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FA Cup finals played in the Red Rose County.

By Tony Onslow


1. Fallowfield, 1893.

The first F.A Cup final, played, in 1872, took place on the home of Surrey Cricket Club at the Kennington Oval in London. Charles W Alcock, the resident secretary, was also the secretary of the F.A. Mr. Alcock was a himself a keen footballer who captained the Wanderers FC to victory in the first ever final. The subsequent ten contests, all won by amateur sides from the South, drew crowds whose numbers could be easily accommodated within the confines of the Oval enclosure. In 1883 the first professional club, Blackburn Olympic won the contest and took the trophy North. It never returned to London again. The popularity of the tournament now increased as the professional clubs took a firm grip on the trophy. The crowds continued to multiply and by 1892, the ground was longer able to accommodate the amount of hopeful soccer fans who wished to witness the event The FA were forced to look for a more suitable location.

The executive sent out a circular to the committees of the principal provincial football associations throughout England. The letter invited them, if they so desired, to tender an application to host the prestigious event. Four contenders emerged. These were the Essex County Cricket Ground at Leyton, the Winsor and Eton Recreation Ground, the Manchester Athletic Ground and the West Hart’s Ground at Watford. It was decided, after inspecting each location, the game would be played in Manchester

The ground, situated in Fallowfield area, was well suited to accommodate the number of people who were expected to attend the match. It had a large playing field that was surrounded by a running track with rows of bench seats along each side of the area. Extra vantage points were situated at each end of the ground. The prospect was further enhanced by a spacious pavilion that stood in the South East corner of the Stadium.



The Manchester Athletic Ground.

The local executive did all in their power to improve the faculties that were already in place on the ground.. They constructed a covered enclosure for the dignities while the area , directly in front of the pavilion , had been set aside for the press. The number of people expected to attend the game was around 25,000 and the Fallowfield ground had , just recently, accommodated this number of people. The occasion being the rugby match between Lancashire and Yorkshire. The volume of people however, who attended the 1893 FA Cup final , took the authorities completely by the surprise.

The game was played between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton. The Midland side had beaten Bolton Wanderers, Middlesborough and Darwen before taking on Blackburn Rovers in the semi-final at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, Nottingham. The crowd, estimated at 25, 000, saw the Midland side reach the final with a 2-1 victory .They then had to wait over two weeks before Everton joined them.

The Liverpool based club were , at the time , the best supported soccer club in England with an average home game of around 20,000 people. They had , at the beginning of the season , moved to a new home at Goodison Park. The first cup-tie , played by Everton at this venue , was against the holders West Bromwich Albion. The home side, watched by a crowd of 30, 000 people , won the game by 3 goals to 0. Everton , following home wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest , faced Preston North End in the semi- final. The tie took three games to decide. The first two matches , both played at Bramall Lane , ended with honours even. The sides then met again at Ewood Park , Blackburn.

The match was played on the Monday before the date set down for the final and it produced scenes of utter chaos. Thousands of people, from all over the Lancashire , descended on the Blackburn enclosure. The gates were closed well in advance of the time appointed for the kick off. Many of the people, unable to gain admission , watched the game from the hill that overlooked the ground. The Merseyside club , with the score standing at 1-1 , reached the final with goal in the last minute. Next Saturday they headed for “Cottonopolis”.

Bright sunshine greeted visitors as they arrived in Manchester. The Everton party, after a sojourn at Buxton , arrived by train and , after taking a light lunch , made their way out to the ground. Their opponents also arrived by train and alighted at Levenshulme Station before making the short journey the stadium on Whimslow Road. Both sides were accompanied by a large following of supporters.

The day was declared a holiday in Wolverhampton where many people had previously expressed their intensions of attending the game. Four special trains , full capacity , left the town along with the many scheduled services on the regular timetable. Similar activity was seen in Liverpool with the Manchester press reporting over 20,000 visitors having arrived from the Mersey Seaport. Special trains were also reported to have disembarked passengers from Birmingham , Nottingham , Sheffield and London. These neutral fans, along with the many thousands local Lancastrians , outnumbered the followers of the participating teams. Their numbers proved to many for the stadium which was exhausted to capacity.

