On this day in history….16th March 1872

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…..

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….

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….

Morton Betts – Public domain

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

On this day in history….9th March 1946

On this day in history : 9th March 1946 – Barriers collapse at an overcrowded football match at Burnden Park, home to Bolton Wanderers…. 33 fans are killed and hundreds more are injured….

The match was between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City…. At 2.40pm the decision was taken to close the turnstiles as the ground had already filled to over-capacity…. But still the crowds came in, climbing over the turnstiles…. Then somebody – wanting to escape the crush – pricked the lock of a gate….as it opened more and more people poured in…. It is estimated 85,000 were packed into the ground – which should have had no more than 70,000….

A quarter of an hour after the game had started the crowd began to spill onto the pitch – play was temporarily stopped whilst the pitch was cleared…. It was just after then that two barriers collapsed and the crowd surged forwards….those knocked to the ground were crushed….

Women and children being passed over the heads of the crowd during the crush – Fair use

The game had restarted – but a police officer went to speak to the referee, George Dutton, to explain there had been fatalities…. At that point the players returned to the dressing rooms….

The injured were removed from the crowd and the dead were lain along the touch-line and covered with coats…. A new touch-line was marked out with sawdust – and less than half an hour after leaving the pitch the players returned to restart the game! Just a line of sawdust separating them from the bodies….

At the end of the first half the teams swapped ends and immediately started the second half…. The match ended goalless…. Stanley Matthews, who was on the Stoke team, later said he was sickened that the game was allowed to continue….

Until the Ibrox Park disaster in 1971 Burnden Park was the deadliest stadium disaster in British history…. 33 dead, including one woman and over 400 injured…. Bolton played their last game there in 1997, before moving to a new stadium…. It was demolished in 1999 and the site is now occupied by a supermarket….


Image credit: Bradford Timeline via Flickr

On this day in history….2nd January 1971

On this day in history : 2nd January 1971 – Disaster strikes at Ibrox Park at the end of an ‘Old Firm’ football match between the two Glaswegian giants – Rangers v Celtic…. Sixty-six spectators are crushed to death and over 200 are injured….

The match had looked as if it were going to be a 0-0 draw….when in the 89th minute Celtic scored – only for Rangers to equalise with only a few seconds of the game remaining…. The 80,000 strong crowd went wild….only tragedy was about to happen on the East terrace, at the Rangers end of the stadium….

As the massive crowd surged to exit the ground some fans stumbled on the steep steps of stairway 13…. Others around them, not realising what was happening, still moved forwards – and a crush developed….the steel barriers on the stairway crumpled and gave way….

Sixty-six people lost their lives – 31 of which were teenagers….five school friends from Fife, 4 of whom lived on the same street, were among them…. One woman, Margaret Ferguson, aged 18 died…. The youngest victim was Nigel Pickup, from Liverpool….he was just 9-years-old…. Over 200 further people were injured….

At the official inquiry, which followed the disaster, it was concluded that someone – possibly a child being carried on his father’s shoulders – fell…..causing a chain reaction….

This was the worse football disaster in British football history until the Hillsborough disaster in 1989…. However, it was not the only catastrophe to have happened at Ibrox Park (now Ibrox Stadium)…. Ten years previously two had died and 44 were injured on the very same stairway…. In 1902 old wooden terraces gave way under the weight of too many spectators….25 died and 587 were injured….

The 1971 incident prompted the UK government to look into safety at sports venues…. As for the Ibrox ground – it underwent a huge redevelopment program taking three years to complete…. Three quarters of the spectating area was replaced by all-seated stands….

In the immediate aftermath of the Ibrox disaster supporters on both sides were united in grief….and now every year those who lost their lives are remembered….

On this day in history….5th December 1900

On this day in history : 5th December 1900 – The birth of footballer Jimmy Dimmock, who scored the winning goal for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1921 FA Cup Final and who also won three caps for England….

Jimmy Dimmock – Public domain

Jimmy was one of six brothers born in Edmonton, London and played junior football before signing as an amateur player for Tottenham Hotspur in 1916…. His budding football career was halted temporarily by WWI, during which he served as a gunner with the Royal Feild Artillery….

In May 1919 he returned to the sport turning professional with Tottenham – and he was to become a star at a young age…. His first professional match was against Lincoln City and he was to go on to play in some 400 league games for the club, scoring over 100 goals – 12 of which were in FA cup matches…. Jimmy, at 20, was the youngest Tottenham Hotspur player to play in the FA Cup Final – a record for the club still standing today…. In 1921, on a rain sodden pitch, he was to score the winning goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup Final – despite having sustaining an injury early on in the game…. He made his international debut against Scotland in April 1921 – and won three caps for England in his career….

Spurs Captain Arthur Grimsdell displaying the FA Cup to fans on Tottenham High Road after the 1921 final – Public domain

His career with Tottenham ended in 1931 and he went to play briefly for Thames Association FC – and a couple of seasons for Clapton Orient…. In 1934 he joined Ashford Town to play in the Kent League – but retired from the game in 1936….

After his footballing career had ended Jimmy was to work in the road haulage business…. He had married young and had five children by the age of 33…. After the death of two of his young daughters and then his wife he was deeply affected and never got over his grief…. His health declined, resulting in the loss of both of his legs, confining him to a wheelchair…. Jimmy died in the North Middlesex Hospital, Edmonton, on the 23rd of December 1972….

On this day in history….14th October 1878

On this day in history : 14th October 1878 – The World’s first football match to take place under floodlights is played at Bramwall Lane in Sheffield….

Electricity was still in its infancy at the time, Edison hadn’t even patented the electric lightbulb yet…. A football match played in artificial light would have been a huge novelty – so much so 12,000 people paid sixpence each to watch…. In reality the crowd was probably double that size as many sneaked into the grounds under the cover of darkness….img_4235

Positioned behind each goal was a ‘portable engine’ powering four lights, which were mounted on plinths situated around the pitch and giving each a height of 30 foot…. The lights put out a power equating to 8,000 candles – the whole experiment was reported as being a resounding success….

The exhibition match between the ‘Blues’ and the ‘Reds’ may have given the crowd unconventional entertainment in comparison to a normal football match – as the brilliance of the lights dazzled the players causing them to make some extraordinary blunders…. The final score : Blues 2 – Reds 0….

Nine day after the match at Sheffield, Glasgow’s Cathrin Park hosted the first floodlit match in Scotland…. Three days later Aston Lower Grounds (to become Villa Park) saw the Midland’s first game under floodlights – when Birmingham XI played Nottingham Forest…. London’s first lit match was played at the Oval between Clapham Rovers and Wanderers in early November 1878….

A floodlit Oval in November 1878 – From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 16th Nov 1878