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Artisans vs Aristorcats

Blackburn Olympic 2, Old Etonians, 1

Kennington Oval, 1 April, 1883 

One of the most significant games in the history of English football took place in front of 8000 spectators at Kennington Oval, the home of Surrey County Cricket Club, on 1 April 1883.   Blackburn Olympic, a team made up largely of plumbers, sheet-metal workers, spinners and weavers, met the gentlemen of the Old Etonians.

Blackburn Olympic were founded in August 1877 from the merger of two smaller clubs, Black Star and James Street. The Olympic soon evolved into one of the finest sides in Lancashire, while former England player Jack Hunter coached them in the art of the passing game. It was Hunter who decided to take the team to Blackpool for a few days' relaxation prior to the final, which had been unheard of previously. 

Olympic’s great moment came in the F.A Cup Final of 1883. No one gave Olympic much hope. The Old Etonians had won the cup twice, and been beaten finalists once, in the cup's early history. Ten of their eleven players had cup final experience behind them including the record breaking Arthur Kinnaird who would captain the side in his ninth final.

Blackburn brought a huge crowd with them to London.  In a very physical game the Old Etonians took the lead through Harry Goodhart against the run of play. The teams had retired to the pavillion for the interval and the Old Etonian players looked bemusedly at one another as they listened to the oaths and swearing hailing from the Olympic dressing room in what must have been the first instance of a half time cup final dressing down.

It worked though as Olympic raised their game in the second half with the team concentrating on their passing game. Their ability to switch play from wing to wing, stretched an Old Etonians team reduced to ten men due to injury.. They began to regain the upper hand and a deserved equaliser came from Matthews. To make matters worse for the cup holders their England International forward Arthur Dunn had to leave the field injured and Old Etonians were forced to play out the remaining minutes with ten men.

At the final whistle Arthur Kinnaird could have called for a replay as extra time was not compulsory in those days but was decided upon between the two captains. Kinnaird though was honour bound to accept the extra half hour when Squire Warburton, the Olympic captain asked for it as it would have been considered bad sport to refuse in the final.

Warburton instructed Hunter, one of the backs to move forward to make full advantage of the time available. Warburton's tactics paid off when Dewhurst's long pass gave Jimmy Costley a clear sight of goal which he pounced at with a first time shot which crept under the bar before Rawlinson in the Etonian goal could react.

Although they quickly faded into obscurity, Blackburn Olympic’s victory marked the final shift in footballing power from the gentlemen-amateur to the workingman from the industrial heartlands of the midlands and the north.  The Blackburn team also included players who appeared to earn their living purely from football: professionals in all but name.   It was this fact that rankled with the amateurs of the south and when Blackburn Olympic received the Cup it was to ‘somewhat reluctant applause’.   On the other hand ecstatic crowds greeted the team on their return to Blackburn for what the Blackburn Times called ‘a signal victory of the plebeian over patrician Englishmen’. 

 Blackburn Olympic Team

Thomas Hacking, James Ward, Sam Warburton (Captain), Thomas Gibson, William Astley, John Hunter,
Thomas Dewhurst, Alfred Matthews, George Wilson, Jimmy Costley, John Yates

Old Etonians Team

John Frederick Peel Rawlinson, Thomas French, Percy de Paravicini, Hon Arthur Kinnaird (Captain),
Charles Foley, Arthur Tempest Blakiston Dunn, Herbert Bainbridge, John Chevallier, William Anderson,
Harry Chester Goodhart, Reginald Heber Macauley