Who is Fred Spiksley?

FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE

(Above - Spiksley as manager of Nuremberg in 1914)

The authors of Flying Over an Olive Grove: the Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley have offered to speak at local supporters' branch meetings and social events about Spiksley's life. Check out an extract from the book below which can be ordered via www.spiksley.com - and if you'd like to hear more about that at your supporters' group email Mark Metcalf.

After becoming the last Englishman to coach a German title winning team with IFC Nuremberg in 1927 it was almost time for Fred Spiksley to call time on his globe-trotting career as a football coach. However, he was to receive a final appointment as coach to Lausanne Sports. His time in Lausanne was a mixed one, the club were trying to establish themselves and how much Fred impacted on the club is difficult to gauge. Yet his time there would lead to a memorable encounter with Robert Alaway who, as an Eton schoolboy, had had his first encounter with football when he was among the crowd at the 1893 Richmond international, witnessing Fred score his famous hat-trick against Scotland.

Such an impact did the game and his new hero – Spiksley – have on the youngster that he spent much of the rest of his life involved in the sport. In 1905 he founded the Middlesex Wanderers football club, who remain famous for their touring of the world. Alaway spent most of his life touring the globe with his football club and in 1948 released the book Football All Round the World in which he retells the tale of meeting Fred Spiksley some 35 years after his life-changing day at Richmond.

“My introduction to association football was with royalty; or rather, to be strictly accurate and respectful, it was in the company of royalty that I saw my first game – an international on the hallowed Richmond Athletic Ground between England and their historic foes, the Scots. I shall never forget it.

“Since then I have seen thousands of football matches in all parts of the world, graced by kings, emperors, princes, presidents and of course millions of the common kind. But an imperishable memory is that glorious spring afternoon of 1893 beneath the quiet trees beside the gentle flowing Thames.

“Apart from the spectacle of a real live duke and a princess, the outstanding personalities of this international were the immaculate English wingers – the late W I Bassett and Fred Spiksley. What players they were! With every respect to present-day players, these two were undoubtedly greatness personified. To see them both in action in the same game was indeed a schoolboy treat that loses none of its sweetness in old age. Both played a textbook game, with the highlight of the match three brilliant goals scored by Spiksley from the left wing, all within the space of about ten minutes. England won the game 5 goals to 2. Watching these players as a small boy I little thought that in after years I should have the great pleasure of knowing these men intimately.

“As for Spiksley, it was not until 35 years later that I saw this great figure of a man again; and that was at Lausanne in 1928. The Middlesex Wanderers had gone there to play Lausanne Sports FC, to whom Spiksley was the revered professional coach.

“At the reception after the match I told Spiksley that as a boy in stiff collar and Eton suit I had seen him score three goals for England. He had a remarkable memory for the games he played. Not only did he remember the Richmond international but nearly every movement of the game, and went through every one of them again while my eyes popped and my pulse quickened with renewed excitement. I had completely forgotten, but Spiksley reminded me, that the referee was J C Clegg, chairman of the Football Association, and that he took no notice of the fact that one of the players lost his football boots and turned out in black walking boots.

“At the same reception, one of my companions, R A Stephens, asked Spiksley: ‘Do you remember scoring a goal from the junction of the halfway line and the touch line on the Spurs ground?’ It happened years and years before but Spiksley remembered it distinctly. Indeed, he produced from his pocket-book a press cutting describing the phenomenon. Then said Stephens: ‘I refereed that game. That is why I remember it so well.’ And there at the foot of the report was printed: ‘Referee: R A Stephens.’”

This is the only account that we have discovered of Spiksley’s long distance strike at White Hart Lane, but evidence would suggest that it took place during a London Cup match while Fred was playing for Southern United, which means that Spiksley still had the timing in his legs to punch through the ball in the way we all remember David Beckham doing at Selhurst Park in 1996. Spiksley would have been about 35 when he scored the goal.

After his one-year contract with Lausanne Sports ended Fred returned to England, and although he was to spend some time in Barcelona in 1934, his return from Switzerland marked an end to his continual coaching around the world.

When Fred was born in 1870 life expectancy for male children was just 39 years of age and on his return from Lausanne he was now well into his 50s. Despite his long involvement in football his finances remained unstable and he could not afford to retire. In 1929 he arranged with the London Evening News to contribute a series of practical hints in How to Play Football. It gave him the opportunity to share what he had learned from over 40 years’ close study of the science and technology of football and was aimed at London teenagers eager to develop their footballing abilities.

  • Upcoming events: Birmingham (7th October 2017) and Sheffield, Hillsborough (11th November 2017) - find out more details here.
  • Find out more via via www.spiksley.com

Image from Flying Over an Olive Grove: the Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley.

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