Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Chorlton Champs of Lancs .......... from Lawrence Beedle

When Chorlton were the champions of Lancashire. 

Lancashire Amateur Cup, 1893
You have to go back a hundred and ten years to the muddy fields of football when this happened. As the Athletic News & Cyclists' Journal published on their front page “the honour of being the strongest amateur team in the county may this year, for the first time be justly claimed by a Manchester team, Chorlton-cum-Hardy” - Monday 6th May 1907.

That year Chorlton-cum-Hardy won the Lancashire Amateur Cup, a Lancashire Amateur League title and a League Cup. Back then County Cups were taken seriously even by the big clubs and players with amateur status were in the same teams as the maximum wage restricted professionals of City, United, Everton, etc.

Let's see how Chorlton reached the final of the Lancashire Amateur Cup. It took four rounds seeing off Marine 2-0, Heaton Moor (away) 2-1, Fleetwood Amateurs 3-1, and a derby semi-final game against Whalley Range (away) 3-1. This set up the final tie against the favourites Manchester University on Saturday 6th April 1907. It was to be played at a neutral venue and the Giant Axe ground in Lancaster was chosen.

The weather was windy with heavy rain. Those who attended might have witnessed the only goal just before the interval. A player called Wedge “took the ball on the bounce and with a terrific drive shot into the net, well out of reach of Knott”. Chorlton-cum-Hardy won. T. Laithwaite of the Lancashire FA presented the prestigious trophy to R . J. Stephenson, the captain. The latter was considered one of the best amateur centre forwards and had played numerous times for the Northern Nomads including the match against the Corinthians at Goodison Park. The receipts for the final were £19. 18s. 3d. (that's £19.91 in decimal), a sum considered low by the newspapers.

These amateur cup finals usually incurred losses for the Lancashire FA.

Lancashire Amateur Cup Final, 1909 Preston Winckley v Smithhills
Chorlton-cum-Hardy FC then resumed their remaining Lancashire Amateur League games. It was divided into a Manchester Section and a Liverpool section of ten teams each. Chorlton led the former Section with Whalley Range only two points behind with a game in hand. It was two points for a win and it all came down to the final match between the two teams. The fixture was arranged for a Thursday evening on 18th April 1907 with a 6pm kick off. Whoever won would be champions. There is no match report but the result was Chorlton-cum-Hardy 2 Whalley Range 1.

Chorlton-cum-Hardy P18 W13 L3 D2 F42 A22 Pts 28
Whalley Range P18 W12 L5 D1 F41 A22 Pts 25
Heaton Chapel P18 W11 L4 D3 F44 A26 Pts 25

To complete the season a new Lancashire Amateur League Cup had been instituted. The champions of Manchester would play the champions of the Liverpool Section. That was Southport Trinity Old Boys, a team that had only lost two league games in two seasons.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Both teams met at Springfield Park, Wigan on another wet and windy Saturday afternoon on the 27th April 1907. Unfortunately Southport were soon reduced to ten men when T. Mawdsley the centre half retired from the match with an injured knee.

The match ended goalless at full time and Southport obviously declined to play any extra time. So a replay was arranged and by a toss of the coin Southport was the choice of venue.

So on the following Tuesday 30th April the teams met at the Southport Central Ground.

There are brief match reports. “Winning the toss the Mancunians played with the wind at their backs in the first half. From a melee in front of Dent, the Trinity custodian, Stephenson netted the ball. This was all the scoring during the game, which only lasted eighty minutes.” Why the match was ten minutes short with J.T. Howcroft, a well known referee who officiated Football League games, we'll never know but apparently time keeping of matches back then was not a precision.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Anyway, Chorlton-cum-Hardy would have returned on the train that night collecting their third silver cup in a month.

Forward to present times. Amateur status was ended by the F.A in 1974 though the name is still used and the ethos prevails. Chorlton-cum-Hardy FC are no more but turned out teams until 1939 with lesser success. Whalley Range AFC was founded in 1900 and keep the spirit of playing for the love of the game alive at their Kings Road ground.

They are in the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League and still enter a Lancashire FA competition. Marine, founded 1894, have their home in Crosby and are in level 7 of the football pyramid (that's six tiers below the Premier League). Manchester University still play the Association game. The Giant Axe grounds which once held agricultural shows, athletics, cycling and other sports are next to Lancaster railway station but Springfield Park, Wigan which older readers will remember as the home of both rugby and soccer is now under bricks and mortar. The Lancashire Amateur League, formed 1899 is still going strong with six divisions, 32 clubs fielding 71 teams but none from Manchester.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Lawrence Beedle © 2017

Pictures; Lancashire Amateur Cup inaugurated 1893 from The History of the Lancashire FA book published 1928. and Lancashire Amateur Cup Final 1909 Preston Winckley v Smithhills. Sports photography was very rare with the cumbersome cameras and glass negatives but it gives the flavour of the football conditions of the period.

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