vivian woodward - fact file

1901-1909        centre forward


Born on 3rd June 1879 in Kennington, South London, England.

Height : - .m  (5' 11")

Weight : -  - kgs    (11st 0lbs)


One of football's early superstars, Vivian Woodward was an educated man with a career outside the game, but it was his impact for club and country that made big news at the turn of the 20th century.

With a successful career as an architect, Vivian Woodward did not need to subject his body to the rigours of early 1900s football, but he played with great distinction as an amateur through a number of clubs, rising to the pinnacle of playing for his national side.

His career began in Clacton, Essex, playing for Ascham College and the local sides Clacton Town, Colchester Town and Harwich & Parkeston before moving to the prominent Essex non-league team of the time, Chelmsford City.  His performances attracted interest from Spurs and in April 1901, ahead of the FA Cup Final, he was offered the opportunity to turn out for the reserve side, as the first team were being rested.  The club were keen to take him on and signed him as an amateur.

Woodward's key assets to the side were his ability to take players on with the ball and to pick out a pass to a colleague to use the space they were in to the maximum effect.  His quick passing became a noted aspect of his game.  Not the strongest built of players, Woodward made a name for himself as a darting forward, who would be able to beat his opponent with skill rather than more physical means, which were often used against him in attempts to thwart his progress.  Ever the gentleman, Woodward rose above this tactic and continued to inflict more of the same on his marker, as it was obvious to him that this was working.  Vivian's control and body swerve gave full backs a tough time in trying to get the ball from him and his running off the ball gave an early indication of what would be refined into the "push and run" game Tottenham would adopt later in the club's history.  He was regularly among the goals and his pace often took him into goal-scoring positions, with the resulting efforts on goal more often being deliberately placed rather than blasted home, although he had that ability if it was needed.  His languid style was at odds with the fast-paced game of the time and because of his particular style, he was often the victim of rough play, with players trying to intimidate him out of the game, but he failed to rise to the provocation and even had to speak to his colleagues, who were keen to mete out their own retaliation on Woodward's behalf.  The noble attitude he displayed on the pitch often saw him referred to as “Sir” by people in the game.

As a true amateur throughout his career (not even claiming travelling expenses), Woodward failed to see the "win at all costs" attitude and even when his own players got physical with the other side, he would make them see that this was not the way that the game should be played.  Obviously, he was an early proponent of "the Tottenham Way".

Woodward's play also attracted many admirers, with other clubs willing to swap players for him, but Vivian stuck with Spurs, who split his time three ways between his architect's career, Chelmsford City and Spurs.  And that became four ways when England came to call for his services too.  Played in his centre-forward role for the national side, Woodward won 23 caps, scoring 29 goals and captaining the side in 13 of those games.  His goals came at a rapid rate, starting with two on his debut and he once hit four in one game against Austria.  As Vivian became a regular in the England team during his time with Spurs, so, his play with the club reflected his importance to Tottenham's Southern League success.  His contribution both in terms of scoring and creation cannot be under-estimated, with a place in the Football League earned at the end of it.

There was also success in his 67 amateur caps for England, with Vivian being the captain as the UK side swept to victory in the Olympic Games of 1908 and 1912.  His success brought demands on his time, with many call-ups to play in games representing regions or leagues, including foreign tours to spread the popularity of the game abroad.

Meanwhile, back at White Hart Lane, Vivian wrote his name in a further page of Tottenham's history by scoring the first goal in their first league game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers and he added another 17 goals that season to finish as the club's top scorer in 27 games as they won the division and were promoted. 

As a crucial member of the team, it came as a real blow to Tottenham, when Woodward decided that he would return to play for Chelmsford City, giving up top flight football.  While there were other things in Vivian's life, the decision looked very odd and Spurs were stunned when he made a return to senior football with a move to struggling Chelsea a month into the new season.  Back in the Football league, as a result of a pledge he made to Mr. Kirby, the Chelsea chairman, three years previous, when he offered his services if he was “freelance”, he set about trying to save the Pensioners top flight status.  This he assisted them in doing, with the Stamford Bridge club just managing to stay out of the relegation zone until the last two games of the season.  With a 2-0 win over Bury, it left the final fixture being a decider as to who would be relegated and the opponents for Chelsea were … none other than Tottenham Hotspur !!  White Hart Lane was the venue for the match with the winner staying up and in a nail-biting match, Billy Minter and Percy Humphreys were the Spurs scorers in a 2-1 victory that saw Chelsea finish second from bottom at the end of the season and were relegated to the Second Division.

His time at Chelsea ended with the opportunity of an FA Cup Final appearance, after being granted a release from his service with the 17th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment by his Lieutenant, which was known as the Footballer's Battalion (because of the number of players who signed up to serve in this regiment) in 1915 as Bob Thompson has sustained an injury.  When Thompson recovered, Woodward considered that as the team had reached the final without him, they should be the ones who should represent the club in the match.  As it was Chelsea lost the final and Woodward completed his career without a major honour in the game, but the way he conducted himself was more than enough reward for the gentleman footballer, who had a reputation that many who followed him would have done well to copy.

During his service in World War I on the Western Front, Woodward rose to the rank of Captain and received an injury in 1916, which meant that he was not able to return to play at the highest level again.

Following retirement from the game, Woodward became a farmer at Chisbon Heath, near Clacton, Essex.

Vivian Woodward died in Ealing, West London, England on 31st January 1954.


NICKNAME :  -  "Sir"

Career Record
Club Signed Fee Debut Apps Goals
Chelmsford City 1898 - ??  ?? ??
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (amateur) 1901 - 6th April 1901 v Bristol City (Southern League) (home)  won 1-0 193 (incl. 2 abandoned) 96
Chelmsford City June 1909 - ??  116 30
Chelsea September 1909 - 27th November 1909 v Sheffield Wednesday (First Division) (away)  lost 1-4 ?? ??

Career Record
27 League appearances; 18 goals
24 FA Cup appearances (including 1 abandoned game); 5 goals
142 Other (including 1 abandoned game) appearances; 73 goals
Chelmsford City
- League appearances; goals
- FA Cup appearances; goals
- League Cup appearances; goals
- League appearances; goals
- FA Cup appearances; goals
- League Cup appearances; goals

England International
Debut : - 14th February 1903  v Ireland (Home International) (Molineux)  won 4-0; scored twice
29 full caps; 29 goals
Captain 13 matches
67 amateur caps; ?? goals
Olympic Gold Medals for football 1908 and 1912

- appearance


In 1907, Mr. George Cox (father of 1975 Spurs Vice-Chairman of Charles Cox) resigned from the board because of business commitments and Woodward elected in his place.  When Woodward left Spurs for Chelsea and George Cox came back onto the board in 1918.
Vivian Woodward helped design the main stand at the Royal Beerschot stadium in Antwerp, Belgium – which was one of the stadia to stage 1920 Olympic Games events.


What they said about Vivian Woodward
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What they said about Vivian Woodward
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Season League FA Cup London War League
1901-02 -   (- goal) - -
1902-03 -  (- goal) - -
1903-04 -  (- goal) - -
1904-05 -   (- goal) - -
1905-06 -   (- goal) - -
1906-07 -   (- goal) - -
1907-08 -   (- goal) - -
1908-09 -   (- goal) - -

            For other articles on Vivian Woodward

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          Books on Vivian Woodward

          "Vivian Woodward – Football's Gentleman"  by Norman Jacobs
          Publisher : The History Press Ltd.
          ISBN Nos.          
ISBN-10: 0752434306;  ISBN-13: 978-0752434308
          Published : -  1st August 2005
          192 pages



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