Thursday, 25 February 2010

Chapter 4 – Best of the Rest 1902 – 1915

In 1902 Sheffield United could field almost an entire team of England internationals. Peter Boyle (back row) is the odd one out wearing his Irish international shirt

Little did Blades fans know it at the time but, in the years 1896 to 1902, Sheffield United had reached and passed their peak. They had finished as runners up in the League twice and Champions once and had competed in three Cup finals winning two. Sheffield United would never again be so successful.

United face Bury at the Lane

Britain too was a country which had just passed a peak of sorts. In 1897 the nation had celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee with a mass outpouring of national and imperial pride. In 1898 a British army under Kitchener had smashed a Muslim army in the Sudan in a stunning exercise in military superiority and vast swathes of the globe were coloured British pink. In 1908 E. Nesbit wrote “We live so safely now, we have nothing to be afraid of. When we have wars they are not in our own country. The police look after the burglars and even thunder is attended to by lightning rods”.

Sheffield was prospering as well. In 1899 electric trams had arrived on the city streets. Sheffield University was founded in 1905 and in 1910 the city got its first cinema.

But this was a thin veneer masking growing discontent. Victoria had died in 1901 but even in 1897 Rudyard Kipling had written his long recessional in which he warned that “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday, Is one with Ninevah and Tyre”. The Boer War slithered to a conclusion in 1902 after three bitter years. Trade Union membership grew from 1.6 million in 1896 to over 4 million in 1914 and the number of days lost to industrial action rose from 3.5 million to nearly 10 million in those years.

Looking back on this surface of calm confidence covering deep upheaval, George Orwell wrote

“There never was, I suppose, in the history of the world a time when the sheer vulgar fatness of wealth, without any kind of aristocratic elegance to redeem it, was so obtrusive as in those years before 1914...from the whole decade...there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kinds of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and creme de menthe and soft- centered chocolates—an atmosphere, as it were of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song”

At Bramall Lane any decline was likewise unapparent. The success of the previous years had paid for the impressive new 6,000 capacity John Street stand, designed by Archibald Leitch, which was advertised as having “spacious refreshment bars” and a press box which could “accommodate 60 pressmen”. There was room in there for their pigeons too as this was how many of the match reports were sent back to the editors. Other new features included “14 entrances opening on to either the terrace or the stand itself…Tea rooms on the ground floor…the whole is to be lighted by electric light, the first stand in the United Kingdom of which so much can be said…The terrace is 25 rows deep…with very fine views to be gained…” and it was opened in time for the 1902 – 1903 season.

The new John Street Stand

A cricket crowd in front of the Pavilion for an Ashes Test against Australia in 1902

Looking at the Pavilion from John Street in the 1902 Test

The Bramall Lane end during the same Test

England play Scotland at the Lane in 1903 with the old John Street stand in the background

The Empire Day Pageant, 1906

Sheffield United were booming and averaged attendances of 14,854 in this period compared to 9,732 between 1892 and 1902. But bigger crowds also meant more disorder as the characteristics of football support continued to develop. In 1907 the programme carried a lengthy list of “Don’ts for spectators”.

“Don’t think because you are on the stand you have a right to shout instructions to players. They know what to do without any assistance from you.
Don’t boo at the referee because he gives a decision which you think is wrong. He has his opinion as to what happened, and his opinion is surely worth as much as yours.
Don’t commence shouting ‘Send him off’ if one of the opposing team happens to commit a foul on one of your pet players. Would you shout the same thing if the positions were reversed, and one of your own side had committed the offence?
Don’t make yourself a nuisance to those around you by continually bellowing at the top of your voice, it gets on peoples nerves and takes away a lot of the enjoyment of the game, besides making yourself look ridiculous.
Don’t snap your neighbours nose off because he thinks differently to you. You have come to see your side win, and he has perhaps come to see the others.
Don’t get excited and bad tempered when you argue about this player and that. It does no good in the end, and only breeds bad feeling, and spoils your enjoyment of the game”

United kept up a solid challenge for the League in 1902 - 1903 but suffered from injuries to key players such as Foulke, Bennett and Needham. Nevertheless the Blades remained in second spot until a final day defeat away at Aston Villa saw them finish fourth.