The barriers , in one part of the ground , collapsed under the pressure from the crowd. The spectators spilled through the fence , swept over the running track , and took possession of a reserved section of the ground. The barrier near the pavilion then gave way and , much to the indignity of the occupants , the intruders occupied the area that had been reserved for the members of the press. An eyewitness left us with this account of what he saw

.“The scene at Fallowfield on Saturday beggars description. The ground, it was theoretically estimated, was capable of holding 60, 000 but as a matter of fact the exact number present was 68, 211 - far too large a crowd to be comfortably accommodated. The fact is there were thousands who could not get a sight of the game and naturally they pressed to the front. Up to half passed two the barriers held firm but they were not constructed to stand prolonged pressure and a quarter of an hour later there was an ominous crash and hundreds rushed through the opening and immediately filled the space between the reporters and the touchline. Some of the pencillers stuck to their posts as long as it was possible, but when the crowd behind began to fling sods, drainpipes and stones, they fled to the pavilion and their places were taken by a howling mob who quickly smashed the desks by using them to stand on”. (Northern Daily Telegraph, 21.3.1893.)

The reception that greeted the Midland side was warmer than that of their opponents. This was reported to be on account of the number of imported Scottish players present in the Everton ranks. The Wolverhampton line up on the other hand , consisted of players born and bred in the Midlands. Many of the non-committed spectators thought is action prejudicial of local talent and wore cards , in the headband of their hats , that displayed the words “Play up England”. The referee was Mr. C. J. Hughes of Northwich. He summonsed the players to their positions, and the play commenced.

The match that followed was described as being neither interesting or exciting. The Liverpool side forced the early pressure but failed to take advantage of the openings that they had created. Their famous left wing pair, Chadwick and Millward , were both missed chances as the first half ended without a goal being scored. The crowd , during the interval , spilled over on to the pitch taking possession of one of the goals. The re-start was delayed while the police cleared the playing area.

The second half of the game was comparable to the first but it did produce a winning goal. Harry Allen , the Wolverhampton defender , played a long ball forward in to his opponents penalty box. Williams , the young Everton goalkeeper , misjudged the flight of the ball and allowed it the drift over his head and in to the net.

This setback had a dispiriting effect on the Everton players who slowly began to exhibit the signs of their impending defeat. The energy , evident in their first half play , wilted in the warm afternoon sunshine. They made one last effort to reverse their fortunes but the final whistle , when it sounded , heralded their defeat. Wolverhampton Wanderers had won the FA Cup.

Both sides , it later transpired , had lodged a protest again the game being played as a cup-final.. The referee however , overruled the protest stating that ,“In his opinion, that there had not been sufficient interference with play to justify another match. The Everton protest was then withdrawn leaving the Midland side to pick up their prize. The trophy was handed over the Mr. Hollingsworth , the club chairman , and taken back to Wolverhampton.

The Fallowfield enclosure , when the crowd had dispersed , resembled a battlefield. The fences were broken and desks, that should have been occupied by the press , broken to matchwood. There was , nonetheless , soon decree of comfort. The amount of money taken at the gate was a record £ 2, 700. Many people however , had gained excess without paying and the location was never to host another FA Cup-final.


Picture by the kind permission of Graham Hughes.


Part 2, 1894 Goodison Park, Liverpool.

The Football Association again invited any interested parties to apply to stage the event and several applied. The FA , after inspecting the leading venues, came to a decision. They would, for the first time, invite a member of the Football League to stage the event. Goodison Park, the home of Everton Football Club, would host the event.

Goodison Park was, at the time, the most suitable ground on which to play the final. It had a capacity of over 50,000 and a newly opened grandstand that contained “State of the Arts” facilities. The structure, situated along Bullens Road, seated over 6, 000 people all of whom were under cover. Dressing rooms, along with other accommodation, were located beneath the seating along with bathrooms that benefited from hot and cold running water. There was also, located on the opposite side of the ground, excellent amenities for the press. The game however played between Bolton Wanderers and Notts County, failed to capture the imagination of many of the Lancashire soccer fans.

