Born near Kennington, Vivian J Woodward spent his schooldays in Clacton living in a house called Silver-Cloud which still stands today in Pier Avenue.
He had attended Ascham College in Clacton High Street and by profession, he became a quantity surveyor. When he was 16 years old, he played his first match for Clacton Seconds on 14 December 1895.
He impressed the managers so much that he played for Clacton Town first team the following Saturday against Manningtree. A local reporter noted that Woodward was an unselfish player who was very sporting.
Woodward liked cricket too and his father kept trying to persuade him to give up football. He scored many goals for Clacton and in 1900, he became the clubs’ first player to be chosen for the Essex County side to play Suffolk.
In 1901, he was chosen to play in a representative match – The North v The South. This was played at White Hart Lane – the home of Southern League Tottenham Hotspurs. It was during this match that the Tottenham scouts noticed Woodward’s speed and superb dribbling. One newspaper described him as ‘the footballer with the magic boots’.
Woodward became a Tottenham star and he soon became noticed by the England selectors. He played his first game for England on 14 February 1903 wen he scored two goals in the match against Ireland. He nearly scored a hat-trick!
For the next ten years, he was a regular player in the England team. It took him eight years from his start in the Clacton Second XI to get into the England team. Who will be the next Clacton player to emulate this feat? In total, he became the holder of 66 international caps, 26 full and 40 amateur. He scored six times in one match against Holland and five times in a game against France in amateur international matches.
He played for Tottenham until 1909 and despite hinting of retiring, he signed for Chelsea. He played over 100 games for them, scoring 34 goals. In 1915, Chelsea reached the FA Cup Final and Woodward who had not played for them all season, received special leave from the Army to be able to play. When he heard a regular player called Bob Thompson was to be dropped for him, Woodward decided to stand down and this was typical of his fairness.
Rightly acclaimed a soccer ambassador, he had a wonderful international career. Abroad, he was worshipped “Vich ees Woodward?” being a familiar cry. Often the victim of bad tackles, he would remark “Never mind, we’ve got a Referee. That’s what he’s there for”. One friend recalled: “When he went on the field with his hands in his pockets and his three-quarter length shorts, he looked more like a referee than a player”.
After the First World War, Vivian Woodward returned to Clacton and bought a farm at Chisbon Heath near Weeley. He became interested in pigeon-racing and fishing but although now 39 years old, he still wanted to play for Clacton Town, the team that he loved so much.
On one occasion, Clacton were playing Colchester and were very short of players. Woodward was persuaded to play and they picked him up from his farm. He got on the bus with his hob-nailed boots and covered in muck. The match was played in a terrific hailstorm and the ref called the match off with fifteen minutes to go.
Woodward’s final playing season was 1919/20. He was aged 40 by then, but he was still such a skilful and popular player that he was selected to Captain the Essex county team for several of their fixtures.
In March 1920, Woodward played for Essex against Suffolk. Gilling, the then Clacton Town Captain was also in the team. The East Anglian Daily Times wrote that “Gilling, the Essex centre-half, was the best player on the field and everyone was pleased with the veteran Woodward who scored with a beauty”.
Woodward continued farming at Weeley Heath and he spent his spare time pigeon-racing and fishing. He had been wounded whilst serving in the Middlesex Regiment in the 1914-1918 war and his health was often poor. He suffered a nervous breakdown and died in February 1954 in a Ealing nursing home aged 74, a forgotten figure. His funeral took place at Chiswick crematorium.
by Karl Fuller.
Vivian John Woodward, b. 3 June 1879; d. 31 January 1954.
Clubs: Clacton Town, 1895-1901; Chelmsford FC, 1901; Tottenham Hotspur, 1901-1909; Chelsea, 1909-1915; Clacton Town, 1919-1920.
International honours: England, 1903-1911; England Amateurs, 1906-1914.
Born in Colchester on 25 September 1971, Karl was transferred to Clacton Hospital very quickly in order to become an authentic supporter of his local club later on in life. An Ipswich Town fan of more than 35 years, Karl spent 12 successive years without missing a home game in a period that saw him join the Media Committee of the Supporters’ Club and provide player interviews for the fanzine, Those Were The Days. He also wrote a column in the Colchester Evening Gazette. From 2002 he wrote a column in the Clacton Town matchday programme, & was its editor between 2004 & 2010/11 season, winning a Programme of the Year award for seven consecutive seasons. Karl is currently a weekly columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, as well as being a Payments Manager in the NHS were he has been employed for 25 years.
This article was first published on FC Clacton’s website: www.fcclacton.com and has been repoduced here with Karl Fuller’s kind permission.