LOCAL HERO

The Jimmy Dimmock story

BY Vince Cooper

WHILST it is nice when your club makes those big-name, big-money signings there are few better feelings for a football fan than when a local boy, a man who takes the same bus as you to matches, makes good. And what better definition of this can there be than going on to score the winning goal in the FA Cup final for the team who’s doorstep you grew up on. For this Spurs had Jimmy Dimmock.

One of eight children (one of his brothers, Albert, played for ill-fated Thames FC, more of whom later) Dimmock was born in Edmonton in December 1900 ‘within earshot of White Hart Lane’ and as a youngster sold newspapers outside the ground.

After attending the local Montagu Road school he turned out for the  Park Avenue and Gothic Works junior teams, and then joined Edmonton Ramblers where he showed enough promise to be snapped up by Spurs as an amateur in 1916. But soon after signing the Army came calling and he went off to fight for his country in the 1st World War, serving in the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner. 

During hostilities Dimmock guested for Clapton Orient and after discharge both Orient and Arsenal were keen to sign him but there was only one club to turn pro with and he signed for Spurs in 1919.

Dimmock, then 18, made his debut for Spurs on 4 October 1919 in a 1-1 draw at Lincoln City. He quickly built up an effective partnership with Bert Bliss on the left hand side of the attack with the pair ably backed up by left half and skipper Arthur Grimsdell.

Quickly becoming a fixture in the team, Dimmock was, in next to no time, the idol of the fans. His fast exciting wing-play and ability to beat defenders both inside and out before feeding the diminutive Bliss became a feature of Spurs’ play.

Although, like many of his kind, Dimmock was occasionally accused of being over-elaborate, his skill and trickery regularly brought roars of approval from the White Hart Lane faithful.

April 1921 proved a major month in the young winger’s development. On the 9th he made his England debut, at just 20 years and 125 days at Hampden Park against Scotland. Clubmates Grimsdell, Bliss and Bert Smith were also in the line-up that day in a team that featured five debutants, Dimmock later described stepping on to the pitch as ‘the most wonderful football picture I had ever seen’ but the Scots handed the ‘Auld Enemy’ a 3-0 defeat in front of a crowd of 95,000.

Two weeks later he would go on to score one of the most important goals in his club’s history Dimmock was better known as a provider than as a finisher. In fact Spurs scored 17 times on their way to Stamford Bridge and the 1921 FA Cup final but while the winger had a hand in many, he left the goalscoring to others.

But in the final it was the winger who moved from provider to finisher, grabbing the only goal of a game marred by heavy rain. Here’s his own description of the goal, given 18 years later.

Jimmy’s winner

“After nine minutes of the second half Bert Bliss passed to me. I beat Gregory, the right-back and left-back Marshall came across to tackle.

“I slipped and the ball rolled to him. Instead of clearing the Wolves player fumbled. I gained possession again and as George, the goalkeeper, stood uncertain I banged the ball to the left of him into the net.

“The air was filled with one tremendous roar. My team-mates crowded round laughing, slapping my back till it was sore.

“Afterwards my wife was almost crying with happiness. I know neither of us will ever forget that day.”

The Cup winners

When asked how he felt about scoring the winner in a cup final, Jimmy simply replied; “I am a lucky lad”.

Spurs leave Stamford Bridge in a charabanc with the cup

The team travelled back to White Hart Lane with the trophy and were met by thousands of fans chanting ‘We want Dimmock’ and the hero took the cheers, waving happily.

Dimmock’s spot on the left wing came under threat when Spurs signed Sammy Brooks from the team they beat in the final the following year.

He was briefly moved to centre-forward but the experiment failed and Brooks played only 10 matches in two years before moving on to Southend with Dimmock restored to the left-wing.

Having played 100 consecutive matches for the Lillywhites Dimmock was struck down by a cartilage injury in 1923 that would eventually need an operation.

But he fought his way back from the injury to such an extent that in 1926 he was called up by his country once again. This time it was a 2-game stint. In the first of these England played Wales at Selhurst Park and were severely hampered when centre-forward Norman Bullock had to leave the pitch with just five minutes on the clock after receiving a bad gash when a ring worn by an opposing player caught him in the face. Bullock eventually returned with a huge plaster on his face but he was a virtual passenger on the right wing as the hosts fell to a 3-1 defeat.

Dimmock finally recorded a win for his country in May 1926 when he was part of the team which travelled to Brussels and overcame Belgium 5-3 thanks mostly to a hat trick from another Tottenham man, South Africa-born Frank Osborne. This was to prove Dimmock’s final start for England with three caps seeming to represent scant reward for his ability, and consistency for his club.

