Spurs manager.

An Ayrshire man and well educated at the highly regarded Ayr Grammar School, he was a skilful goal-scoring forward with Ayr Parkhouse, Queen’s Park and Everton and won one international cap with Scotland before being targeted as a troublemaker by the football Establishment.

While laying the foundation to his career with the famous Queen’s Park club in Glasgow, John followed the club motto of Ludere Causa Ludendi – to play for the sake of playing. A true amateur in those formative years, he followed a parallel career as first a clerk with the Cunard Shipping Line and then as a sports journalist.

But by the time he moved to England to play for the fledgling Everton club, he was professional in outlook to the point where he was a main driving force behind the formation of the controversial Association Footballers’ Union, the short-lived forerunner of the PFA. He was the eloquent spokesman who led and lost a campaign to stop the wages of League footballers being capped at £4 a week. Cameron was seen as an agitator because of his union activities and was virtually blacklisted by the northern clubs, who had a stranglehold on the Football League.

He was one of the earliest signings of Tottenham’s first manager Frank Brettell, a fellow journalist who knew that he was a gifted player being pilloried and persecuted because of his political views and professional principles. When Brettell made an early exit to join Portsmouth after just a season in charge at Tottenham, club chairman Charles Roberts turned to the intelligent and industrious 27-year-old Scot to take over the reins of the club as they prepared for their move to a new ground called White Hart Lane.

It was Cameron who first brought the stamp of Tottenham’s precise passing style to the club, and it has remained a tradition ever since. He had been brought up on the Scottish principle of the ball being played along the ground rather than the hoof-and-hope style of the English game. A main reason that the Scots specialised in keeping the ball low, of course, was that it was rare for them to have a forward standing above 5ft 8in tall. That was why their national team was known as the Wee Wizards.

In his first game in control as player-manager, Cameron scored the goal that lifted Tottenham to a sensational second round FA Cup victory over Sunderland, one of the leading Football League clubs. It was the first time that Spurs made nationwide headlines.

Following a 4-1 defeat at Stoke in the third round, Cameron strengthened the side by recruiting several fellow-Scots, starting a Tottenham tradition that carried on throughout the next hundred years. There was always a strong Scottish influence on the club until recent times and the huge invasion of foreign players.

Cameron, in his triple role as player-manager-secretary, knew that to produce his style of smooth, sophisticated football the team would need a good playing surface, and he encouraged the decision to invite John Over to supervise the laying of the pitch at the new ground at White Hart Lane. It was Over who had been trusted with preparing the pitch for the first England-Australia Test at The Oval in the year of Grace, 1880.

He laid what was recognized as one of the finest pitches in the world of football, and jealously guarded it for forty years before handing responsibility to his son, Will.

A crowd of 5,000 gathered for the first game at White Hart Lane on Monday 4 September 1899. The visitors for a friendly were the oldest club in the Football League, Notts County, who were then in the First Division. After a ceremonial kick-off by club chairman Charles Roberts, Southern League Spurs went behind to a Tommy McCairns shot that was deflected into the net past wrong-footed goalkeeper George Clawley.

Ex-Preston marksman Tom Pratt quickly equalised before Scottish forward Dave Copeland helped himself to a hat-trick to lift Tottenham to a flattering 4-1 victory. The second and third of his goals were scored after the County goalkeeper Ernie Suter had gone off injured. No substitutes in those days, of course.

The gate money was £115. Five days later 11,000 spectators turned out to see Tottenham’s first competitive match at their new headquarters, a 1-0 victory over Queen’s Park Rangers in a Southern League fixture. Tom Smith, another import from Preston, scored the goal.

Spurs, with Cameron at the helm, came into the new century full of fire and ambition and marked their first year at White Hart Lane by winning the Southern League championship, holding off a strong challenge from the Portsmouth team managed by ex-Spurs boss Frank Brettell.

The following season – 1900-01 – player-manager Cameron steered Spurs to one of the most remarkable of all their triumphs when they captured the FA Cup, remaining the only non-League side to achieve it since the Football League’s launch in 1888-89.

They did it the hard way, playing eight matches against five teams, four of them from the League’s First Division. Spurs were behind in four of the games, but – driven on by Alexander (Sandy) Tait, a Scot in the Dave Mackay mould – they showed tremendous fighting spirit to eventually come out top in each of the tumultuous ties.

Spurs met roasting-hot favourites Sheffield United in the final, an all-star team that included England legends Bill ‘Fatty’ Foulke in goal and left-half Ernest ‘Nudger’ Needham. Just two seasons earlier they had won the League championship.

United against Spurs was the biggest event of the sporting calendar in that 1901 year that Queen Victoria died and King Edward VII came to the throne. The final at Crystal Palace was a pulsating duel that attracted 110,820 spectators, a world record for a football match at that time (some records put the gate at 114,815).

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, with United’s second goal the subject of considerable heated debate. Jerky film of the match – one of the first major sporting events to be filmed – showed that the ball did not cross the Tottenham goal-line.

Goalkeeper George Clawley is clearly seen scrambling the ball away for a corner, which is what the linesman signalled. But autocratic referee Arthur Kingscott astonished everybody by awarding a goal. Player-manager Cameron politely queried whether the ball had crossed the line, but – in the spirit of the time – the Tottenham players accepted without protests. Today, the referee would have no doubt been hung from the crossbar.

Kingscott was the leading official of the day, and later became FA treasurer.

The replay was set for Everton’s ground at Goodison Park, but following protests from Liverpool – who had a League match scheduled for the same day – the match was switched to Bolton’s Burnden Park.

