Two excellent pieces about Civil Service FC:
When I wrote my history of Ipswich Town, which was published in 2013, I wanted to tell the story of my football club through the lives and experiences of the people that contributed to the club from all walks of life. One of the aspects of this story was the involvement of Ipswich Town Football Club in both the first and second world wars. I was not given access to the club’s archives, but I was able to find out quite a bit about the players and others who fought in both wars. This being a time of remembrance of those who lost their lives during the First World War, I am writing here about the Town players whose lives were irrevocably changed between 1914 and 1918. Three of them died and a fourth would never play football again due to injury. There is much more detail about the club during this time in my book. This is about a few individuals who were never able to return to Portman Road again.
Cecil Fenn was one of two brothers who played for Town in the years before the First World War. He and his brother Charles were born at Gould House in Dedham, Essex. Their father, Cooper Fenn (some nominative determinism for you) owned a brewery, but was also involved in local Conservative politics, describing himself as “a political registrar and agent.” Both boys were talented footballers and played for the club between 1905 and 1912. All our players were amateurs at this time and both brothers decided to emigrate in order to earn a better living abroad. Charles went to India, from where he returned to Ipswich to die peacefully, at the age of 85, but Cecil emigrated to British Columbia, Canada, where he had planned to become a fruit farmer.
Cecil was an immensely popular player for Ipswich Town. When he left Ipswich for the last time before emigrating, a large crowd of cheering fans followed him to the station to see him off. Sadly, he was never to return to Suffolk again. When war broke out, he enlisted with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as a private. He was killed during the second battle of Ypres on 4 May 1915.
His name appears on this Canadian memorial.
Allan Bowman was harder to trace. He played at centre half for Town from 1907 to 1911. He may have been the son of a tailor in St Helen’s parish who was born in 1885. Nothing else is known about him except that he appears on the Suffolk Roll of Honour as a casualty, having been a Lance Corporal in the Royal Fusiliers.
Claude Sennitt was born in Norwich in 1892 and played for ITFC between 1909 and 1912. He made 24 appearances as an inside forward and scored eleven goals. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Hood Battalion, in 1916. He survived the fighting on the frontline for only a few weeks and was shot soon after his arrival in France. He died of his wounds on 23 April 1917.
These were the only former Ipswich Town players that I have been able to identify as having been killed in action during the First World War. Perhaps equally as poignant is the story of Ernie Bugg, a hugely prolific and popular player. Town signed him from Westbourne Mills FC and he made his debut against Ealing in October 1911. Between then and leaving Ipswich to join up, Bugg scored 79 goals in 62 appearances. Although he survived the war, and lived on until 1946, Ernie Bugg (pictured in the photograph at the top of this page, front row, second left) had to have his leg amputated as a result of the wounds he suffered. It is not difficult to imagine what a blow that was to such a talented player.
David Selby, editor of a great publication called The Chelmsford City Historian has kindly given us permission to post this piece about violence by Ipswich Town fans at a third round match of the FA Cup in 1973. It was first published in issue 10 (Winter 2012/13).
The 1970’s was a particularly bad time for football violence wise, and unfortunately the ‘disease’ did not escape New Writtle Steet. Not on a regular basis of course, but from time to time trouble did occur.
When City met Colchester United in the F.A. Cup in January 1968 a crowd of 16,403 was present but there was little or no trouble. In January 1973 City were drawn at home to Ipswich Town in the 3rd Round of the same competition and although the crowd was smaller, 15,557 on this occasion, the ugly side of football reared its ugly head as the pictures on these pages indicate.
The Central Park turnstiles were still open when this game took place but the trouble was limited, at least pre match, to the New Writtle Street entrances.
In the top picture we can see that the Police had dogs with them to help quell any trouble but the bottom picture shows the fighting in full flow with pitched battles between Chelmsford and Ipswich supporters.
Unfortunately there were victims as the middle picture indicated with one of the supporters on the floor overlooked by a police officer.
We have published these pictures not to glamourise the violence of the time but to show how much progress has been made over the years and that recent big games at Melbourne Park have shown that visitors to the ground can do so in a safe and friendly environment.
The picture above shows visiting supporters from Ipswich outside The Bird In Hand Public House blocking the path of a car as it tries to travel along New Writtle Street. Whilst in the picture below a police officer attends to a supporter who has obviously been hurt.
Unfortunately the violence was not restricted to outside the ground and when supporters from both clubs appeared in court on Thursday 1st February 1973 the whole story became clear. A string of fines were imposed on several supporters not only from Chelmsford and Ipswich but also from Colchester whilst fighting at the railway station resulted in an Ipswich supporter being convicted whilst a Chelmsford supporter had the charge against him dismissed.
There had been trouble at the Woolworth’s store in the town and 18 Ipswich supporters who had been allegedly involved in the trouble had their cases adjourned until February 23rd. When these cases eventually came to Court their story was told. One set of supporters went into the High Street and caused £700, almost £6,000 in today’s money, worth of damage, mainly in Woolworth’s whilst others went on to Springfield Road. The two groups then joined up together and went on to Victoria Road where they threw bricks at shop windows and forced the public off the pavement. Some women were forced to pick up their children and move on to the road to avoid the mob. In view of the number of people charged and the complexities involved the case was adjourned again until Wednesday 21st March 1973.
Sadly cases were also heard at the Juvenile court with several minors charged with various offences.
The trouble between the two sets of supporters obviously lingered because when the sides met again in a pre season friendly in August 1976 there was plenty of trouble on that occasion too.
There was trouble in the ground and at the bus and railway stations too with numerous arrests on both sides.
Football fans have a proud tradition of chanting at football matches. These chants can be supportive or critical of their team, critical of the opposition, hostile, crude, humorous, and on occasion seemingly pointless.
Football chants often also contain within them words, ideas or themes that could be deemed offensive. Examples include references to famous disasters including the Munich Air Crash and Hillsborough, as well as murders, brain tumours, paedophilia and rape; all expressed with frequent smatterings of swear words.
Sadly, football chanting also has long history of racism, both overt and covert.
The first black professional footballer in England was Arthur Wharton who played in goal for Darlington, Preston North End, Sheffield United and Sunderland among others between 1885 and 1902. No records exist of Wharton being subjected to racist chanting, but it wouldn’t be long until examples of racism in football hit the national news.
As early as the 1930s, Everton hero and the current record goal scorer in English football, Dixie Dean was subjected to abuse at a game in London, which culminated in Dean punching the offender before retreating into the tunnel. Dixie Dean, who was an England international between 1927 and 1932, was believed by some to be of mixed race, perhaps because of his dark complexion or because his nickname “Dixie” was thought to refer to origins in the southern states of the USA. None of this appears to have any basis in reality.
Thirty years later in the 1960’s ‘monkey chants’ and bananas being hurled onto the pitch became more frequent, with black players blaming the rise of the National Front as an influence on the terraces.
Then in 1974, an eighteen-year-old Viv Anderson, who would go on to be the first black footballer to play for England, was subject to what he would later describe as “dog’s abuse, really vicious” in a game at Newcastle. Twelve months later, while warming up as a substitute, Anderson was pelted with apples, bananas and pears at Carlisle. Anderson retreated to the bench, where he reported the incident to his manager Brian Clough and was promptly told to “get your ******* arse back out there then and fetch me two pears and a banana”.
Racist chanting, in English football at least, reached its shameful pinnacle in the 1980s. Despite fifteen years having elapsed since the 1965 Race Relations Act, and with racism in decline in society as whole, racism remained rife within English football. Players were routinely subjected to ‘monkey chants’ and as late as 1988 black England superstar John Barnes was famously photographed nonchalantly back-heeling a banana away, which had been hurled at him moments earlier. The banana incident came four years after Barnes had scored a goal against Brazil which is still widely heralded as England’s greatest ever.
Why racism in football remained as rife, despite a gradual disappearance from society as a whole, is a complicated mix of social and psychological factors to do with crowd mentality, tribalism, machismo and the make-up of the crowd itself. Whilst the make-up of a football crowd is changing, football crowds remain predominantly white, male and middle-aged. The attitudes a football crowd therefore tends to exhibit, is by extension likely to be those white, middle-aged men carry. In 2013 a study published in the journal Science on changing opinions and tastes found that younger people reported their tastes and opinions had altered much more in the previous decade than their older peers. The circumstantial evidence of football chants backs this finding up and suggests that chants appear to reflect beliefs which were more prevalent in previous generations. The proliferation of racism in football in the 1980s, despite coming fifteen years after the Race Relations Act, bears this out.
Encouragingly, whilst by no means completely eradicated, thirty years on, with the creation of the ‘Kick it out’ campaign and another anti-racism Act of Parliament in the shape of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, 2006, racism is now much rarer within football and isolated incidents receive widespread media coverage, condemnation and prosecution.
This juxtaposition of societal condemnation but ongoing isolated incidents was exposed in May 2014, when in Spain, in a scene resembling the one involving John Barnes described previously, a banana was thrown at Barcelona’s Dani Alves by a fan of Villareal as he went to take a corner. The act itself proved that racism is far from eradicated from football. However it also drew criticism from across the world, with players, fans and pundits expressing revulsion, particularly in an internet campaign which mimicked the classy response Alves gave, when, instead of kicking it away, he picked up the banana and took a bite. The incident also inspired a subsequent show of support with players, fans and pundits around the world uploading images of themselves eating bananas to social network Twitter with the hashtag #weareallmonkeys. The fan who hurled the banana at Alves was subsequently found on CCTV and permanently banned from attending matches.
Racism has not been completely eradicated, however. Allegations of racist chanting or abuse have blighted matches throughout the 2014-15 season, with two examples from the club I support, Norwich City. On the opening day of the season Norwich fans reported racist chanting from within their own fans at a match against Wolves, and just this week their match against Leeds United was halted halfway through the first half to allow Norwich striker Cameron Jerome to make an official report to the fourth official about an alleged racist comment from Leeds defender Giuseppe Bellusci.
Europe too continues to be blighted by problems. This month alone Levski Sofia fans were spotted with a “Say yes to racism” banner in a Bulgarian league match, whilst Manchester City’s Champions League match with CSKA Moscow was held behind closed-doors after racist chanting from CSKA fans in an earlier game against Roma.
In my own experience of attending football matches in the UK, which I have done regularly since 1996, I have personally never heard ‘monkey chanting’, or overt racial abuse directed at a player, and I believe that were such abuse to be heard it would be sung by a minority and the majority would act to stamp it out, as was the case at Wolves on the opening day. A similar thing happened at Port Vale recently when fans made an official complaint to the club, going as far as to request a section of their ground being closed following reports of racist chanting from their own fans.
Whilst overt racism has been on the decline, less obvious examples of racism including chants such as “no surrender to the IRA” persisted long after the 1997 Northern Ireland Good Friday peace agreement. England fans were being asked to refrain from singing it as late as May 2013, whilst Stoke fans were filmed singing it at their Premier League game away at Arsenal in May 2011; a game with no connections to Ireland, or religion. Variations of the song have long been a staple of the Glasgow derby. The fixture between the traditionally Catholic Celtic and Protestant Rangers has a long history of sectarian division, including chants both in support of the IRA (Celtic) and in opposition to them (Rangers). The problem became so bad that the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill was hastily passed through the Scottish parliament in early 2012, specifically to target sectarian hatred in Scottish football.
There is good news however, with efforts continuing to eradicate racism from chanting and football as a whole. The examples from Norwich and Port Vale above are just two of many, led by clubs across England.
Elsewhere, in Germany, the Hamburg-based FC St Pauli have an identity and fan base constructed around their opposition to fascism and right-wing politics. Official club merchandise includes t-shirts bearing the slogan “Love St Pauli – Hate fascism”, whilst their Millerntor-Stadion home is decorated with murals painted by the fans themselves, including one which spells out that the Millerntor is; “No place for – homophobia, fascism, sexism, racism”, in five foot high letters; sentiments that paradoxically express a hated opposition to hate itself. St Pauli were the first club in Europe to officially ban racists chants and Nazi banners and in 2014 the club made official complaints to the German Football Association after a mural reading “No football for fascists” at their Millerntor home was covered up during a national team training session. Fans’ chants include “Never again fascism, never again war, never again the Third Division,” “Nazi raus,” which translates as “Nazis get out,” and “Who are the betraying rats? Social Democrats. Whose betrayal will we never see? Surely it’s St Pauli.”
As the St Pauli example highlights, although there are many more, it is important to state that football chants are by no means all bad. The majority are not abusive, in terms of race or otherwise. At their very best chants create an atmosphere without which football would not be the interactive spectacle that made it England’s national game. Whilst racism is divisive, the purpose of football chants is to bring diverse communities together, the antithesis of racism. After all, any group of people who, when losing 6-0, after a 300 mile round trip can proudly sing; “We lose every week, you’re nothing special, we lose every week”, is worth saluting.
As poet laureate Andrew Motion remarked; “Chants are the lifeblood of our stadia, typifying the spirit, the passion and the wit of the beautiful game”.
That is not to say that football chanting and those who engage in it, should be given carte blanche to sing whatever they want, and the continued crackdown of abuse which draws on prejudice should be wholeheartedly supported.
Former sports journalist and current Norwich City and FC St Pauli fan, Andrew Lawn, has a bachelor’s degree in Politics and Media from the University of East Anglia. He has previously published numerous articles on English, German and international football.
His book ‘Who are ya, who are ya, who are we?’ is available from the publisher Booktango –
You can follow him on Twitter: @Lawny1986
by Susan Gardiner @susan1878
Recently I became quite exercised about the possible change to the date and time of a football match when the team I support, Ipswich Town, was scheduled to play Norwich City. This fixture, our “local derby” – even though the two places are over 40 miles apart – is almost always moved. There’s a genuine, sometimes fierce, rivalry between the two clubs, and sometimes there has been trouble.
Fans of both clubs are used to the fixture being moved, because – for some illogical reason – the police and other authorities appear to believe that there’s less likelihood of serious trouble between fans if it’s held at a different, often inconvenient, time. It might well be true that playing the derby match at three o’clock on a Tuesday morning in February would reduce the risk of violence, but I’d guess that it would also seriously reduce the crowd.
In the past, matches have started at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, presumably in the belief that no-one drinks before the sun is over the yardarm (it’s my belief that the early start encourages people to drink with their breakfast) and that we all turn to saints on a Sunday. In fact, the only thing I recall about matches at Portman Road being held that early on a Sunday morning, is the priest at nearby church, St. Mary Elms, complaining that his morning service was being ruined by the sound of police helicopters.
I wrote about the rescheduling of our most recent match making some of these points, but I became aware of how, for some people, playing at different times suits them. I’ve always felt that football matches should start at 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, unless they were midweek games or there were compelling reasons to move them. Sky has, of course, changed all that. It’s one reason that I wonder how much I’d enjoy it if my club were promoted to the Premier League. I recall Middlesbrough fans complaining that in one season in the PL, they didn’t get to see a home game at three o’clock on a Saturday until about February. Supporters of other clubs, like Hull City and Stoke City, have also grumbled about it.
However, I can see that for some people who work shifts, and lots of people who have to work on weekends, Saturday afternoons are not an ideal time, so perhaps I’m being selfish demanding that matches are always played at one time and on one particular day. In addition to this, I can imagine that a key fixture played on a Friday evening might be quite exciting.
And, after all, the reason that football matches have traditionally been played at 3 p.m. on a Saturday is simply due to a historical accident, just as the school holidays are when they are because children had to be available to help with the harvest. The 19th-century Factory Acts improved the working conditions of workers in many ways, including placing restrictions upon the hours that some people were allowed to work. This included a law being passed in 1850 that factory workers should stop at 2 p.m. on a Saturday. It’s absolutely no coincidence that football boomed as a spectator sport after this date.
So, as those social conditions no longer apply, why should we stick to an outmoded tradition, if it doesn’t suit everyone?
I’d still argue that three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon is a great time to start a football match. It gives people who have to travel a long distance – not just away fans but supporters who live far from their own clubs – time to get to the match. It gives people a chance to meet up with their mates and have a few civilized drinks or a civilized lunch, whatever they like to do to enhance the pleasure or assuage the pain to come. It’s a good time for young children, neither too late nor too early. It may be an outdated tradition, but it’s a good one. Not all traditions are worth hanging on to, but I think that this one might be.
Copyright Getty Images
by Susan Gardiner
Stanley Matthews was regarded in his time as one of the best players in the world. Pelé famously said that he was “the man who taught us the way football should be played” and there is no doubt that he remains one of the most important figures in the history of the game, although his stock – in Britain, at least – seems to have dwindled somewhat since his death in 2000 at the age of 85.
Matthews became a footballer at the age of only 15, as an apprentice with his local side, Stoke City, signing professional terms two years later and he carried on playing until 1965 – in fact, he was still playing in charity matches in 1981. He wrote five autobiographies, which are really all updated versions of the same book. His first memoir, Feet First, ends just after the Second World War, and his last, The Way It Was was published in the year of his death.
There’s little in the way of overt party politics in any of the books, although it is noticeable that the only British politicians that feature in the illustrations are Clement Attlee and, later, the Labour Minister of Sport, Denis Howell. Stanley Matthews was a private man who seemed to be slightly uncomfortable in the public eye, although he enjoyed his success on the football pitch and many of the honours that it brought him throughout his life. It is difficult to imagine quite how famous Matthews was in his heyday when newspaper headlines such as MATTHEWS IS ANNOYED were published. He was a man who stood up for himself and his beliefs, however, having periods of conflict with the directors of his clubs about the way that he felt they were treating him, and – as many of us discover – politics has a habit of following us around, however much we might like to avoid it.
Matthews was an intelligent and thoughtful man and it’s quite clear, even from that first autobiography that he had little time for the right wing politics of the 1930s. Even as a young man, he appears to have been well-informed and quite clear in his mind about the nature of fascism and was aware of the way that fascist leaders like Mussolini were attempting to exploit football as propaganda. He did not have to wait for long. His second international for England was played against Italy at Highbury on 14 Nov 1934. He wrote: “Fascism was flourishing in those days when England seemed oblivious of the danger and misery that was to smite the world only five years later.”
