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Class of 51 - Arthur Willis

Wed 06 January 2016, 14:30|Tottenham Hotspur

Manager Arthur Rowe used just 19 players when 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 left-back ARTHUR WILLIS.


Games: 39
Goals: 0

Arthur Willis was a good enough full-back to have played for England during his time at White Hart Lane. But the strong competition throughout his Spurs career restricted his first team outings to 160 when his talent warranted so many more.

Firstly his time with us was interrupted by the Second World War - and then he had to battle with the likes of Syd Tickeridge, Charlie Withers and Mel Hopkins for a place at various stages of his 16 years as a Spur.

Born in the village of Denaby Main, near Doncaster, on February 2, 1920, Arthur was working as a miner but did so well in local football that he attracted interest from Barnsley and Sunderland before joining our amateur ranks in 1938.

We sent him to our nursery side Northfleet to continue his development but when war broke out the following year, he played for Finchley and Millwall while working in an engineering factory.

Willis operated regularly in our Football League South side during the conflict, turning professional in January, 1944, and finally playing in his first senior game in a home FA Cup tie with Brentford in January, 1946.

In and out of the side, he timed his return well as manager Arthur Rowe brought him into the fold for our final two games of 1950 as we confirmed promotion to Division One. He then replaced Withers at left-back the following season as an important cog in our ‘Push and Run’ side as we raced to our first Championship in some style.


Both Willis and Withers were typical Spurs defenders in that they possessed good skills with pace. Their positioning was always strong as was their reading of the game while the fact that they barely scored a goal between them for us showed where their priority lay. Indeed, Charlie scored two in the FA Cup and Arthur just the one in the league.

In October, 1951, Willis won his sole England cap - going straight into the full side for the international against France at Highbury and playing his part in the 2-2 draw.

September, 1954, saw him follow team mate Ron Burgess to Swansea where he remained until 1957 when he took over as player-manager at Haverfordwest. Sadly he died in the Pembrokeshire town in November, 1987, aged 67.