In the following, 1926-27 season, he finished top scorer for Spurs for the only time with 21 goals as the team continued their regular presence in mid-table since the cup win finishing 13th. But the following campaign, despite a run to the FA Cup quarter-final proved disastrous as the team finished 21st and found themselves back in the 2nd Division.

A return to the division where he had spent his first season in Spurs colours came as something of a surprise for Dimmock when he noticed how standards at the level had risen in just under ten years. “We were a little bit apprehensive as to what we should find in the second league,” he said at the time. “We remembered those days immediately after the war when Second Division football was, as I may put it, somewhat crude.

“But it is my very definite opinion that the general standard of play has improved greatly since the 1919-20 season”.

Spurs finished in mid-table in their first couple of seasons back at the lower level with some saying that the team’s refusal to revert to the more basic style of play counted against them. But Dimmock disagreed. “I know there are people who think that Tottenham Hotspur’s failure to make a fight of it in the Second Division have been due to the fact that we have tried to continue playing ‘First Division football’.

“There may be something in that, but I shall take a lot of convincing that it is not now possible for a team to win promotion from the Second Division by playing what is called First Division football.”

So Spurs stuck to their guns and continued to play the ‘First Division way’. The reward finally came in 1932-33 when, fired by 36 goals from the ‘Chesterfield Tough’, George Hunt, they scored 96 times and finished runners-up to Stoke City. But by then Dimmock had moved on, with the club selling him at the end of the 1930-31 season after he had played in exactly 400 games and scored exactly 100 goals.

After negotiations for a move to Bristol Rovers fell through Dimmock was sold for a fee of ‘some hundred pounds’ to Thames FC.

Thames had been started up in 1928 by a group of businessmen who had built West Ham stadium and wanted to add a football club to the venue which staged greyhound and speedway racing.

Thames were somewhat surprisingly granted a place in the Third Division (South) after two years in the Southern League and Dimmock was one of a number of players hastily signed to help them compete at the higher level.

The cavernous West Ham stadium

Thames’s stay in league football can best be described as disastrous. The first season saw them finish 20th of 22 with attendances in the cavernous 120,000 capacity stadium regularly dipping below 1,000 and falling to a then all-time league low of 469 for the visit of Luton Town in December 1930.

With local competition for fans from West Ham United, Clapton Orient, Millwall and Charlton Athletic among others it proved impossible for the new club to build a fan base. The second season proved even worse than the first as the team finished rock bottom and failed to win re-election leading to their disbandment. Dimmock was outstanding and made 37 appearances across the two seasons, scoring 12 goals but, as the Coventry Herald stated of his situation ‘one man cannot make a team’ and his sterling performances weren’t enough to keep Thames afloat.

After the club left the league, Dimmock missed the start of the following campaign when he was offered for sale at a transfer fee. Once the fee attached was removed by the League Management Committee he signed for another local Third Division South team joining Clapton Orient. At his new club he linked up with former Spurs team-mate Jimmy Seed who was now managing the East Londoners.

But things weren’t much better at the Lea Bridge Stadium for Dimmock as Clapton struggled in the lower reaches and in 1934 he left league football spending a couple of years as a professional with Kent league side Ashford Town -where he was also coach – before hanging up his boots.

Even before leaving the game Dimmock had fallen on hard times. By March 1934 he was living on unemployment pay. He was trying to support wife Alice and five children and, unable to pay the rent on his house to Edmonton Council he looked set to be evicted until Tottenham came to the rescue, paying the arrears.

It was reported at the time that Dimmock had already been forced to sell many of his football medals along with much of his furniture in order to provide for his family.

Further trouble would follow later when Dimmock was sued by a money lender for failure to repay a debt, but he eventually found work first as a builder’s labourer and then in the road haulage industry and managed to keep his head above water.

Dimmock and wife Alice had 11 children in total – seven girls and four boys – and continued to live in the Edmonton area. Plagued by ill health in later years he would eventually have both legs amputated. He passed away in North Middlesex Hospital Edmonton in 1972 at the age of 72. In 1973 Edmonton Schools announced that primary schools would compete for the Jimmy Dimmock Cup.

It is a sobering thought that an England international, Cup-winning goalscorer and a man who played 400 times for a top club like Spurs should be threatened with eviction mere months after giving up professional football. Jimmy Dimmock, to the best of our knowledge, didn’t suffer from alcohol or gambling addictions; he was just normally paid for a footballer of his time and that was little more than normal money. With a large family to keep he just found it impossible to make ends meet.

Spurs showed their gratitude for a player who had given them so much in the best way possible, by helping him out in troubled times. Many say, with some justification that footballers are now vastly overpaid. Local hero Jimmy Dimmock is proof that there was a time when this definitely wasn’t the case.