Matthews was aware of the political importance of that match and so the impact of what happened before the England game against Germany in Berlin on 14 May 1938 must also have been obvious to him. A great deal has been written about the incident in which the England team gave the Nazi salute before the game, including a piece by David Mellor in the Daily Mail in 2008, in which with no sense of irony at all, he criticised the appeasers of tyrannical political regimes. That’s the Daily Mail of HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS fame.
The decision to insist that the England players made the Nazi salute was that of the Football Association in England. Matthews found the whole thing very upsetting and wrote about it several times, expressing feelings of shame and regret, even many years later.
He was aware that the Germans were relishing the propaganda value of the match: “The game against Germany took on a significance far beyond football. The Nazi propaganda machine saw it as an opportunity to display Third Reich superiority and played up that disconcerting theme big style in the German newspapers. The German team had spent ten days preparing for the game at a special training centre in the Black Forest.”
It was a shock to the England players when an FA official came into their dressing room as they were changing, shortly before the match and “informed us that when our national anthem was played, the German team would salute as a mark of respect. The FA wanted us to reciprocate by giving the raised arm Nazi salute during the playing of the German national anthem. The dressing room erupted. There was bedlam. All the England players were livid and totally opposed to this, myself included. … Eddie Hapgood, normally a respectful and devoted captain, wagged his finger at the official and told him what he could do with the Nazi salute, which involved putting it where the sun doesn’t shine. In fact, Eddie went so far as to offer a compromise, saying we would stand to attention military style but the offer fell on deaf ears.”
There is no reason to doubt Matthews’ account. The players were told the salute was to be made following the “direct order” of the British ambassador to Germany, Nevile Henderson, now regarded as an arch-appeaser. Stanley Rous, the FA secretary, someone in football history whose politics might bear further examination (watch this space) endorsed the ambassador’s position. The players were told that the political situation was so sensitive that it needed “only a spark to set Europe alight.” The players gave in and made the salute in front of 110,000 spectators, flags and banners with swastikas and other Nazi symbols all around.
In every account that Matthews gave of it, he spoke of his personal feelings of regret: “… even to this day I still feel shame whenever I sit by the fire and glance through my scrap book and gaze upon that infamous picture of an England football team lining up like a bunch of Nazi robots, giving the dreaded salute.”
England had some satisfaction, however, as they beat the German side 6-3.
Matthews had little else in the way of political controversy during the rest of his playing career apart from causing a minor protest by the Russian side, Dynamo Moscow, which made a brief tour of England just after the war ended. Matthews offered his services to Arsenal as a guest player, having read a newspaper report that George Allison was short of players, many of his own such as Leslie and Denis Compton and Eddie Hapgood were still in the services. The Russians were unhappy about Arsenal playing stars from other sides, claiming that there was some kind of political motive to demonstrate the superiority of British football, although it’s most likely the real reason was that the desire on the part of the football authorities in England to have as competitive game as possible.
The most interesting aspect of Matthews’ involvement with politics occurred after his retirement from football, although his motivation was likely to have been humanitarian, in that he spent 25 years coaching in Africa. He coached in several African countries, and later in Soweto, South Africa, where he had his own team called Stan’s Men.
In The Way It Was, he wrote: “To me, football is the greatest jewel in life and as a footballer, you are privileged to have a God-given opportunity of providing the right setting for it to shine.” Matthews could hardly bear to give up playing, even at the age of 50 and coaching was the next best thing, but he proved to be unsuccessful at Port Vale in the 1968/69 season – his only attempt at managing in English football – and, because of the addition of complications in his personal life at this time, when he met and fell in love with a Czech interpreter, Mila Winters, and the scandal of the ensuing divorce from his first wife, Betty, he was to spend a great deal of time abroad.
During this period, Matthews coached in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, but it was his involvement with apartheid-era South Africa that is most interesting.
“I started those summer coaching stints back in 1953 and enjoyed my time on that continent immensely. I didn’t go coaching there for money,” he wrote. “I embarked upon such trips to put something back into football. I felt a deep debt to the game and by coaching youngsters in the poor townships of the Third World I felt I was paying back in kind a game that had been so very good to me. If I had wanted to make money from coaching, I could have done. I had numerous offers from around the world including many from the USA, Australia, West Germany and Brazil but the rewards I obtained from coaching in townships in Africa were such that no amount of monetary reward could ever equal.”
Although he received some criticism for having anything to do with the system in South Africa at that time, it seems to have been misplaced, because – if anything – Matthews was flouting the system of racial segregation by coaching in Soweto, which was regarded as a dangerous place for a white man to be. He formed Stan’s Men while living in South Africa in 1975 and wrote: “… apartheid was, of course, still very much a force in that country. I never had any truck with it and for years had happily stayed in Soweto on my visits there to coach. I simply ignored it and for the most part, I am relieved to say, those misguided people who inflicted it upon that beautiful country chose to ignore the fact that I flouted its rules.”
Stan’s Men, mostly schoolboys, were to travel to Brazil in 1975. Matthews had asked the boys who their football hero was, and the answer had been Pelé so he decided to take them to meet him. He raised money to fund the trip from Coca-Cola and the Johannesburg Sunday Times, even though it seemed doubtful at the time that the team would even be allowed out of the country: “The problem was twofold. Not only would the South African authorities kick up about me taking a group of black youngsters out of the country, but the fact that we were technically under the jurisdiction of a Football Association that was barred from international football meant FIFA could step in and put the kybosh on the tour on the basis that we were breaking their anti-apartheid stance against the South African FA!”
Although based in Rio, FIFA president Joao Havelange did not intervene and said absolutely nothing about the tour. Realising that it only remained for the South African government to prevent it, with the risk of embarrassing headlines around the world, Matthews gambled on simply taking the boys to the airport. It paid off and Stan’s Men was the first black football team to tour outside South Africa. They trained with the Brazilian national side, which included players like Zico, and watched matches at the Maracanã stadium, but lost every game they played heavily, including 8-1 and 10-1 defeats.
Of Matthews’ contribution to coaching in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the British film-maker Geoff Francis, that Matthews’ coaching in Soweto and other townships “had all kind of ramifications in the fact that it also helped to strengthen our hope for the future”. He was greatly loved by his players, one of whom described him as “a black man with a white face” and another, Paradise Moeketsi, said: “There’s no way to describe that man. That man, he was like the Jesus of this world.”
A little exaggerated, perhaps, but there’s no doubt that Stanley Matthews achieved his ambition of putting back into football a great deal of what he had received from it.
Born near Kennington, Vivian J Woodward spent his schooldays in Clacton living in a house called Silver-Cloud which still stands today in Pier Avenue.
He had attended Ascham College in Clacton High Street and by profession, he became a quantity surveyor. When he was 16 years old, he played his first match for Clacton Seconds on 14 December 1895.
He impressed the managers so much that he played for Clacton Town first team the following Saturday against Manningtree. A local reporter noted that Woodward was an unselfish player who was very sporting.
Woodward liked cricket too and his father kept trying to persuade him to give up football. He scored many goals for Clacton and in 1900, he became the clubs’ first player to be chosen for the Essex County side to play Suffolk.
In 1901, he was chosen to play in a representative match – The North v The South. This was played at White Hart Lane – the home of Southern League Tottenham Hotspurs. It was during this match that the Tottenham scouts noticed Woodward’s speed and superb dribbling. One newspaper described him as ‘the footballer with the magic boots’.
Woodward became a Tottenham star and he soon became noticed by the England selectors. He played his first game for England on 14 February 1903 wen he scored two goals in the match against Ireland. He nearly scored a hat-trick!
For the next ten years, he was a regular player in the England team. It took him eight years from his start in the Clacton Second XI to get into the England team. Who will be the next Clacton player to emulate this feat? In total, he became the holder of 66 international caps, 26 full and 40 amateur. He scored six times in one match against Holland and five times in a game against France in amateur international matches.
He played for Tottenham until 1909 and despite hinting of retiring, he signed for Chelsea. He played over 100 games for them, scoring 34 goals. In 1915, Chelsea reached the FA Cup Final and Woodward who had not played for them all season, received special leave from the Army to be able to play. When he heard a regular player called Bob Thompson was to be dropped for him, Woodward decided to stand down and this was typical of his fairness.
Rightly acclaimed a soccer ambassador, he had a wonderful international career. Abroad, he was worshipped “Vich ees Woodward?” being a familiar cry. Often the victim of bad tackles, he would remark “Never mind, we’ve got a Referee. That’s what he’s there for”. One friend recalled: “When he went on the field with his hands in his pockets and his three-quarter length shorts, he looked more like a referee than a player”.
After the First World War, Vivian Woodward returned to Clacton and bought a farm at Chisbon Heath near Weeley. He became interested in pigeon-racing and fishing but although now 39 years old, he still wanted to play for Clacton Town, the team that he loved so much.
On one occasion, Clacton were playing Colchester and were very short of players. Woodward was persuaded to play and they picked him up from his farm. He got on the bus with his hob-nailed boots and covered in muck. The match was played in a terrific hailstorm and the ref called the match off with fifteen minutes to go.
Woodward’s final playing season was 1919/20. He was aged 40 by then, but he was still such a skilful and popular player that he was selected to Captain the Essex county team for several of their fixtures.
In March 1920, Woodward played for Essex against Suffolk. Gilling, the then Clacton Town Captain was also in the team. The East Anglian Daily Times wrote that “Gilling, the Essex centre-half, was the best player on the field and everyone was pleased with the veteran Woodward who scored with a beauty”.
Woodward continued farming at Weeley Heath and he spent his spare time pigeon-racing and fishing. He had been wounded whilst serving in the Middlesex Regiment in the 1914-1918 war and his health was often poor. He suffered a nervous breakdown and died in February 1954 in a Ealing nursing home aged 74, a forgotten figure. His funeral took place at Chiswick crematorium.
by Karl Fuller.
Vivian John Woodward, b. 3 June 1879; d. 31 January 1954.
Clubs: Clacton Town, 1895-1901; Chelmsford FC, 1901; Tottenham Hotspur, 1901-1909; Chelsea, 1909-1915; Clacton Town, 1919-1920.
International honours: England, 1903-1911; England Amateurs, 1906-1914.
Born in Colchester on 25 September 1971, Karl was transferred to Clacton Hospital very quickly in order to become an authentic supporter of his local club later on in life. An Ipswich Town fan of more than 35 years, Karl spent 12 successive years without missing a home game in a period that saw him join the Media Committee of the Supporters’ Club and provide player interviews for the fanzine, Those Were The Days. He also wrote a column in the Colchester Evening Gazette. From 2002 he wrote a column in the Clacton Town matchday programme, & was its editor between 2004 & 2010/11 season, winning a Programme of the Year award for seven consecutive seasons. Karl is currently a weekly columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, as well as being a Payments Manager in the NHS were he has been employed for 25 years.
This article was first published on FC Clacton’s website: www.fcclacton.com and has been repoduced here with Karl Fuller’s kind permission.
In response to our blog about Sandy Turnbull (see below), we have been sent the following superb and much more detailed piece by Iain McCartney, which was first published in The Forgotten Legends and Iain, who has also provided the wonderful illustrations, has very kindly given us permission to reprint it here. Please don’t reproduce anything without permission.
The noise was deafening, incessant, vibrating through his whole body, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, creating a nervous tension, a feeling surpassing all others. But this wasn’t a familiar arena such as Hyde Road or Ewood Park, nor was it the more familiar, much loved environs of the depleted Clayton and the ultra-modern Old Trafford. No, this was far from home. It was Arras, France, around seventy miles south-east of Calais and to some, hell on earth.
Those alongside Lance Sergeant ALEXANDER (SANDY) TURNBULL, service no. 28427, of the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, shared his nerves and anxieties and like their colleague at arms, they were never to depart this grim, unfamiliar and totally unfriendly place.
For once, Sandy Turnbull could not claim victory through his undoubted skill as a goal scorer and creator and as he climbed the roughly built wooden ladder out of the mudded trench around 3.45 on the morning of May 3rd 1917, he was not simply venturing into the unknown, he was taking the first steps in his final journey, a journey that led to his ultimate death, but a demise that even today has a huge question mark over it.
Alexander Turnbull was born on July 30th 1884 at 1 Gibson Street, Hurlford, a small Ayrshire village a handful of miles south west of Kilmarnock. It was a mining community, like so many others in the area, with the coal face providing the major money earning source for male of the villager and the surrounding area, with Turnbull’s father Jimmy one of those who spent his working life in such a dark, dismal claustrophobic environment. Hurlford, and indeed Ayrshire itself, was also a footballing hot-bed, providing the necessary ‘get away from it all’ distraction that held ones sanity together away from the mundane life underground.
Football, for those not young enough to take on adult responsibilities, was also a pleasant distraction from the three R’s and the classroom desk and as was common at the time, the day to day drudgery of school work was abandoned around the age of fourteen, with young master Turnbull forsaking his short trousers and learning to become the bread winner of the family following his father early untimely death, taking on a similar profession of a miner, while his mother Jessie, remained at home raising her other six children, all but one younger than Sandy.
But Sandy Turnbull was more fortunate than his late father and many others within the community, as he had a talent, an undoubted ability, something that would enable him to escape the dark unhealthy confines of the coal face. He was a highly rated footballer.
If Hurlford had been without a football team, then there was no shortage of others close by, with a host of excellent junior sides within easy travelling distance. But there was little need for the promising young footballer to venture outside the village boundaries, as Hurlford Thistle a team he most probably watched win the Ayrshire Junior Challenge Cup in 1895-96, offered him a place within their ranks.
So, Saturday afternoon’s were now spent plying his trade at Struthers Park and other frugal, spartan grounds scattered across the Ayrshire countryside, but it was a countryside that contained more than green fields and coal mines, as many promising footballers were nurtured amongst the kick and rush merchants who, more often than not, played to simply make up the numbers, forcing others to develop their skills lest they suffered some horrific injury from the rock hard toe caps of either football or working boot, depending on the individuals financial predicament as to whether or not they could afford a pair of the former.
As the English Football League began to develop, with the promise of employment often used as an incentive to attract players from other areas, clubs also began to travel further a field in the search for new additions to their playing staff. A prime area for recruiting new players was Scotland, as many of the players from north of Hadrian’s Wall were considered of a superior talent to those from nearer home. They possessed a finer degree of ball skills and their often diminutive stature, which gave them a lower centre of gravity, enabled them to do things with a ball that seemed beyond the scope of others.
The first club to find themselves captivated by the stocky 5’7”, 12 stone figure of Sandy Turnbull, as they cast their nets far and wide in their attempt to become one of the top sides in the land, were Bolton Wanderers and so impressed were they by his imposing stature, and certainly one which could look after himself in the physical hustle and bustle of the free-for-all penalty area, that they quickly agreed to sign him in the summer of 1902.
Whilst looking forward to a completely new lease of life in Lancashire with Bolton, Manchester City, under the guidance of Tom Maley, (brother of Glasgow Celtic manager Willie), had also cast their eyes over the player and were impressed by his goal scoring prowess. So much so, that they moved in before the contractual papers from the Wanderers had arrived at the Turnbull home and offered the player better terms to move a few miles further down the road.
Signed on a contract that would pay something in the region of £3 per week, a figure that many today would perceive as a paltry sum, but what was actually exceptionally good money compared with that of a miner, who would earn around a third of that, the young Ayrshireman, who would certainly have informed his mother that she had no need to worry about his weekly wage no longer coming directly into the house, as he would send some of his new found wealth back to Scotland, headed south to join a football club that had been relegated from the First Division at the end of the 1901-02 season, but one that would immediately spring right back into the top flight the following season, as Bolton, ironically enough, dropped down to Division Two. So, it was a Second Division footballer that Sandy Turnbull began his fledgling Football League career.
Leaving his family may have been a wrench, but giving up the long hard toil of working in the mines would not have cost him any sleep and he would have snatched the professional contract offered by City and instantly scribbled his signature on it before any of the City officials could have had a change of heart.
Exchanging the rural countryside of Ayrshire, with its vast acres of farm land, for the industrial sprawl of Manchester must, however, have been something of a rude awakening for the budding footballer and more of a journey into the unknown rather than the road to fame and fortune.
There was certainly no fanfare of trumpets to herald Sandy Turnbull’s arrival in Manchester and undoubtedly, he would not have expected one as it was not as if he had been signed from one of the top sides in the Scottish game, but even he must have been uncertain as to what lay ahead, as the Manchester Evening Chronicle reported in their July 22nd edition that ‘Manchester City had signed Turnbull from Hereford (sic).’ At least they had spelt his name correctly!
The Manchester City supporters were given their first real sight of the new arrival in the ‘Blues’ versus the ‘Stripes’ pre-season practise match on August 16th 1902 and his early appearances in the City second team were certainly more than promising. Two goals against Bury Reserves on October 4th were followed by another against Preston North End’s second string seven days later, with a second double strike on October 18th against Liverpool Reserves. Even Manchester United’s first team under studies could not contain the new arrival when their respective second eleven’s met on November 8th as the name of Turnbull once again appeared amongst the scorers, notching City’s third in a 3-3 draw.
For those who watched the Manchester City reserve side, they would be slightly aggrieved if they did not witness a Sandy Turnbull goal and as each game passed by, great things were soon expected of the player, who had taken up a role that would be classed as that of a mid-fielder in the modern game, tucked in behind the deeper lying centre-forward.. It has, however, also been written that the new signing failed to make an immediate impact at his new home and that some even held the opinion that the club should cut their losses and either send him back to Ayrshire or try and sell him. His early record in the City Reserves suggests otherwise and it was on the back of those goals and his all round performances that he was given his first team debut as the right sided partner to a certain Billy Meredith, against Bristol City at St John’s Gate on November 15th 1902.
In a confident debut, Turnbull scored one of City’s goals in the 3-2 defeat, claiming another seven days later on his Hyde Road debut against Glossop in what was a 5-2 victory. The opportunity presented to him had certainly been snatched with both hands, or perhaps more emphatically, both feet.
City were to lead the Second Division for most of the season, but it was the Christmas holiday period that was to see them edge their way in front of challengers Small Heath. On December 20th, they could found be a mere one point in front of their Midlands rivals, but a 1-1 draw against United on Christmas Day, a 2-0 win at Preston on Boxing Day and a 2-1 win at Doncaster twenty-four hours later saw them three points in front with a game in hand.