Sadly this was more in the way of a last hurrah than a bright new dawn and Sheffield Wednesday’s Championship titles in 1903 and 1904 showed that United had surrendered the pole position in the city. For the rest of the pre war period United were listless in the League and between 1904 and 1915 they secured finishes of 7th, 6th, 13th, 4th, 17th, 12th, 6th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 10th and 6th. If such relative mediocrity was hard to take the club’s shambolic forays into the Cup were another bitter blow. In 1903 United set out in defence of the Cup against Woolwich Arsenal (future Gunners boss Herbert Chapman was playing for the Blades that season) and won 3-1 but in the next round they were knocked out by Bury. United were knocked out by First Division opponents Bolton and Nottingham Forest in the next two seasons but in 1906 the Blades were drawn away against Second Division Blackpool. The general opinion, as stated by the Telegraph, was that “There was no doubt about the issue. The odds on Blackpool winning were 1,000 to 1”. The odds were further stacked against them when they accepted United’s offer of £250 to play the match at Bramall Lane but it backfired when Blackpool won 2-1. United went out of the Cup in the first round for the next seven seasons, a remarkable run of defeat which saw them beaten by such minnows as Swindon in 1908 and Darlington in 1911.

There are several reasons for Sheffield United’s slump from a front rank football superpower of the period 1896 to 1903 perhaps the most important being the aging of that previous great side. By 1905 Bramall Lane had said goodbye to Tommy Morren, Peter Boyle, Harry Thickett, Bill Foulke, Fred Priest and Walter Bennett. The story of Walter ‘Cocky’ Bennett is particularly poignant. He was sold to Bristol City for £50 and helped them win the Second Division Championship in 1907 but, in the days before £50,000 a week wages, garish limousines and tacky mansions, Bennett went back to work down Denaby colliery when he retired. On April 6th 1908 the roof collapsed and Walter Bennett, League and Cup winner and England international, died aged 34.

Thickett became manager of Bristol City, signed Bennett, won promotion and guided them to the FA Cup final in 1910. Bill Foulke was sold to a brand new team which was being assembled by a millionaire; Chelsea. His weight continued to climb and when he finished playing he became a successful publican in Sheffield despite getting into trouble with the authorities for roughing up gamblers. When he died in 1916 Ernest Needham, Tommy Morren, George Waller, John Nicholson and Joseph Tomlinson joined a large Sheffield crowd to pay their last respects. Fred Priest ended his playing days with Hartlepool and opened a hotel there but it struggled and he died poor in 1922. When United heard of the situation his wife and children were in they arranged a benefit match against Hartlepool refereed by his old friend Alf Common. Harry Johnson became a trainer in 1909 and stayed with United until 1934, long enough to see his son follow in his footsteps down the players tunnel and onto the Bramall Lane turf as did ex team mate Peter Boyle.

Two other members of that great side also ended their playing days at Bramall Lane but in totally contrasting circumstances. Alf Common left the Lane in 1904 claiming that his business interests in the north east required that he return to Sunderland and United obliged by selling him for £520. But controversy erupted a few months later when, with his business interests seemingly holding little interest for him anymore, he moved to Middlesbrough becoming the first £1,000 transfer. The amateur game let out its last howl, bemoaning how money had twisted players loyalties in the modern game. It made no difference but Boro were fined shortly afterwards for making illegal payments to players.

Slightly mystifying cartoon about the Alf Common transfer controversy

In complete contrast was the man who had done so much to champion the professional game, Ernest Needham, who played his last game against Newcastle United on the final day of the 1909 – 1910 season. As well as his achievements with Sheffield United Needham had played 16 times for England, an impressive tally when international matches were rare. He had also been the first United player and professional to captain the national side. He coached the reserve team for a while and acted as a scout for United spotting Billy Gillespie playing for Leeds City. When he died in 1936 one colleague named him “the greatest player association football has ever seen”.

Replacing players of this quality in this quantity is a task which has brought down most footballing dynasties and United were caught in same vicious circle. As the teams’ fortunes on the pitch deteriorated so crowds suffered and the reduced income proved insufficient to bring in players capable of getting the club back to the top. At an AGM in 1911 Charles Clegg revealed that average attendances had fallen to 11,400 and in these circumstances it was easy to see why “the Directors don’t believe a player can be worth £1,500 to £2,000”. Clegg finished by urging United to “wake up”.

It is also worth remembering that other clubs were suffering the same fate. Sunderland and Aston Villa, so dominant in the 1890’s, won the League just once each in the era before World War One. As with United, part of this was down to the rise of new footballing forces, notably Manchester United (formerly Newton Heath) and Newcastle United who won the League five times between them in the years before 1914.