The picture above, taken in 1893, shows the new Grandstand under construction.


The Bolton players spent the week, leading up to the final, at home taking long country walks and salt water baths before leaving for Liverpool on Friday. They then took the Mersey Ferry over to the village of Eastham where they spent the night. Their opponents had arrived much earlier. The Nottingham party arrived in Liverpool on Monday and took the underground train out to Wirral Village of West Kirkby where accommodation had been arranged for them. Their Hotel stood on the shores of the River Dee and looked over on to the Welsh Hills. Here they spent several days relaxing and playing bowls.

On Saturday morning the clubs meet at the Star and Garter Hotel in Liverpool. Both sides, after enjoying a light lunch, boarded a separate horse drawn carriage that would take them to the ground. The streets of Liverpool were thronged with people many of whom were heading, not to-wards Goodison, but to the Grand National at Aintree. Both sides however, arrived at the ground on time to be greeted by their followers who , according to the local press, were present in equal numbers..

The official number, who paid for admission, the game, is open to conjecture as the Liverpool newspapers all carry conflicting stories. The crowd was estimated at being between 25,000 and 30,000 people with some reporters making reference to many empty seat that could be seen around the enclosure.. Bolton Wanderers, unlike Blackburn and Preston, had failed to attract large crowds on their travels while Notts County were playing in division two of the Football League. Everton, the host club, had been eliminated early in the tournament causing local interest in the final to wane The visiting fans however, took their places around the enclosure

Goodison Park , 31 March 1894.


The early morning sun had given way to heavy clouds as the spectators took their places. The enclosure may have lacked the sylvan surroundings of Fallowfield but it displayed a much more orderly sight with the well constructed barriers, on all sides, keeping the crowd well away from the field of play. The Liverpool Police Band , while keeping a watchful eye, kept the crowd entertained with a selection of music. The turf was reported to be in splendid condition and set to favour the speedy wingers of the east Midland side. The teams took the field at the appointed time and the referee, Mr. C.J. Hughes of Northwich, set the play in motion.

It was clear from the outset that Notts County were by far the better prepared side and their first goal came after 20 minutes. Harry Daft, breaking down the wing, crossed for Donnelly to score at the far post. Worse was to follow for Bolton when Logan put County to up before the break. The same player, during the course of the second half, when on to complete his hat trick. A consolation goal, scored by Cassidy, did little to lift the spirits of the Bolton faithful who watched their side suffer a 4-1 defeat. Notts County thus began the first team from division two to win the FA Cup.



Action from the match taken from “The Sporting and Dramatic News.”

Thus ended the second FA Cup final to be played in Red Rose County. The proceeding, unlike the previous year, had passed off without incident. The Goodison ground had proved well capable of staging the event but the gate receipts of £1, 300, had proved disappointing. The reason why the FA chose to play the match on Grand National day remains a mystery but many more thousands had watched a horse named “Why Not” win the race at nearby Aintree. The FA now decided to return the fixture to the Capital.


Part 3, Burnden Park. Bolton.

The 1901 FA Cup between Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur took place at the Crystal Palace in South London. It had been the first time, since the Old Etonians in 1883, that a team based in the Capital had made it through to concluding match of the tournament. The FA Committee, on the eve of the match, convened a meeting at their headquarters on Chancery Lane. The meeting decided, should a re-play be necessary, the game would take place at Goodison Park in Liverpool. This information was quickly communicated to the local press before the meeting, having debated all other items, was brought to an end.. All concerned now looked forward to the final the following day.

The occasion, aided by brilliant sunshine, enticed a bumper crowd, including many families, to spend a day in the pleasure gardens at Sydenham. They poured into the enclosure in great numbers and produced a record attendance of over 110,000 people. They were, amongst them, many happy excursionists from South Yorkshire but the vast majority were football enthusiasts from the London who were hoping to see trophy return to the Capital. They cheered the north London side in to a 2-1 lead before the Yorkshire side drew level. The game then ended in 2-2 draw and a re-play was declared. This did not, as intended, take place at Goodison Park but at Burnden Park in Bolton. Liverpool Football Club, it was later discovered, had objected to the arrangements so the game was quickly transferred to the Lancashire mill town.


