The Tottenham Connection
Feature by Gerry Wolstenholme
Updated Friday, 11th April 2008
The signing of Joe Martin on loan to the end of the season is a relatively rare bit of business as far as Blackpool are concerned. It is not too often that the club signs players from Tottenham Hotspur.
The first player that Blackpool acquired from Spurs was way back in December 1932 when on the 15th of that month Jimmy Smailes was bought for a fee of £2,250. Smailes was an outside left and was from the north east, having started his career with Tow Law Town. He was transferred to Huddersfield Town in 1927 and, after playing 32 League games and scoring eight goals for the club, moved on to Spurs for what was reported as "a big fee". He was not the success many hoped for at Tottenham and he lost his first team place and found himself in the London Combination (reserve) side.
This did not appeal to him and, after just 16 League games in which he scored three goals, he was transferred to Blackpool whose officials felt that he "may solve the left wing problem". Representatives from Blackpool had in fact watched him in several Spurs games and when the directors went down to London to watch Jimmy Hampson play for England against Austria, an offer was made for him. No immediate deal took place but a short time later a mutually acceptable transfer fee was agreed.
He made his League debut for Blackpool against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 17 December 1932 when it was "No day to pass judgement on Smailes. He had few chances. The few he had he took with a crisp decision which has never before been revealed on the left flank of the attack this season." Blackpool won 3-2. He scored his first goal for the club in a 4-1 victory over Derby County on 27 December 1932 and remained in the side, even though carrying a slight injury, until he was obliged to miss his first game of the season when Blackpool visited Port Vale on 20 January 1933.
Probably his finest hour for Blackpool came against Aston Villa on 18 March 1933 when he scored twice as Blackpool won handsomely 6-2, with makeshift centre forward Phil Watson netting a hat-trick and Bobby Crawford (father of Bruce) added the other. His final goal of the season came in a 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers on 14 April 1933 when Phil Watson was again on target, this time with two.
He played 27 League and Cup games, scoring five goals, for Blackpool in the 1932/33 season although he was considered to be "somewhat out of form towards the close, but fast". Blackpool were relegated, being in last position in Division One so it was Division Two football for Smailes in the 1933/34 season when he shone on the left wing and missed only four games and those through injury. He played 38 League games scoring 10 goals, with two against Brentford in a 3-1 victory on 4 November 1933 being his best return. His tally put him second in Blackpool's goalscoring list behind Jimmy Hampson, whose injury-hit season had produced 13 goals. Despite Smailes' consistency the view at the end of the season was "With a little care [he] could be a great figure in football, but [he] often lacks finish and punch."
He began the 1934/35 season in fine style, assisting in an opening day 5-1 victory over Bury on 25 August 1934 and then, two days later, scoring one of Blackpool's goals in a 4-1 win against Newcastle United. However, after just six games he was injured and required an operation that left him recovering in a Newcastle nursing home. He made a long-awaited comeback in the Central League side (his only game for the club at that level) and scored one of Blackpool's goals in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United reserves.
He was back in the League side the following week and scored his second League goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over Southampton. He missed only four games from then until the end of the season, giving him a record of 26 League games and nine goals.
During the season Manchester United had enquired about his availability for transfer in February 1935 but Blackpool were not interested in parting with him. However, when Grimsby Town enquired later in the same month, Blackpool suggested a transfer fee of £3,500.
And it was to Grimsby Town that he eventually moved in May 1935, albeit for a much-reduced fee of £1,000. His Blackpool career had encompassed 104 League and Cup games in which he scored a creditable 24 goals.
He remained at Grimsby for just one season and then went on to play for Stockport County and Bradford City while he made guest appearances for Bradford Park Avenue, Hartlepool United and Huddersfield Town during World War II.
The second signing from Tottenham came on 16 March 1934 when centre forward Allan Hall was purchased for a fee of £3,000. Hall was a Yorkshireman, born in Sheffield, and had started his football career with Victoria Hall Juniors and Sheffield Park Labour Club before joining Doncaster Rovers in August 1926. He subsequently moved to Middlesbrough, Bradford City and Lincoln City before he joined Spurs where he only played two League games but where he was a prolific scorer for their London Combination side.
Blackpool swooped to sign him when manager Joe Smith went to London just nine hours before the transfer deadline and almost on deadline time he signed Hall. And just three hours after he met his new team‑mates he led the Blackpool attack at Brentford on 17 March 1934. Blackpool lost 1‑0 as "too few passes reached Hall for any authoritative estimate of his qualifications to be formed", although it was noted "he has speed and a sense of the direct move".
