Chapter 22 – 1904/05
At the end of the previous season a number of clubs had left the Lancashire Combination leaving a number of vacancies, and, despite having had their previous application rejected, Workington tried again. This time they were successful and were accepted into the Lancashire Combination’s second division.
As previously, this decision was not universally popular with the other clubs, especially as the league rules actually stated that only clubs based within Lancashire could play in the league. In line with their previous membership of the old Lancashire League, and as a pre-requisite of their playing in the league, Workington were required to pay their opponents travelling expenses. Despite this, there were still grum bles about having to travel to Workington, and indeed, some opponents seemed to relish making things difficult.
The feeling in Cumberland was that the club needed to attract large crowds to balance the books. Only time would tell if the town could make the venture viable, especially as there was an economic and unemployment cloud hanging over West Cumberland at the time.
The Lancashire Combination’s first division was comprised mainly of the reserve sides of Football League clubs, whilst the second division contained mainly small stand-alone clubs. Workington needed to get into the first division as soon as possible in order to attract bigger crowds to more attractive fixtures.
So, after just one season back in the Cumberland League, Workington now faced a big challenge. As their mandatory membership of the County FA required, Workington still had to enter a team in the County League, and also had to play their strongest available team in the County Cup.
A number of new players were signed during the first weeks of the season, the highest profile acquisition being Ernie Cottrell. Cottrell had played for a number of, mainly southern, clubs, including Nottingham Forest, (Woolwich) Arsenal (for who he had scored 12 goals in 24 appearances), Watford and Fulham, before joining Workington from Stockport County, at the age of twenty-six, in October 1904.
After a ‘Reds’ v ‘Whites’ practice match on 27 August, Workington started their season with a home match against Bacup the following Thursday. The line-up being:
Pratt; Campbell, Craig, Cretney, Hurst, Deakin, McCluskey, Riley, Swift, J. Smith and Thompson.
The result was a 2-0 win for the Reds, and they followed this up with draws against Oldham and Skelmersdale; and another win against St Helens. Unbeaten, and with six points from their first four games, this was an excellent start. The first defeat came in their next game, away at Turton.
The FA Cup first qualifying round saw Workington drawn, away, at County Rivals Carlisle United. With no league match scheduled the Reds were able to field their strongest side, but it took two goals from McCann to salvage a two-all draw against their lower-league opponents.
The replay was scheduled for the following week, on October 8. However, as the Reds were required to play a league fixture (which took precedence) at Blackpool that day, it was Workington Reserves who took on Carlisle. As it happens the ‘stiffs’ did better than the first team did the previous week, and emerged winners by 3-1.
In the second qualifying round Workington were again required to travel to Carlisle, having been drawn against Carlisle Red Rose. Once more a league fixture was scheduled on the day of the match, so the Reserves travelled to Carlisle, whilst the first team waited in Workington for the arrival of Newton-le-Willows. On this occasion the Reserves weren’t good enough, and were beaten 4-0. Ironically, Newton-le-Willows failed to turn up, having missed their train connection in Carlisle, so, had they known earlier, the Reds first team could have played in the cup-tie.
In the league Workington continued to impress, especially at home, and were regularly turning in some good performances. However, as always, things didn’t always run smoothly.
On the 17 December Newton-le-Willows did manage to arrive for the re-arranged fixture, but not until thirty minutes after the match should have started! In order to get the match played before night set in, the teams agreed to play the match over just sixty minutes. Workington won by the only goal of the match, scored by Cottrell
At the start of the New Year, Workington had a difficult home match against Hyde St George’s. Up to this point the Reds had been unbeaten at home, having dropped just three points in eight games. Unfortunately, Workington had to play for forty minutes with just ten men until Walton arrived, and, despite a second half goal from Cottrell, Hyde’s two first half goals were enough. This was the Reds only home defeat of the season.
In the County Cup Workington were again drawn against Carlisle United. With no league match scheduled the Reds were able to field their first team in the away first leg. Goals from McCann and Cottrell ensured there was everything to play for in the second leg following a two all draw. Unfortunately the second leg was scheduled for the following week, when Workington had a home league match against Blackpool reserves. Therefore, not only were the reserves required to play Carlisle’s first team, both legs had to be played at Carlisle. Carlisle made no mistake by winning 4-1, and went on to beat Carlisle Red Rose in the final.
On the same day, when Blackpool arrived at Ashfield, they informed the Reds that they would have to leave early to catch their train. Workington agreed, ‘to oblige their visitors’, to reduce the match to just forty minutes each way.
The league campaign ended on 29 April with a high scoring draw against Oldham. Despite the odd heavy defeat, Workington could be more than happy with their efforts in higher company, finishing ninth out of eighteen teams, and with thirty-seven points from their thirty-four games. Dan Hurst, who left the club when the season finished, finished comfortably as top scorer.
Another major departure this season was that of Jonathan ‘Jack’ Cretney. Born in Harrington in 1879, Jack first appeared in a Workington shirt in the Reds first match of their second season in the Lancashire League in September 1902. As a half-back he was an ever-present that season, and remained with the reds for their one season back in the Cumberland League. He was again ever-present, and also played in the opening match of Workington’s first season in the Lancashire Combination. Toward the end of the 1904/05 season Jack was tempted by an offer to sign for Newcastle United. However, his stay in the North-East was extremely brief and, without having appeared in Newcastle’s first team, he moved to Burnley in June. He remained with Burnley until November 2011, making 177 appearances and scoring ten goals. He then played for a number of other clubs before, at some stage, moving to the USA. He died in Alabama, in 1956, aged seventy-seven. Another Burnley connection, and another ex-Workington player to travel the world.
The Reserves had a disastrous season in the Senior League, and, despite there only being six teams, the fixtures remained unfinished. After having two points deducted for fielding an unregistered player in a match against Keswick it was announced, in January, that Workington had resigned from the league. However, they apparently changed their minds and played one more fixture. Having won just one match all season, and losing those two deducted points, Workington finished rock bottom of the table.