Everyone needs that little piece of luck if they are to achieve anything and City had theirs, as they sought the Second Division championship and a return to the top flight of the English game, on January 10th, when their table-topping fixture against Small Heath at Hyde Road was abandoned after forty minutes. Had the visitors managed to clinch a victory, then the records books may well have told a much different story.
As it was, City more or less wrapped the title up between January 31st and March 7th, when the showed devastating form, scoring thirty-one goals in five successive games, all of which must be added, were played at Hyde Road. A run that included a 9-0 victory over Gainsborough Trinity and 7-1 against Burslem Port Vale.
Sandy Turnbull’s name, however, wasn’t exactly prominent in the list of scorers, managing only three in those five fixtures, outshone by the likes of Gillespie with nine, Bannister with eight and Meredith with seven.
United almost threw a spanner in the works on April 10th, winning 2-0 at Hyde Road, but three days later Birmingham lost 3-0 at Barnsley, a game they needed to win and a defeat that left them three points behind with only one game remaining. City were Champions.
Twelve goals in twenty-two appearances from Turnbull was a healthy return and certainly contributed to Manchester City’s return to the top flight. But alongside players such as the above mentioned trio it would have been difficult not to shine, but as the weeks and months moved on, the boy from Ayrshire would soon be up there alongside his, for now, more illustrious team mates. Becoming a firm favourite of the Hyde Road crowd due to his devil may care approach, his all-round contribution to the team and without any doubt whatsoever, his goals.
Back in the First Division, Turnbull, described in the ‘Athletic News’ as “a clever, virile player”, continued to score goals, improving on his first season’s tally, with sixteen from his thirty-two outings, along with a further five in the F. A. Cup and it was in the latter that he really hit the headlines.
He kick-started City’s assault on the famous old trophy with a First Round double in the 3-2 victory over Sunderland at Hyde Road. This was followed by another in the 2-0 Second Round victory at Woolwich Arsenal’s Manor Ground. Middlesbrough’s Third Round visit to Hyde Road was to end goal less, but four days later at Ayresome Park, he scored City’s third in their 3-1 win, a victory that clinched a place in the last four. The semi-final paired City with Sheffield Wednesday at Goodison Park and a Turnbull double (or one depending on what sources you read) secured a 3-2 victory.
According to team mate Billy Meredith, Turnbull’s sixty-seventh minute goal, City’s third, in that semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday, was the “best I’ve ever seen”. The Welsh wizard said: “I never saw anything like it. I had centred square, and ‘Sandy’ took the ball first time when it was well off the ground and drove it into the net with marvellous force. The amazing thing was that the ball kept low all the way. You will understand the pace of the shot when I say the ball hit the net at Goodison Park and came out while the goalkeeper was still tumbling.”
At Crystal Palace in the Final, however, it was the irresistible Meredith and not Sandy Turnbull who claimed the plaudits in the 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in the Final, a victory that presented City with their first major trophy.
In the First Division, however, there were some indifferent displays and conceding eight goals in four games, while only scoring once, could be looked back upon in anguish, as could the final five games of the campaign, when they won two, lost two and drew one. Had the results been better, then they certainly would not have finished in second place, three points behind the Wednesday.
He was soon scoring goals for fun and in season 1904-05, he put away ten in seven games, a tally that included a hit trick against Sunderland in a 5-2 win on December 3rd and four in the 6-0 hammering of Derby County a fortnight later. These were goals that saw him not simply finish top of the City goal scoring chart, but also that of the Football League. It was also a season that saw City push for the ultimate crown of First Division champions and as the season moved towards its finale, they were only two points separating the Hyde Road side and title rivals Everton and Newcastle United.
A 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Hyde Road, knocked City back somewhat, although a 2-0 win against Everton at Goodison Park kept the dream alive. Strangely, the Turnbull goal machine had not simply stuttered along in those final few games of the season, but had virtually dried up.
His goals against Notts County at Hyde Road and Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on January 14th and 21st were his last in the League until March 11th when he found the net against Blackburn Rovers at Hyde, but this was not about to signal something of a return to scoring form, as the final seven games of the campaign were to produce only one further goal.
That was to come on the final day of the season at Villa Park Birmingham on April 29th, a game that City had to win in order to take the title, whilst hoping that Newcastle United would slip up against Middlesbrough. Victory for Villa and the Gallowgate club would see Newcastle clinch the championship on goal average.
Villa had won the FA Cup the previous Saturday and so were on something of a high, looking towards clinching the ever elusive ‘double’, while City knew what they had to achieve, setting up a pulsating encounter, with the volatile and partisan crowd adding to the atmosphere around the packed ground. At the final whistle there was much unrest as the players made their way off the pitch, with some of the crowd determined to rent some physical abuse upon the City players, making it necessary for the police to use considerable force in order to restrain the home support.
As the second half progressed, with things clearly not going City’s way as they were 3-1 down, (they were to eventually lose 3-2), tempers became frayed and some rather over physical challenges, brought retaliation in the form of mud throwing between players, which soon progressed to punches, with Sandy Turnbull well into the thick of things.
As the ‘Bolton Football Field’ reported: “Turnbull was in his dourest dribbling mood, dashing about with the ball with his whole heart set on victory. Leake (the Aston Villa captain) found him a real hard opponent and, becoming annoyed at the rough impact, gathered up a handful of dirt and hurled it at the City man. Turnbull was not hurt and responded with an acknowledgement favoured by the bourgeoisie – thrusting two fingers in a figurative manner at the Villa man.” He then says that Leake appeared to look towards the referee as though appealing, and not catching his eye and as he did so, ‘gave Turnbull a backhander’. Adding that “The latter immediately responded with his fists and Leake was restrained by his fellow players from retaliating further.”
Closer to home, the ‘Manchester Evening News’, under the heading of ‘Disgraceful Scenes at the Villa Ground. City Lost Championship’ included the following in their report of the afternoon’s events – “Had Turnbull taken advantage of a very easy chance, the visitors might at least have made a draw of it.
“An Unpleasant Incident – There was little doubt that Turnbull’s failure was due to the excitement caused by the unpleasant incident which had just previously taken place. There is a difference of opinion as to what actually happened. On the one hand it is alleged that Leake, the Villa centre-half first attempted to strike Turnbull and that the latter retaliated by striking the Villa player on the mouth with the back of his hand. Others aver that Turnbull was the aggressor, though no-one suggests that the blow was such a one as Turnbull would have struck had he seriously intended to strike Leake.
“That the latter had been provoked in some way was plainly shown by his desperate rush to get at Turnbull; indeed it was only with difficulty that he was restrained. What the referee thought about the incident was plainly shown by the fact that after consulting both linesmen, he threw the ball up and allowed play to process.
“Mr John’s was apparently in an excellent position to see what happened and unless he was guilty of unpardonable weakness, nothing had happened to justify his sending either or both players off the field.
“There is something to be said in extenuation of a resort to fisticuffs in the heat of the moment, though it would be for the better for the game if all such offences were seriously dealt with, but nothing can excuse the conduct of several Villa players at the close of the game.”
With football as divided regionally then as it is today, it was only to be expected that the Birmingham based ‘Sports Argus’ saw matters in a completely different light, their correspondent writing – “To think that Leake, the mildest mannered man and the most jovial who ever stepped on to a football field should be the victim of so unprovoked an assault as that committed by Turnbull is entirely to make one’s blood boil. It is a mistake to say Alec (Leake) tried to retaliate after being struck once, as my correspondent seems to think. He had good-naturedly asked Turnbull – “what he was doing” on the first offence, thinking that it might have been one of the mishaps of the game, when the City sharpshooter struck home a second time. This was too much even for Leake’s complacency and through George clung to his neck like the ‘Old Man of the Sea’ and four to five other Villa players assisted the pacificatory efforts of the goalkeeper, Leake was with difficulty held in a leash. This was not the last of the affair but I am not going to raise the veil that ought to enshroud the proceedings in the dressing room.”
It is little wonder that the ‘Sports Argus’ were rather reluctant to mention anything relating to “the proceedings in the dressing room”, as this would have cast a completely different light on the whole affair, bringing to question the actions of the Aston Villa players that afternoon. The ‘Bolton Football Field’, however, had little to lose or gain by publishing the events as they saw, or were related them by an eyewitness, portraying Turnbull as not so much as a sinner, but more the sinned upon. The same eye-witness was to relate what he saw to the Manchester Evening News.
The man on the spot recalled the events off the pitch as follows: “What I saw was this – Turnbull was coming off the ground (I think he was almost the first of the City players) and was going down the covered passage to the visitors dressing rooms when someone, not a player, sprang out from the urinal and grabbed Turnbull, pulled him inside the Villa dressing room and the door was shut behind him. I thought the whole thing was in fun until, within a few seconds, the door was opened and Turnbull was pitched out heavily, by whom I could not see. He was yelling with pain and fright, and he had obviously been badly handled for his right cheek was grazed with a black mark or dirt (something like a cyclist describes as a cinder rash) and he had a mark on his ribs where he had been kicked (so he said).”
“Naturally, this caused a great uproar and for a few seconds it looked as though there would be a free fight, but the officials kept their heads and so did the players.
“Turnbull was in such pain that a doctor was called for, but there was not one to be got on the ground and after being attended to by the trainer, the injured player was able to leave the ground with his fellow players.”
Having been unable to get within striking distance of the City players, the local Brummies decided to hang around outside the ground and as the City coach attempted to leave, stones were thrown and police reinforcements called in an effort to disperse the unruly mob.
Unable to hide behind a veil of ignorance and indeed without the proverbial leg to stand on, the Birmingham newspapers were later to admit that yes, something had occurred, although they were not as forward as their Bolton or Manchester counterparts in pointing any fingers at the Villa players.
A commission was set up to look into the events at Villa Park, but it soon transpired that there was much more to the picture than the incidents involving Sandy Turnbull and Alec Leake and it came to the fore that Billy Meredith had reportedly offered a sum of money to a Villa player in order to allow City to win the match. Although it must be added that Commission was clearly out to get City for anything that they possibly could and it they add the throw the Villa match into the boiling pot well and good.
Meredith, in his defence, protested that he had done nothing more than offer his congratulations to Leake upon his team winning the FA Cup and although no evidence was produced to portray the Welshman as being guilty, he was banned from football from August 4th 1905 until April 1906.
What was even stranger, was the fact that the FA Commission also banned Sandy Turnbull for a month for his involvement in the incidents on and off the pitch, while the referee R. T. Johns, was also suspended for failing to control the match properly. No-one who had worn claret and blue faced any charges or received any suspension or warning.
Having won the FA Cup and challenged for the First Division championship up until the final day of the season, City should have built on such success, but failed to do so and before long, everything suddenly crumbled around them with an almighty crash.
Billy Meredith was somewhat aggrieved that due to his suspension, as he continued to plead his innocence, Manchester City was unable to offer any financial support, due to already being under the watchful eye of the Football Association Commission and the Welshman took it upon himself to publicly criticise the club and open a huge can of worms when he claimed that he had indeed offered Leake the bribe and had been authorised to do so by his manager Tom Maley. There was now no turning back.
The Football Association had already, perhaps due to some southern bias and jealousy, carried out an investigation into the financial side of City, which had brought about their sudden surge to the top of the English game, but with only one or two minor irregularities found they took no action. This time, however, when one of the clubs employees was making the accusations, they decided to look a little more closely into their affairs.
On Thursday May 31st 1906, the FA reported its findings, having discovered that despite the maximum wage of £4 per week, City had been constantly overpaying over a number of years, with Meredith earning £6 and Livingstone £6.10s. A total of seventeen players, some having already left the club, were suspended until January 1st 1907, while manager Maley and Chairman Forrest were suspended sine-die, with two directors suspended for seven months. City were also fined £250 and the suspended players ordered to pay a total of £900 in fines.
Amongst those seventeen players left kicking their heels was Sandy Turnbull, as the whole episode became rather unsavoury, with one party blaming the other for the mess in which Manchester City found itself.
As the day that their suspension was due to be lifted due nearer, numerous clubs began to show more than just a passing interest in a number of the banned City players, including Sandy Turnbull and following the Manchester ‘derby’ on December 1st 1906, the first meeting between the two clubs in the top flight of the Football League and a game won 3-0 by City, United officials made their move for the contracts of a number of those suspended Hyde Road players. The FA had agreed that deals could be done in December, but no-one was to know if any of the players had been approached well before then, with signing on fees already agreed.
Glasgow Celtic were rumoured to have made a £1,000 bid for full back Herbert Burgess, while it was also suggested that he was going to Everton as part of a player exchange. He eventually signed for United for £750.
Four days after the Hyde Road ‘derby’, it was reported that United had not just signed Burgess, but also Jimmy Bannister, Sandy Turnbull and the man at the centre of it all, Billy Meredith. The latter costing Ernest Mangnall nothing, as the Welshman had an outstanding agreement with City, saying that he was entitled to a benefit match and at least £600, something that the FA said that they could force City into honouring. In the end, they agreed to a free transfer and upon signing for United, Meredith was handed £500 by an ‘unknown gentleman’, who also paid his outstanding £100 fine. A mere £350 secured the signature of Sandy Turnbull.
So, A. Turnbull was now on the Manchester United pay-roll, making his debut in red, along with his former blue team mates, against, ironically enough – Aston Villa and he ran out behind captain Charlie Roberts to a rapturous welcome from around forty thousand supporters. The pitch, however, wasn’t as welcoming as the fans, as it was in very poor condition with large patches of mud and even larger pools of water scattered across it.
Both sides plodded manfully throughout the opening forty-five minutes, but without either goalkeeper being put under too much pressure. But within fifteen minutes of the re-start, the crowd erupted in a joyous wave of euphoria, as United took the lead and what was to prove to be the only goal of the afternoon.
Meredith worked his way down the right, taking the ball almost to the corner flag, before crossing with uncanny accuracy to the feet of Sandy Turnbull, who had no trouble placing the ball out of the Villa ‘keepers reach.
The new-look United stuttered against Notts County four days later, losing 3-0, but got back on a winning track in the next two fixtures, thanks mainly to Turnbull, whose solitary goal was enough to beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 on January 26th, having also scored one and George Wall the other the previous Saturday against Sheffield United. The latter from another pin-point Meredith cross.
Despite the excellent start, the goals dried up and it was not until March 25th, against Sunderland at Clayton, that he scored again and he was only to score a further two in the remaining six fixtures as United finished the season in 8th place, which in itself was an excellent finish, as they had only just returned to the top flight having spent twelve years in the Second Division.
Season 1907-08 exploded into action with a 4-1 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park and if Sandy Turnbull felt aggrieved at not beginning the new season with a goal, he well and truly made up for it in the weeks ahead.
Five days after the opening fixture, Liverpool arrived at Clayton and were defeated 4-0, with Turnbull snatching a hat trick. A right footed drive for his first and two second half headers for his second and third. This was followed by a double against Middlesbrough, which had the local press extolling his praises and pressing for his inclusion in the Scotland international side.
Sandy strengthened his international cause with a further five goals in the following five fixtures as United stormed to the top of the table, before notching his second hat trick of the season against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on October 19th.
The previous Saturday, current champions Newcastle United were hammered 6-1, strengthening United’s credentials, replacing the Tynesiders as the country’s top side and against near neighbours Blackburn, United made it eleven goals for and only two against in consecutive games with an equally emphatic 5-1 victory.
Against Blackburn, Sandy was in his element. A diving header opened the scoring, with a fine drive for his second, before the customary cross from Meredith presented him with his third.
Another in the 2-1 home win against Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday took his tally for the season to thirteen, before injury forced him out against Birmingham City and although it was only one game on the sidelines, it took him another ninety minutes before he got back into the goalscoring routine, scoring both United’s goals in the 2-1 win at Sunderland.
Seven days later, the 4-2 victory at Clayton against Woolwich Arsenal didn’t simply secure United’s place at the top of the table, but also saw them register their first ever ten match unbeaten run, it also saw Sandy Turnbull taking his goals tally for the season to twenty in fourteen games as he notched all four.
It took Turnbull a mere three minutes to open his account with a low drive, adding his second half an hour later and although the Londoners admirably managed to pull it back to 2-2 just short of the hour mark, there was no stopping the United inside left who headed home a Duckworth cross for his hat trick, edging United in front, before guaranteeing victory with his fourth.
United’s unbeaten run and Turnbull’s assault on the goal charts came to an abrupt end at Sheffield Wednesday on the last day in November, when the team in second place in the First Division recorded a 2-0 victory. But life at the top of the First Division was not always a bed of roses for the Manchester United inside left, as the fixture against his former club at Clayton, four days before Christmas was to prove.
In front of some 40,000 supporters, United took a ten minute lead through George Wall and with half time approaching, Turnbull increased that lead when he headed home a Billy Meredith free kick. After the break, United continued to control the game with Sandy adding a third, as the game took on a more physical outlook, so much so that United lost Burgess through injury and were soon to be reduced to nine men, when the referee sent Sandy off for what was adjudged to have been ‘rough play’, thus becoming the first player to be sent off in a Manchester ‘derby’.
The correspondent for the ‘Manchester Guardian’ in attendance at the match wrote: “Sandy Turnbull and Eadie made themselves ridiculous early in the game by repeatedly making grimaces at each other and, in the second half Turnbull lost self-control so far as to strike Dorsett to the ground. He was promptly ordered off the field by the referee.”
Suspension ensued, missing two games in mid-January, but he was soon back to the fore on February 1st when Chelsea visited Clayton on FA Cup business. But it was a drab and what many perceive to be a typical Mancunian day that saw Sandy return to the side and an afternoon that clearly showed what the conditions at Clayton were really like.
“Manchester United beat Chelsea 1-0 in the second round at Clayton, a place where thirteen belching chimney’s confront the spectator in the grandstand; where steam in great volumes threatens to envelope the whole place at any moment if the wind but swings round to the west; where the playing pitch is but a bed of grit, though it rolls out as flat and as taking as a running track. Manchester United may be a great team, but they will always have the advantage over opposing teams that appear at Clayton” wrote one correspondent present.
