West Bromwich Albion first played a league game against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, 7th November 1908, 20 years after the Football League had been formed - with Albion one of its Founder Members. This was Tottenham’s first season in the Football League - 26 years after they were founded as Hotspur F.C. - and they would go on to pip West Brom for promotion to the English First Division that season. Both teams finished the 1908/09 season with 51 points but Spurs had a better Goal Average of just 0.02 goals and so were promoted.
Goal Average (the number of goals scored, divided by the number of goals conceded) was used before Goal Difference was introduced in England in 1976, after a successful trial at the 1970 World Cup. Goal Average had always been a controversial system of deciding promotion and relegation when two teams had finished level on points as, even if they also had the same Goal Difference, it would favour teams scoring and conceding less goals rather than those who scored and conceded more. Goal Difference was introduced to favour a more attacking approach to football. (In 1909, Tottenham Hotspur did also have a superior Goal Difference over West Bromwich Albion so it wouldn’t have mattered which system was in place).
The game, a Second Division clash, was played at The Hawthorns (at 551 feet, the highest ground above sea level in the UK) in front of a crowd of 27,224 with ‘The Throstles’ winning 3.0 to go top of the table ahead of local rivals Birmingham City. The goals were scored by Hewitt (2) and Garraty. Billy Garraty was one of the game’s finest utility players at the time and had previously played for Midlands rivals Aston Villa and Leicester Fosse (later, Leicester City). He is the great-great-grandfather of current Aston Villa player, Jack Grealish.
This was West Brom’s first ever win over Spurs, after losing two previous FA Cup ties. They also won the away game at White Hart Lane that season by three goals to one. Garraty and Hewitt (2) also scored Albion’s goals in that match - played in front of 35,532 fans on 13th March 1909 - but it wasn’t enough to beat Tottenham in the overall promotion race. The Throstles would have to wait some two seasons before going back up to the First Division as Champions in 1910/11.
West Bromwich Albion’s highest home league win against Tottenham Hotspur came on 12th February 1927. Albion won 5.0 with goals from Davies (2), Carter (2) and Short. The attendance for that match was 15,998. Joe Carter scored 145 league goals for WBA between 1921 and 1936 and is sixth in their list of all-time top goalscorers. West Brom had also scored five goals against Spurs five years earlier on 28th October 1922 in a 5.1 win. Jones, Davies (2), Gregory and Crisp scored for Albion that day, with Seed replying for Tottenham.
Tottenham Hotspur’s biggest league win at West Brom came as recently as 31st January 2015 with a 3.0 win in the Premier League, their goalscorers being Christian Eriksen and two from Harry Kane (one, a penalty) in front of a crowd of 25,079.
The highest aggregate score in league games between these clubs at The Hawthorns was in a First Division match on Boxing Day, 1963 in a 4.4 draw, watched by 37,189 fans. Kaye, Clark, Fudge and Howe scored for The Baggies, with Tottenham’s goals coming from Smith, Jones and two from Jimmy Greaves.
One of the most exciting matches between the two teams at West Bromwich Albion’s home ground came on Easter Monday 1969. West Brom won 4.3, in front of a holiday crowd of 24,173, with goals from Hope, Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown and Jeff Astle with two. Spurs replied with two more goals from Jimmy Greaves and one from Cyril Knowles.
Brown and Astle are all-time greats for West Bromwich Albion with Brown topping their goalscorer lists with 218 league goals and Astle at number four with 137 league goals.
Incredibly, matches between these two old rivals have finished 4.3 to The Baggies on no less than five occasions (including the 1969 match). The match on 23rd August 1952 was played in front of the record league crowd at The Hawthorns for matches against The Lilywhites – 56,552 – and included a penalty for Spurs from one Alf Ramsey, later to become England’s World Cup-winning manager.
Tony Brown, with 12 goals, is West Brom’s highest scorer in matches between these two clubs including two December hat-tricks at the Hawthorns – 12th December 1970 and Boxing Day, 1966. However, even Brown’s prolific goal feats are eclipsed by Spurs’ highest scorer in these matches: ‘Bobby’ Smith with 17. Robert Alfred Smith was a prolific centre-forward for Tottenham Hotspur and a key part of Bill Nicholson's 'Double' winning side of 1961, scoring in both the 1961 and 1962 FA Cup Finals. Bobby Smith is Tottenham Hotspur’s second highest goalscorer of all time – behind Jimmy Greaves – with 176 league goals in 271 appearances for the club.
The lowest attendance for a WBA v Spurs league match at The Hawthorns came on Tuesday 6th April, 1915 in the First Division. Albion won 3.2 in front of just 5,813 though the First World War had been raging for almost exactly eight months by then. Many players and fans from both sides who might previously have been in attendance were already in France and Belgium and, with Germany's first use of poison gas marking the start of the Second Battle of Ypres later that month, the Football League suspended league matches shortly afterwards and for the duration of the war.
Similarly, the clubs played a match on 2nd September 1939 which also finished 4.3 – but to Tottenham this time - including hat-tricks from Jones for WBA and Morrison for Spurs. Unfortunately for Spurs the match was declared null and void due to Churchill’s declaration of war on Germany the following day and the league programme being suspended again: this time because of the outbreak of World War Two.
When also meeting Tottenham Hotspur at home in the league, West Bromwich Albion have won the fixture in two of the three seasons when they have gone on to win the FA Cup: 1954 and 1968; also when they won the League Cup in 1966. Tottenham have won at The Hawthorns when going on to win both of their league titles – in 1951 and 1961.
On 15th October 2016 Dele Alli came to Tottenham's rescue with an equaliser in the 89th minute which saw the match finish all square at 1.1. Albion thought they had won it with a goal from former Spurs player Nacer Chadli just eight minutes from time.
Author: Mark Rasdall
Title: Founder, The Football Ground
Updated: 16th October 2016