Despite this lack of solid achievement it must be remembered that this United side managed to remain a constant fixture in the top flight something no post war Blades side has managed. One of the first players to be brought into the team to replace the old guard was centre forward Arthur Brown who signed from Gainsborough Trinity in 1902 aged just 17 as a replacement for George Hedley. He was a quick player with a good eye for goal, scoring 104 goals in 187 appearances, so much so that he was picked for England when he was just 18. Unfortunately there was another side to him and it was recalled that he “often failed to give of his best” and he left the club in 1908 under the same sort of cloud as Alf Common.

Arthur Brown

United got rather more reliable service out of the man they signed to take over from Bill Foulke, Joe Lievesley, who came from Ernest Needham’s home village of Staveley. A complete contrast to Foulke, he was described as a steady keeper “who seemed to know exactly what advancing forwards intended to do” and “made his hard work look easy”. He won his starting place in a 4-2 win against Blackburn Rovers in November 1904 and only missed six first team games prior to his departure in December 1911.

At the start of the 1905 – 1906 season Bob Benson filled the right back slot which had been more or less vacant since Harry Thickett had left. Another north easterner, Benson signed from Southampton and was capped by England whilst at Bramall Lane. Remembered as “a man of moods, nervous before a game”, he was particularly famous for his penalty technique which involved getting a team mate to place the ball on the spot while he began his run up on the half way line.

But if these players were worth the money it was depressing for Unitedites to see how hit and miss their cut price buying strategy could be. Archie Annan, Albert Groves, Jack Peart and Peter Kyle, to name but an unfortunate few, all gave patchy service to Sheffield United. The club certainly suffered from its own probity as other clubs were throwing back handers around like there was no tomorrow and picking up great players such as Billy Meredith, Bob Crompton and Charlie Roberts.

The club directors decided that the cure for the malaise was a little team bonding and discipline. Smoking was banned among the players, home or away, and Friday night drinking sessions were replaced with tea and cakes, laid on by the club, and an outing to the Empire Theatre on Charles Street. A plan to get all the players to move into Sheffield was stymied but the directors did lay on group walks in Hathersage.

The Empire Theatre on Charles Street where United players went to be seen about town

In 1908 three players were brought to Bramall Lane who would eventually go on to bring major honours back to the club. Outside left Bob Evans came from Wrexham via Aston Villa for £1,100 and had already been capped by Wales. He was tall for a wide player but one critical journalist commented that he “should go in more and not make arriving a second too late a sort of science”. Whilst with the Blades Evans was capped for Wales on another four occasions before John Nicholson found that he had actually been born in Chester and Evans was chosen to play for England in four matches.

Seventeen year old Joe Kitchen was an incredibly quick centre forward who was signed from Gainsborough Trinity. With a scoring record of 105 goals in 248 games he was on the verge of an England call up but first injuries and then wayward form kept him out.

Albert Sturges

The third new signing, Albert Sturges, was a lanky defensive player who was nicknamed ‘Hairpin’ and he joined United from Stoke. His ability to read a game meant that he was always in the right place and his calm reassurance spread throughout the team and earned him England recognition. Indeed, Sturges was known as a ‘one man team’ for his ability to play anywhere on the park.

The 1909 – 1910 season saw another couple of players come in who would become long standing features of the United side. Jimmy Simmons was a relative of Bill Foulke and came to Bramall Lane as an inside right from Blackwell but was eventually moved out wide. The other was Bill Brelsford who played at right half or centre half. Brought up in Darnall he made his name with Doncaster Rovers. Brelsford wasn’t particularly tall but used aggression to make up for his lack of height. In a match against Leeds City his nose was broken in one encounter and he recalled “I don’t know what caused the bother. Something went wrong and bang went the apple cart”.

In their first season both men took part in an explosive derby at the Lane in November. United surged into the lead inside 20 minutes when Owls keeper Teddy Davison flapped at a long range shot from Brelsford and Jimmy Simmons scored a second soon after. But United failed to kill the game and Sammy Kirkman equalised for Wednesday with a stunning solo run and finish. The Owls pushed on and Freddie Foxall’s cross was flicked on by Andrew Wilson for Harry Chapman to equalise. Just after the break United were hit again as Kirkman latched onto a clearance, controlled beautifully, and swept the ball home. This inspired United and they fought their way back into the game but Wednesday held firm. With ten minutes left it was beginning to look as though Wednesday would leave Bramall Lane with the points when a dangerous cross from Bob Evans was headed home by Jimmy Simmons.

