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Class of 51 - Ted Ditchburn

Posted on 12 January 2016  - 13:00

Manager Arthur Rowe used just 19 players were we won the Division One title for the first time in season 1950-51. Now, 65 years on, we pay tribute to each one. Here John Fennelly spotlights the contribution of goalkeeper TED DITCHBURN.

Ted in flying action at the Lane in 1950.Ted (left) getting measured for his England suit with Spurs team mates Bill Nicholson, Eddie Baily and Alf Ramsey in 1950.Ted with Spurs 1951.Ted in control against Portsmouth at the Lane in September, 1954.Taking a family break at a holiday camp in 1952.

Games: 42.  Goals: 0.

As the son of a noted professional boxer, it is no surprise that goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn’s qualities included bravery, athleticism, strength and agility.  He was also incredibly consistent and a key element of the Tottenham ‘Push and Run’ philosophy.

Indeed Ted was ever-present in our Division Two promotion-winning side of 1950 and again played in every game as we swept to the First Division title the following season.

Born in Gillingham, he started work at Northfleet Paper Mills and was playing for their factory side when we invited him to join the White Hart Lane groundstaff in 1937.  He was then sent back to the Kent town to play for our nursery side Northfleet United.

Below: Ted in colour in 1948


He returned to Tottenham to sign as a professional in May, 1939, but then the outbreak of World War Two held up his career for the next seven years with Ted joining the RAF and playing mainly for Aberdeen during the conflict.  However, he did manage to make his Spurs debut in a war-time league match against Chelsea in 1940.

So the fact that Ditchburn went on to appear in 452 senior games for us plus 123 in other first team games, shows the reliability that Arthur Rowe and his team mates relied on.  Indeed, between 1946 and 1954 he only missed two games and that run included a record of 247 consecutive league outings.

It is also a relevant fact that Ditchburn’s had a major contribution to our quick-passing style at the time.  Throughout that era most goalkeepers favoured the long boot upfield – and Ted certainly took a powerful goalkick. But he perfected his own short throw distribution – usually to right-back Alf Ramsey – that instigated so many of our attacking moves.

Ted had already played in two war-time internationals as well as representing the Football League and the RAF during the war to illustrate his pedigree so we were delighted to have such an accomplished  finished product return to us on demob and his first senior outing for us came in August, 1946, on the opening day of the new season.  Ted was one of six Spurs debuts that day so it’s probably not surprising that we lost 2-1 at home to Birmingham City!

He was unfortunate to play in an era when the England national team was well served for goalkeepers with Frank Swift to the fore but he made his full debut in 1948 when England beat Switzerland 6-0 at Highbury.

Below: Ted in full voice in 1953!


However he would only win five more senior caps over the next eight years although he was a member of the 1950 World Cup squad and also played twice for England ‘B.’  He was 35 when he made his last three full England appearances – all wins, over Wales, Yugoslavia and Denmark.

By now he was under pressure from Ron Reynolds at Spurs but kept fighting back until he broke a finger in August, 1958, and lost his place to John Hollowbread. The injury proved enough to end his senior career so he moved on to play for Romford where he was later player-manager.  He also played briefly for Brentwood Town.

Aptly, with his pugilistic roots, Ted Ditchburn died on Boxing Day, 2005.  He was 84 but remains highly-respected here as one of our great goalkeepers, a tradition we are lucky to have maintained over the years.

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