The groundsman had marked out the pitch on the morning of the game, but had to do so again fifteen minutes prior to kick-off as the early morning frost began to disappear in the sun and the pitch softened. It was later to resemble “a ploughed field” down the middle, but the visitor’s could not overcome either the conditions or the spirited and “lucky” United team in the “witches’ cauldron”.
It is thankful, however, that Sandy Turnbull scored before those playing conditions worsened, taking only two minutes and thirty seconds to find the back of the Chelsea net, firing the ball home from twenty yards following a free kick. Although the reporter from the Sporting Chronicle appeared to give as much credit to the “evil power that presided over this witches’ cauldron” than Sandy Turnbull’s football skill, with the shot being “willed to strike the upright and go off into the net.”
The name of ‘Sandy Turnbull’ appeared on the score sheet in the following round in what was a rather uneventful return to Villa Park, United winning 2-0, but any hopes of a Cup Final appearance were put to rest in round four with a 2-1 defeat at Fulham.
His solitary strike against Birmingham (the addition of City to the club name was still a long way off) at Clayton on February 29th, however, maintained United’s place at the top of the First Division with an eight point gap between them and second placed Newcastle United. There was even the further advantage of having a game in hand.
A 1-0 defeat at Woolwich Arsenal on March 21st was followed four days later by a 7-4 defeat at Liverpool, closing the gap to give points, but there was now a two games in hand cushion to fall back on. It was, however, rather ironic that both those fixtures had seen the name of A. Turnbull missing from the United line up. But it was back on the team sheet on March 28th as United got back on their winning ways with a 4-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, striding towards that initial First Division title.
On April 4th Bristol City held United to a 1-1 draw in front of some 20,000 spectators, while nearest rivals Newcastle United lost 2-0 at Everton and Sheffield Wednesday, who had recently appeared in the picture defeated Blackburn Rovers 2-0. This saw the Yorkshire side climb into second spot, eight points adrift of United, but having played a game more.
Newcastle had four games left, Wednesday five and United six, so the ball was very much in United’s court, but on Wednesday April 8th, no ‘if’s and but’s’ remained as the destination of the Championship trophy was well and truly decided, with United only having the minimum of input into that final outcome. The North-East, rather than Lancashire producing the results that determined the 1908 First Division champions. Sheffield Wednesday travelled to Middlesbrough, while a few miles up the road, Newcastle entertained Aston Villa. United had only to make the short journey across Lancashire to face Everton.
Whether it was nerves or whatever, both Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United didn’t simply loose their ‘must win’ fixtures, they were both soundly beaten, the former 6-1 and the latter 5-2. United, courtesy of goals from Harold Halse, George Wall and Sandy Turnbull, defeated Everton 3-1.
Yes, Sheffield Wednesday could win their remaining fixtures and draw level with United and even Manchester City could sneak up on the blind side to also draw level on points, but to do so, the team in pole position would have to loose their remaining six games, an event that was very unlikely to happen.
Or was it?
On April 11th Notts County left the obnoxious surroundings of Clayton with both points from a 1-0 win, but strangely, it was defeat that also brought the title to those Spartan surroundings, as Manchester City lost 3-1 at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday lost 2-1 at Bolton Wanderers. Results that well and truly confirmed that United had indeed became Football League champions for the first time.
It was an ideal ninety minutes to be crowned champions and the home support, despite their delight in the achievement were certainly critical of their teams performance, but it was a result that also raised more than one or two eyebrows with the events on the field causing much debate in Manchester and beyond.
The visitors were to be found in 19th place in the First Division, sandwiched between Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham, with all three on twenty-eight points, although the Midlands side had played a game more, so claiming anything from the visit to Clayton was totally unexpected, although as the afternoon progressed, became much more than simply a pipe dream.
With news of a proposed move to the banks of the Ship Canal filtering around the ground and indeed all of Manchester, prior to kick-off, the United supporters were more than content to debate the pros and cons of the move, dismissing the visitors as mere cannon fodder, with two points little more than a foregone conclusion.
The opening forty-five minutes did little to create any excitement from the spectators scattered around the ground and indeed some of the performances from the home players were noted to be well below their usual standards. Shortly after the second half got underway, those performances were momentarily forgotten when the referee pointed to the penalty spot following a foul by a County defender, but within seconds there were looks of astonishment as it appeared that none of the United players wanted to take the spot kick.
Sandy Turnbull, as likely a character as any to take the kick declined as he said he had a damaged ankle and was also suffering from a sore head following a couple of knocks. Always in the thick of things, few would doubt the robust inside forward. So, it fell to George Wall to place the ball on the spot.
As reliable as any with the ball at his feet, Wall surprisingly hit the spot kick well and truly wide of the goal and was even more surprisingly congratulated by the Notts County players for his efforts, as the United supporters expressed their own personal thoughts with loud boos.
The minutes slowly ticked away and the longer the game went on, the less effort was contributed by the United players, so much so that with full time beckoning, the visitors charged up field and snatched both points with practically the last kick of the game.
If the crowd had been cold in their reception of Wall’s penalty, then it was nothing to compare with the abuse hurled towards the United players at full time despite the news reaching the ground that both Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City had lost and there was now no doubts whatsoever that Manchester United were champions.
Many felt that an enquiry should have been carried out as regards the outcome of the game, but none were forthcoming.
United surprisingly failed to score in their following two games and even more surprisingly won only one of their remaining five fixtures, a 2-1 victory over Preston North End on the final day of the campaign.
At full time, the events of the Notts County fixture were forgotten as the supporters invaded the pitch and congregated in front of the main stand shouting for their heroes to take a victory bow from the window of the president’s area.
Sandy Turnbull contributed as much as anyone to that first League Championship, notching a more than creditable twenty five goals during the campaign, but as the defence of the title kicked off on September 5th 1908 his name was missing from the Manchester United line-up and it was not until the visit of Liverpool to Clayton that he had the chance to resume where he had left off some five months previously.
In the thick of the action from the outset, a header across goal, from a Meredith free kick in the fifteenth minute, left Wall with the easiest of opportunities to open the scoring and helping to maintain an opening five match unbeaten run.
Despite the goals of the previous season, it was not until October 24th, the ninth League fixture of the season that his name appeared on the score sheet, netting twice against Nottingham Forest in the 2-2 draw. It was also something of a surprise that he was indeed able to actually feature in that, and many other United fixtures, due to his total involvement in the game, his robust nature and the knocks that materialised from his physical play. Indeed, he had to leave the field of play in two of the previous three fixtures to receive treatment for injuries, but on both occasions returned to the fray and against Bury on October 3rd even managed to force the ball home, only to be given offside.
October 31st saw United, who had slipped to 4th in the table, having began the month in top spot, four points behind Everton, making the journey to the north-east to face Sunderland at Roker Park and again the United trainer found himself earning his money, with injuries to Burgess and Downie forcing United to play much of the game with only nine men.
Sunderland stormed into a 2-0 lead early in the game, but by half time Sandy had pulled a goal back. It was, however, to no avail, as the depleted United side were no match for their hosts, who eventually ran out 6-1 winners.
Injury struck again on the first Saturday in November, when Chelsea visited Clayton and once again the unfortunate individual was Sandy Turnbull, who was carried off the pitch during the second forty-five minutes, with a twisted knee. An injury that would keep him on the sidelines until the Christmas Day fixture against Newcastle United at St James Park.
Turnbull was back amongst the goals in the 4-3, January 1st victory over Notts County, but the new year failed to bring much in the way of success to Manchester United, as they were to win only one other game between the first day of 1909 and April 12th, with one four game run even failing to produce a goal.
By early April, they had dropped to eleventh place with thirty-three points from their thirty-two games and were now some sixteen points behind leaders Newcastle United. It was a picture that was to show little in the way of change, as they finished the campaign in thirteenth, a mere four points better off.
With player of the calibre of not just Sandy Turnbull, but his namesake Jimmy, the irrepressible Billy Meredith, Livingstone, Wall and Bannister, why there was such a shortage of goals from the United front line and indeed the team as a whole, is still, to this day a mystery, as following the four against Notts County, a meagre nine were added to the goals for column over the course of the following twelve games.
Of those nine, Sandy Turnbull could be credited with one, scored against Liverpool in the 3-1 defeat on Merseyside on January 30th, but he was also to miss half a dozen of those First Division fixtures. One of them, the 3-0 defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers, was due to his presence being required in Glasgow to take part in the Scotland international trial match between the Anglo Scots and the Home Scots, for the forthcoming fixture against England at the Crystal Palace. Sadly, he failed to make the final eleven.
But although there was a distinct lack of goals and points from the League fixtures in the latter half of the 1908-09 season, with the final placing a disappointment having failed to build on their title success, the F. A. Cup took on a completely different outlook.
The draw for the Third Round of the competition paired United with Brighton and Hove Albion of the Southern League and despite their somewhat lower status, the visitors gave an excellent account of themselves on a very heavy pitch and considered themselves unfortunate to loose by the only goal of the game, scored by George Wall, in the thirtieth minute.
What Brighton lacked in experience, they had only been formed eight years previously, they made up for in effort and the 8,074 crowd witnessed a bruising ninety minutes that saw Billy Meredith sent off for ‘kneeing’ an opponent and at different periods during the game, Jimmy Turnbull, Hayes and Bell of United and Martin of Brighton were off the field receiving treatment for injuries.
Sandy also came in for some close attention from the opposition, but for once managed to avoid injury and also the wrath of the match official, but unfortunately, the referee could not do likewise with the crowd, as a number of his decisions were not to their approval and they waited outside the dressing rooms for him at full time. He was, however, able to get away from the ground safely and without any confrontation.
On the training ground at the Blue Cap, Sandiway, the United players attempted to erase the memories of the 3-1 defeat against Liverpool and prepared for their Second Round F A Cup tie against the other half of the Merseyside duo at Clayton seven days later.
They were, however, without the services of Billy Meredith, suspended due to his sending off in the previous round. Rather surprisingly, United had no reserve player capable of stepping into the Welshman’s shoes, so something of a re-shuffle was carried out, with Livingstone coming in at inside right and Wall moving out onto the left.
With Everton already having beaten United a couple of months previously, their confidence was high, but they themselves were not without selection problems, so the packed ground were indeed anticipating something of an enthralling encounter.
The visitors opened briskly, but for all their endeavour, they went in at the interval a goal behind. Halse firing an unstoppable shot past Scott shortly before the break. United maintained their advantage as the second half got underway, but could not increase their lead, although both Wall and Sandy Turnbull came close.
Everton often put the United defence under pressure, but like their Manchester counterparts, failed to get the better of the defensive line that stood in front of them and the game was played out with that one solitary goal deciding the outcome.
It was a home draw again in Round Three and yet another Lancashire derby, with Blackburn Rovers making the short distance south to Clayton and much to the enjoyment of the home support, it was certainly nothing similar to the nail biting ninety minutes of the previous round.
United threw off their shackles and the misery of the 0-0 draw against Sheffield United the previous Saturday and hit Blackburn for six in a game that the Athletic News reporter referred to as “sensational” and a result that “will rank as one of the most surprising results in the history of the Cup contest”.
He continued: “That the Rovers would be beaten was not altogether unexpected, but few of those who witnessed the great game in the Bank Street enclosure could have been prepared for the surprising events secured after the interval, when the United were leading by a goal scored by Sandy Turnbull nine minutes after the start.”
Blackburn brought around 6,000 supporters to Manchester for the cup-tie, monopolising the tram cars to Clayton and creating plenty of noise as they packed themselves in behind one of the goals as soon as the gates opened at one o’clock, but Sandy stunned them into silence as the small army of ambulance men were kept busy with fainting casualties as the ground swelled to capacity.
Twice in as many minutes, Jimmy Turnbull came close to scoring, while Blackburn scorned an excellent opportunity at the opposite end. But with less than ten minutes played, Wall and Sandy Turnbull worked the ball out to the United right. The cross from Harold Halse found Wall close to goal and he in turn passed the ball to Sandy who was left with the easiest of opportunities to give United the lead.
A minute later, Sandy was in the thick of the action again, but on this occasion, he was in collision with an opponent and had to leave the field with a “damaged forehead”. He was soon to return to the fray and played a major part in United’s devastating second half display.
Two minutes after the restart, Wall beat Crompton in the Rovers goal but could only watch as his shot went agonisingly wide. It was, however, only a brief reprieve for the visitors as goals from Jimmy Turnbull and Livingstone soon gave United a 3-0 lead.
Cavies pulled one back for Blackburn, but with ten minutes remaining, Sandy Turnbull took the game by the scruff of the neck and re-established United’s three goal advantage with a shot from close in. Five minutes later, Jimmy Turnbull made it 5-1, running straight through the Rovers defence and with the now silent Blackburn support making their way to the exit gates, Sandy Turnbull added a sixth to complete the rout.
Did the Football Association have something against Lancashire club’s, a London biased perhaps, couple with jealousy of their success? It certainly appeared as if they wanted as few clubs from the red rose county in the competition as possible, as once again United were paired with one of their local rivals, coming out of the velvet bag after Burnley, sending them to Turf Moor on Saturday March 6th.
The day was far from ideal football weather, as when the gates opened at 12.25 snow had already began to fall and before long had turned into a cold, mind and body numbing sleet. It didn’t, however, put off the locals and travelling supporter alike, as the ground quickly began to fill and the atmosphere was certainly not spoiled by the weather.
The pitch was covered in frozen snow, but slowly began to soften as the game commenced, United, although playing down the slight slope on the Turf Moor ground, had to face the wind and sleet which blew towards them.
Burnley attacked from the outset and within ten minutes were in front. Smethams sending the ball into the United area, where Ogden managed to steer the ball into the corner of Moger’s net.
Sandy Turnbull and Halse were denied by Dawson, while Ogden almost notched his second, but was denied by the post. Sandy should have put the scored level, but he took the ball too wide and saw the opportunity go amiss.
The weather failed to improve, but the players stuck admirably to their task despite sliding and slipping across the quickly deteriorating surface, while Dawson in the Burnley goal continued to deny the United forwards.
With eighteen minutes remaining the outcome of the game was finally decided when a shrill blast of referee Bamlett’s whistle brought the game to a premature end. The official, like his linesmen and the players of both sides had endured the appalling conditions admirably, but he finally decided that enough was enough and called a halt to the proceedings.
He was certainly not influenced by any of the visiting players or officials, although the former had wanted the game to be abandoned long before the referee made his decision, one that was certainly not well received by the home crowd. Rather ironically, Bamlett would become manager of United in April 1927, enjoying a four year spell in the hot seat, an appointment that was in no way influenced by his brave decision in the face of hostility at Turf Moor.
So, it was back to Burnley the following Wednesday, with the home side still confident that they would secure a semi-final place, but it was not to be as United, with the conditions greatly improved, won 3-2, with goals from Jimmy Turnbull and Harold Halse.
Now ninety minutes from a Cup Final appearance, only Newcastle United stood in United’s way and it was perhaps that this momentous occasion was a contributing factor in the 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers the previous Saturday.
Cup fever well and truly gripped Manchester, or at least those within the city of a red persuasion, as there was something of a mass exodus from early morning until around 2pm, heading for Bramall Lane, Sheffield from the London Road, Central and Victoria Stations. Countless saloons and special carriages had been booked, but the demand was greater than the supply and it proved impossible to cater for everyone.
It is interesting to note, that despite the vast support that crossed the Pennines, there was still a crowd of 4,000 at Clayton to watch the United reserve side take on Blackpool.
Bramall Lane was a mass of humanity, with 40,118 paying £8,590 to watch what turned into an intensely fought encounter, although many locals had complained about having to pay one shilling for the privilege of doing so, caring nothing for the travelling and meals outlay of the visiting supporters.
If the outcome of the match were to be decided on form alone, then it would be Newcastle who would progress towards the Final, as they lead the First Division by six points from Everton, whilst having also played a game less. United floundered in fourth, some thirteen points behind.
It was indeed Newcastle United who enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, but slowly, United managed to gain a foothold on the game and caused their opponents some nervous moments around their goalmouth, but amid the excitement of the first forty-five minutes, neither goalkeeper was beaten.
With the wind now behind them, United now had something of an advantage and this was increased somewhat following an injury to Newcastle’s centre forward Shepherd, who was forced into a rather inactive role out on the right wing. Although things were soon to even out, as Sandy Turnbull limped off to receive treatment, as play developed into something of stalemate, with both sets of defenders happy to play something of an off-side game.
Charlie Roberts almost broke the deadlock, but his header crashed against the Newcastle cross-bar. Wall and Jimmy Turnbull also came close as the rain began to fall heavily, then with twenty-
Eight minutes of the second half gone and Sandy Turnbull having limped back into the fray, taking up a position on the left wing, the opening goal and indeed what turned out to be the only one, was scored. Wall centred from the left and amid something of a scramble for possession between a couple of players, Halse quickly sized up the situation and pounced on the ball to drive past a helpless Lawrence in the Newcastle goal.
Newcastle pressed forward for the equaliser, but to no avail and it was United who could now make plans for a trip to London and their first F. A. Cup Final appearance.
According to the report in the ‘Umpire’, Sandy’s performance, even before his injury was regarded as “very moderate”, with the injury not allowing no opportunity to redeem himself, as it kept him on the sidelines for the next seven fixtures.
His injury was indeed a worry to manager Ernest Mangnall. There had been little hope of retaining the League Championship for some time, so his absence in those remaining First Division fixtures were not exactly the end of the world, but with the Cup Final edging nearer by the day, Mangnall hoped that he would be able to field what he regarded as his strongest line up.
There was much debate in the week leading up to the match at Crystal Palace whether or not Sandy would be fit to face Bristol City and although he travelled south with his team mates, it was not until half an hour before kick-off that the United manager decided to gamble on a player who had spent so long without kicking a ball in earnest.
Despite the advantage of a brisk wind, United were soon put on the defensive by the Bristol forwards, with both Roberts and Stacey clearing their lines. A foul on Charlie Roberts saw the resulting free kick headed wide by Sandy Turnbull in United’s first serious attack, but they were soon to settle and began to cause their opponents defence some anxious moments.
