Youth Team Sub
Oct 25, 2016, 11:29 AM
The word Legend is used far too often in modern day sport for people whose achievements don’t warrant such an accolade. Tommy Lawrence, who has passed away at the age of 82, was a legend of amateur football and particularly at Enfield Football Club.
Tommy Lawrence (West Ham United, Barnet, Hendon, Enfield, Slough Town, England & Great Britain)
A prolific goalscorer throughout his career, he came to prominence with Barnet, scoring 26 goals in 37 matches during the 1955-6 season before joining Hendon in the summer of 1956. His debut was a 2-1 defeat against Enfield and also in the Hendon forward line that day was Jack Rawlings from whom he would eventually assume the mantle of Enfield’s greatest player. In his three seasons at Hendon he scored 104 goals in 130 appearances. At the start of the 1959-60 season he joined Enfield, together with a number of his teammates from Claremont Road. It was the beginning of a process that would elevate Enfield from mediocrity to becoming one of the leading amateur clubs in the country.
Many of the new players were amateur internationals in their own rights, drawn from both of Tommy’s former clubs, but Tommy was the pied piper who persuaded them to follow him to Southbury Road. He was quickly installed as captain and spearheading an all-star forward line boasting the talents of Terry Howard, Jimmy Quail, Bill Broomfield, Roy Thomas, David Hyde, goals and exciting football were guaranteed. In his four full seasons Tommy scored 171 goals in 180 competitive appearances as Enfield won consecutive Athenian League titles, the first in the club’s history, before joining the Isthmian League in 1963. His performances lead to his selection for the England Amateur team in November 1961 for the game with Wales and over the next two years he played in twelve international, scoring eight goals. At a time when Great Britain selected an amateur eleven to represent them in the Olympic Games, Tommy made three appearances in the qualifying matches for the 1964 games scoring four goals including a hat-trick against Iceland at Plough Lane in September 1963. He also caught the attention of Football League clubs, but turned down overtures from Brighton & Hove Albion to turn professional.
One method of selecting the Great Britain team was to play a series of friendly matches against Football League teams and it was during one of these that Tommy’s playing career came to an untimely end. Leading the line against Coventry City in March 1964, Tommy leapt at a corner to flick the ball on for Jimmy Quail to score the only goal. However, he clashed heads with Coventry’s George Curtis and was carried from the field with a depressed fracture of the right temple. A three-and-a-half-hour emergency operation was required to relieve pressure on Tommy’s brain and after a significant period of convalescence he was advised to stop playing. His record of 196 goals in 204 appearances saw him as Enfield’s all-time leading scorer. He returned to the club in a coaching role before being appointed manager in place of George Ludford in the summer of 1965. The next five seasons brought two F.A. Amateur Cups, three Isthmian League titles, one London Senior Cup and three Middlesex Senior Cups to Southbury Road. His managerial services were in demand and in 1969 an offer of £3,000 p.a. to manage Cheshunt was turned down. However, in the summer of 1970 he accepted an invitation from Slough Town to become their manager, the majority of the Enfield players who had just won the Amateur Cup following him to Berkshire.
In three seasons at Slough they won two Athenian League titles, two Bucks & Berks Senior Cups and met Walton & Hersham in the 1973 Amateur Cup final at Wembley where they lost by a single goal. That summer saw Tommy’s return to Enfield, again with a number of familiar faces in tow, but time was catching up with this group of players and his second spell at Southbury Road was very different, ending within two years and without any silverware in the trophy cabinet. Tommy kept in touch with the footballing world via his sports travel agency business and was instrumental in arranging the prestigious Amsterdam pre-season tournaments which started in 1975 and attracted the finest club sides from all over the world.
I am too young to have ever seen Tommy play, but I was fortunate to have met him once. Having researched Enfield’s history and knowing how much he had done for my club, I found myself nearly tongue-tied to be in his presence, I was in awe of his achievements. His former teammates say his greatest attributes were his strength and speed together with great ability in the air for a man well under 6ft tall. When asked why they joined Enfield, the reply was invariably because of Tommy. They spoke with love and respect for a man who many followed from club to club as they knew that having Tommy Lawrence as manager was guaranteed to bring success. The fact that he was such a leader on the pitch meant that whereas others have struggled with a transition from player to manager within a club, Tommy assumed his new role with relative ease.
Enfield Football Club were fortunate to have some of the finest amateur and semi-professional players in their ranks from 1960 onwards and comparisons as to who were the best are a matter of opinion. To be a club’s greatest ever player is an accolade, as it is to be their greatest manager. To be a contender for both titles at same club shows how much Tommy Lawrence achieved at Enfield Football Club in little more than a decade.
Tommy Lawrence 1933-2016
(This post was edited by EFC on Oct 25, 2016, 3:32 PM)