He scored his first goal for Blackpool in his second game when he secured a point in a 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers and he found the net again in a 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle on 7 April 1934, when he played in the unaccustomed position of outside right. A further goal against West Ham United on 14 April1934 gave him four goals in six games. And that was his final tally for his first season when he played nine League games for Blackpool, in every one of them with his former Spurs colleague Jimmy Smailes on the left wing.
With Hampson injured once again and his replacement Albert Brallisford faring none too well, Hall earned another recall to the League side against Notts County on 8 December 1934 after his goalscoring exploits had brought him 14 goals for the Central League side. He scored one of Blackpool's goals in a 3-2 defeat and retained his place for a further six League and Cup games in which he scored four goals.
He made one further appearance in the League side against Norwich City in a 1-1 draw on 23 February 1935 and this turned out to be his final first team game for the club. He had played in eight League games, scoring four goals, one FA Cup tie, scoring one goal, and 18 Central League games, scoring 17 goals, in the 1934/35 season, taking his total number of League and Cup games for the club to 18 in which he scored a reasonable nine goals.
He was placed on the transfer list at the end of the 1934/35 season at a fee of £1,000 and Hull City offered £750 for his transfer but Blackpool deemed that not to be enough and held out for their £1,000. Hull were hesitant and then pulled out of any deal. Meanwhile Hall felt that the fee was too much and in June 1935 he applied to The Football League for a reduction in it but the League declined to take any action.
Notts County were interested in signing him in June 1935 and Blackpool invited them to make an offer but none was forthcoming and he therefore signed for non‑league Gainsborough Trinity in July 1935. Blackpool politely informed him that they would not be reducing the fee they had placed upon him and that he should refer any interested club to them.
He continued to play for Gainsborough Trinity, who gleefully reported to Blackpool that in 50 games for them during the 1935/36 season he had scored 52 goals. Then in May 1936 Hall wrote to Blackpool asking for his transfer fee to be reduced from £1,000 but was told simply to refer any interested League clubs to Blackpool who would consider any offers made. No other League club made any offer for him and he ended his career having scored over 200 goals for Gainsborough Trinity.
He did play as a wartime guest for Lincoln City and Manchester City during World War II and after the war he was trainer at Gainsborough Trinity and in the summer played cricket for local club Britannia.
So those are the Tottenham connections - at least on a permanent basis, for, mentioning wartime guests leads nicely on to one who played for Blackpool. And that was England international Ronnie Dix who was at the time a Tottenham Hotspur player. During World War II he was stationed in Blackpool and played 100 games for the club scoring an incredible 82 goals. He featured in all three sides that won the Football League Northern Section and also in the successful Football League War Cup winning side in 1942/43 and he was also in the losing side in the 1943/44 final. In addition he played, and scored one of the goals, in the Challenge Cup Final when southern Cup winners Arsenal were defeated 4-2 at Stamford Bridge on 15 May 1943.
A less well-known occasion when one other Tottenham player made a fleeting appearance on the Bloomfield Road stage involved goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn who had signed for Spurs in May 1939. Blackpool's regular guest goalkeeper Reg Savage was due to play for the Whites against the Tangerines in a pre-season practice game on 12 August 1944 but he generously "agreed to stand down" to allow Ditchburn to play. And Ditchburn probably wished he hadn't as Stan Mortensen scored five past him and Fred Kirkham added another as the Tangerines defeated the Whites 6-2. The experience did not seem to scar Ditchburn as he went on to play 418 League games for Spurs and to win six England caps.
Two last connections are that former Blackpool player Paul Stewart joined Tottenham but only after he had spent time with Liverpool so there was no direct connection on that occasion. And similarly Alfie Conn joined Blackpool from Heart of Midlothian after having spent a short spell with Tottenham. Conn walked on Blackpool after playing three League games late in the 1980/81 season.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Joe Martin is the ninth player with that surname to have represented Blackpool!
'The Khaki Years - Blackpool Football Club The First World War Seasons 1915/16-1918/19'.
As the title says, it covers the four wartime seasons when official League football was suspended. It is a little written about period of the club's (or football generally) history and many players from neighbouring Army camps were in the side due to the regular players being in the war arena. The book charts the club's performance over the four seasons and contains grids, with full team line-ups, for each season.
John Cross is taking orders now, for the book is being published in a limited edition of only 100 copies, probably A4 size so as to make the grids very readable. Price will probably be £5.00. Contact John at 15 Bromsgrove Avenue, Bispham, by telephone on 01253 353237 or e-mail at email@example.com