Ernie Payne proved to be an innocent party in a controversial incident in Tottenham and footballs' history.
The young winger, whose pace and willingness to take on opposing full backs was added to by a liking to shoot for goal, started playing for his school's old boys side - Old Sherbrookians - before he was noticed by local side Fulham, who took him on. Unfortunately, they failed to give him a regular starting position in the team and he was asked to play for Tottenham in a London Senior Cup match on 21st October 1893 against Old St. Marks.
Payne wanted to show what he could do and turned up at Fulham's ground to pick up his boots on the morning of the game, but all his things had gone. This left him arriving at Tottenham with no kit, so the club fitted him out with clothing and shin pads, but there were no boots available to fit the new Spur. So, he was given ten shillings to go and buy a pair from a local sports shop.
The game was played and it was afterwards, when news reached the West London club who Payne played for, that Fulham complained to the London FA that Spurs had poached the player and that they were a professional outfit, as they had offered inducement to play for them in the shape of the money for the boots.
With lightning speed for a FA, the case was heard within two weeks and Spurs escaped the poaching charge (because he hadn't played for Fulham the season before), but they were found guilty of misconduct in offering him money to buy the boots and the club were suspended for two weeks and Ernie was banned for one week. The player repaid the 10 shillings so that he could remain an amateur. Strangely, the public and the press backed Tottenham's cause, although it was a further two years before they went professional and began paying the players who represented the club.
While the whole affair raised Tottenham's profile, Payne did not join the club until 1894 and scored four goals on the first of his appearances as a permanent signing against Polytechnic. It was December 1895 when Spurs turned pro and Ernie was one of the players who opted not to be paid for his services, although when Tottenham brought Frank Brettell in as their first manager, he wanted his own squad and his signing of David Black saw the Scot replace Payne in the side.
Dropping down to the reserves after a few more first team outings, Payne played on until March 1898, when a knee injury stopped him playing top flight football.