Burnden Park 1895.

The decision surprised the football world . Most people, owing to its geographical location, expected the game to played in the Midlands. The local executive in Bolton, with little time to prepare, set about improving the facilities already in place on the Burnden Park enclosure. They quickly added, with no help from the FA, an extra 8,000 temporary seats to the cycle track that surrounded the playing area. The local business community began to cater for the many visitors expected to visit the mill town. Unfortunately, due to the travel arrangements, such preparations were in vain

The Lancashire and Yorkshire were the main railway company in the area. In the process of upgrading their system they had closed their main station in Bolton halting the trains short of the town centre. The location, Moses Gate, had only two platforms. The company, fearing congestion, offered no cheap excursion tickets and many Yorkshire fans declined to travel. The indigenous population, it would appear, were also unhappy with the arrangements. The Lancashire fans, who were asked to pay double the normal admission price, on top of the normal rail fare, stayed away in great numbers.




The arrangements for spectators

It was six in morning when the first excursion train arrived from the Capital. The fans, who had traveled on London & North Western system, had taken advantage of the special cheap day excursions offered by the company. The amount who followed fell far short of the number anticipated and several trains had to be cancelled. A newspaper reporter, who arrived from London, was unimpressed with what he found and expressed his criticism of the location along with the pre match arrangements that were made for visitors.

…..The football ground at Bolton is, by some strange whim of contrariety , named Burnden Park. There is nothing in site to justify the name of park. Some dingy shedding made uglier on Saturday by the use of colored flags, a railway embankment, some slate roofs, half-a-dozen smoke stacks, two pit mouth wheels, those are the surroundings. A few blades of grass give an emerald colour to the playing area and all else, save the clouded blue overhead, is drab. The London excursionists who arrived early were, it is said, disappointed with the “park”-- and no wonder. Some of them waited at the gates as early as ten o clock. They were admitted at twelve. At two o clock it became evident that much of the preparation for an overwhelming crowd had been made unnecessarily. At three o clock late-comers still found still found vantage ground in any part of the enclosure which they were willing to pay for, and when the game started they were some thousands of vacant seats especially on the benched cycle track behind each goal. This was a disappointing anti-climax to the great gathering at Crystal Palace a week ago. The terraced railway embankment was well covered with people, but when one looked from the packed faces at either end to the comfortable open order in the centre one realized that here, alone many hundreds, perhaps thousands, more could have been provided for ( The Guardian 29-4-1901.)

At the appointed hour the players strolled leisurely out on to the field. A strong wind blew across a playing field that was hard and dusty and arched in the centre in turtle back fashion. Mr. A Kingscott of Derby took change in the middle. The London side

had slightly the better of a first half that ended with each side having scored one goal. Tottenham Hotspur, in course of the second half proved to have the measure of their opponents. They scored twice to win the game by 3 goals to 1. The FA Cup, after an absence of eighteen years, was on its way back to London. The terraces were almost empty when Lord Kinaird, following a short speech, presented the trophy to Jones the Spurs captain. The London side then returned to their hotel at Southport. where they rested before boarding a train back to London. It was 1 am when the they disembarked at south Tottenham railway station where a large crowd awaited their arrival. The Tottenham side then entered a carriage that, amid scenes of tremendous enthusiasm, transported them to the club-house.


Sheffield United defend a corner kick.


Talk throughout the football world was of the small number of spectators that had watched the match at Bolton. Lack of cheap rail travel, along with high admission prices, kept most people away. The number of people who paid for admission was given at 18,562 giving gate receipts of £1,208, 1s 6d. Added to this number were 1,100 pre-booked seats at 5 shilling a head pus 700 cycle track seats giving an attendance figure of 20, 762.  It is therefore no surprise that this was the only time that the FA Cup final was played at Burnden Park. Bolton.