CROYDON COMMON FOOTBALL CLUB
Bartlett was born in Forest Gate, London in 1878. He played as a goalkeeper for the amateur Croydon Common club, before taking over as the club’s manager in 1903. Thereafter, he masterminded the formation of the professional Croydon Common club and secured its entry into the Southern League. Whilst he was at the helm, the club won the league’s Division Two title in 1908-09; its first success in the professional world. He resigned in December 1909 to become the club’s secretary, but he had a second spell in charge during the 1911-12 season.
He became manager of Leicester Fosse in April 1912 and, in doing so, he became the youngest manager in the Football League at the age of only 34. However, in March 1914, he resigned from the position after the club was fined for an illegal approach to a player. Shortly after, he wisely turned down an invitation from the German F.A. to coach in Germany and he instead became manager of Swansea Town. He died in Totnes in 1959.
Nat Whittaker was born in the Lancashire village of Church on 3 February 1863. He played as a half back for Accrington, one of the twelve original member clubs of the Football League, before coming south to take up a teaching position. After coming to London, he captained the Westminster College football team and, at some point, played for either Tottenham Hotspur (according to several sources) or Hotspur F.C. (according to others); both being amateur clubs at that particular time. However, he then began to spend more time on refereeing and football secretarial positions and, in 1894, not long after the foundation of the Southern League, he was appointed as its honorary secretary. At this time he also sat on the Councils of three senior football bodies; the Football Association, the London Football Association and the Referees Association. He also refereed Southern League, and Football League, matches on a regular basis.
It was in his capacity as the honorary secretary of the Southern League that he was present at the public meeting in Croydon on 25 April 1907, at which the proposal to form a professional Croydon Common club was announced. Just five days earlier, he had refereed the F.A. Cup final in which Sheffield Wednesday had beaten Everton 2-1 at The Crystal Palace before a crowd of 84,584. However, his refereeing career was not without incident. In 1894, he refereed a match that saw Millwall Athletic beat Luton Town 4-3 but his handling of the game so incensed the supporters of the losing team, who blamed him for the loss, that a “howling mob of youths” apparently followed him to the station.
He was appointed as Croydon Common’s second manager in December 1909 at a time when the club was at the bottom of Division One of the Southern League and destined for relegation. However, he barely lasted two months in the role before being replaced. He died in Guy’s Hospital in early 1922.
Very shortly after he was replaced as Croydon Common manager, there was a football related tragedy in his life. His brother Spencer had been appointed as the manager of Burnley in 1903 and, in April 1910, he travelled to London by train to guarantee that the registration of a new player would be effected in time to allow him to play the next day. When his train reached Crewe, another passenger entered the compartment in which he was travelling and promptly went to asleep. When the train stopped at Stafford, the passenger awoke to find himself alone and the carriage door swinging open. After a search, Spencer was found lying unconscious and seriously injured by the side of the track. He was taken to a hospital in Crewe, but died shortly afterwards. He was just 39 years old. Although the exact cause of the tragic accident was never established, it was supposed that he had mistaken the outside door of the carriage for the door leading to the corridor and the Cheshire Coroner’s jury returned a verdict of “accidental death”. He left a widow and three young daughters.
Gardner was born in Glasgow on 31 March 1873. A full back, his first senior club was Third Lanark and he was capped once by Scotland during his three seasons there; he played in the 2-2 draw against Wales in Wrexham in 1897. In 1899, he moved to Newcastle United, where he again spent three seasons, before transfers to Grimsby Town and then West Ham United. He skippered the first eleven at some point during his time at each of these four clubs.
In October 1907 he signed for Croydon Common, his final club, as a member of the professional club’s very first squad, albeit a few matches into the season. He was appointed as the club’s third manager in February 1910 and held the position until the end of the season, but he was unable to prevent the club being relegated. At the start of the following season, he took over as the club’s trainer and he held this role for the remainder of its life. After the war, he was appointed to the same role at Leicester City and he held this position until his death on 5 November 1931, when he suffered a fatal heart attack while on the golf course with some of his players.