A foul on Sandy by Annan, saw the offended player once again head wide as United continued to press forward. Roberts dictated play from the back and in the twenty-first minute send Halse through, but although in the clear, his effort slammed against the underside of the Bristol City crossbar and rebounded into play. It went, however, only to feet of Sandy Turnbull, who drove the ball firmly home from close range.
Ernest Mangnall’s decision had indeed paid off.
Play began to even itself out, but as half time approached, United once again looked to be in control. Wall was unlucky not to add a second, while Sandy tested Clay in the City goal with low drive which the ‘keeper managed to turn round the post.
An excellent one handed save by Moger early in the second half maintained United’s advantage, although they were soon hampered in their defensive department by an injury to Hayes, with the full back, following a few minutes on the sideline receiving treatment, returning to limp around in something of an inside right position. Duckworth and Halse moved back, while Stacey switched wings, as United fought to defend their solitary goal advantage.
The injury clearly had an effect on United’s play and it became completely disjointed, but the game should have been put beyond Bristol City’s reach when a double Turnbull threat opened up their defence, but Jimmy, a few yards from goal, blasted over. Minutes later, Sandy almost wormed his way through the City defence, but was rather unceremoniously brought down from behind by Annan.
Despite being hampered by the injury to Hayes, United kept their opponents defence on their toes and with Roberts marshalling the reshuffled defence superbly, they hung onto their one goal advantage to secure a memorable victory thanks to that solitary Sandy Turnbull goal.
With Manchester United’s first trophy secured, the new season was eagerly looked forward to, but there were problems on the horizon, perhaps more so for United than any of their opponents.
Had the game been nothing more than an ordinary Football League fixture, then it is more than likely that the name of Sandy Turnbull would not have appeared on the Manchester United team sheet, but such was his importance to the team, Ernest Mangnall, perhaps due to the prompting of his captain, Charlie Roberts, who had said to the manager that he should let him play, “as he might get a goal and if he does, we can afford to carry a passenger”, took a calculated risk and included the player and was certainly more than relieved that his gamble paid off.
Turnbull’s efforts were also appreciated by the United support, who warmed to his whole hearted approach to the game, with his physical involvement warming many hearts on those cold afternoon’s in the dull and dreary surroundings of Clayton. So much so, that following the Final, the ‘Athletic News’ carried a supporters’ song:
“Why we thought you were ‘crocked’ Dashing Sandy,
That to fame your road was blocked, Hard Lines Sandy,
But you came up to the scratch,
Made an effort for THE match …
When Halse hit the shiv-ring [sic] bar, Lucky Sandy.
There were groans heard near and far, Deep ones, Sandy,
But the ball was on the bound,
And your boot was safe and sound,
When the net your great shot found, Champion Sandy.
For the score was but one up – not much Sandy?
But the Bristol boys worked hard
Though their efforts were ill-stared
Give a cheer then with the band, For them Sandy.
After a night of celebrations, which saw Sandy and his side-kick Billy Meredith, accompanied with the Cup itself, (much to the pains of United secretary JJ Bentley), join staunch United supporter George Robey, one of the top entertainers of the day and the man who had actually supplied United’s Cup Final shirts, at the Alhabambra Theatre where the latter was appearing, it was discovered that the United secretary’s fears were turning into a nightmare, as the lid of the famous trophy had disappeared. Had it been left at the theatre amid the jovial scenes of the night before, or had it got lost somewhere between there and the United hotel?
Such fears were soon to be put to rest, as the lid duly turned up – in the pocket of Sandy Turnbull’s jacket! The why’s and where’s of its disappearance and subsequent re-discovery were never recorded, with the incident simply passed off as nothing more than a prank, a piece of harmless fun, involving the United goalscorer.
On December 2nd 1907, a meeting at the Imperial Hotel, which five years earlier had become Manchester United’s headquarters, saw the formation of the Association of Football Players’ and Trainers’ Union, with Billy Meredith and Charlie Roberts well to the fore at this inaugural meeting. Two years down the line, the PFA contacted the Football Association, making clear its intentions to challenge the maximum wage of £4, while also seeking to alter the ‘retain and transfer’ system. It also sought to join the ‘Federation of Trade Unions’.
Eager to see off any threat the fledging Association might poise, the Football Association withdrew its recognition of the PFA, a move which not only angered the players, but also brought the threat of strike action. This in turn forced the Football Association into banning all players affiliated to the Union prior to the start of the 1909-1910 campaign, which in turn saw a steep decline in its membership.
There was, however, little, if any, drop in interest or indeed involvement from the players of Manchester United and with the new season about to break over the horizon, there was a very distinct possibility that the opening fixture against Bradford City would not take place.
So strong was the feeling of those United players, and some of their fellow professionals at other clubs, they were pictured posing behind a hand painted sign which proclaimed “The Outcasts FC”. Sandy Turnbull sitting proudly in the front row.
But they were not to remain ‘outcasts’ for long, as when it was seen that there was support from out with Manchester United (Tim Coleman of Everton was one of those pictured in that infamous team group), others came forward to ignore the Football Association, which eventually agreed to allowing the PFA official recognition, in exchange for the dropping of the plans to abolish the maximum wage and substituting it with bonus payments.
So, it was a full strength cup holders who got season 1909-10 underway with three straight victories followed by two draws, results that saw them level on points with Newcastle United, but with the advantage of a game in hand over their semi-final rivals from a few months previous.
Sandy kicked off the campaign in his usual inside left position, but it wasn’t until the sixth game of the new campaign that he found the back of the net, scoring twice in the 3-2 defeat at Notts County.
As in the past, the physical side of the game seemed to follow him around like a shadow as the second game of the new season, against Bury at Clayton, he was once again forced onto the sidelines to receive prolonged treatment, leaving his team mates to plod away with a man short. He was also in the thick of the goalmouth action despite his inability to find the back of the net, coming close on numerous occasions and finding creditable mentions in those early season match reports.
Against Bury, he “made a fine wing alongside Wall”, while the following week he was regarded as “useful” against Tottenham Hotspur in London. A “magnificent shot in international style” (whatever that might mean) almost opened his scoring account against Preston North End at Clayton in a game during which he also “did some clever things”. But it was at Trent Bridge that he claimed his opening strikes of the season, although his goals only achieved personal success.
Notts County had taken a second minute lead, but with only three minutes of the first half remaining, Sandy equalised with a magnificent shot from a Meredith free kick. His second of the afternoon came with County 3-1 in front and was scored from the penalty spot after Jimmy Turnbull had been brought down by Morely. But there was to be no fight back and a share of the spoils, as County held on to their one goal advantage.
October 2nd brought Newcastle United to Clayton and the battle between the League Champions and the F. A. Cup holders promised to be an entertaining affair, so much so that United captain Charlie Roberts had requested the game as his benefit match. Most probably in anticipation of a bumper crowd.
However, a dispute between the Players’ Union and the Football Association as regards to the proposed benefit, which in reality should have been settled well before the game, saw the FA meet the day before and then fail to come to an agreement, putting the plans of the United captain on hold for the time being at least.
Roberts was obviously disappointed when informed of the Football Association’s decision, or indeed its lack of a decision and when he informed his team mates on the morning of the Newcastle match, several of his team mates declared that they would not turn out that afternoon as a form of protest.
It was most likely that Sandy Turnbull was one of those who felt so strongly about the outcome, but in a hastily arranged conference at the Players’ Union offices managed to persuade the dissidents that they should turn out that afternoon.
While United enjoyed the best of the first half, it could be said that the visitors won the second half on points, although many would argue that this was mainly due to the fact that United were without either of the Turnbull’s for the last ten minutes and they faced Newcastle with only nine men. Despite the two injuries, the game, although physical, was in no way a dirty one, with only four fouls awarded throughout the entire ninety minutes.
The home side took the lead in the twentieth minute when a Sandy Turnbull shot beat Lawrence in the Newcastle goal, but could only watch as his shot cannoned back off the post. Fortunately for United, Wall was alert to the opportunity and ran in to prod the ball past the stranded ‘keeper.
United could have found themselves three goals in front before the referee brought the first half to a close, both chances falling to the feet of Sandy Turnbull, but his first effort flew over the bar, while the second was saved by Lawrence.
Newcastle snatched a share of the points when Duckworth, in an attempt to clear, only succeeded in putting the ball past Moger, the ball skidding off the side of his boot as he attempted to block the shot from a Newcastle forward.
Seven days later United travelled to Liverpool and in a repeat of their last away day at Notts County, they were beaten 3-2, with Sandy Turnbull again the scorer of both the visitor’s goals.
By half time, United found themselves 2-0 down, the home side having scored twice, in the seventeenth and fortieth minute, with debutant goalkeeper Rounds having little chance with either Liverpool effort. After the interval, however, it was a completely different picture, with the visitors scoring twice in the opening sixteen minutes.
With the second half only a few minutes old, Halse was tripped inside the area, leaving referee Howcroft little option but to point to the penalty spot. Hardy was given no chance with Sandy’s spot kick. Minutes later, following another assault on the Liverpool goal, United won a corner and from the flag kick, Meredith’s inviting cross fell invitingly to Sandy Turnbull who on ce again beat Hardy.
The tempo was now raised as both teams pushed for the equaliser with Rounds keeping the home side at bay with a magnificent performance, but midway through the half he could do little to prevent Stewart from heading the winner.
Aston Villa’s visit to Clayton saw United record their first victory in six games and once again the Turnbull duo were in the thick of the action. One United attack saw Sandy charging into the Villa penalty area, only to be brought down, but taking the kick himself, drove the ball into the arms of Cartlidge. He made amends for this miss thirty minutes into the second half when he headed home a Meredith corner and soon afterwards, the Welshman was again the supplier, with Halse beating the Villa goalkeeper from Meredith’s centre.
Jimmy Turnbull had come close to scoring between both those goals, driving over when in a good position, but he blotted his copybook in the final minutes of the game when he became physically involved with Hunter, the Villa left half, after a challenge in front of the main stand, with players of both teams having to step in to separate the two players.
Seven days later, Jimmy Turnbull once again received his marching orders, this time for kicking out at an opponent, with the double dismissal earning him a six week break from first team action, during which time United won three and lost three, only failing to find the back of the net on one occasion.
Sandy Turnbull scored his sixth goal of the season in the 2-0 home win against Chelsea on November 13th, but a run of five straight victories came to an end the following Saturday with the 3-2 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, a victory that cemented the home side’s position at the top of the First Division, whilst also earning them record receipts of £1,200 from the 35,000 crowd in attendance.
This defeat was the start of a period of inconsistency for Mangnall’s team, which saw them win four, lose five and draw one of the next ten games, pushing them down towards mid-table, with the name of Sandy Turnbull failing to appear on the team sheet for four of those. But despite those absences, he still managed to find the back of the net on four occasions and receive favourable comments from the men of the press.
As United plodded away through their League programme, thoughts constantly drifted across Manchester, to an area of wasteland just off Chester Road, almost on the banks of the Ship Canal. It was here that sooner, rather than later, that the Clayton regulars would have to make their way in order to watch their favourites, leaving those odours and belching chimneys for a new home.
Tottenham were beaten 5-0 in the final First Division encounter at Clayton on January 22nd, a week after Burnley gained revenge for their dubious cup exit the previous season, with a 2-0 Third Round victory and with all the odds and ends being packed up ready for the big move across the city, United made the relatively short journey to Preston, where they lost 2-0, before travelling to the north-east to face Newcastle United, where they defeated the current League champions by the odd goal in seven. Sandy Turnbull notching two. He had obviously recovered from the cup-tie at Burnley, where he was forced to leave the pitch in considerable pain to a facial injury on two occasions.
Football in the early 1900’s was a completely different game as to that of today. Obviously the biggest difference is the money that can be earned and although those players of that bygone era were making more than many of those who paid their pennies to watch them on a Saturday afternoon, they were certainly not well off.
Their playing kit was course and heavyweight, with the boots just as likely to maim as they were to produce a moment of individual brilliance. Injuries were simply an occupational hazard and as you have read, Sandy Turnbull collected his fair share of those, more often than not limping off the field at the end of the game. He did, however, give as good as he got. Perhaps, at times, slightly more!
Comparisons certainly cannot be made between those Manchester United players who earned the club those first domestic honours and those individuals who pull on the red shirt (or whatever other colour it happens to be) today. Was Charlie Roberts a better club captain and a harder individual than Nemanja Vidic? There is, however, an eerie resemblance between Sandy Turnbull and Wayne Rooney in more ways than one!
February 19th saw the curtain rise on the new Old Trafford home, a venue considered the most modern in the land, with tip up seats and a playing surface akin to a billiard table. The setting was perfect. The result was certainly not.
As on the previous Saturday, United shared seven goals with their opponents, but on this occasion they could only manage the lesser amount, their first-footers, Liverpool, failing to be the perfect guests, notching four. But taking everything into account, it is fair to say that United were as familiar with the arena as their opponents, so home advantage, for once, could be discarded.
Watched by some 45,000 on a fine Mancunian afternoon, the occasion could not have asked for a better start than United christening their new ground by scoring the opening goal, with the honour falling to none other than Alexander Turnbull.
With half an hour played, United were awarded a free kick and Duckworth sent the ball towards the Liverpool goal. Keeping his eye firmly on the brown leather sphere, Sandy through himself forward, his head connecting with the ball, which flew past the outstretched hand of Hardy to put United in front.
A few minutes later, it was 2-0. Hardy managing to stop a shot from Halse, but failing to hold the ball, which rolled towards the feet of Homer, who gratefully accepted the opportunity to give United a 2-0 half time advantage.
The second forty-five minutes saw Liverpool claw themselves back into the game with a goal from Goddard, the ball going in off the underside of the bar, but any immediate thoughts of a fight back were forgotten, when Wall resorted United’s two goal lead, surging past Robinson and Rogers, before beating Hardy at his left hand post from what looked like an impossible goal scoring angle.
There was seldom time to draw breath, as the pace was relentless as both teams pressed forward. But it was the visitors who made the breakthrough, with Goddard snatching his second of the afternoon when he shot across Moger and into the net.
Liverpool sensed that they were in with a chance of at least securing a draw and within the space of a couple of minutes, they weren’t simply on level terms, but in front, both goals coming from Stewart.
So, the first fixture at Old Trafford ended in disappointment, leaving United floundering in eighth place, seven points behind leaders Notts County but, as often was the case, they had two games in hand.
Things failed to improve the following Saturday, as the visit to Villa Park brought a 7-1 reversal, a game that was to be Sandy Turnbull’s last until March 26th due to injury, but even then, he was only back for one solitary outing before missing a further three fixtures.
In his absence, United ironically enjoyed a change of fortune, winning five, drawing one and losing one of the seven fixtures. The most noteworthy, a 5-0 victory over near neighbours Bolton Wanderers.
The run took United up to third, but they were seven points behind leaders Aston Villa, so any hopes of following the cup success with a League Championship were highly unlikely. More so, as the games in hand had now become a game more than the team at the top.
Sandy rounded off his season with two goals in the final three games and although outshone in the final fixture of the season by Picken who notched all four in the 4-1 victory over Middlesborough at Old Trafford, it was good to see that he was back to his best, with the ‘Athletic News’ informing its readers that along with Meredith and Roberts, much of the game was devoted to ‘exhibition football’, showing ‘some remarkable juggling’. ‘Boro’s McLeod, we are told, ‘was helpless against Turnbull’, who ‘fed his partner (Wall) in beautiful fashion’.
The summer of 1910 saw a number of new faces arrive at Old Trafford, amongst whom were Hofton from Glossop, Dean from Eccles, Aspinall from Southport, Green from Chesterfield, Hodge from Stenhousemuir and West from Nottingham Forest.
Of those new additions to the United playing squad, it was the latter, Enoch ‘Knocker’ West, who was to make the biggest impact, taking over the number nine jersey and to a certain extent Sandy Turnbull’s mantle of the teams main goal scoring threat. He was also not simply to become a partner on the field of play, Sandy playing alongside him at inside left, they became firm friends off the pitch as well.
West opened his United goals account on the opening day of the 1910-11 season in the 2-1 win over Woolwich Arsenal, Harold Halse claiming the other, with Sandy Turnbull having to wait until the second fixture of the new campaign before claiming his first, but he was still playing catch up with his new team mate, as he also scored in the 3-2 home win against Blackburn Rovers.
West’s arrival on the scene seemed to act as something of an inspiration to Turnbull, not that he needed such a thing, but it began to look as if the duo had a personal wager, which perhaps they did, as to who would finish as leading scorer.
It was Sandy Turnbull who notched the solitary United goal in the 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest on September 10th, a game that attracted the largest crowd at the City Ground for some time, with the Forest directors rubbing their hands when the loose change was counted to the sum of £420, with a further £160 taken in season tickets. For the former, it might simply have been a case of having come to see United.
He made it three in three games, scoring the opener in the 2-1 victory over Manchester City the following week and maintained his place as top scorer with the only goal of the game in the next fixture against Everton at Goodison Park and before long West was struggling to keep up with his striking partner as the goals continued to flow.
Following that strike against Everton, he failed to find the net against Sheffield Wednesday and then missed the trip to Bristol City, but he was soon back in the groove, with seven goals in the following eight games. West in the meantime could only manage to increase his total by three. Two of those coming in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Scanning through the match reports of the period, the name of Sandy Turnbull was never far from being that of United’s ‘man-of-the-match’, whether he had notched yet another goal or not. Even in a no scoring draw against Notts County, the first time in fourteen League games that United had failed to find the back of the net, or indeed suffered defeat he was considered to be ‘the pick of the bunch’ or a ‘shining light’.
He could also, however, make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. On November 19th, seven days after the 0-0 draw at home to Notts County, he was back amongst the goals with a double in the 3-1 win over local rivals Oldhan Athletic. During the game, he was cautioned by the referee for making what were considered to be degrading remarks to the referee, with the official warning him that, should he repeat his comments, then he would be left with no alternative but to send him off.
The game continued with no further conversations between player and official, but at full time, as everyone was leaving the pitch, Sandy slipped alongside the referee and said that he wanted to tell him that he had said the offending words again, but he had not heard him!
