Chapter 16 – 1898/99
Workington entered the new season without the services of the now retired Harry Landells.
In common with many other families, the Landells had moved to the area in search of work, and his father had found employment at the Distington Iron Works. Before joining Workington, toward the end of the 1893/94 season, Harry had already had a decent career with a number of other clubs, starting with Distington. In 1889 he had been the captain of the Distington team that had surprisingly reached the County Cup Final before losing to the all-conquering Workington side. He then joined Frizington Rovers and helped them to reach the 1891 final. In the semi-final the Rovers had demolished Harry’s old Distington team 9-1, with Harry getting two of the goals. He scored another in the final, again against Workington, but once more finished on the losing side. He was made Workington’s club captain for the 1895/96 season, and eventually got his hands on a Cup Winners medal, skippering the side to a 2-0 replay win over Carlisle City. He was captain again the following season and suffered with the rest of the team in the disgraceful scenes at Carlisle that ended with a team-mate’s death.
During his time with the Reds Harry won three league titles, three town championships and two County cups, as well as representing the county on a number of occasions. He was to make one more competitive appearance for the Reds, in unusual circumstances, some two years after retiring.
Unsurprisingly Harrington did not feature in the Senior League, reducing the number of participating clubs to just five.
Workington opened their league season on 10th September with an eight-one stroll, at home, to Keswick, with Claridge helping himself to a hat-trick. Dawson took the place of the suspended McGuirk in goal.
The team for the opening match was:
Dawson: Brown, Claridge, Clark, George, Harwood, J. Smith, R. Smith, Swift, Waite and Wildgoose.
The following week, as reigning champions, the Reds took on the Rest of the League, at Ashfield, in the annual match staged to raise funds for the Association. Waite scored Workington’s goal in a 2-1 defeat, with a missed penalty by George denying them a draw.
The FA Cup campaign opened on the 24th September, with a home first qualifying round tie against Rossendale United. Two goals from Wilkinson, and a third from Waite, saw Workington through to the next round.
Before the next round Workington had a home friendly against a club they would go on to become very acquainted with over the years. That club was called Shaddongate, who, in May 1904, were to change their name to Carlisle United. This, the first meeting between the clubs, ended in a comfortable three-nil win for the Reds.
On the 15th October Workington travelled to Hindley, near Wigan, for their second qualifying round FA Cup match. Despite having spent half a day on a train to get there, Workington put in a great performance, and beat the locals 4-2. However, despite having won the game, Workington complained that Hindley’s pitch was too short. The powers-that-be agreed, and ordered the match to be replayed, the following week, at Workington. Only Workington could lodge an appeal after winning a match!
Before the replay could take place, Workington had to face Black Diamonds in the opening fixture of the Town Championship. For the second time that season the Reds overwhelmed the opposition to the tune of 8-1, with Robert Smith getting four of the goals.
Next up were Hindley in the replayed FA Cup tie. It could have been embarrassing had they lost, but luckily they won, 4-0, thanks to goals from J.Smith (2), Claridge and George.
In the next round Workington again had to travel to the Wigan area, having been drawn away to Chorley. Sadly, this time they were on the wrong end of a 5-1 score line.
Returning to League action, Workington maintained their one hundred per cent record by winning their next four games on the trot, including another eight-goal blast against Black Diamonds.
It was clear that, with both sides having won all of their matches, the destiny of the league title would rest between Workington and Frizington White Star. The sides were now due to meet, at Frizington, in their next match.
It had been reported that a number of Workington players had been regularly watched by scouts from bigger clubs, with Liverpool’s name being mentioned often. Eventually, in November, three players did leave, but not to the expected destination. George, Wildgoose and James Smith all went on trial to Wales with Ebbw Vale!
So, when Workington went to Frizington for the crucial league match, they were missing three of their senior players. To make things worse they were also without long serving player, and top scorer, Claridge, who decided to stay in Workington and play in a Rugby Union match instead! To add to their woes, the Reds lost two players during the match to injury, and ended the ninety minutes with nine men and a 6-3 defeat.
The Reds penultimate league match, in January, was the return against Black Diamonds. George had now returned from his trial at Ebbw Vale, and scored twice in a 5-1 win. This meant that everything was set up for their final match, at home to Frizington on the 11th February, to be the virtual title decider.
Frizington had a hundred percent record, having won all of their matches, whilst Workington had dropped just the two points, when they were forced to field an under-strength team in the first meeting between the sides. A Workington win would mean that Frizington would then have to win their final two matches, against Keswick and Moss Bay, to catch the Reds.
