History Of THFC: Part 5 - 1901 Glory
The English FA Cup is the oldest and arguably most famous knockout competition in world football. First competed for in 1883, it had been dominated by clubs from the north of England, the stalwarts of the early professional game. In 1901, Tottenham Hotspur broke the northern stranglehold, establishing themselves as a serious force in football and also setting a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. For Spurs were the first, and still the only, non-league side to win the Cup.
On the day of the final, an enormous crowd made its way to the Crystal Palace, a park in the south London suburb of Sydenham. The park was named after a vast cast-iron and plate-glass structure designed by the MP and architect Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851. On Cup Final day 1901, an official total of 114,000 packed into the grounds of the park, thronging the grassy banks at the side of the playing surface, with many more climbing trees and using whatever vantage point they could find in order to see the game.
United went ahead after 11 minutes, and a carrier pigeon was dispatched to carry the news to Sheffield. Barely had the bird taken flight when Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown equalised for the Spurs. Early in the second half, Brown put Spurs ahead, but a minute later came controversy. A cross was fumbled by Spurs goalkeeper George Clawley and the ball dropped just wide of the post. The linesman flagged for a corner but, incredibly, the referee signaled a goal. Nets were not used in goals at this stage, perhaps excusing the mistake, but thousands in the crowd clearly saw ‘the goal that never was’.
The game finished 2-2, with Spurs again – in the eyes of their supporters – the victims of an injustice. Unfortunately for the referee, the final was the first to filmed by the new medium of the movie camera and, for the next few days, newsreels broadcast at cinemas around the country clearly showed the ball had not crossed the goalline. This is possibly the first instance of new technology catching out a referee. And the footage only served to increase the support for Spurs.
The replay was held at Bolton’s Burnden Park a week after the first game. Requests to the railway companies for cheap rates to ferry fans to Bolton were turned down, so only 30,000 saw the replay. Spurs again went a goal down early in the game, but John Cameron, Tom Smith and that man Brown rattled home three goals to secure the cup.
The Times newspaper reported that Spurs had played “the best football seen in the final tie for a long time” and 40,000 fans turned out on the streets of Tottenham to welcome their victorious heroes home. Spurs had created history, and would go on to do so time and again.
About the Author:
Martin Cloake is a writer and editor who lives in London, UK. A Spurs season ticket holder, he has followed the team since 1970, travelling all over the UK and Europe to support them. His latest book, Sound of the crowd, is a look at changing fan culture in England with an emphasis on Spurs supporters. He is a regular contributor to Spurs fansites and podcasts. He also writes more widely on football and the football business for a variety of publications including the New Statesman.
Martin Cloake’s books about Tottenham Hotspur, including ebooks that can be downloaded directly to your computer or mobile device, can be ordered from his bookstore.
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17/10/2013 02:55:40 am
the game is about glory!! let's get that cup this year
27/12/2014 06:37:48 pm
Hi Goal nets were used in the 1901 cup final, the reporting of the Sheffield Utd equaliser is quite confusing, but reports say the Spurs keeper George Clawley was standing behind his line when he saved Walter Bennett,s shot, also the first cup final to be filmed was the 1899 final between Sheffield Utd and Derby Co
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