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Wednesday 7th November 2012 ko 19.00

1872 FA Challenge Cup

ROYAL ENGINEERS 7 (Hubbard 8 Carter 18 Griffiths 20 Cottam 23 45 Ellis 33 Crame 86)

WANDERERS 1 (Flash 66)

Att 2,257*

Entry £10

Programme £2

There are grounds which are routine, there are grounds that are unusual, and just once in a while there are grounds that you drop everything and head over there. The Oval for a football fan is definately one of the latter. It was the site of the very first FA Cup final, in 1872 at the end of a competition in which 15 teams entered, and a full 3 years before the crossbar was introduced. The 2,000 viewing on that day were at the start of something special, 758 clubs entered this season’s competition! This game saw both sides wear similar colours to those in 1872, but playing to todays laws.

I’ve put an asterisk by the attendance, as I reckon around 800 were watching. The figure above is how many tickets were sold, but with the event being a fundraiser for the Royal British Legion, The Haig Housing Trust, and Lambeth Tigers FC, many had opted to simply use the ticket as a means of donating.

The Oval is of course a cricket venue, but unlike its more illustrious London test venue, Lords, has seen other sports regularly played on it. Last week saw an Aussie Rules game, and baseball has been played regularly here. The Wanderers used here as a home in the 19th century and between 1951 and 1962 Corithian-Casuals used the Oval for home fixtures. Apart from a one-off Corinthian-Casuals fixture in 1973 there’s been no more football at the Oval since. That’s a long time to wait between games!

It was a superb night out with the Long Room normally only open to members, displaying the current FA Cup together with the second FA Cup, a replica of the first version, famously stolen, found, then stolen all over again. The second trophy was used from 1896 to 1910, and is the property of West Ham United chairman David Gold, who presented it at the final whistle. It was noticable that all who handled it wore gloves, for obvious reasons!

Whilst in the Long Room I managed to meet a real hero of mine, Stuart Clarke. His work, “The Homes of Football,” is a massive influence on the pictures you see on this blog. His exhibition is now at the National Football Museum in Manchester and I cannot recommend it highly enough. He gets right to the heart of the game in away I’ve not seen any other photographer manage.

In the 1872 final the Wanderers won 1-0 courtesy of a goal by Morton Betts playing under the pseudonym AH Chequer, apparently due to his having played for the Old Harrovians. This was rather ironic given that the roots of The Wanderers lie in former pupils of Harrow School!

Since 1872 the two sides have had differing fortunes. The Wanderers disbanded in 1887, they’d declined rapidly after winning the FA Cup 5 times. Incidentally the reason why if a club wins the FA Cup 3 times in a row, they don’t keep the trophy is due to the Wanderers, as when they completed the feat in 1878 the trophy was returned to the FA on the proviso that no club would ever be able to win it outright. The club was reformed in 2009, and completes in the lowly Surrey South Eastern Combination, a far cry from their all-conquering past. For this game they had a guest manager, Bobby Gould, an FA Cup winner both as a player with West Ham in 1975 (as a non-playing subsitute) , and as a manager with Wimbledon in 1988.

The Royal Engineers have never entered a league; the practicalities of being a regiment on active service making it impossible. Nevertheless the club has maintained a team continously since the famous first final, and continues to be a major force in armed services football, in fact I saw them at Aldershot Military Stadium in January 2012.


With the club having been credited with inventing the passing game, rather than simply kicking the ball forward and charging, and some military fitness, a repeat of the 1872 final was never likely to happen. The Engineers had the first half entirely their own way, and ran up 6 unanswered goals, without having to really try.

But a drubbing really wouldn’t be cricket, so the Engineers replaced 7 players at half time, and at the risk of a bad pun- declared! The second half saw the Wanderers cheered on by their followers and many neutrals at least manage to register a goal from Daniel Flash, whose header, er, flashed past Sapper Luke Cairney in the Engineers goal.

That took nothing away from the Engineers victory, but I did feel sorry for one of their organisers Matt Surtees, who would have featured but is on active service. That was food for thought with Remembrance Sunday just round the corner.