On this day in history : 16th March 1872 – The first ever English FA Cup Final takes place between the Wanderers Football Club and the Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval…..

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The Royal Engineers pictured in 1872 – Public domain. Back : Merriman, Ord, Marindin, Addison, Mitchell – Front : Hoskyns, Renny-Tailyour, Creswell, Goodwyn, Barker, Rich.

Before 1871 there had been no regular competitive league games…. Secretary of the Football Association, Charles Alcock, drew up the plans for a league and 15 teams entered the first round in November 1871…. In the beginning it was based very much around the ‘old boys’ public schoolboy network….

Wanderers had formed in 1859 as Forest Football Club….consisting mainly of Harrow schoolboys…. They became known as the Wanderers as they had no fixed ground of their own – but by 1869 they had become based at the Kennington Oval…. Charles Alcock, who had played for Wanderers, was also Secretary of Surrey Cricket Club….

Many football clubs played on cricket grounds at this time…. Often football teams emerged from the cricket teams themselves – as the game was used as a way of keeping fitness up during the winter months…. It wasn’t until the late 1880s and into the 90s that purpose-built football grounds began to appear….

An estimated crowd of 2,000 paid a shilling at the door to watch 22 amateurs play on a cricket pitch, with no nets at the goals, in the first FA Cup Final….

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The oldest surviving cup trophy 1896-1910. Photo credit: Oldelpaso via Wikipedia. Public domain

Wanderers had only won one match in the qualifying fixtures….they had drawn with Queen’s Park, a Scottish team, in the semi-finals…. This meant a re-match – but the Scots did not have enough money to return to London and so had to withdraw from the competition…. Under the rules at the time, this meant Wanderers automatically gained a place in the final…. The Royal Engineers – who were founded in 1863 by Major Francis Marindin – secured their place with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace in a replay….

The match was won by Wanderers, who beat the Royal Engineers 1-0…. The winning goal was scored 15 minutes into the game by Morton Betts, playing under the pseudonym ‘A.H. Chequer’ – as he had attended Harrow and played for Harrow Chequers…. His goal was a simple ‘tap in’ after the ball had been successfully dribbled through the Royal Engineers’ defence….

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Morton Betts – Public domain

The FA Cup remains the oldest football competition in the World….

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