 Wednesday's Teddy Davison saves from United's Bob Evans at Bramall Lane, November 1911

At Owlerton in March United were more ruthless. Initially the game started well for Wednesday when Tom Brittleton put them ahead but Walter Hardinge scored twice to put the Blades in front and Bob Evans grabbed a third for United to round off the scoring. A pretty miserable afternoon for Wednesdayites was underlined when Walter Holbem kicked out at Blades winger Arthur Robins (making one of only four appearances) and was sent off.

United continued to search for a side which would have them back challenging for trophies and in 1911 they made a vital step towards this when, acting on Needham’s advice, Billy Gillespie was brought to the Lane. Born in County Donegal in 1891, Gillespie had played for Derry Institute and Derry Celtic before turning down an offer to sign for Linfield to join Leeds City in 1910 before joining United for £500 the following year. He was spotted by Ernest Needham when he faced him in a reserve match but recalled that

“I didn’t think Needham had been too impressed, for I was getting stuck in, and when he kept saying ‘You’ll get nowhere playing like that, young lad’ I clobbered him all the more. I was surprised when I was told United wanted me”

Needham saw something of himself in the young Irishman and eventually he was moved to Nudger’s old midfield position. In February 1913 he made his first appearance for Ireland and scored both goals in his country’s first win over England and the following season he scored three goals as Ireland won the Home International tournament. As a midfielder his key attributes were his vision and passing ability, able to play long or short with ease.

The team building continued and in 1912 right back Bill Cook joined from north eastern side Hebburn Argyle. Cook had a good footballing brain and hard approach to the game which made up for a lack of speed. A bit of a clown in the dressing room Cook played 324 games for United each of them at right back and two of them in Cup finals.

A charity match played at the Lane between Sheffield and Glasgow, October 21st 1912. Left to right Benson (Utd), Utley (Barnsley), Davison (Wednesday), Reid (Glasgow), Wright (Wednesday), Downs (Barnsley)

For the 1913 - 1914 season United made two more notable signings which left them with a strong side which was capable of matching the best on its day, as such, perhaps better suited to the Cup than the League. Goalkeeper Harold Gough was signed from Midland League side Castleford as back up for regular keeper Ted Hufton but Hufton broke his nose and Gough was given a chance in the first team. In his sixth game he saved a penalty away at Sunderland and held the jersey for the rest of the season. A strong and decisive keeper Gough was capped by England in 1920.

The other new signing played just in front of him, left half George Utley. Utley had captained unfancied Barnsley to FA Cup success in 1912, winning a reply at Bramall Lane, and had been capped for England whilst at Oakwell. His record and reputation for driving midfield play meant that the United board had to stump up a whopping £2,000 and give him an unprecedented five year contract in November 1913. George Waller described the new captain as “a tower of strength, particularly in a Cup tie, and a clever leader of men”.

George Utley

With these two additions the United side built over the previous few years reached maturity. In the League it was much the same drift as before and it was a blow when Wednesday did the League double over United though this was the last occasion on which they did it for more than ninety years. The match at Bramall Lane in October pulled in a crowd of 42,912, a record for Bramall Lane, and gate receipts of £1,192. It was in the Cup that United finally achieved something of note.

Bearing in mind United’s abysmal recent record in the Cup and the fact that their first round opponents, Newcastle United, had won the trophy in 1910 and reached the final in 1905, 1908 and 1911, it is not hard to see why United were such rank outsiders as they faced the Magpies at St James’s Park on January 10th. Jimmy Revill was standing in on the left wing for the injured Bob Evans and was up against one of the most highly rated defenders of the day, Irish international Bill McCracken. Before the match McCracken told Revill that he had made a wasted journey but Revill replied “I've been greased all over today Bill, and you’ll never catch me. I shall give you the biggest doing of your life”.

As it was luck was on United’s side for once as, with United 1-0 up, Newcastle lost their centre forward through injury just before half time. Soon after the break Goodwill, Newcastle’s left half, collided with Brelsford and went off the pitch unconscious. With United 5-0 up against the nine men the home sides’ keeper, Wilson, had to leave the field after a clash with United centre forward Stan Fazackerly. United’s last goal was scored by Jimmy Revill, who had more than delivered on his promise to the bamboozled McCracken.