Both Smith and Wildgoose had also now returned, meaning that both sides were at full strength. The game started at a fast pace, and in front of a ‘large crowd that was full of enthusiasm’. There were chances for both sides before, after thirty minutes, Cadwell put Frizington in the lead. They then hit the post twice, and Workington were lucky to reach half-time only being one down. In the second half Frizington played with three full-backs, and, according to reports, indulged in time-wasting tactics. Harwood eventually equalised with fifteen minutes left, and both sides then had chances to win. However, there was no further scoring, and the match finished in a one all draw.
Frizington duly won their last two matches, and were crowned league champions for the first time, finishing three points ahead of Workington.
For the second year running Workington were drawn against Blencathra Rovers in the County Cup. The first leg was at Blencathra, and, for whatever reason, at kick-off time the Reds only had eight players! Better opposition may well have taken advantage, but Workington still managed to win 5-0. Blencathra fared no better the following week, and an 8-0 second leg win, in which even goalkeeper McGuirk scored, saw Workington through to the semi-finals by a massive thirteen- nil on aggregate. The Reds even managed to miss two penalties in the second leg.
By the time Workington were due to meet Keswick in the County Cup semi-final they had already played three of their four Town Championship fixtures. Wins over Black Diamonds, twice, and Moss Bay, coupled with the results between those two teams, meant that whatever happened in their final fixture, at home to Moss Bay, Workington would retain the trophy.
The semi-final against Keswick, who Workington had already beaten twice in the league, took place on Carlisle City’s ground on the 25th February. The press reports suggest that Workington weren’t overly extended, and goals from Claridge, George, and an unfortunate Keswick defender, gave them a 3-0 win.
The Final, on the 25th March, saw the two best teams in the League, Workington and Frizington White Star, pitted against each other at Whitehaven. Unfortunately, what should have been a showcase for football in Cumberland turned into an absolute farce.
The weather on the day of the match was awful, and heavy rain had been falling for hours. Both teams complained that not only had the pitch markings been washed away, but the goalposts weren’t even in the right place! Frizington were also miffed by the fact that Workington turned up late (not for the first time!), leaving them waiting, changed, outside the pavilion.
Despite the weather, and the pitch being covered in pools of water, the referee decided it was fit to play, and the match started in front of ‘only about five hundred onlookers’. Within a matter of minutes, Frizington, playing with the wind, took the lead with a penalty. Workington pulled themselves together and equalised, through Claridge, before half-time. The second half was fairly even, with both sides having chances. Workington took the lead when Harwood capitalised on a mistake by the White Star keeper, and that turned out to be the winner.
The Workington team in the final was:
McGuirk: Dawson, Brown, Swift, McClure, Wildgoose, Claridge, Harwood, George, Wilkinson and J.Smith.
Nobody was surprised when, following an Association committee meeting, the match was ordered to be replayed, again at Whitehaven, on the 15th April. Sadly, the weather on that day was no better (and the goalposts were still in the wrong position!), so another date had to be found. The committee decided on the 26th April, and this time the venue was to be at Cleator.
For some reason the Executive Committee then changed the venue from Cleator to Keswick, and that’s when the problems began. What happened next was described by the West Cumberland Times;
‘Frizington objected to go to Keswick, preferring to play at Cleator, and in view of the decision of the Association, the White Star representative at the meeting threatened that there would be no cup final. On Tuesday (four days before the match), the secretary of the Cumberland Association received a telegram from Frizington stating that they would not go to Keswick, and correspondence from the secretary did not alter their decision. Preparations were, however, made at Keswick for the match. Workington arrived, and the spectators also appeared, the latter in ignorance until the last moment of what had happened behind the scenes. An emissary was carefully placed to watch the trains on the off chance of Frizington’s arrival, and when it was made abundantly clear that it was not possible for the White Star team to come in anything like reasonable time, the officials of the Association decided to take the spectator’s gate money for a friendly match between Workington and a scratch Keswick team.’
The fall-out from all of this was that Frizington were thrown out of the competition, fined £10 (a lot of money in those days), and Workington were awarded the cup. It is still not known if, in view of the original match being ordered to be re-played, it should actually count as a final!
Frizington initially refused to pay the fine, but eventually relented. When they did agree to pay, at an Association Committee meeting in November, the Frizington representative asked that, in return for paying the fine, could they please have the Cup Runners-up medals! In reply the Committee Chairman said – ‘If a man does not turn up to run a race, he cannot then expect to claim the second prize!’ Frizington’s request was refused.
Football really was different in those days.