Just 22,000 fans watched Spurs come from a goal down to win 3-1, again with Kingscott in charge. The goal scorers were Cameron, right winger Tom Smith and centre-forward Sandy Brown. This was to prove a rarity – a Tottenham victory at Bolton! It completed a remarkable contribution by Scottish international Brown, who created a record by scoring in every round and netting an astonished 15 of Tottenham’s 20 goals during the Cup run. His haul included all four goals against West Bromwich Albion in the semi-final.

For the record, the winning FA Cup final team selected by Cameron:

George Clawley; Harry Erentz, Sandy Tait; Tom Morris, Ted Hughes, Jack Jones (captain), Tom Smith, John Cameron, Sandy Brown, David Copeland, Jack Kirwan.

Several years later, Cameron – a prolific and disciplined writer throughout his life – wrote in one of many articles (and books) he had published about football:

“I have never been so furious on a football pitch as when referee Mr. Kingscott ruled that Sheffield United had scored in the first match at Crystal Palace. He was the only person among a world record attendance who thought the ball had crossed the goal-line, but I kept my temper and saw to it that my angry team-mates also accepted the decision. It was my proudest day in football when we won the replay and I confess to having tears in my eyes when our skipper Jack Jones accepted the FA Cup. It was quite astonishing what we had achieved. I always stressed to my players that they should go along with the referee’s decision because it is final, and complaining about it is just a waste of energy.”

Once Spurs had established themselves as one of the outstanding clubs in the South, they became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of such a parochial competition as the Southern League. But it was seven long years before they were finally elected to the Football League’s Second Division by which time Cameron had moved on to new challenges.

Under Cameron, Spurs not only won the Southern League and FA Cup but also finished as runners-up in the Southern League in 1902 and 1904. His contribution on and off the pitch was enormous. During his playing career with the club, he scored 139 goals in 293 matches, including 43 goals in 111 Southern League appearances. He made more goals than he scored with his precise passing.

After resigning in 1907, Cameron went to Saxony to coach Dresdner SC, the first football club formed in Germany by expatriate Englishmen in 1874. When the First World War broke out in 1914 he was interned at Ruhleben, a detention camp in the Spandau district of Berlin.

The camp contained around 5,000 prisoners and Cameron organized football and tennis leagues and became secretary of the Ruhleben Football Association. He was one of several former professional footballers at Ruhleben, including England internationals Fred Spiksley, Fred Pentland, Samuel Wolstenholme and all-time great Steve Bloomer. On 2 May 1915 an England XI featuring Pentland, Wolstenholme, Bloomer and ex-Tottenham forward John Brearley played a World XI captained by 43-year-old Cameron, a game watched by a crowd of 5,000 other POWs.

Cameron later said how lucky he was to have been imprisoned in Berlin while millions of his generation were being wiped out on the killing fields of Europe.

After the war he briefly coached his hometown club Ayr United before concentrating on his career as a journalist, author and publisher (I just hope he was more successful than me!).

John Cameron deserves to have his name written large in Tottenham’s history as a man who brought organisation and winning ways to the club, and for introducing the Spurs style of sophisticated football that most of his successors as manager have tried to replicate. I hope you will rally behind Keith Harrison’s campaign to get Cameron awarded a deserved place in the Scottish Hall of Fame.

Here’s a heads-up to those Spurs Odyssey followers who like to collect Tottenham mementoes. ‘Super Fan’ Morris Keston, who has been a spectator at more than 3,000 Lilywhite games since the 1940s, is putting up for sale his huge range of football souvenirs.

Outside the media, I can think of few people who have got closer to the players and officials of Tottenham in particular and football in general. Back in the summertime of his life, Morris knew everybody and anybody in the game and used to travel with the Spurs team around Europe and rarely missed an England game.

In those Glory-Glory years, Morris collected some wonderful mementoes of his extraordinary supporting days.

Now, into his mid-80s and in the autumn of his years, he has decided the time has come to let other people enjoy his collection. You can get full details of what is available from the Tottenham-supporting writer who helped him get his SuperFan memories down on paper: Nick Hawkins (e-mail -


Each week while waiting for the kick off to the second Spurs Odyssey Quiz League, I will be challenging you here with a question to test your knowledge of Tottenham.

You all got last week’s main question right …

Which Tottenham player scored in his only international match for England and won a League championship medal with Spurs, plus what number shirt did he usually wear throughout his playing career with the Lilywhites?

Yes, of course, the one and only Bill Nicholson, but surprisingly quite a few did not know he always wore the No 4 shirt in the Push and Run championship-winning team. The usual line-up back then was:

Ted Ditchburn (but he never ever had a number on his jersey); 2. Alf Ramsey, 3. Arthur Willis (Charlie Withers); 4. Bill Nicholson, 5. Harry Clarke, 6. Ron Burgess (capt); 7. Sonny Walters, 8. Les Bennett, 9. Len Duquemin, 10. Eddie Baily, 11. Les Medley

First name drawn from the correct answers is Roger Turner, originally from Kentish Town and now based in Cyprus. I will email a screen version of one of my Tottenham-themed books to Roger, who has followed Spurs since the 60s.

This week’s teaser:

Name the defender who joined Tottenham in 2005, played 236 League games, scored 7 goals and won four England caps; plus, from which club did he sign for Spurs?

Email your answers, please, to

Don’t forget to add your name, the district where you live and how long you’ve supported Spurs.

You can purchase any of my books from me at, including No 99 that I have written in tribute to Muhammad Ali for whom I worked as a publicist on his European fights. He needed a PR like Einstein needed a calculator. All profits from my Tottenham-themed books go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help any of our old heroes who have hit difficult times.

Thanks for your company. See you same time, same place next week. COYS!

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