Chapter 27 – 1909/10
The close season brought the usual large-scale change in personnel, with ten senior players moving on, many after just one season with the Reds, and thirteen newcomers arriving.
Both of the goal-scoring heroes from the FA Cup campaign, Musgrave and Pickering, were among the departures, with Archie Musgrave getting a taste of league football with Hull City. Others to leave included Duffy, who went to Bradford City after impressing them in the cup tie, Hemphill, Jefferson, Keenan, McGraw, McIntyre, Morrison, and Troughear who went to Sunderland.
Newcomers included Bob Ellis, returning from his spell at Blackburn, George Gane from Bristol Rovers, and McLean and Robertson both from Hamilton.
The transfer of Billy Troughear to Sunderland was very contentious and caused an almighty row. Workington were adamant that Sunderland had made an illegal approach to the player and made an official complaint to the FA to air their grievance. On the 10th September an FA commission met to discuss the case, but, sadly for Workington, they decided that the club’s evidence was ‘contradictory and unsatisfactory’, and dismissed the complaint. However, that wasn’t the end of the matter. Workington then complained that the transfer fee of £70 was too low, with Sunderland making a counter complaint to say it was too high! This was discussed at a league appeals hearing on the 25th February. If Workington felt aggrieved after the first meeting, they must have been apoplectic when this hearing again found in favour of Sunderland, and promptly reduced the fee to just £50!
Before the season started, numerous players (some whom were never heard of again) took part in a series of three ‘Reds v Whites’ trial matches. Although the club would no doubt have loved to keep the gate money from these matches, the rules meant that the thirty pounds and two shillings raised had to be given to charity.
The Combination first division again consisted of twenty clubs, with Manchester City Reserves, Chorley, St Helens Town and Hyde being promoted to replace relegated Darwen, Rossendale, Blackpool Reserves and Atherton. Reds Reserves continued to play in the seventeen team North-Eastern League.
The opening Combination match took place on the 4th September, with a home match against Hyde. Reds 3-2 defeat unfortunately set the tone for the first half of the season, with just three wins being obtained from the fifteen league matches played before the turn of the year.
Workington’s line-up in the opener against Hyde, in which Gallacher and McKinlay scored for the Reds, was:
Callis; Ellis, Gallacher, Gane, McCallum, McKinlay, McLean, Robertson, Robson, Stone and Swan.
The club must have felt that, in light of the Troughear affair, the world was against them. This was compounded when, despite the club reaching the FA Cup first round proper the previous season, they were forced to start this season’s campaign in the first preliminary round!
The draw gave Workington a home tie against Wigton Harriers, which was a far cry from playing in front of a crowd of twelve thousand at Bradford in their last FA Cup match. However, a professional performance saw the Reds progress by winning 4-0.
The next round involved another home match against Barrow St Lukes. However, the week before the game the club was to make a surprising statement.
On the 24th September Workington announced that they had reached an agreement with the owners of Lonsdale Park, and that the club would be moving from Ashfield and taking over the tenancy of their new home within weeks. The first match at Lonsdale Park would be the league game against Preston North End Reserves on the 9th October.
Before the opening match at Lonsdale Park the club played their next cup tie, which was the last first team game to be played at Ashfield. Barrow St Lukes had actually been drawn at home but opted to play at Workington in exchange for a higher percentage of the takings. Hat-tricks from both McKinlay and McCallum, together with goals from Robertson and an unfortunate Barrow defender, saw the Reds comfortably through to the next round. The attendance for the farewell to Ashfield was given as just over a thousand.
Sadly, the opening match at Lonsdale Park was a bit of disappointment. The attendance of 3,173 was lower than anticipated, and the ‘Star’ correspondent described the ground as being ‘a bit rough’. Workington had chances to win, but fluffed their lines when Swan missed a second half penalty, so the game ended goal-less.