The 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United on December 10th left United in third place in the First Division, two points behind leaders Aston Villa, whilst also having played a game more. But by Boxing Day, three games later, they had climbed to the top, with a one point advantage over the Midlands side, thanks mainly to a Turnbull and West inspired victory over Villa, although the 2-1 win at Sunderland and the 5-0 hammering of Woolwich Arsenal at Old Trafford also helped considerably.
Villa’s visit to Manchester on December 17th was undoubtedly the match of the season to date and an eagerly awaited encounter between the current First Division champions and a team with aspirations towards their crown. A team that was growing in respect, with the Aston Villa directors being reported as considering United to be “the finest in the country as to the conception of the Association game and its practical possibilities”.
Two minutes before the interval, Sandy Turnbull gave United the lead, shooting through a forest of legs and just inside the post and with United regaining possession almost immediately from the restart, he just failed to increase the advantage when his head was mere inches away from connecting with the ball in front of goal. He was also involved in United’s second, his shot being deflected wide for a corner from which West got on the end of Wall’s kick to nudge home.
His goal in the 2-1 win at Sunderland on Christmas Eve was strangely his last for some six games and perhaps more significantly the end of what could be described as a purple patch in front of goal, as he was to score only five more in the remaining four months of the season, despite missing only two games.
Following the goal against Sunderland, his next would not come until almost a month later, on January 21st and the 1-1 draw against Manchester City at Hyde Road, when he accepted yet another Billy Meredith crafted opening to give United the lead.
Despite his lack of goals, however, his presence in the team was essential and his contribution second to none, something emphasised by ‘Harricus’ in his report of the City encounter in the ‘Athletic News’. He wrote; “Wall was at his best in the first half, for Turnbull allowed him to rest after changing ends, and Turnbull is one of those players who seem to do as the spirit moves them. Apparently he is indifferent, but watch him closely and his seeming lack of energy is part of his programme, with intent to deceive the opposition. They forget he is playing, as it were, but does not.”
Despite the lack of goals from Sandy Turnbull and two consecutive 1-0 defeats in the final two fixtures of 1910, United maintained there push for the First Division title and an unbeaten run between January 2nd and March 15th kept them three points ahead of an Aston Villa side determined to keep a hold of the champions crown. United had a one game advantage over their rivals, but all could well hinge on the meeting between the two at Villa Park on the penultimate day of the season.
A goal against Middlesborough in a 2-2 draw on March 4th was Sandy’s first in four games and it seemed to have rekindled his prowess in front of goal, as he scored in the following two fixtures, a 5-0 win over Preston North End and a 3-2 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur.
Suddenly, the nerves began to kick in, as the games became fewer and the season rose to a crescendo. Notts County took both points with a 1-0 home win, in which United were poor, although ‘Jacques’ of the ‘Athletic News’ wrote: “There was one Manchester forward, however, who played brilliantly. He was head and shoulders the finest inside man in the match – I allude to Turnbull, who all through the second half dribbled and passed superbly in an attempt to galvanise the line into life. He was laid out in a collision with Morely – both men were hurt – and he ws also kicked on the head, but right to the end he was still the one man to threaten the Nottingham goal.”
That same afternoon, Villa lost at Newcastle United, but then came a 0-0 draw against Oldham Athletic at Old Trafford and what was generally considered a fair result. It kept United in top spot, but with Villa involved in the F. A. Cup, United had now played two games more and held a four point advantage.
A ‘Knocker’ West double saw Liverpool beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford, with Villa winning at Middlesborough to maintain the challenge, but a 2-0 defeat at Preston did little to help their cause, on an afternoon that saw United dismiss Bury 3-0. Easter weekend left the outcome still shrouded in mystery, as Villa defeated Sheffield United 3-0 on Good Friday, followed by a 2-0 win over Notts County twenty-four hours later. United could only draw 1-1 with Sheffield United on the Saturday and 0-0 with Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Monday.
It was now, United in front by two points, but they only had two games left and one of those at Villa Park. Their rivals had three left to play and held more than a distinct advantage.
Villa indeed gained the upper hand with a 4-2 win in the crucial confrontation, but undid all their good work forty-eight hours later when they could only draw 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers, although it was a point good enough to give them the advantage at the top of the First Division. It all now hinged on the outcome of the fixtures of Saturday April 29th – United at home to Sunderland and Villa, a few miles down the road at Liverpool. One point between the two teams, with Villa also holding a .05 goal average advantage.
Strangely, there were only around 12,000 at Old Trafford on that final afternoon of the season, an afternoon that could see Manchester United crowned First Division champions for only the second time in their history. The rain undoubtedly putting many off, despite the events that threatened to unfold.
The United players knew it was simply a case of win or bust and went about their task from the opening whistle and by half time had stormed into a 3-1 lead, with United’s left wing partnership of Turnbull and Blott given the Sunderland right sided pairing of Forster and Tait a torrid afternoon.
Turnbull constantly supplied his left wing partner with exquisite passes and the former Southend United player, whose favoured position was on the opposite side of the field at either outside right or right half, was a constant thorn in the side of the Sunderland defence, with the crowd warming to what was his first senior outing of the season.
West headed home a Duckworth cross early on, only for the goal to be disallowed as the ball was judged to half crossed the dead ball line prior to the United right half’s centre. But it was the visitors who unexpectedly took the lead in the twenty-third minute, causing much anxiety amongst the sparse numbers around the stadium. Bridgett made the initial run forward, passing the ball towards Mordue. The Sunderland inside right proceeded to send the ball into the United area, where a number of his team mates lay in wait and it was Holley who pounced, sending the ball up against the underside of the bar and into the net. Halse added a third before the interval.
With the wind on their faces, United went searching for an equaliser and the dual wing threat of Meredith and Blott soon had the Sunderland defence back-tracking. On the half hour, the Welshman was fouled by Milton near the goal line and from the free kick, he dropped the ball menacingly close to the Wearsiders goal, where Turnbull leaped to head home.
Ten minutes later, United were in front. Meredith, again in the thick of the action, swung over a corner kick. Such was the danger that Sandy Turnbull posed, half the Sunderland team seemed to be gathered around him, but the Scot suddenly began walking away from goal, taking his numerous markers with him, allowing West to move into the vacant space and score with something of a backward header.
In the second half, it was almost all United. Halse scored with a shot on the run from a Meredith centre to make it 4-1, with the scoring rounded off when Milton put the ball past his own goalkeeper as it bobbled around a packed goalmouth.
The crowd had cheered at half time when the telegraph board showed that Villa were behind at Liverpool and they cheered even louder at full time, when the full time result found its way to Manchester – Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 1. Manchester United were champions.
During a close season, during which manager Ernest Mangnall made only one addition, bringing in George Anderson from Bury in a £50 deal, Old Trafford staged the Players Union Athletic Festival and it was reported that one of the funniest things ever to be seen at Old Trafford was the sight of Sandy Turnbull timing the sprints with a clock that he had carried from the dressing room!
The 1911-12 season kicked off in a rather unspectacular fashion for the Champions, with four draws, four defeats and four wins in the opening dozen games. Sandy found himself one behind ‘Knocker’ West in the goal scoring charts, while United were thirteenth in the First Division, six points adrift of Newcastle United and seven in front of bottom placed Bury.
Sandy Turnbull was noted primarily for his actions in the opposition penalty area, but he was not adverse to rolling up his sleeves and giving his defenders a helping hand. He was also labelled in some quarters as being “slow”, but this was something of a miss-judgement by those on the opposite side of the touch-line, as there were not many forwards quicker off their marks when a half chance raised its head in front of goal.
December 2nd saw United travel to the north-east to face First Division leaders Newcastle United, a fixture that in the past had seen a glut of goals with score lines such as 5-0, 6-1 and 4-3. This encounter only conjured up five goals, but it gave out a clear indication to all concerned, that the current champions were not going to give up their title without a fight.
There was no ‘Turnbull’ to be found among the scorers in the visitors, perhaps surprising to some, 3-2 victory, but as always, he played his part, keeping the black and white striped shirted defenders on their toes. Perhaps even more strangely, the name of ‘Turnbull’ would be found amongst the United scorers on one occasion following his goal in the 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers on December 23rd.
Sandy’s return of seven goals from thirty appearances was his poorest season since he had made the cross town move from Manchester City. He had scored five in season 1908-09, but during that campaign, he had played in only nineteen games, compared more than double that this time around.
United’s drop from Champions to thirteenth was nothing short of a huge disappointment, but something that was perhaps not entirely unexpected, as it was often considered that too much expectancy was placed on the shoulders of a select few. What was perhaps totally unexpected was the deflection of manager Ernest Mangnall to Manchester City. But then again, did the manger suspect that his League Championship and F. A. Cup winning side had achieved everything they could and that it was time for him to move on to another challenge?
Mangnall, although classed as manager, was in effect the club secretary and his vacant position was filled by a similar office bearer in J. J. Bentley. The new man at the helm certainly had a footballing pedigree, beginning as a player with Turton FC, whilst at the same time finding time to pen match reports for the local newspaper, going on to become secretary and treasurer of the Lancashire club.
Hanging up his boots, he moved into accountancy and was soon to become secretary of Bolton Wanderers, going on to be regarded by many as one of the most influential figures in English football due to his involvement in the formation of the Football League.
He was soon to pick up his pen in earnest once again, moving back into the world of journalism whilst continuing in his role with Bolton Wanderers, but when United came calling, like many before and after him, he found it irresistable and moved to Old Trafford.
Many considered him out of his depth in the managerial role with United, but a look at the First Division table at the end of season 1912-13 shows a distinct improvement on that of the previous campaign.
Goals were also in short supply as season 1912-13 got underway, or more to the point, they were non-existent for both United and their robust inside forward. The 0-0 draw on the opening day at Woolwich Arsenal was in reality an acceptable point, but losing 1-0, five days later, against neighbours Manchester City was an early set back that they could have done without.
Goals from Turnbull and Livingstone were enough to earn the first victory of the season, a 2-1 win against West Bromwich Albion, but five defeats in the following eleven games left United in fourteenth position, some eight points of the leaders – Ernest Mangnall’s Manchester City.
The 4-2 defeat at Aston Villa on November 16th was Sandy Turnbull’s last outing of the season at inside left as, after missing two games, he returned to the side on the opposite flank, switching positions with West. Although it saw him back alongside Billy Meredith, this was only for one game, as the Welshman was to find himself dropped for the first time in his career. He did return to the side, but during this season, his appearances were to be few and far between.
But while Meredith’s star was falling from the sky, that of Sandy Turnbull’s continued to shine brightly, as the United programme editor described him as “the cleverest manipulator of the ball the game has known for a decade”, whilst he explained that the player had been switched from inside left to inside right in an effort to help Meredith regain something of his old form. The programme editor continued: “In his own sphere, Turnbull ranks equal to Meredith and the selection robbed the latter of any grumble he might have had of being inadequately partnered.”
At inside right, Sandy Turnbull continued to deliver, although his goals did not flow quite so frequently as in the past. Strangely, his goals, during this and in past seasons, were almost all solitary efforts, but on Boxing Day, he notched his first ‘double’ since November 19th 1910, in the 4-2 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford. Twenty four hours previously, the Londoners had been beaten 4-1 on their own ground.
Against Chelsea, Turnbull in fact scored three. However, one of those, Chelsea’s first, was past Beale, the United ‘keeper. His double came from a twenty-five yard drive that gave Brebner in the Chelsea goal no chance, and a header from a Wall centre, that once again left the visiting ‘keeper helpless.
Those victories over Chelsea had contributed to an improved League position, climbing to tenth, three points behind leaders Aston Villa. City had dropped to fourth and were due to host the return leg of this particular seasons ‘battle of Manchester’ on December 28th, when a victory for United could see them leap frog their arch rivals. And leap frog them they did, gaining revenge for their early season defeat, with a 2-0 victory, both goals coming from West in the opening forty-five minutes.
Goals, however, still manage to elude Sandy Turnbull, as he could only manage a meager three in the second half of the season and on occasion his usual creditable performance and honorable mentions within the match reports were nowhere to be seen. Against Sunderland on March 15th his only mention from ‘Jacques’ in the ‘Athletic News’ was due to a kick on the head seeing him seldom in the game and as the final few games of the campaign approached, United were unable to claw themselves any higher than third, but had played more games than their immediate rivals, eventually finishing in fourth place.
He began season 1913-14 in good enough form, scoring on the opening day in the 3-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday and again the following fixture against Sunderland, clawing himself back into the spotlight and into the match reports of the national press
Unfortunately, Sandy Turnbull’s star was waning; no longer twinkling brightly in the northern sky and his name was soon not to be one of the first penciled in by J. J. Bentley on his United team sheets. This, however, was not entirely due to his on the field performances being no longer up the standards expected by the man at the helm.
A dressing room argument between the two, coming on the back of the Football Association deciding to install a form of tax on each professionals wages, in order to assemble a relief fund to help club’s as they began to suffer the loss of players due to them entering the armed forces.
A number of the professionals refused to pay, while the Player’s Union refused to co-operate and suddenly it was Manchester United who found themselves singled out, with Bentley’s former source of employment – the Athletic News, where he was editor, were quick to condemn the United players.
Bentley suspended Turnbull, but his actions brought even more ill feeling into the dressing room, with the remainder of the players threatening to go on strike unless their team mate was re-instated.
By the turn of the year, Sandy Turnbull was no longer a regular first team choice. A report of the match against West Bromwich Albion on New Years Day 1914 mentions; “The latter (Potts) played so cleverly that Turnbull cannot expect to regain his position for some time.” Regain his position he did, against Bolton Wanderers, three days later, remaining in the side for the F.A. Cup tie against Swindon Town the following Saturday, where he was once again mentioned in dispatches as having a good game alongside his old friend Meredith. However, the cup-tie brought something of a shock result, a last minute goal taking the southern based side through and the end of a glowing career was now edging over the horizon.
Sandy Turnbull was to make only one more appearance in the red of Manchester United that season and that was on February 7th in his old inside left position, away at Tottenham Hotspur, a game that would not produce any headlines, only a 2-1 defeat.
On April 11th, Turnbull, along with George Stacey, was allowed to have the game against Manchester City as a benefit match, but due to injury, Sandy was unable to play, instead, accepting the plaudits of both sets of supporters from the touchline.
City won the game 1-0, with the ‘Umpire’ recoding that the visitors received a more encouraging welcome than United when they took the field prior to kick-off, but while the result was perhaps not what Turnbull, or Stacey for that matter, had wanted, the takings of £1,216, certainly softened their disappointment.
United finished season 1913-14 in fourteenth place in the First Division, with everything at Old Trafford far from perfect. Their problems, however, were distinctly minor compared with what was bubbling away elsewhere.
On June 28th 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Yugoslav nationalist, an event that was to in turn trigger off the First World War. Despite the under current of increasing threat to world peace, he 1914-15 season kicked off as normal on September 2nd, with United losing 3-1 at home to Oldham Athletic.
Sandy Turnbull was missing from that opening day line up and indeed for the following two fixtures, a 0-0 draw against City at Old Trafford and a 3-0 defeat at Bolton, but he was back into the thick of things for the fourth match if the campaign against Blackburn Rovers, where two Enoch West goals secured the first victory of the season.
Sandy claimed one of United’s goals seven days later in the 4-2 defeat against Notts County and played in one more game before missing the next three. He then enjoyed a run of seven outings between the end of October and mid-December, but was then out of the side until April 6th when he returned for the 1-0 defeat against Oldham.
Four days later, in the 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough on April 10th, he scored what was to be his final goal for United and the following Saturday at Sheffield United, the final whistle finally brought down the curtain on not just his Manchester United career, but his Football League career at this level. His name, however, along with those of a handful of team mates, was soon to be on everyone’s lips once again, as well as the front and back pages of the local and national newspapers.
On April 2nd, Good Friday 1915, Liverpool made the short journey along the East Lancs Road to face United at Old Trafford, a fixture that should, in reality, have seen the visitors secure victory without too much of a problem, as a look at the First Division table on the morning of the match saw United third from bottom, level on points with second bottom Notts County and only one point ahead of Chelsea who were propping up the table. Liverpool were five places above and six points better off.
United, rather unexpectedly as there wasn’t the same intensity surrounding such fixtures then as there is now, won 2-0, with both goals coming from George Anderson. At the end of the season, United were still third bottom. One point better off than Chelsea and two above bottom club Tottenham. It was indeed a significant victory.
“A Moderate Game – Manchester United Get Two Points From Liverpool” proclaimed the headline above the ‘Sporting Chronicle’ match report, while the ‘Manchester Football Chronicle’ had the headline “A Surprising Display” above its report.
‘The Wanderer’, reporting on the match for the latter, wrote: “Personally I was surprised and disgusted at the spectacle the second half presented. While in the ‘Chronicle’, their correspondent wrote of the play in the second half being too poor to describe”. Neither they, or any of the other reporters present voiced their opinions as to how the play was so dire, but the crowd were certainly not slow in making their feelings known, with many heard to comment amongst themselves that they felt the game was rigged. Especially after United had taken a 2-0 lead, when they did little in the way of attempting to increase it, happy to simply plod away, without putting the Liverpool defence under any form of pressure.
In the ‘Daily Dispatch’ their correspondent ‘Veteran’ wrote that West, in the second half, “was chiefly employed in the second half in kicking the ball as far out of play as he could”. So disgusted was the ‘Daily Mirror’ with the proceedings that it simply carried the result and no report. Even the ‘Liverpool Daily Post’ wrote “that a more one sided half would be hard to witness” and that Beale in the United goal went half an hour without touching the ball.
A missed penalty added to the drama. Taken by O’Connell and not the usual spot kick exponent Anderson, the Irishman blasting the ball well wide of the post with the score at 1-0. A miss that even sowed some seeds of doubt in the referee’s head as to the actual sincerity of the players involved, commenting later that it was “the most extraordinary match that I have ever officiated in”.
The match, however, was not going to be simply shrugged off as ‘one of those games’ and the rumblings of discontent soon developed into a full blown thunderstorm when a notice appeared in the ‘Sporting Chronicle’ from a bookmaker, under the name of ‘Football King’, which offered a reward to anyone who could supply information on the events at Old Trafford a few days previously.
