Greenwich, London born left back Vic Buckingham joined Second Division Tottenham Hotspur in May 1935 from nursery club Northfleet having had a spell on the books at Tottenham as an amateur in 1931-32, without making the first eleven, and he made his Football League debut for Tottenham against Bury in November 1935. Initially mainly playing at left back, after a spell at right half he settled into the left half slot from March 1937 and missed only one match in Spurs’ 1938-39 campaign when he also scored his only career goal in a win at Norwich City in February 1939.
However his career was then severely interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, in which he served with the RAF. He played both sides of the War and in the post war seasons he settled back into the team at left back, missing only one match in their 1947-48 campaign. He made 233 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur before retiring in 1949.
Buckingham set off on a startling coaching odyssey that took him through a variety of outposts from the Middlesex County FA onwards to Norway for a short time at FC Moss, then to the lush surroundings of Oxford and Cambridge Universities with the Oxbridge amateur side Pegasus, leading them to FA Amateur Cup glory in front of a packed Wembley Stadium in 1951. This was followed by Bradford Park Avenue, Buckingham joining them in June 1951, before taking over at West Bromwich Albion in February 1953. He became the club’s longest serving post-war manager, almost leading them to an elusive ‘double’ in 1954 when they won the FA Cup and finished second in the League, and eventually leaving them in May 1959 to join Ajax of Amsterdam, the first of two spells as Ajax manager. During his management of Ajax, he spotted the young Johan Cruyff who was to go on to develop Buckingham’s ideas into the mature concept of Total Football. Buckingham’s ideas were radically ahead of his time – engendering total football philosophies and youth systems – and earned him a continental reputation (especially in Spain where he was appointed coach of Barcelona in 1969 and then Sevilla in 1972) which more often than not overshadowed his talent back home. Buckingham is considered to have been a pioneer of the footballing philosophy known as Total Football, later further developed by his protégé Johan Cruyff.
However, his reputation in his native country was tarnished by his association with match fixing in the British betting scandal of 1964, revealed shortly after his spell as manager of Sheffield Wednesday from May 1961 to March 1964. Although the allegations were never proven against him, three of his players at Wednesday – Peter Swan, Tony Kay and David Layne – were accused of taking bribes to fix a match with Ipswich Town on 1 December 1962 and betting on their team to lose. He joined Fulham as manager in June 1965 holding the position until January 1968.
While Buckingham was one of the first English managers to coach top European sides like Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona, he also had spells managing Ethnikos Piraeus, Olympiakos and Rodos (of Rhodes) in Greek football.