The second round drew United at home to Bradford Park Avenue and 51,000 turned up, a record for a football match in Sheffield. In fact the crowd was in excess of what the Lane could reasonably hold and fans were crowded onto the cricket pitch. To the Independent this was “stronger proof than we have ever seen before of the disadvantage of the same ground having to be used for football and cricket”. Utley had missed the Newcastle game through injury but gave a classy display which he capped with two goals with another from Jimmy Simmons as the Blades eased through 3-1.

A trip to London followed as United faced a Millwall side managed by Bert Lipsham in the third round on February 21st. Again, Utley was outstanding and found the net twice after Kitchen had put United ahead from the spot after 15 minutes. The long period in between was dominated by a spirited Millwall side and considering that United won 4-0 it is amazing that the excellent Gough was man of the match.

United had not been in the fourth round of the Cup since 1902, the last occasion they had won it, and they were drawn away against Manchester City. Predictably perhaps they were cagey affairs dominated by the defences and two matches finished 0-0. It was only in extra time in the second replay that Jimmy Revill set up Jimmy Simmons for the winner and United were in the semi final.

Tommy Boyle of Burnley tosses up with George Utley before the semi final in Manchester

Unfortunately the match against Burnley at Old Trafford on 28th March 1914 was another fairly tedious, goalless game. United came close when Burnley’s post was rattled and the ball looked to have crossed the line before their keeper scrambled the ball away. One writer commented that “The curse of modern cup football is the belief that defence is not just the best policy but the only policy”. He finished with a dig at Utley; “This is Barnsley playing in red and white stripes”. In the replay at Goodison Park four days later it was Utley’s old Barnsley team mate Tommy Boyle who scored the goal that sent Burnley into the final.

Despite the heavy outlay on players the Cup run had been good business for United. Football had brought in over £17,700 and profits were £3,000 but while the outlook for the football team was bright prospects generally took a dark turn in the summer of 1914. The assassination of an Austrian Duke in Bosnia in June had, by August, led to war.

The outbreak of war was greeted with something approaching euphoria in Sheffield as elsewhere. R A Sparling described the lines of volunteers

“£500 a year business men, stockbrokers, engineers, chemists, metallurgical experts, University and public school men, medical students, journalists, schoolmasters, craftsmen, shop assistants, secretaries, and all sorts of clerks”

The Sheffield Pals drilling at Bramall Lane

These eager, ordinary men were formed into an infantry battalion, the 12th Yorks and Lancs. The wide open spaces of Bramall Lane were eagerly utilised for drilling the battalion but the club soon became concerned about the damage this was doing to the pitch and the ‘Sheffield Pals’ moved to Redmires to the west of the city.

The Pals outside Midland station

There was a widespread belief that the war would be short encapsulated in the famous phrase ‘over by Christmas’. Another phrase, ‘business as usual’, reflected the idea that the war would have very little effect on national life and, controversially, it was decided to persist with the football season. Understandably, with hundreds of thousands of men fighting and dying in the war, there were some who were outraged that able bodied men should be at home earning a living playing football. The Sheffield Telegraph fumed that United and Wednesday were “bringing shame on themselves and the city” by playing while the war in the trenches raged on.

1914 - 1915 was another middle of the road season in the League a huge blow coming in the opening game when Gillespie broke his leg and missed the rest of the season. But as the Cup had proved a real money spinner United chose to focus their efforts there. The Cup campaign kicked off at Blackpool on January 9th. Wally Masterman, Gillespie’s replacement, had such an impressive game that it was dubbed ‘Masterman’s Match’. He gave United the lead before their Second Division opponents equalised. In the second half however, Masterman put paid to a brave effort from the Seasiders who had hit the bar, when he scored the winner. One newspaper commented that “Masterman is rightly named from a football point of view”.

In the fourth round United came up against fellow First Division side Liverpool at the Lane. It was played at a frantic pace but was still goalless after 85 minutes when United sent in a corner and Joe Kitchen rose to head it home. The fifth round match was different; a drab, dour slugfest against Bradford on February 20th. After ninety goalless minutes the match went into extra time and Kitchen, who had been effectively smothered by the Bradford defenders, was shunted out to the right to give him more space. It paid off as he took the ball near the corner flag, advanced towards the goal and knocked the ball into the penalty box. The cross hit the leg of Crozier and deflected into the net giving United the win.

The Blades travelled to Oldham on March 6th for the quarter final but were put under intense pressure by the Latics who were top of the First Division. The Lancashire side hit the post and the game went into extra time but United’s defence held out and earned a replay at Bramall Lane. When the match was played a week later the ground was crammed with 43,157 fans but Oldham were a disappointment and were easily beaten 3-0 as Kitchen kept up his impressive scoring record in the Cup with two goals and Fazackerly added a third.

