3 - Origins
In the last part of this series we look at how it all started. Today people in all corners of the world follow every aspect and kick of the FA Cup but that wasn’t always the case. In fact it actually struggled for life in its first season. Let me briefly take you back to London in 1863. At that time there were a number of versions of the game with different teams using different rules.
A London solicitor, Ebenezer Morley, wrote to a popular newspaper of the day and suggested that football should have one set of rules in the same way that the MCC had devised for cricket. His letter led to the first meeting at the Freemasons' Tavern in London’s Great Queen Street. It was there on Monday 26th October of that year the Football Association was formed. A number of meetings were held before one set of rules were agreed. It was agreed players could use a combination of handling and dribbling the ball. Catching the ball and making a mark with the heel would win a free kick, (more of a restart without being tackled). There was a major disagreement about whether ‘hacking’ would be allowed. This was if players could kick an opponents leg when he had the ball. The first set of rules was finally published on the 8th December, (with no hacking). Ten days later the first game using these rules was played.
We can now slip forward eight years to 1871 and on 20th July a meeting was held at the offices of the Sportsman newspaper. When Charles Adcock, a former Harrow public schoolboy talked about an inter-house ‘sudden death’ competition. Adcock, the Honorary Secretary of the FA, suggested "that it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete". The proposal at the meeting was accepted but not everyone was in agreement. At that time there were fifty clubs registered and many people felt that such a competition would lead to unhealthy rivalry and even bitterness between clubs. Remember at that time there was only ‘friendly games’ between groups of gentlemen. Only 15 of the member clubs agreed to participate. This season over 700 clubs have been involved.
At this point there were no free kicks or penalties. Penalties would not be introduced until the 1891/92 season. The early pitch markings did not include a centre-circle or a half-way line. The goals did not have crossbars or goal nets. Note the pitch markings in the top image from the 1901 FA Cup Final.
The only goal was scored by Morton Betts, who was playing under the assumed name of 'A.H. Chequer'. The reason for this seems to be lost in the mists of time. The game was marred when one of the Royal Engineers, Lieutenant Creswell broke his Collar bone in the tenth minute and this is believed to be the first recorded football injury.
If we jump forward again to our last stop,1895. Aston Villa have won the trophy and it was put on display in a gentlemen’s outfitters shop window in Birmingham. The original trophy, which was much smaller than the current one was stolen and never recovered.
Before you go do you want another cup upset? One of the most famous is Non-League Hereford United drawing at St. James’s Park 2-2 and taking Newcastle United back to their own ground in 1972. Newcastle took the lead late on through England center forward MacDonald. Then Ronnie Radford scored with a drive from 35 yards out. After the pitch had been cleared of the invading fans the game went into extra time when Ricky George got the winner. The first non-league team to beat a first division side since 1949 and another pitch invasion as the team were carried off on the fans shoulders.
So to this weekends draw for the Cup and then battle commences in January. Lets hope we follow the Spurs all the way to Wembley. Spurs for the Cup.
Thanks to - The FA, The BBC, Hereford United and The Daily Telegraph.
About the author:
Keith Harrison, Nilgiris, TN
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