Clive Hardy looks at how games in the 1890s, both involving Stoke (the Potters) and the 1902 FA Cup Final might have influenced a change to the laws of the game as well as the layout of the football field.
That first season of 1888-89, Stoke, one of the twelve founder members of the Football League, were struggling to find form. A 1-2 home defeat at the hands of non-League Warwick County in Qualifying Round One, brought an ignominious exit from the FA Cup competition and a place in the history books as the first League side to be defeated in the FA Cup by a non-League team. To make matters worse, they ended the season bottom, having amassed just 12 points from 22 games, putting them 28 points behind champions Preston North End.
Things could only get better. Only they didn’t. The 1889-90 season proved equally chaotic. A change to the FA Cup competition resulted in the Football League teams not appearing until Round One, where they joined the 12 surviving teams from the previous four rounds. Stoke disposed of non-League Old Westminsters 3-0 at the Victoria Ground, followed by a 4-2 home win against eventual League runners-up Everton. After that, things went pear-shaped. In Round Three, the Potters’ away fixture against Wolves was declared void and the game ordered to be replayed. The Potters had lost the voided game 4-0 but then managed to lose the replay 8-0. In the League, Stoke, suffered their record home defeat, a 0-10 hammering by Preston North End. The Football League’s second season ended as the first with Preston North End at the top on 33 points and Stoke at the bottom with just 10 points. The Potters gained the dubious honour of becoming the first team to not to be re-elected to the Football League, their place for the 1890-91 season going to Sunderland.
The Potters moved to the Football Alliance, though banishment lasted just one season. At least here they had some success, winning the Alliance three points clear of runners-up Sunderland Albion and as the number of clubs in the Football League was being increased to fourteen for the 1891-92 season, they were readmitted along with new boys Darwen.
Stoke’s first brush with inadequate penalty laws came during their 1890-91 FA Cup campaign. In the First Round, they exacted revenge upon Preston North End by beating them 3-0. When they drew Aston Villa in the Second Round, the fans from both sides must have thought they were in for a reasonable tie. The Potters were riding high in the Alliance and had taken Preston North End out of the cup. Meanwhile, though Villa had trashed the Casuals 13-1 in the First Round, their form in the League was dire having won only five games with just three remaining. On 31 January 1891, around 7000 fans were at the Victoria Ground to watch the Potters win 3-0. So far, so good.
Then came the quarter-final against Notts County at Trent Bridge. County were winning 1-0 and with just seconds to go, Stoke, mounted a last desperate raid. It almost paid off. County’s goalkeeper, George Toone, was beaten and the ball was heading into the net when left back Jackie Hendry committed a handball foul, thereby denying the Potters a certain equalizer. As there was no specific penalty law at the time, the referee awarded a free kick on the goal line which George Toone was able to smother. The goal area itself looked nothing like it does today. It was marked by a semi-circular line which from above resembled the number three, though others believe it resembled a pair of women’s breasts.
The incident might have escaped too much attention had not County gone on the reach the final. In the long run Hendry’s handball foul didn’t do County any good as they were beaten 3-1 by Blackburn Rovers. What it did do though was lead to a review of the rules and the introduction of penalties from September 1891. At the time, the penalty was known as ‘the kick of death’. In the modern game, a penalty is taken from the penalty spot, though back then it was permissible to take it from anywhere along the 12-yard (11m) line, which in those days extended the full width of the pitch.
For the Potters, it was during the 1892-93 season that the penalty monster reared its head once again. On 12 September, Stoke were at home to Aston Villa. Villa were winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from their pacey left-winger Lewis Campbell, when in the 88th minute, the Potters were awarded a penalty. The Villa keeper, Willie Dunning, kicked the ball clear out of the ground and by the time it had been recovered by a small boy, the referee had blown for time.
Dunning’s time wasting didn’t go unnoticed. The incident led to a further rule change allowing referees to add time for a penalty.
By the time of the FA Cup Final on 19 April 1902, the layout of the football pitch hadn’t altered for some years. The final, between Southampton, and Sheffield United of the First Division is interesting in that a non-League side had made it to the final in three successive competitions. In 1900, Southern League side Southampton had been beaten 4-0 by First Division Bury. The following year, Southern League side Tottenham Hotspur had defeated Sheffield United, though it took a replay to do it. The 1902 final gave Southampton their second crack at the world’s oldest football cup competition.
For First Division Sheffield United, it was their third Cup Final appearance in four years, having made it all the way in the 1898-99 and 1900-01 competitions as well as the quarter finals in 1899-1900. At the time, the finals were played at the Crystal Palace, London, and of the 76,914 fans who turned up for the 3.30pm kick off, an estimated 40,000 had travelled by train from the North and Midlands.
Both teams were packed with truly great players, though Sheffield United’s star turn was their goalkeeper, the one and only Billy ‘Fatty’ Faulke; almost certainly the heaviest goalie to appear in the Football League. Standing an impressive 6ft 4ins (1.93m) and weighing in at around 21st (294 pounds, 133kg) though his final weight as a player was said to have reached 24st (336 pounds, 152kg), Faulke, who it is claimed was the subject of the 1894 song ‘Who Ate All the Pies,’ was deceptively agile for a big man. He was also one of the best goalkeepers in the Football League. Faulke was the stuff of legend and one of the surviving stories is that he tolerated fools lightly and goal hanging opposition forwards even less. It is said that he would grab ‘annoying’ forwards and throw them bodily into the back of his net. Another is that once, when the team were staying in a hotel prior to an away fixture, Fatty, who just happened to be up first, went into the dining room and ate all the breakfasts.