It also appeared in the form of a handbill and read: “We have grounds for believing that a certain First League match played in Manchester during Easter weekend was “squared”, the home club being permitted to win by a certain score. Further, we have information that several of the players of both teams invested substantial sums on naming the correct score of this match with our firm and others. Such being the case, we wish to inform all our clients and the football public generally that we are with holding payment on those correct score transactions, also that we are causing searching investigations to be made with the object of punishing the instigators of this reprehensible conspiracy. With this object in view, we are anxious to receive reliable information bearing on the subject and we will willingly pay the substantial reward named above (which was £50) to anyone giving information which will lead to punishment of the offenders”.
The snowball was about to roll.
Within three weeks of the game, the Football Association had set up a Commission to look into the complaints that had been made and asked ‘Football King’ to come out and name the exact match he was referring to and also give his name and address, so that if they was nothing untoward about the game in question, the players of both sides could sue him for libel, whilst if he was not, then the Commission would look more thoroughly into the matter.
‘Football King’ remained anonymous, there were no claims for libel and the Commission continued in its investigations, interviewing the players of both teams and it was not until December 23rd 1915 that the final verdict was finally announced, when the ‘Sporting Chronicle’ headlines proclaimed: “Football Betting Commission Report – Eight Players Permanently Suspended”.
The eight were L. Cook of Chester, J. Sheldon, R. R. Purcell, T. Miller and T. Fairfoul of Liverpool and A. Whalley, E. West and A. Turnbull of Manchester United. Others were thought to be involved, but those eight were suspended from taking part in football or football management and were also banned from entering any football ground in future.
League football in its current format came to a halt in October 1915, by which time Sandy Turnbull could be found a couple of goal kicks, or so, away from his Old Trafford stomping ground, working for the Manchester Ship Canal Company. He did guest for Rochdale and Clapton Orient in the early days of the War, but even although his contribution to the United cause was simply now nothing more than a memory
In November 1915, he enlisted in the Footballers Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, so whether the outcome of the Commission’s enquiry a month later had any real effect on him we will never know. He had taken no part in the match itself, but was a firm friend of Enoch West and he had also met Liverpool captain Jackie Sheldon, a former team mate in the Dog and Partridge public house, a mere stones throw away from the ground, prior to the game. He had little in the way of his defence.
(Lance Sergeant) Alexander Turnbull’s army records were destroyed during the blitz on London during the Second World War, making details of his time on the French battlefields of the First World War sketchy to say the least.
As a member of the Middlesex Regiment, he may well have been involved in the first day of battle at the Somme on July 1st 1916, when 60,000 men died in that initial period of fighting. But we do know that if he was present on that horrendous day, he somehow survived, as he is recorded as having later joined the ranks of the East Surreys 8th Battalion, being with them in the spring of the following year as they waited to join the assault on the Hidenburg Line.
Had he been ‘excommunicated’ from the ranks for the ‘Footballers Battalion’ due to his suspension from the game? Most probably not. His ‘transfer’ would more than likely have been brought about due the depletion of the East Surrey’s ranks, having suffered heavy casualties during the hostilities to date. It was a move that would cost Sandy Turnbull dear.
By some coincidence, the East Surrey’s had a football team, and one of considerable note, while they are also remembered due to some of their men went over the top of the trenches on that fateful day at the Somme, dribbling football’s as the advanced across no-mans land. Such was the strength of their noted team, it swept all before them to win the divisional championship and it is more than possible, that although banned from the game at home, Turnbull played an active part in the Battalion fixtures, as one letter back to Manchester from the front, he spoke of having played in a game, but had not slept since as he had forgotten to ask permission from the Football Association.
One fixture that was recorded was the semi-final of the divisional tournament at Boeseghem, when the east Surrey’s defeated the 7th Buffs 4-1. No teams or goal scorers are noted amongst the Battalion’s records, so again whether or not an A. Turnbull was involved is something we will never know.
What we do know is that the Final of the tournament was never played due to the Battalion being called into action of an entirely different kind, with disastrous consequences.
With the sun still to rise on the misty morning of May 3rd 1917, the 8th East Surrey’s advanced towards the village of Chèrisy, ten miles east of Arras, hoping to catch the German front line somewhat unawares. The village was captured, by the relatively untrained soldiers and they reached the banks of the river Sensèe almost intact. However, on either side of the village, the units were not as successful and the isolated Battalion came under heavy shell fire and within a couple of hours were completely overrun when the German’s counter-attacked, leaving many either dead or captured, while a few were fortunate to retreat from whence they had come. Of the 500 or so 8th Surreys who attacked Chérisy, for no gain, 90 were killed, 175 wounded and more than 100 captured.
At first, it was presumed that Sandy Turnbull was amongst those who had miraculously survived, as on the 18th May, the ‘Kilmarnock Herald’ reported that “Sandy Turnbull, famous Manchester United forward, and a native of Hurlford, has been wounded and made a prisoner. He has been fighting for about a year.” The information had been conveyed in a letter from a comrade by Sandy’s wife Florence at her home at 17 Portland Road, Gorse Hill Stretford.
The message to the Turnbull home read: ‘I am writing to try to explain what has happened to your dear husband, Alec. He was wounded, and much to our sorrow, fell into German hands, so I hope you will hear from him. After Alec was wounded he ‘carried on’ and led his men for a mile, playing the game until the last we saw of him. We all loved him, and he was a father to us all and the most popular man in the regiment. All here send our deepest sympathy.’
Elusive on the battlefield as he was on the football pitch, there were hopes back in Manchester that one day, the family man and the former hero of both the City and United supporters would return. Sadly, it was not to be.
In another letter to the Turnbull home, this time in August 1918, Captain C. J. Lonergan of the 8th Battalion, who had returned to England after being held a prisoner of war, wrote: “It was a great shock to me to hear that my best NCO, ie Sergeant turnbull, was still missing. Of course, I knew there was no hope of him turning up after suc a long epriod. He was one of the finest fellows I have ever met. A great sportsman and as keen a soldier as he was a footballer. He had been hit through the leg early on in the fight. When I saw him his leg was very much swollen, so I ordered him back to thedressing station. He pleaded so hard, however, to be allowed to stay on until we had gained our objective that I gave way. Sandy was in command of a platoon. The men would simply go anywhere with him. Well. Theend of it all was that, although we gained all our objectives, the division on our left did not. Consequently, the enemy got round our flanks and we had to get back as best we could. We came under very heavy machine-gun fire during the withdrawal. This was when I was hit. As I fell I saw your husband pass me a few yards away. I saw him get to the village which we had taken that morning. There was some shelter here from the bullets so heaved a sigh of relief when I saw him disappear among the houses. I knew he could get back to our lines with comparative safety from there. I never heard anything more from him. Those who were wounded all thought sandy had got back. It was a bitter disappointment to me to hear that he had not been heard of. The only explanation I can give is that he must have been ‘sniped’ by a German who ws lying low in one of the houses. It was a rotten bit of luck. I would have recommended him from Germany, but I had my doubts whether the German Censor would allow it to come through. However, I put his case strongly when I wrote from Holland and I do hope he will get the highest distinction possible. He certainly deserves it”.
The assumsion that Sandy Turnbull met a fatal end as he attempted to get back to his own lines is one that we have to make.
There are two lasting memorials to A. Turnbull the soldier. One in the British war cemetary in Arras, where his name appears amongst the ‘missing’, the other, a short walk from Old Trafford, on a war memorial by the side of Chester Road.
Three years after his death, when he would still only have been thirty-six, he was posthumously pardoned by the Football Association for his part in the bribery scandal.
Despite his involvement in the events of Good Friday 1915, one cannot deny Sandy Turnbull his place amongst the Manchester United ‘greats’. What he did was certainly wrong, if indeed he was guilty of the offence, but it must be remembered that he lived in a time of widespread poverty and the footballers maximum wage. It must also be remembered that Eric Cantona, still hero worshiped from the stands today assaulted a supporter during a game, while Roy Keane all but assualted a fellow professional, again during a game.
Of the trio, whose ‘offence’ was worse?
For me it was Turnbull’s, the stocky built goal machine. Manchester United footballing legend.
Our “first” First World War footballer is hardly obscure. Having played for Manchester City, he crossed the city to play for United. His short career was littered by problems with authority and corruption. Eventually he was banned from football after being found guilty – with others – of match fixing. He joined the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, serving in France, and was reported missing, presumably killed on 3 May 1917. His body has never been recovered and he is remembered, like Walter Tull, on the Arras Memorial.
Alexander Turnbull was born at 1 Gibson Street, Kilmarnock on 30 July 1884, the son of James, a coal miner, and Jessie Turnbull.
The 1911 Census records the 26-year-old Sandy living at 100 Maine Road, Manchester with his wife Florence and children, James, aged 1, and June, 8 months. His occupation is listed as “professional footballer.” An inside forward, he began playing with a local club, Hurlford Thistle, but quickly moved on to a professional career in England, first playing for Manchester City, between 1902 and 1905 where he scored 53 goals in 110 appearances. By 1905, however, there were obvious problems with some of the Manchester City players. On 13 January, the Manchester Courier reported that Mr. Pitfield, a member of City’s Board of Directors had resigned:
“The resignation of Mr. Pitfield on the board of the Manchester City Club has been the theme of much discussion among the football public of Manchester of late, and it may be said that fuel has been added to the flames by the statements which have appeared in the course of the present week. These stated that the causes of Mr. Pitfield’s resignation were that after his hat had been knocked off by a member of the team he demanded an apology which, however, was not forthcoming…”
It’s not certain which of the players was responsible for the outrage on Mr. Pitfield, but events took a far more serious turn later in the year. The same newspaper reported on 2 May that two City players had resigned but did not go into any detail, although it added that “Turnbull has not yet done so. … It is alleged that Turnbull … was assaulted by spectators while the players were leaving the field for the dressing room on the Aston Villa ground on Saturday. During the game he had been at loggerheads with Leake.”
On 5 August 1905, the Evening Telegraph, in a column called Football Scandals, that was a long list of punishments handed out to various players and match officials, mostly connected to on-field brawls, it was reported that Turnbull was suspended “from taking any part in football or football management from September 1 to October 1, 1905.” The reason was not given – it appeared to have been an allegation that Turnbull had struck another player – but another unnamed player (it was City captain, Willie Meredith) was suspended for a longer period because of allegations that an Aston Villa player had been offered money to lose the match. Turnbull would return to play for City but, at the end of May 1906, the Football Association reported the results of their enquiry into the scandal and it was damning of both Meredith – who had already been released by City – and the Club’s directors. It was a mess of irregularities, bribery allegations and illegal bonus payments. Turnbull, among a number of players, was suspended until January 1907 and fined £50. He made his debut for City’s rivals, Manchester United against Aston Villa on 1 January 1907.
“If ever there were any doubt as to whether the Manchester City players who had been suspended by the Football Association retained the form which marked their work before they came under the ban of the ruling body,” wrote the Manchester Courier on 2 January, “they were effectually dispelled yesterday. If Burgess blundered once or twice in the course of the second half of the match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Clayton, he on the whole did fairly well, though he did not distinguish himself to such an extent as Meredith, Turnbull and Bannister. The Welshman [Meredith] had been out of football for eighteen months, but, nevertheless he appeared quite at his beat [sic], and it is significant that his collaboration with Turnbull enabled United to win the game.”
Sandy Turnbull continued to play for United for seven years and his prolific goal scoring must have made him a fans’ favourite, as the songs dedicated to him suggest but controversy returned to haunt him and end his football career, which was – arguably – coming to its end anyway as he was by then 30 years old. In an article about what it described as “the scandal game” the Liverpool Echo wrote on 23 December 1915 of “the worst case the governing body has ever had to deal with” and on the list of players from various clubs banned from playing professional football for life was Manchester United’s “TURNBULL (‘Sandy’), inside left.” Further down in the item, though, it revealed that “Turnbull is a khaki and is stationed down South.”
In an era where there was a great deal of disapproval of the many professional footballers who failed to join up, it’s possible to imagine that Sandy Turnbull’s decision to serve his country in France would have made up for any of his footballing misdemeanours. That he was never to return to his native country probably does make up for all of them.
Susan Gardiner, 2014.
With thanks to Tricia S. and to the invaluable resource that is the British Newspaper Archive @BNArchive
Clacton Town/FC Clacton
1. 1935/37, 1938/39, 1946/58 and 196487, Old Road.
2. 1987, Gainsford Avenue.
3. 1987-present, Rush Green Bowl.
Old Road before 1967, and other early grounds.
When the original Clacton Town folded in 1901, some of its former players started a new club which they called Old Clactonians.
They began by playing friendlies behind the Queen’s Head in Great Clacton before moving in 1903 to a ground at the rear of the National Schools. In 1905 they changed name to Clacton Town and a year later Clacton Cricket Club offered them the use of their ground in Old Road which became Clacton Town’s first permanent home.
The ground had an unusual history, which can be split into three phases. At the outset the entrance to the ground was a short distance behind the east end goal, on Old Road. The ground was relatively undeveloped except for a timber stand that had been purchased from Dr. Barnado’s Homes. What use they had for it is not clear! It wasn’t the sturdiest of structures and by the early 1920’s had a number of supporting props holding it up at the rear. The ground was still large enough to be used for cricket for a number of years and it was shared with Clacton St. Paul’s CC (a reformation of Clacton CC) between 1918/23.
Just months before the start of Clacton’s debut season in the fledgling ECL, in March 1935, came the news that the ground was required for a car park! This was not the last time that they experienced problems with their council landlords. The club were able to take their place in the new league by pushing the pitch back with the car park (which in later years accommodated much of the seaside town’s coach traffic) taking up a third of the former playing area. A new wooden stand was built alongside the south touchline, and the original stand found itself isolated in one corner of the new set up. It witnessed the first ECL game against King’s Lynn on 31st August 1935 before being dismantled. A long and more centrally positioned cover soon replaced this. The changing facilities during this era were within a railway carriage. The home team were able to experience First Class, but to the amusement of many, the referee and linesman emerged from Third Class!
After World War II the short lived cover on the north side made way for a large pitched roof concrete grandstand, seating in excess of 500 in seven rows, and with a press box and partitioned VIP area. Plans were tabled in 1950 to redevelop the Old Road ground in to a 5,000 capacity stadium with a seated stand on the south side and covered terraces behind each goal that stretched around the corners toward the seated areas. This plan was never realised although the old cover opposite the new grandstand was removed and an L-shaped covered terrace was built over the south east corner.
The largest crowd to see a game was 3,505 for the FA Cup tie with Romford in September 1952. In November 1960 an F.A. Cup First Round tie was played here, with Southend winning an Essex derby 3-1 in front of 3,200.
By the time of Clacton’s entry into the Southern League in 1958 there was again a stand on the south side. This was a long, low terraced cover and there was a further cover behind the far goal. A permanent post and rail barrier was installed at around the same time.
Old Road, 1967/87
The third phase for the ground came in 1967 when the character of the ground was lost forever by the introduction of greyhound racing. To fit in the track, the playing area was again shunted further away from Old Road itself, necessitating the removal of both the stands at the far end and south side. The pitch was then narrower and shorter than before, but still large enough for senior football. Part of the L-shaped cover survived into the early 1970s and although yet another, much narrower, cover (with a PA box perched on the roof) sprung up on the south side it had gone by 1974 and that side was abandoned for ever. Thereafter it was only possible to walk around the curve of the track at the entrance end, nearest Old Road, and in front of the grandstand up as far as the corner flag. The main stand itself did not escape the destructive nature of the greyhound invasion, with a totaliser office being built into one end, and an elevated referee’s viewing box alongside it. The Greyhound Bar, Café and Paddock, an ugly portakabin style building appeared at that far end, next to the stand.
As a small concession to the large areas of cover that had been lost to the greyhound fraternity, a lean-to was extended out from the Supporters’ Club hut behind the goal. There were numerous buildings in this area including a cafeteria, changing room area, board room, entrance block and even a hut that sold cushions to make sitting on the cold concrete of the main stand more bearable.
In 1974 the club were given six months’ notice by the council to quit the ground, although they were then offered a yearly licence to continue there until such time as a new ground was ready. Their current Rush Green Bowl home was identified as a possibility during this era.
Since 1967 the ground had ugly spotlights around the dog track, but the lack of proper floodlighting held the club back. They did go as far as purchasing a set of four corner pylons in the 1980s, and although these were erected the club never had the finance to fit lamps to them!
In 1985 the council reiterated their desire to sell Old Road, and decided to sell the entire nine-acre site for a retail park. The club remained tenants until the last possible moment, when they entertained Lowestoft Town on 21 February 1987 to bring the curtain down on 81 years of eventful history. By the time of this game, the roof had been removed from the stand with a view to moving the structure to the new ground, a grand idea but one that was to prove impractical.
Having lost the use of Old Road, a short term venue in town was needed to tide the Seasiders over until their new home at the Rush Green Bowl was ready. A quite basic football pitch at Gainsford Avenue was chosen. It had formerly been college grounds and was used by St. Osyth College FC. The pitch had to be enlarged for senior football, and was roped off on match days. There were no dug-outs, and only basic changing facilities. The first game was played against March on 28 February 1987 and usage continued right up until the move to their new ground in November of that year.
The Gainsford Avenue ground still exists, but the dressing rooms were considered unsafe and removed, and with them the opportunity for any more football. In 2005 the grass was left deliberately uncut and used for hay. The ground is a very short distance from the home of the now defunct St. John’s (Clacton) FC in Holland-On-Sea.
Rush Green Bowl
Clacton Town’s new out of town ground at the Rush Green Bowl has proved problematic since the outset. Too cold and remote, and with poor drainage, the club have struggled to attract the crowds despite a number of innovative ideas that have included live match broadcasts via the internet and on a big screen in the clubhouse.
The park within which the ground was built had hosted football for a number of years, with the Seasiders’ home being banked up and fenced off and a clubhouse sunk down below pitch level behind the goal at the car park end. It had been hoped that the old grandstand from Old Road would be re-erected. If that had happened the ground would have taken on an entirely different look and offered sufficient comforts to tempt more locals away from their television sets. Instead, early visitors were greeted by no greater comforts than a wooden railing around the pitch.
