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Spurs' First Title Success (1950-51) - The History of Push & Run

SPURS' FIRST TITLE SUCCESS - THE STORY OF 1950-51 - The History of Push & Run
(all articles written by the late Brian Judson - unless otherwise stated)

Spurs Championship Winning Team of 1950-51

Tottenham Hotspur: First Division Champions 1950-51

Standing, left to right: C. Poynton (trainer), W.E. Nicholson, A.E. Ramsey, H. Clarke, E.G. Ditchburn, A. Willis, R. Burgess (captain), Mr A. Rowe (manager)
Seated left to right: W.E. Walters, L.D. Bennett, L. Duquemin, E.F. Baily, L.D. Medley

Most of this article was written in 1999

There can be very few people going to White Hart Lane today who can remember the moment the concept of push and run was actually born. Arthur Rowe, the architect of push and run, once described it by saying, "We were returning home from a match at Bradford [Park Avenue] and were all dead pleased with our 2 win bonus, talking over the game and the last minute goal which had done the trick for us. I spread the sugar around, trying to map out the moves leading up to our goal. It was one to savour because there were about seven passes starting from our own penalty area. I argued that if we could plan moves like that instead of hoping for it to happen we would score more often."

Much later, Rowe described the stunning simplicity of his ideas. "I took our style back to the streets, the way we played it as kids - off the kerb, off the wall, taking the ball at different angles. enlisting the kerb as a team mate who let you have the ball back immediately after you had played it quickly .... the quicker the better. And all the time you were tailoring your ideas, your hopes to the limits or the limitations of your players, not asking them to do the things they could not do."

Spurs were still adjusting to the shock of experiencing a second relegation within the space of a few seasons to the old Second Division when the concept of push and run had been born. They had been relegated in unusual circumstances at the end of season 1927-28 and had taken five traumatic seasons to climb back to the First Division, which had been achieved at the end of season 1932-33. But their return had been brief. After finishing third in the championship in season 1933-34, Spurs had finished rock bottom the following season as 36 players were used during the campaign, following a horrendous list of injuries and manager Percy Smith and the Board of Directors rowed in private.

Season 1935-36 was destined to be a very disappointing season. With a new manager at the helm in Jack Tresarden, Spurs had made a great start to the season. But as it progressed they had dropped silly points and finally finished 5th in the table.

The vital moment I believe push and run to have been conceived came during the match played on February 22nd 1936. We won 5-2 at Bradford [Park Avenue] that day, the only time we won there during Rowe's time as a player. Fred Sargent scored twice, Johnny Morrison, George Hunt and Willie Evans scoring the other goals. No one present at that match could have realised these were the birth pangs of the idea that became known as 'push and run'.

Towards the end of the 1948-49 season, the Spurs Board met to consider the future. They were coming to the end of yet another disappointing season in which Spurs were destined to finish 5th in Division 2 yet again. Manager Joe Hulme, the former Arsenal and Huddersfield Town player, had been at the helm of the club since the early post war days. His contract was up for renewal and the Board decided not to renew his contract. As the season ended, the Board decided to appoint Arthur Rowe, the captain of the 1932-33 promotion side, as the club's new manager.

Analysing the players that Hulme had assembled [and Ditchburn, Burgess and Nicholson had been on the staff during season 1938-39, the last full pre-war season], Rowe decided that only one addition to that squad was needed. Caretaker manager Jimmy Anderson had in fact tried to sign Alf Ramsey prior to the transfer deadline in March 1949. Rowe persuaded Ramsey to join Spurs, convincing Ramsey that Spurs were destined for glory.

There were parallels with the 1960-61 season as the 1949-50 campaign got under way. Apart from a solitary defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers, 2-3, in the second home game of the season, Spurs did not look back and had soon broken away from the pack of the Second Division clubs. Long before Christmas it was obvious that Spurs were destined to walk away with the Second Division championship. Spurs went 23 games without defeat after the Blackburn match, scoring 50 goals in the process. Promotion was clinched on April 1st 1950 when Spurs beat QPR at Loftus Road, 2-0, through goals by Eddie Baily and Les Medley. There was still five weeks of the season to be played but Spurs did not bother to strive for records and contented themselves with winning the title.

Back in the championship for the first time since May 1935, Spurs took a while to adjust. They had a series of indifferent matches whilst they attuned themselves to the faster tempo of the Championship. The turning point came when they beat Aston Villa, 3-2, at Villa Park at the end of September and then reeled off eight consecutive victories that took them from a lowly 13th place at the end of September to 2nd place behind Arsenal in mid-November. Included in this run was one of their finest displays when Newcastle United made the long journey south to Tottenham and were thrashed 7-0. The team the Magpies played that day were destined to win the FA Cup the following May.

As 1950 died and 1951 was ushered in for the start of another year, Spurs stood proudly at the top of the table for the first time since the brief heyday of season 1933-34. The '51 side had one advantage over the '61 side. They were not distracted by a long cup run as they were quickly dismissed from the FA Cup by Huddersfield Town.

The weather played its part in the history of Tottenham's championship season. As their grand design became bogged down in the wintery mud, it looked as though Spurs were going to miss their appointment with destiny. The ball repeatedly stuck in the boggy morass of grounds up and down the country. And then one day as they played a practice match, despite the pitch being boggy, the ball was running true again. Rowe was puzzled for a while until he remembered that no sand had been laid on the pitch that morning. Swiftly he ordered the ground staff not to put sand down on the pitch again for the foreseeable future. And Spurs began to play their exhilarating brand of football again.

As the season came to a climax, Spurs and Manchester United were slugging it out for the championship. But Spurs clinched the title by beating relegation bound Sheffield Wednesday 1-0, thanks to a goal scored by Len Duquemin, on April 28th 1951. The following Saturday, Spurs were presented with the Championship Shield after the home game with Liverpool.

Spurs almost won the Championship again the following season but, thereafter, they started to decline, and by the mid-1950s, the team had started to break up. Even as Rowe took ill with the strain of being a manager, he was still thinking ahead to the future. He knew the side had to be rebuilt and he knew the man he wanted to lead the side.

On December 4th 1954, Bill Nicholson played his final game for Tottenham. A week later, his successor, installed as captain, led the team out at Maine Road to play Manchester City. The player's name was Robert Dennis Blanchflower, popularly known as 'Danny' ...........

Cheers, Brian

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