George Utley leads the Blades out

Confidence was high for the semi final against struggling Bolton at Ewood Park and it brought a crowd of over 22,000. Like the Liverpool game it was a furious end to end affair and Jimmy Simmons broke the deadlock to score for the Blades from a tight angle. Just before the half time whistle,

“Utley was challenged by Glendenning & Jennings, but he coolly and cleverly evaded the attentions of both, and then having run nearly 30 yards, he steadied himself in front of Edmonson and with the utmost deliberation drove the ball into the net. It was a glorious goal, and quite the outstanding feature of the match.”

Bolton pulled a goal back, but the Blades were through to the final where they would face Chelsea.

 Programme for the 1915 Cup final

The final was usually played at Crystal Palace in south London but that ground was being used for war work and so it was moved to Old Trafford. April 24th 1915 was a miserable day in Manchester with thick fog and constant drizzle. One slightly pretentious observer likened the scene to a “Whistlerian Monotone in grey”. The game entered history as the ‘Khaki Cup Final’ as the crowd of 49,557 was full of servicemen, some wounded, who came in their uniforms.

Soldiers watching the final

When Lord Derby arrived he “received a very hearty welcome, which the band, having just concluded a selection, mistook as an appreciation of their efforts”.

“Chelsea were the first to take the field. They were cordially cheered, but the roar which saluted them was as nothing compared with that which greeted Sheffield United a moment or so later”

Utley shakes hands with Chelsea captain Jack Harrow

Despite impressive Cup wins away at Manchester City and Newcastle Chelsea had been poor all season and afterwards one journalist noted that “it was not their day at any time.” United came out at a blistering pace and used the tactic of long passes from one wing to another which had the effect of pulling the Chelsea defence all over the place. The Sunday Pictorial said

“Sheffield United played fast, robust football, keeping the ball always on the move and, as a matter of fact, showing considerably more combination than the Londoners front line”.

Nevertheless, despite all the attacking possession, it was only after 36 minutes that the Blades broke through.

“Nine minutes from the interval, the Sheffielders took the lead, which on the run of play they thoroughly deserved, though it was the result of a ‘mix up’ on the part of the Chelsea defence. Evans bore down the left wing and crossed. Harrow should have cleared but failed. Molyneux had relied on the back, and advanced to try to get the ball. He was too late and Simmons gaining possession sent the leather crashing into the net”.

In the crowd Simmons uncle, Bill Foulke, exclaimed “I didn’t know the little beggar had it in him!”

Ford then Halse mustered a couple of efforts for Chelsea in the remaining minutes of the first half but in the second United were just as dominant and Kitchen had a goal disallowed for offside. Like the first half however, the Chelsea defence held out bravely despite constant pressure until the 83rd minute when

“Utley struck the crossbar with a splendid shot. The ball rebounded to Fazackerly who had just previously enabled Molyneux to make a glorious save by cutting out a header following a corner, and Fazackerly banged it into the net.”

This second goal, scored in the fading light, triggered a pitch invasion which took a few minutes to calm down. When play restarted with only a couple of minutes left, Joe Kitchen rounded the game off with a remarkable goal. He got the ball

“near the half way line and in making a straight dash for goal, he kept Bettridge off, drew Molyneux out of his fortress, and placed the ball in the net after a dribble of 40 yards at least.”

The Chelsea captain admitted that “We lost to the better team on the day. They gave us no rest and little chance”. The Green ‘Un claimed that “if United had won by five goals they would not have been flattered”. The Athletic News said that “United simply brushed Chelsea aside as if they were novices.”

As Lord Derby handed the Cup to Utley he said “you have played against one another for the Cup, play with one another for England now”. Understandably due to the grim situation on the western front the jubilation was not widely shared. On their return to Sheffield the players were ushered out of the station, not through the usual crowd of cheering fans, but through a side door. Charles Clegg was unhappy and claimed that “There has been some talk of disgrace being attached to winning the Cup this year, but I do not hold with that opinion. I take the victory to be an honour to Sheffield.” The Telegraph was optimistic.

“Given the final triumph of the Allies, and the resumption of football next season, there would be no reason whatever why the present United team…should not remain one of the foremost in the League”.

1915 Cup winners

1 comment:

  1. Would You know if there are any photographs of Sheffield United in 1902 with The FA Cup trophy featured