The very first match on 7th November 1987, against Soham Town Rangers, had to be abandoned after the floodlights failed. The 200 spectators observed four floodlighting poles on each side of the ground with a generous grass bank along the left hand side, with shallower banking along the opposite side and at the far end.
The Council dragged their heels over planning permission for the grandstand, and it was late 1988 before this was approved. The metal and brick shelter was then placed at the bottom of the largest banking, effectively reducing the capacity as supporters standing at the rear of the bank could no longer see the whole pitch. Two rows of bench seating were installed in the stand a year later, and this has changed very little over the years, except for a protective screen end nearest the clubhouse and a large sponsors board on its roof. It has come to be known as ‘The Loft’.
A very small cover was built up against the metal fence on the right hand side, behind the dug-outs and barely wider than them. This had three steps of concrete within it and has now been dubbed ‘The Bus Shelter’, with the club embracing the name to the extent that a small Bus Stop sign protrudes from the roof, and there is a timetable up against the rear wall! In February 2005 this was re-roofed, following a bout of storm damage.
At one time there was a club shop in a caravan on the banking. This was replaced by another adjacent to a hospitality suite and boardroom and in July 2007, this moved up on to the Burberry suite into a large portakabin with the old shop making way for a Physio clinic.
In 2000 the far end of the ground was neatly enclosed with a hard standing cover (again, built at the bottom of the bank). The well intentioned sign that hung from its roof welcoming visitors to the club was soon decimated by a series of wayward shots and subsequently looked far older than it actually was. At the time of its installation the club had ambitious backers and had their eyes on Southern League football. Had they continued to develop along those lines then the stadium would doubtless be looking quite different today.
Clacton Town was established on 27 October 1892 and joined the North Essex League three years later in 1895. The early years were successful for us and we won Division Two in 1898/99 and 1899/1900. We also won the Essex Junior Cup in 1900. Unfortunately, despite being promoted to Division One, the club folded at the end of 1900/01. Some of the players formed Old Clactonians and joined the Harwich & District League in 1902. We remained in that league until 1905, when we joined the Clacton & District League. After bringing the name of Clacton Town back, we won the league in our first season back. In 1907 we joined the South East Anglian League in 1907, and won Division Two in 1907/08.
The following year we joined both the East Anglian League and the Colchester & District League, and won Division Two in both (the CDL in 1909-10, and the EAL in 1910–11). In 1912 the club went under for a second time, but phoenix-like revived again in 1913. Rejoining the Colchester & District League (now called the Essex & Suffolk Border League) we remained a permanent fixture there until 1934. Clacton Town also played in the Ipswich & District League between 1921 until 1924, and again in the 1927/28 season. We left the Border League to join the Ipswich & District League in 1934, and were founder members of the Eastern Counties League the following year, finishing second in 1936/37. The next season saw us move into the new Essex County League, but we played in that division for only one season, and finished bottom, before returning to the ECL in 1938. The outbreak of the Second World War affected all football teams, including Clacton Town and major changes in the post-war period led to the club turning professional in 1952/53 when we finished as runners-up for again.
Clacton won the East Anglian Cup In 1956/57 and reached the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup, losing 3-2 at home to Yiewsley (now Hillingdon Borough FC). The club moved up to the South-East Division of the Southern League in 1857/58 and the following year won Division One, and were promoted to the Premier Division. In our first season we reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first, and to date only time, but lost 3–1 at home to local rivals Southend United. We were relegated back to Division One – finishing 21st out of 22 clubs – in 1962/63, but returned to the Eastern Counties League.
Runners-up in our first season back in the league (a feat we repeated in 1974/75), we also again reached the final qualifying round of the FA Cup, and we remained in the Premier Division until the end of 1991/92, when we finished second from bottom, and were relegated to Division One. We bounced back to the Premier Division as champions in 1994/95 though, and won the Eastern Floodlit Cup the following season. Relegated once again in 1997/98, we won the Division One Cup and Division One at the first attempt and were promoted once again.
Clacton Town won the East Anglian Cup for a second time in 2000, and the League Cup in 2002.
In 2005/06, perhaps the club’s worst season ever, we failed to win a league match all season, finishing at the foot of the Premier Division with only one point and a goal difference of minus 159. Despite these abysmal statistics, Clacton were not relegated because Bury Town and AFC Sudbury were promoted from the league which meant that Fulbourn Institute were not allowed to be promoted from Division One. Although we only finished 21st with 38 points the following season – an improvement – we were relegated.
Following a long and distinguished 115-year history, Clacton Town was reborn as FC Clacton on 15 June 2007 and returned to the Premier Division as Division One runners-up in 2009/10.
Four new owners, all local men, inherited Clacton Town Football Club Ltd in 2006, which was registered with the FA as being in control of the football club known as Clacton Town FC. For many reasons they were uneasy with this limited company holding the club registration. Also, being a normal limited company the Club did not qualify for any tax breaks, business rates relief, etc. They were never Officials, Directors or connected to this limited company in any way. The previous Directors of Clacton Town FC Ltd decided to resign from the company and informed Companies House of this that eventually resulted in Companies House striking off the limited company for not submitting accounts and for having no Directors or Secretary.
The time was therefore right for a complete shake up of how the club was to be administered a new start with a clean slate. A new club was formed and FC Clacton was born. This club is run by FC Clacton CIC, which is a community interest company, set up to run the senior teams and bar. All other teams, the changing rooms and ground is administered by FC Clacton CASC Ltd as a Community Amateur Sports Club.
The club entered its first season playing in the first division of the Ridgeons Eastern Counties League in 2007/08 with former Colchester United and Fulham player John Reeves and David Coyle as joint first-team Managers as the club embarked on a new beginning. The first-team finished in tenth place in this first season but just six points off a promotion place. But for some horrendous injuries throughout the season, promotion at the first time of asking may well have been possible. Reeves reverted back to his sole role as physio towards the end of the season and Coyle went alone into the 2008/09 season to push on for a return to the premier division.
2008/09 saw us finish 7th in the league but with a good progress in the FA Cup, Essex Senior Cup and FA Vase that saw a record-equalling run in the competition by reaching the 4th round proper for the first time since 1974/75.
The 2009/10 pre-season saw Paul Hillier awarded a Testimonial, having been with the club since 1998/99 with the exception of a short spell with Wivenhoe Town and a match against Ipswich Town Reserves was his reward. The visitors won 7-2 in front of 452 spectators.
Last season saw us clinch promotion as runners-up back to the Ridgeons League Premier Division after an absence of three years and in the process, we recorded a record FC Clacton win on Saturday 3 April 2010 when we beat Downham Town 9-0. We also scored our highest number of league goals ever in a season – 117. To cap a great season, we reached our first-ever cup final as FCC and beat Halstead Town 2-1 in the First Division Knockout Cup at Millfield, home of Hadleigh United.
During the close season of 2010, we lost the services of our Manager David Coyle who left for personal reasons, Captain Paul Hillier who retired from our level of the game, as well as a number of players. In May 2010, Steve Pitt was announced as our new Manager along with assistant Michael Pulford. Former Colchester United and Millwall player Phil Coleman joined as first-team coach and we welcomed some new players to the Bowl. The season for the most part was considered a success as we finished in 16th place thus avoiding relegation with plenty to spare.
In the close season prior to 2011/12, both Pulford and Coleman left the club and striker Ray Turner was announced as Pitt’s new number two. FC Clacton Reserves was brought back to life to enter the Ridgeons Reserves League South Division and in June, former Seasider Andy Taylor was announced as the new manager of this outfit.
Then before the 2011/12 season got underway, Steve Pitt was approached by Stanway Rovers and left to become their new Manager taking Ray Turner with him.
This saw an immediate elevation for Andy Taylor to become the first-team manager and he then announced Sean Hillier as his Assistant and we finished the season in 15th place.
Taylor soon departed at the beginning of the 2012/13 season as Ray Turner returned to take over the first-team in September 2012. Just four games were won in the league all season and we finished bottom of the league. Relegation however, was avoided due to the league’s restructuring.
Turner stayed on for the 2013/14 season but left in December 2013 and was replaced by phil Yearling who only lasted four matches! Glenn Eldridge was elevated from the Under 18’s Manager to a caretaker position and remained in a dual role until the end of the season before being announced as the permanent Manager for 2014/15.
By Karl Fuller, 2014.
Born in Colchester on 25 September 1971, Karl was transferred to Clacton Hospital very quickly in order to become an authentic supporter of his local club later on in life. An Ipswich Town fan of more than 35 years, Karl spent 12 successive years without missing a home game in a period that saw him join the Media Committee of the Supporters’ Club and provide player interviews for the fanzine, Those Were The Days. He also wrote a column in the Colchester Evening Gazette. From 2002 he wrote a column in the Clacton Town matchday programme, & was its editor between 2004 & 2010/11 season, winning a Programme of the Year award for seven consecutive seasons. Karl is currently a weekly columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, as well as being a Payments Manager in the NHS were he has been employed for 25 years.
FC Clacton’s website: www.fcclacton.com
Very pleased to have been given permission by Steven Kay, author of the very well-received The Evergreen in Red and White to use this great piece on Sheffield and football history. This has been taken verbatim from his 1889 Books Blog.
First published by the Football Pink.
The game of football is the only truly global sport: played everywhere by everyone irrespective of social class. Before I go any further let’s be clear: we are talking here, as the name suggests, about a game played with the feet. If you run with the ball or hold it in your hands it is no longer a game played with the feet and should therefore be not be called football, if you insist on using the word then you should at least have the decency to qualify it as “rugby football” or “Aussie rules” or “American football.” This of course is blind prejudice on my part, but I come from the Home of Football – Sheffield – so you’ll have to excuse me. We have no great traditions of other versions of the game here. To a traditionalist it is quite simple: football is the winter game, cricket is the summer game.
Back in the mid 1800s there were many different games around Britain calling themselves “foot-ball,” most of which involved some sort of catching, but then some clever chaps from round these parts, William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick, saw sense and applied the logic to the words ‘foot’ and ‘ball’ and wrote the Sheffield rules to codify the game they loved and restricted handling and hacking in order to civilise the sport. These rules were the precursor to the modern game and Sheffield worked with, and had great influence over, the nascent Football Association. See here. (By the way “Aussie rules” was based on the Sheffield rules originally: another Creswick, a relative, having taken them with him to Aus.)
The game was further refined and the fair catch abolished: making it a game played solely with the feet: except for the goalkeeper. Another Sheffield invention – designated goalkeepers (however, in the 1970s in the local parks we still allowed the old rule of anyone who was back could be the goalie – the goalie’s wag rule – as it is properly called).
The following things we associate with the game were also “Made in Sheffield”:
– corner flags
– corner kicks
– goal kicks from 6 yards of the goal
– indirect free kicks
– the rule that players must not encroach within a set distance of a free-kick
– throw ins
– tape to limit the height of the goal (this refinement was first suggested by the Sheffield FA) – later replaced by the crossbar.
– change of ends at half time
– forward passes: imagine the game without the attacking play that allowed!
– headers: the first observed account of headed balls was by Sheffield players
That’s only the start of Sheffield’s claim to be the spiritual home of the game. Other firsts:
– the first football club was Sheffield F.C. formed in 1857 (they are still going in the 8th tier of English football).
– not a first but a second was Hallam F.C. formed in 1860 (now in the 10th tier)
– Hallam F.C’s ground, Sandygate, is the oldest football ground in the world in continuous use. It hosted the first inter-club game, naturally between the two first clubs on the 26th December 1860.
– the first football trophy – the Youdan Cup – won by Hallam F.C. in 1867
– cup draws from a hat with the home team drawn first
– the concept of cup-tied players
– the first away games: Sheffield F.C. making use of those new-fangled railways to travel to Lincoln and Nottingham
– the first inter-county fixtures: 1871 versus London, 1872 versus Derbyshire, 1874 versus Glasgow
– neutral officials including a referee
– the first use by a referee of a whistle
– shin pads
– regular football columns in newspapers
– turnstiles (believed to be a first at Bramall Lane in 1872)
– speaking of Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane, as it is known, it has the claim to be the oldest professional football ground or the world’s oldest major football stadium
– charity and benefit matches
– floodlit matches: the first was at Bramall Lane in October 1878
– the first inter-schools trophy – the Clegg Shield (the 125th Clegg Shield final took place on 6th May 2014)
– the first Saturday evening sports paper in 1907 – it soon became dubbed “The Green ’Un” – imaginatively called, the paper it was printed on being green – it is still going though, sadly, no longer the Saturday tea-time staple it once was
– the first football phone-in – invented in 1986 by Robert Jackson, a former BBC Radio Sheffield presenter/producer as the “Grumble Spot” but developed into “Praise or Grumble” – though it must be conceded that the current state of football in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire means it carries more grumbles than praises. “Praise or Grumble” is the reason you won’t hear many South Yorkshire fans on the upstart programme 606: we know ours is much better and covers the only really important stuff – why would we want to hear about southerners going on about their faux attraction to North Western clubs all the time?
No doubt this still comes as a shock to some people. Surely it was England’s great public schools that invented the game? The evidence does not support that. Clearly they made attempts to codify some sort of “foot-ball” but it was the Sheffield rules that shaped the modern game. James Walvin in his book The People’s Game suggests that the “Sheffield Club was established under the influence of Old Harrovians who persuaded local village footballers not to handle the ball, allegedly by providing the players with white gloves and florins to clutch during the game.” Note the word “allegedly,” in other words total piffle! Such myths are just history being written by the victors yet again (this time the victors in the class struggle who can’t abide the thought of a grubby unfashionable place having given birth to the beautiful game). You only need to think about it to realise what utter nonsense it is: a Sheffielder wearing white gloves? – to play football?? – holding in his hands half a week’s wages??? They would have just kept running and gone down the pub laughing at the chinless wonders from Harrow?
There is plenty of evidence that football was played in and around Sheffield as a folk game with no external influence from posh schools in the south. It is likely that these folk games were the inspiration of the game. Of course Sheffield can’t claim the sole credit – the game developed like many great inventions through collaboration, but its claim to be the cradle of the modern game has to be incontrovertible.
Given such a strong claim to be home of football it is a source of sadness that both Sheffield league clubs currently under-perform so consistently. Sheffield United is the most under-performing club in the country if you compare support over the years with trophies. (Please don’t dismiss this as a whinge – stick with it, there is a thread – I know supporters of many clubs would love to have watched the cup runs and occasional promotions we have had; I am merely making factual observations.) This last season, average Sheffield United attendances in league and cup have been 18,000: and that in England’s third tier. When in the 2nd tier they had average attendances of 25,000. The last major trophy they won was beyond living memory: the FA Cup in 1925. Sheffield Wednesday in England’s second tier have maintained gates averaging 21,000 this season despite it being uninspiring. They have had had slightly more recent success (though it sticks in the craw to admit it): the League Cup in 1991, and the FA Cup in 1935. But they still probably rank as the second most under-performing club.
All very peculiar. Perhaps I am on a hiding to nothing if I try to makes sense of this. (And, please, don’t anyone mention that old chestnut about the Sheffield clubs needing to merge, or that Sheffield is not big enough to support two teams. People who say that just betray their lack of understanding: in this case one plus one would not equal two. And Sheffield is much bigger than Burnley, Bolton and Blackburn combined; bigger than Liverpool). It could be just a historical blip and will in time be rectified. (Maybe next season is the one? Recent financial backing for both the big Sheffield clubs holds out the promise of a new dawn; but then we have seen so many false dawns and it is the curse of every football fan to dare to dream at the start of each new season.) Or is Sheffield’s footballing malaise something deeper? Does it share a common root with why Sheffield gets overlooked so often by the nation and has done over many years? The same reasons that Government and other money, if it ever trickles out of London, heads to places like Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Evidence, for example, the BBC relocation, the bias of regional broadcasters against unfashionable Sheffield (Leeds based BBC Look North is very sloppy in its coverage of the region it is supposed to represent), National Museums funding – including the National Football Museum!!! (And, before I move off the subject of the National Football Museum, it has far too little recognition of the role Sheffield played in the development of the game: Sheffield FC are listed in the Hall of Fame, but not William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick. No Ernest Needham or the great JC Clegg, no Derek Dooley, no Ernie Blenkinsop, or Billy Gillespie. How so?) And then, adding Sheffield to the HS2 plan was an afterthought, possibly only conceded as a sop to Nick Clegg – all the original talk being about linking Manchester and Leeds to London. Perhaps in this same way football money or interest has never flowed into the city. When Sheffield United were in the Premier League in 2006/7 we always seemed to have to wait until the last slot of Match of the Day to see our team, irrespective of the quality of the game: as if there were resentment that we were there at all. When United (the original one: Sheffield) play the third United (Manchester) the commentators can never get out of their habit of referring to United when they mean Manchester United. In the early 1990s when these two Uniteds played against each other in the FA Cup, the lowly Sheffield upstarts were criticised (rather than congratulated) by commentators for stopping Manchester playing their usual style of football. Sheffield has long suffered from being an unfashionable place: most of the time its residents don’t care, they just get on with it: after all “it is them that don’t know what they’re missing.” Sheffield just gets on with things: in 2011 when the rest of England were rioting, Sheffield was the only large town that had no problems. They didn’t bother 30 years ago either when Toxteth was in flames. After all what is the point?
Perhaps just sometimes we need to be a bit less chilled and shout a bit louder to be given our due. Perhaps we should stop being quietly proud in our Sheffield way and should shout about our football heritage a bit more loudly. We should have kicked up one hell of a stink when that original rule book went up for sale and was sold to Qatar. It should have had an export bar put on it by the Government, it should have been saved for the Nation, for Sheffield, like Benjamin Brittan’s draft score of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was. Every football fan in the world should speak of Sheffield in hushed tones and have Sandygate on their list of places to go before they die. If Liverpool had done for the game what Sheffield has, you would never hear the last of it: there would be monuments and museums, heritage trails, memorabilia, open topped bus tours etc. etc. As John Lennon said, The Beatles may have been more popular than Jesus Christ. But football must be a thousand times more popular than the Beatles.