Walter continued with his apprenticeship in printing whilst developing his skills as a footballer.
He first played for ‘Clapton FC one of the best armature teams in the country’*1. There is a team photo of Walter from that time (13).
On 20th March 1909 the London Football Star described Walter as:
“Clapton’s catch of the season.” (12).
Walter’s talent caught the attention of ‘London’s richest club at the time’*1, Tottenham Hotspur and following a tour to Argentina and Uruguay with Spurs in the spring of 1909, ‘he signed to be a professional footballer with the club on 20th July 1909’*1.
He went on to play for Spurs from 1909 until 1911.
A picture in the Daily Graphic of 13th September 1909 (15) shows him making an early appearance against Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
The Daily Chronicle reported:
“Tull’s… display on Saturday must have astounded everyone who saw it… Tull is very good indeed”.
In a newspaper account of a cup tie between Spurs and Croydon a heading read:
“Tull Enjoys Himself”
The article went on to say:
“Tull at times seemed inclined to play the whole team by himself. His mastery over the ball was astonishing.” (16)
On 2nd October 1909 Bristol City played Spurs. In this match ‘Tull was the target of sustained, vociferous and ferocious racial abuse’*1. In his match report the correspondent of the Football Star uniquely had the sub heading ‘Football and the Colour Prejudice’. He went on to report:
“ …he is the Hotspurs’ most brainy forward. Candidly, Tull has much to contend with on account of his colour. His tactics were absolutely beyond reproach, but he became the butt of the ignorant partisan.”(17)
Walter went on to win the Professional Football Charity Fund Medal in 1909 whilst playing for Spurs (14) and there are a number of photographs of Walter with the team and as a player during his time with Spurs. (18, 20, 21)
Walter transferred from Spurs to Northampton Town Football Club in 1911 and between 1911 and 1915 he played more than a hundred games for the club.
*1 Walter Tull, 1888 – 1918 Officer, Footballer: ‘All the guns in France couldn’t wake me’ (Raw Press 2010), by Phil Vasili
(a) Numbers in brackets refer to items held within the Walter Tull Archive