Playing at right back for Southampton was one Charles Burgess Fry (C B Fry). When still a schoolboy at Repton, Fry began playing for the top amateur side, the Casuals, and as a sixteen-year-old appeared in at least one FA Cup competition game.
He then won a scholarship to Oxford University, studying at Wadham College. A talented sportsman, he was awarded university Blues in football, cricket (1892-95) and athletics and just missed out on a Blue for rugby union. During his university days, he played amateur football for the Corinthians and from 1894 he played county cricket for Sussex.
At university, he mastered his party trick of standing in front of his fireplace, launching into the air, turning through 180 degrees and landing feet first on the mantlepiece sill. He also mastered getting into debt. Fry attempted to get his finances in order writing articles, though when desperate for cash he posed naked for art classes. Alas a budding career in academia failed to materialize when he was awarded a Fourth. It wasn’t all down to a Bohemian lifestyle. His mother had been taken seriously ill and he was unable to study for his finals.
Salvation came when he was selected for Lord Hawke’s England Cricket Tour of South Africa, making his Test debut in February 1896. Fry established a reputation as a high-scoring batsman, playing for Sussex until 1908 and then for Hampshire from 1909 until 1921. He also played alongside W G Grace both for England and at the London County Cricket Club.
Fry’s footballing career with Corinthians came to an end in 1900 after making 74 appearances. Keen to be selected for international honours, he joined Southampton, making his debut against Tottenham Hotspur on 26 December. On 9 March 1901, he appeared for England against Ireland in an international played in Southampton.
The 1901-02 Cup Final between Southampton and Sheffield United was played in weather described as bitterly cold. It also had its fair share of incidents and at least one mystifying decision from referee Tom Kirkham. After ten minutes, United’s powerful outside right, Walter ‘Cocky’ Bennett, twisted a leg but as this was long before substitutes were allowed, he continued playing. In the second half United’s inside right Alf Common was injured, causing one sports journalist to write, ‘Sheffield’s right wing consisted of a couple of limpers.’ Even so, Common put United ahead in the 55th minute and with United maintaining pressure victory looked certain. With two minutes play remaining the Saints equalized. Their skipper, Harry Wood, was in an off-side position tying his bootlaces when the ball reached him, and he turned it into the net. The goal was much in doubt. Tom Kirkham consulted his linesmen for nearly two minutes before indicating that the goal would stand. Though several onlookers later claimed the ball had glanced off United’s Irish international left back Peter Boyle, no player from either side ever acknowledged the goal.
Once again Fatty Faulke enters our story. After the game the sight of Tom Kirkham proved too much for Fatty, who, enraged, dripping wet and stark naked, chased the terrified official through the dressing rooms. It is said Kirkham sought refuge in a cupboard and that officials had to stop Faulke from ripping its doors off.
The replay was staged on 26 April, though only 33,068 fans turned up to watch. C B Fry’s account of the match was published in the 28 April edition of the Daily Express. Fry wrote, ‘We were beaten by 2 goals to 1 in a fair game……we must take our licking like men.’
Walter Bennett was still injured and his place in the United team was taken by Billy Barnes who played mainly for the reserves but would become the hero of the match when he scored the winning goal.
United opened the scoring after two minutes when Bert Lipsham centred and George Hedley beat Saints’ keeper Jack Robinson to the ball, hitting it into the right-hand corner of the net. At the time, Fry was marking Fred Priest to whom he thought Lipsham was about to pass the ball. Instead, Lipsham kicked the ball high over Fry’s head. Saints’ outside right Archie Turner broke through on several occasions only to come up against a solid United defence in the shape of the quick thinking, fast moving, hard tackling, Harry Thickett and the equally hard tackling Peter Boyle. If all else failed there was still Fatty Faulke to get past. Fry stated that Faulke’s goal kicks had tremendous range, often their first bounce was well within shooting range of the Saints’ goal.
Even so, Albert Brown equalized for the Saints in the 70th minute following a goalmouth scramble. For several minutes the Saints piled on the pressure and might well have gone ahead but stability returned to the United defence.
In the 79th minute, United were awarded a free kick for a handball offence by Harry Wood some forty yards from goal. Fry doubted it was hands and the ball had, ‘only bounced against Wood’s elbow by mere mischief; still, the referee could see, and gave it, and we must not complain.’
The kick was finely placed into the Saints goalmouth, though Fry got to it and headed it clear to the left. Ernest Needham managed to win the ball and centred it across the Saints’ goalmouth. Jack Robinson appears to have got a touch to it but couldn’t control it and it flew into the path of Billy Barnes who headed it home, giving United their well-deserved FA Cup victory.
Interestingly, papers reporting the final of 19 April concluded with an announcement from the Rules Committee proposing the abolition of semi-circles at the goals and replacing them with goal areas, 20 yards (18.23m) long by 6 yards (5.5m) deep, inside which the goalkeeper would be protected. The penalty areas would be 44 yards long (40.2m) by 18 yards (16.5m) deep. The penalty kick was to be taken from a mark 12 yards (11m) from goal. Penalty kicks would be given for offences six yards further from the goal than present (1902) but would not be applicable to fouls near corner flags. And the Throne of Albania? In 1920 Fry’s former Sussex County Cricket teammate Ranjitsinhji, was appointed as one of India’s representatives to the newly formed League of Nations. Fry, who had developed an interest in politics at Oxford, went along as his assistant. It was whilst working for Ranjitsinjhi that Fry claimed he was approached and offered the throne of Albania. He never became King of Albania though he did stand as the Liberal candidate for Brighton in 1922.