Remembering Spurs’ instrumental former scout Dick Walker:
“ I didn’t know anybody who didn’t like him ”. (Ronnie Clayton).
As a player Edward Richard Walter Walker served West Ham United with distinction, making over 600 appearances for the ‘ Hammers ‘ throughout a 23 year period (includes appearances during the Second World War) and Walker was unfortunate not to be capped by England. Affectionately known by everybody as Dick, the former centre half who could also play at right back was, a West Ham United legend in his own right. A well built centre half who read the game well, and who was a very difficult player to get around. However, it is Walker’s time as a chief scout at our beloved Tottenham Hotspur which I will be focusing on in this short piece. Born in Hackney, east London on 22nd July 1913, Walker and his family moved to Dagenham when he was a child. Walker would go onto play for Dagenham boys and Becontree Athletic before spending time as an electricians mate. Walker was later scouted by West Ham, the club that he would later join and spend such a long time associated with. A talented footballer and a solid defender, Walker would spend many memorable years with the ‘ Hammers ‘ although his time at the east London club was interrupted by the Second World War. Rather than becoming a physical training instructor in the British Army (as many professional footballers were offered the chance to do at the time) Walker chose to serve on the front line. The footballer served across the continent in countries such as Italy, he also went onto serve in El Alamein in Egypt. It’s worth noting that Walker was a sergeant and a paratrooper who served in an infantry battalion. He was also a parachutist, as former Spurs scout Ronnie Clayton recalled to me in a recent conversation that I had with him. Dick was mentioned in dispatches on several occasions during the war. Upon his return to England Walker took the captaincy at West Ham and he would spend a further 12 years at the club. He received a testimonial in October 1957 against Sparta Rotterdam. It is unknown what year Dick joined Spurs as a scout upon retiring from the game however, he began working for Spurs at some point during the late 1950’s, soon after Bill Nicholson took over from Jimmy Anderson as manager. Former Spurs youth and reserve team player David Sunshine told me recently that he believed Walker was a mercenary scout who scouted for various London clubs before joining Spurs. Sunshine was partly scouted by Walker playing in a district football match in the late 1950’s.
It was during the late 1950’s that Walker started a 20 year association with Tottenham Hotspur, and for most of that time he served as Bill Nicholson’s chief scout. Nicknamed the colonel by those that knew him at Spurs due to his tendency to wear military like clothing, Walker was a stylish man who is described as having a swagger about him. He was also highly popular at the club and as Ronnie Clayton recalled “ I didn’t know anybody who didn’t like him ”. A jovial character who was idolised by many in the game, Dick Walker had a fine eye for talent and Bill Nicholson most often sent him out to watch district or schoolboy games, something of which he was a specialist at. During his time at Spurs Dick scouted and recommended scores of young talents to Bill Nicholson (many of which we’ll never know). Two notable ones, though there are many big names in the game that Walker brought to Spurs, was the talented Mark Falco and Gary Brooke (some of the former Spurs players that I have interviewed were scouted by Dick Walker). Both of whom he brought to Spurs in his latter years at the club. Former Spurs scout Ronnie Clayton who joined Spurs in the early 1960’s, worked alongside and very closely with Dick Walker who he recalls as a man who knew his football. Clayton befriended Walker and when the pair used to go to the old Boleyn ground to watch matches, Clayton recalls that “ it was the most amazing thing as everybody at West Ham knew Dickie ”. Two of the Spurs scouts admirers were a certain Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Clayton’s first game as a Spurs scout in Romford was with Dick, who he described in a recent interview as somebody who made a life for him in the beautiful game. Walker’s fine eye for talent left a legacy at Spurs which would last for quite a long time after he left the club. However, although the true extent of Walker’s positive impact on Spurs is something that only the club knows, although I do know for certain that he brought many young talents to the Lilywhites who went onto have a successful career at the north London club, I will likely find out many top names who were brought to Spurs during Walker’s tenure as chief scout at Spurs, as I continue my historical work on my beloved club.
Away from Walker’s important contribution to the Lilywhites, it is also worth noting that the hugely popular former chief scout was also a really nice guy who, had such a positive impact on a lot of young Spurs players lives. Walker was known to send encouraging and motivational letters to boys that he had scouted who perhaps hadn’t been taken on by the club. One young Spurs player who Dick Walker left a lasting impression on was former Spurs apprentice Martin O’Donnell. O’Donnell recalls how Walker was a great character who visited him in hospital on various occasions after he had fractured his femur. Martin also notes that Dick was always very kind and motivating to him. It’s those small things which left such a big impression on young footballers which, shouldn’t be forgotten. Walker passed away in a London hospital in 1988, at the age of 74 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, he left a lasting legacy in the game and on Spurs, the team who he would go onto become really fond of during his non playing days. An all round nice guy who served Spurs so well during his 20 years with the club, Walker is somebody who, like Cecil Poynton (former Spurs trainer) and Johnny Wallis (former kit man) must not be forgotten, as they were all in their own way important components of our clubs history and people who we as fans should be proud of.
(Thanks must go to former Spurs scout Ronnie Clayton, former player Martin O’Donnell and Spartacus-educational.com for helping me to write this article).