At the start of the 1899-00 season, he moved yet further south and joined Tottenham Hotspur for a signing on fee of £25. He played over 350 matches in his nine seasons at the club and was captain of the side during most of that period. He played in both matches of the 1901 F.A. Cup Final against Sheffield United, which Tottenham Hotspur won 3-1 in a replay at Bolton after a 2-2 draw at The Crystal Palace. In the Summer of 1905, he spent time in Sweden coaching at IFK Norrkoping and during the following season he was granted a benefit match by Tottenham Hotspur; a 6-0 win over New Brompton.
At the start of the 1908-09 season, he was appointed manager of Leyton where he spent two seasons and also made six appearances as a player. However, he moved to Croydon Common at the beginning of the 1910-11 season become the club’s fourth manager, although he made a small number of appearances on the pitch as well. He only remained for the one season, during which the club only finished in mid-table in the three leagues that it contested. In 1922, he coached the famous Corinthians amateur club. He died in Croydon on 6 April 1949.
Click on his photograph to see a very short film of him running out for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1901 F.A. Cup Final. He is the fourth player.
Bowman, a lifelong non-smoker and teetotaller, was born in Middlesbrough on 23 April 1879 but, while he was still young, his family moved to Staffordshire. A half back, he played for a number of junior clubs before joining Burslem Port Vale in 1899, but he made his single first team appearance for the club in the semi-final of the Birmingham Cup. He then moved to Stoke, where he played only four Football League matches in his two seasons there. However, while in the Potteries, he was a member of the Burslem water polo team that won the Northern Counties championship and he also came second in the 220 yards at the Staffordshire County championships. He was also captain of the North Staffordshire Harriers and won medals for athletics at distances between 100 metres and 10 miles.
He then moved to London at the start of the 1901-02 season to sign for Queens Park Rangers and, during his four seasons with the club, he made more than 100 appearances and, in 1903, he became the club’s secretary as well; a position which, at that time, was in effect the club’s manager. In March 1905, he was appointed as secretary/manager of Norwich City and is said to have been indirectly instrumental in coining the club’s nickname. When he was appointed, he said in an interview in the Eastern Daily Press that he knew of the city and that he had heard of the canaries; this being a reference to the city being the centre for importing the birds. The nickname stuck and the club, who played in blue and white halves at that time, changed to yellow shirts a couple of years later. He signed a three year contract when he took up the post, but left after only two seasons, during which he also made eight first team appearances.
After leaving Norwich, he moved back to West London and either started, or took over, a sports outfitters shop in Willesden. Over time, he opened two further shops and his business supplied several senior football clubs with their kits. In April 1912, he was appointed as Croydon Common’s fifth, and final, manager and he stayed in that role for the rest of the club’s life. He could be said to have been the most successful of the club’s five managers, in that he led it to two league titles; the Southern Football Alliance in 1912-13 and Division Two of the Southern League in 1913-14. He also made one first team appearance when he stood in at the last minute, along with trainer David Gardner and assistant trainer Charlie Hollidge, when only eight players arrived at Watford for a London Combination match in 1915.
After Croydon Common folded, he continued with his sports outfitters business and, in the 1920s, he had another spell as the secretary of Queens Park Rangers and, for a time, he was also a director of the club. Then, in March 1931, he was again appointed as the club’s manager, but he only held the post for a few months before he resigned for reasons of ill health in November. One of his first actions upon appointment was to move the club from its Loftus Road ground to the much larger White City Stadium, where it played for two seasons before returning to its previous home. Also shortly after he became manager, his daughter married the club’s centre forward, George Goddard, whose 172 goals between 1926 and 1934 is still the highest career total scored for the club.
He died in Wembley Hospital on 26 January 1943.