Eddie Baily: Stylish inside-forward at the heart of Arthur Rowe’s push-and-run post-war Tottenham Hotspur side
Friday 15 October 2010
Eddie Baily personified both the quicksilver style and the exuberant soul of the Tottenham Hotspur side which lifted the Second and First Division titles in successive seasons midway through the 20th century. A nimble and imaginative inside-forward blessed with assured mastery over a moving ball, the loquaciouslittle Londoner was a gleeful executioner of Arthur Rowe's push-and-run method, exemplifying the manager's catchphrase of "make it simple, make it quick".
But it was not only Baily's one-touch wizardry which made him a darling of the White Hart Lane faithful during the first decade after the Second World War. They embraced him, too, for the infectious warmth of his personality; his tendency to cavort with untrammelled joy on scoring a goal or to clutch his head in despair at a missed opportunity was novel in an era when few players were prone to extravagant displays of public emotion.
With his heart on his sleeve, the club's distinctive cockerel crest on hischest and, frequently, a colourful profanity on his lips, the 5ft 7in midfield general radiated pride in the Tottenham cause, and he was a key constituent of the social cement which bonded the team spirit of Rowe's exhilarating creation.
An outstanding performer as a schoolboy, Baily was snapped up by Spurs as an amateur and sent to develop his game with non-League Finchley, then being used by the north Londoners as a nursery club.
During the war he served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers and although he emerged unscathed from the conflict, news filtered back to White Hart Lane that he was missing in action. Thus his registration was allowed to lapse.
On returning to civvy street, hearing nothing from Tottenham and unaware of the administrative bungle, the disappointed Baily, fresh from excelling for the British Army team on the Rhine, was still determined to forge a career in football and signed amateur forms for Chelsea. The misunderstanding was revealed only after he dropped into the Spurs ground to meet a friend, after which the Stamford Bridge club, reacting with impeccable honour, released him from his obligation, and in February 1946 he was back at the Lane.
By now in his early twenties, he progressed rapidly, soon turning professional and making his senior debut at inside-left in the home Second Division encounter with West Bromwich Albion in January 1947. Manager Joe Hulme did not offer him a regular place until the following autumn, but thereafter he was a fixture in a promising side which didn't take flight fully until Rowe became manager in May 1949.
Under his enlightened guidanceTottenham romped to the SecondDivison title in the next campaign, with Baily a prominent factor in thesuccess. Meshing effectively with the dynamic, prodigiously strong wing-half and captain Ron Burgess, and striking up a productive left-wing partnership with the underrated Les Medley, the diminutive play-maker was at the hub of a free-flowing, hugely entertaining unit.
Oozing flair and football intelligence, he was a distributor both perceptive and precise, and the quickness of mind was matched by fleetness of foot, his sudden bursts of acceleration often startling opponents who were expecting a trademark pass. He was a goalscorer, too, packing a shot in either foot that was remarkably powerful for such a small fellow, the secret of his high-velocity dispatches being down to exquisite timing rather than brute force.
Indeed, Baily was not a hard man in the physical sense – barnstorming tackles were left mainly to the irrepressible Burgess – but he was a relentless and voluble competitor whose animated imprecations to his team-mates were frequently discernible above the roar of the crowd. In 1950, deservedly, his excellence at club level earned international recognition, with three outings for England B followed by a full call-up for the World Cup finals in Brazil that summer.
Fortunately for Baily, he was not selected for the infamous confrontation with the United States, which ended in a humiliating 1-0 defeat in Belo Horizonte, but afterwards he helped to lift the party's morale with his quips for every occasion and by leading a consolation sing-song at the team hotel. Three days later he was handed his first cap, being preferred to the immensely gifted Wilf Mannion for the clash with Spain, in which he performed creditably but was unable to prevent another 1-0 reverse and elimination from the tournament.
He had done his prospects no harm, however, and went on to make nine appearances for his country over the next two years, scoring five goals, including two each in successive matches against Northern Ireland and Wales. Thus it was frustrating when he was discarded at the age of 26, on the threshold of his prime, though he was still considered worthy of representing England against Young England, a game for which caps were not awarded, in mid-decade.
Happily, as a Spur, Baily continued to make a mammoth contribution, shining as Rowe's team lifted the League Championship in 1950-51, their first season back in the top flight, and finished as runners-up to Manchester United in 1951-52. That season, when Tottenham entertained lowly Huddersfield Town, he was at the centre of a controversial incident which caused a national sporting debate.
With the scoreline blank, Baily took a corner, the ball slamming into the referee and knocking him flat. It bounced back to the inside-forward, who crossed for spearhead Len Duquemin to nod the only goal of the game, which was wrongly allowed to stand by the official, perhaps still collecting his wits after his fall.
The rules state that another player must touch the ball before the taker can make contact again, and the ensuing furore was magnified by the circumstance that the decision affected both top and bottom of the table. There were even calls for a replay, but they were rejected by the Football League. In the end Spurs finished four points adrift of the champions and Huddersfield were relegated by a margin of three, so there were no major consequences. Baily was innocent of any wrongdoing but it amused him greatly, and he recalled the incident with hilarity for many years afterwards.
Over the next few seasons, though Baily remained a force, the team declined into mid-table mediocrity as Rowe fell ill and influential figures such as Burgess, full-back Alf Ramsey (destined to lead England to World Cup glory in 1966) and wing-half Bill Nicholson (who would be at the Tottenham helm as they won the League and FA Cup double in 1961) reached the veteran stage. In January 1956, aged 30 and with more than 300 appearances for Spurs behind him, Baily was sold to Port Vale for £6,000, then moved on to another Second Division club,Nottingham Forest, nine months later.
He made a slow start at the City Ground, but he remained a stylishoperator and helped secure promotion to the top flight in 1956-57 before going on to end his playing days with Leyton Orient, whom he assisted in their escape from relegation to the Third Division in 1958-59. After playing his final game in October 1959, he became a coach at Brisbane Road, participating in their rise to the First Division in 1962. Following their first-time demotion he returned to White Hart Lane as assistant manager to Nicholson in October 1963.
Baily re-entered the Spurs story just as the great double-winning side was beginning to break up, and he strove passionately alongside his former team-mate to ensure that the club remained a potent power. His was a telling voice as Tottenham won the FA Cup in 1967 and the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, as well as reaching the 1974 Uefa Cup final.
The Baily style of motivation was not a tranquil one, and he upset many an expensive charge by his sometimes near-hysterical raving on the training pitch or from the bench, but there was a general acceptance that every high-decibel rant was delivered with the good of Tottenham at heart.
When Nicholson left following a sequence of poor results in the autumn of 1974 – surprising many by his exit at the age of 55, but not those privy to his disenchantment with modern trends in football – Baily went too, the Spurs board not heeding the departing manager's advice that they should appoint his assistant in his place.
Briefly Baily found work as afootball and cricket coach at a school in Enfield, and did some talent-hunting for Chelsea before becoming chief scout with West Ham United. It was a role in which he both revelled and excelled, one of his most memorable coups being the procurement of the future England international Alan Devonshire from non-League Southall for £5,000.
He retired in 1992, much honoured at Upton Park and still revered at White Hart Lane, the last surviving regular member of Arthur Rowe's lovely side.
Edward Francis Baily, footballer, coach and scout: born Clapton, London 6 August 1925; played for Tottenham Hotspur 1946-56, Port Vale 1956, Nottingham Forest 1956-58, Leyton Orient 1958-59; won nine England caps 1950-52; married (one son, one daughter); died Welwyn Garden City 13 October 2010.
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