Retro Red Devils 17 – 1939 Annual Dinner, “Spurs” matches, Hatters & Magpies Stars?

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12th March 2024

My last Retro Red Devils article featured my rant on “soft” postponements of matches in these current, more cossetted times. Needless to say, it was followed by our match against Barrow being called off a day early due to a waterlogged pitch. There had been alot of rain over the preceding days, and sure enough, an early decision was made and I fully expected many other games to follow suit. Somewhat surprisingly, few top-level games across the country were postponed and we were treated to a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon with no football!

Hopefully I will not put a jinx on this week’s games and will steer away from further comments on how football has “gone soft”.

Another subject of the previous article was about how, since moving from Town Meadow, we have largely lost the link with regular fans achieved through an active social club. I included a photo loaned to me by the Kennard family of a very well-attended dinner held at APV Jordans after the Crawley v Youngman’s friendly match in December 1949.

In a similar vein, an item recently shared with me by Tony Pope, our club historian, pre-dates our move to Town Meadow (in summer 1949) and illustrates a major social event for the club on 9th June 1939, with our “first” annual dinner, concert and dance.

1939 Dinner Ticket, Menu & Toasts pt1

1939 Dinner Ticket, Menu & Toasts pt2

Whether this actually was the first ever is difficult to say, but it would certainly be the first since the club’s short hiatus from competition in the mid 1930s. The “do” was held at our then HQ, The Railway Hotel, and I think would have been in the ballroom, behind the current Railway pub (I believe the ballroom burned down in a fire in the 1950s). I have a few pictures of the club’s social events held at this venue, always seemingly well attended by players, officials and supporters. I notice in the menu for this event the names of some of our longstanding stalwarts proposing some of the toasts, namely Bill Denman and Frank (G.F.H.) Banks. Both of these men were involved in the early years of Crawley FC in the 1890s, and 40 years later were still to the fore.

Some newer names included Norman (later Sir Norman) and Basil Longley from the prominent local building firm. They too would serve many years with Crawley FC, either with the football or supporters’ clubs.

In the same batch of items from Tony, a couple of match tickets from a few months after the dance caught my eye. These were for a couple of friendly matches between Crawley (& District) and Tottenham “Police”. I put the word Police in quotes as further research showed that the team was more “Hotspur” than “Police”, particularly the first match, on 29th November 1939 (not long after the start of World War Two), when according to reports, as many as eight of the side were Tottenham Hotspurs players!

Crawley v Tottenham “Police” 29-11-1939

Included in that side (which beat the local side 7-1) were two particularly famous players in Vic Buckingham and Willie Hall. Buckingham played over 200 games for Spurs but it was as a manager that he achieved more success, winning the FA Cup with West Brom in 1954, almost doing the double when his side also finished second in the league. Amongst his many other clubs managed were Barcelona, where he won the Spanish Cup, and two spells as manager of Ajax in the Netherlands, winning the league in his first spell and giving a certain Johan Cruyff his league debut in his second.

The second famous name in that Tottenham Police side – and the “Magpies Superstar” of my heading – was one “Willie” (G.W.) Hall, who was born in Nottinghamshire and played for this week’s opponents Notts County (nicknamed The Magpies) until being sold to Spurs in 1932 and going on to play over 200 games for the London side. He would also play ten times for England, scoring nine goals, including in 1938 scoring five goals against Ireland in a 30-minute spell either side of half-time, which included a hat-trick in just four minutes – still, I believe, an England international record. He would serve in the London Police during WW2 which is how I suspect such an illustrious name came to be playing a friendly match in Crawley! He would return to live in the county of his birth after his illustrious football career was over and died in 1967, reportedly, shortly after watching Spurs beat Chelsea in the 1967 FA Cup final!

After the match a social evening was held at the George Hotel, with Willie Hall being the main attraction. He would autograph the match ball which was then raffled and after three winners passed it on, was eventually gifted to Crawley FC. I wonder where it ended up?

3rd April 1940 Crawley District v Tottenham “Police” (& Arsenal!) ticket

3rd April 1940 Crawley District v Tottenham “Police” (& Arsenal!) Report

That first game was in aid of the British Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Brigade (for which £12 was raised), but the second game, on 3rd April 1940, was in aid of recent Crawley centre forward Cyril Baker who had tragically lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. The “Police” side did not feature Willie Hall, who had been injured the week before, but did contain Joe Hulme of Arsenal and England as well as several Spurs players. Hulme played over 300 games for Arsenal in the 1930s, winning three league titles and an FA Cup as well as nine England caps before going on to manage bitter rivals Tottenham after the war.

However this side was not strong enough to contain the local select XI, who won this second game 10-4 with Lowfield Heath player Parsons scoring six goals.

Venue for the post-match festivities after this second match was The Railway Hotel, with “high tea” reportedly taken, followed by dancing to Jack Charman’s Accordion Band. Approximately £20 was raised for Cyril Baker, who was present to receive the money.

There would be a meeting between bona fide Crawley Town and Tottenham Hotspur’s teams in season 1963/64 when our reserves (we had just joined the Southern League that season) came up against a Spurs ‘A’ team in the Metropolitan League, that being the first season in that league for Spurs and our last.

Spurs ‘A’ 5 Crawley Reserves 1 at White Hart Lane

We even played an away match at White Hart Lane (often the “big” clubs would play home games at the smaller club) when on 11th April 1964 we met in the Met League Challenge Cup semi-final (see team sheet).

The Spurs team consisted of up-and-coming players including Keith Weller (who scored two goals and would have a long Football League career with a number of clubs and also play some games for England), Roger Hoy and John Sainty (also scored two goals). In fact Sainty would establish strong links with the second of our upcoming opponents, Stockport County (The Hatters), when after a playing career mainly with Reading and Bournemouth he went on to manage Chester City before enjoying a successful spell as coach and assistant manager at Stockport County between 1989-1997.

Returning to the Spurs match, I am not sure if our much-changed reserve side were overawed at the surroundings, but we would lose the semi-final 5-1 in what would be our final season in the Met League and the end of our reserve side for the immediate future, as finances were concentrated on getting our fledgling Southern League campaign up and running.

Mention of our Southern League campaign had me checking who our first team were playing that day, and it turned out to be one of our long-time opponents, Stevenage Town (albeit they have had a few changes of name and structure since 1964). Sadly we also lost that game, by 1-0, although it was one of only two defeats (the other to another long-time rival in Burton Albion) in our final ten league games that season, with the Red Devils winning the other eight to finish a respectable mid-table in our first Southern League season. Included in those eight victories was a 2-0 win over table-topping Kings Lynn, which would deny them the title. Folkestone (who we had beaten in February) gained a win and a draw in their final two games to overhaul them and snatch the title. I show the league tables in the programme from our final game of the season at home to Ramsgate Athletic, which illustrates how we needed that fine post-Easter run to gain a mid-table finish (only two points for a win in those days).

SL & Met.League Tables 25th April 1964

A finish this season to match that of 60 years ago would be ideal, so over to Scott and the boys to start it with a couple of wins over Notts County and Stockport County!

Mick Fox –


Mick Fox

Mick Fox

Mick has been a lifelong fan since being taken to games as a young boy by his Dad (an ex Crawley keeper) in the 1950s and today is a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Over that time Mick have been involved in the Supporters Club, Social Clubs (including the Broken Flag Club) and also sat on the Football Club board. He has seen many regimes and fans come and go but never been able to shake the bug. Big fan of "proper" football - definitely not the Premier League!