The match did however produce the first mention of an official Workington home programme. It is believed that, previously, team-sheets may have been produced, together with a board at the ground showing the teams. However, this was the first official programme. Priced at one penny, it ‘will show the teams, referee, and key to the half-time scoreboard’. If anyone has a copy, I will gladly take it off their hands in exchange for my right leg!
The second FA Cup qualifying round saw Workington just scrape home, 2-1, at Barrow, thanks to a goal from Garland and a Robertson penalty.
The next scheduled match at Lonsdale Park was to be the much anticipated ‘derby’ against Carlisle United on the 23rd October. However, a spell of heavy rain left parts of the pitch waterlogged. The referee took one look and postponed the game. Unfortunately, in yet another blow for the club, the league fined Workington £25 for making insufficient effort to make the pitch playable.
The next round of the cup required Workington to travel to Penrith on the 6th November. This was a problem as the Reds were due to be at Preston that day for the return league match, and league matches took precedence. Faced with having to play the reserves in the cup, Workington managed to come to an agreement with Penrith, and the cup-tie was played on the previous Thursday. A 6-0 win made the effort worthwhile.
The fourth qualifying round gave Workington a home tie against North-Eastern League side, Seaham Harbour. Sadly, another small crowd turned up at Lonsdale Park to witness Workington win 3-1.
This gave the club an away draw in the next round, against Tunbridge Wells Rangers from Kent. For a club who, until a few years previously, had rarely ventured outside of Cumberland, Kent must have seemed like the other side of the world. As it happened, they were spared the trip as Tunbridge Wells accepted Workington’s offer of £70 to switch the tie to Lonsdale Park. The club were banking on a big crowd to make this a worthwhile move. Sadly, only just over three thousand turned up, which meant that Workington actually lost money! The good news though was that a 6-0 win saw Workington, after fighting through six qualifying rounds, reach the FA Cup First Round for the second year in a row.
On the 8th January Middlesbrough Reserves arrived at Lonsdale Park for a North-Eastern League fixture against the Reds Reserve side. Middlesbrough fielded a star-studded team, which included both Steve Bloomer and Alf Common. Bloomer was one of the first footballing superstars. He scored 240 goals in 376 appearances for Derby County, before moving to Middlesbrough, where he scored 59 goals in 125 appearances. In 1910 he returned to Derby, scoring another 53 goals in 98 appearances. He retired from professional football in 1914 aged forty. He also made twenty-three appearances for England (and another fifteen for the Football League), at a time when only three internationals were played each year. Common played for Sunderland (twice), Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Woolwich Arsenal and Preston North End between 1900 and 1913, scoring 124 goals in 388 appearances. He also won three caps for England, and one for the Football League. Alf Common also made history when, in 1905, Middlesbrough paid Sunderland £1,000 for his signature, which was a, then, world record transfer fee.
Workington’s hopes of a bumper attendance to see these players was ruined by atrocious weather. The few that did attend saw Steve Bloomer score one of Middlesbrough’s goals in a 5-3 win.
Workington’s reward for reaching the First Round of the FA Cup was a home tie against Manchester City, who, that season, were destined to become champions of the Football League Second Division. The Manchester club offered Workington £250, a huge sum, to switch the tie to Manchester, which must have been tempting. However, they decided not to accept the offer, and the match took place, at Lonsdale Park, on the 15th January, before a crowd of 5,233. Typically, a strong wind, and the rain coming down in torrents, limited the crowd to half of what was expected.
Workington lined up:
Carter: Robson, Gane, Waite, Gallacher, Swan, Garland, McLean, McNairn, Robertson, McCallum.
After eighteen minutes, and following a scrum in the Workington goalmouth, Wynn slipped the ball past Carter to give the visitors the lead. Workington were giving as good as they got and had a number of chances. Eventually, four minutes from the break, they were awarded a penalty. Swan scored from the spot, making the score at half-time one all. In the second half, despite giving everything they had, Workington began to tire on the heavy pitch. Eventually, after sixty-five minutes, City regained the lead when Wynn scored his second. This turned out to be the winner, and, despite a heroic performance against clearly better players, Workington had lost 2-1.
The Workington Star said:
‘It was a capital game, and Workington were not by any means disgraced. It is to be hoped that now the public will show their appreciation of the Directors in playing the match here by rallying heartily around them for the remainder of the season, and assisting them financially to their utmost extent. They need it!’
On the same day as Workington were losing to Manchester City, the Reserves were losing 7-1 at West Stanley in the North-Eastern League. Two weeks later West Stanley came to Workington for the return fixture. Unfortunately, whilst the Stanley players arrived safely, their kit didn’t! They had to rush round, borrowing and buying stuff, in order to take the field, albeit in a variety of different colours and styles of clothing. The one thing they couldn’t get was football boots, and they ended up playing in their normal shoes! It was hardly surprising that a fully kitted out Workington Reserves won, by nine goal to two. This was one of only seven North-Eastern League games they were to win all season.
Results wise, the second half of the season was an improvement on the first. However, goalscoring was a problem, with the Reds not having adequately replaced the high-scoring forwards of recent seasons. As a result, the decision was made to try a young local lad, Jon Woods, at centre-forward. Woods had been playing for the Reserves, and a week after scoring five times in the aforementioned match against West Stanley, he was given his first team debut, at Lonsdale Park, against Manchester City Reserves. It turned out to be a good move, as Woods scored twice in a 3-0 win. However, it was to get better for young Jon, and the following week, in the return at Manchester, he scored no less than four times. He followed this up with a hat-trick at home to Liverpool, and then another goal in the next match against Accrington. Ten goals in your first four senior games! It doesn’t get better than that.
It was typical of Workington’s fortunes that Woods then picked up an injury which caused him to miss virtually the whole of the rest of the season. He did return, and scored twice, in the last match against Oldham Athletic, and ended the season as the Reds top league scorer with thirteen goals from just ten matches.
Once again, the format of the County Cup gave Workington a bye to the semi-finals, where the Reserves comfortably saw off Threlkeld 5-0. With Carlisle United also having got through, arrangements were made for both of the respective first teams to meet in the final.
The final took place on the 9th April, and was held at Whitehaven. A goal from Robertson in the eightieth minute equalised an earlier Makin goal for Carlisle, meaning that a replay was required. The second match took place at Lonsdale Park two weeks later, and, after ninety minutes, the sides could still not be separated. However, Workington scored twice in extra-time to ensure that they would end the season with something tangible to show for their efforts.
Workington fielded the following side in both games:
Carter; Robson, Gane, Ellis, Waite, Swan, Garland, Robertson, McNairn, McCallum and Laycock.
The season ended with the first team in 12th place in the league, with thirty-six points from their thirty-eight games. Everton Reserves were the Champions, for the third season running.
The Reserves had a difficult season in the North-Eastern League, finishing next to bottom. Spennymoor United were Champions. The end of the season for Workington was chaotic, with a lack of players, and having to play nine games in the last few weeks. They reached rock bottom in the away match at Hartlepools United, where not only were they hammered 12-0, they were also fined a guinea for only having ten men!
On the field, as far as the first team goes, things hadn’t been too bad. A comfortable mid-table finish, an excellent run in the FA Cup, and the County Cup to put on the sideboard. However, off the field, things were far different. There was no disguising the fact that the club were in serious financial difficulties. They had certainly had no luck, with everything, including the weather, and everyone, seeming to conspire against them. However, the stark fact was that the outgoings were far exceeding the incomings. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that, unless something miraculous happened, things were only going to end one way.
At the last home match of the season the club distributed voting papers to the supporters, seeking their views on the club continuing to play in the Lancashire Combination. If they left, would the supporters continue to pay the same money to watch a lower standard of football?