The Original Reds

Chapter 10 – 1893/94

A number of players had left the club over the summer. However, one player who was to join the Reds toward the end of the new season was already a well-known name in local football. Harry Landells had previously played against Workington in two County Cup Finals, for Distington (as captain) in 1889, and for Frizington Rovers in 1891, for whom he had scored a consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat. He was to play for Workington for seven years, and gain the unique record of playing in County Cup Finals for three different clubs.

The fourth, and final, season of the Association League saw Distington drop out, but Carlisle City and Cockermouth Crusaders join. This meant that there were now seven teams taking part. Once again it appears that not all fixtures were completed, but from the results of those matches that did take place, and in the absence of a final league table, it seems that at the end of the season Workington were champions once again.

One innovation introduced by the Cumberland Association was the purchase of a number of sets of goal nets. These were to be used for the first time in some, but not all, matches during the season.

Workington were to meet town rivals Moss Bay Exchange four times in competitive matches during the season, but the first meeting was the season opening friendly, at Moss Bay’s ground, on the 9th September. It was hardly an auspicious start as the Reds were on the wrong end of a 6-0 hammering. With regular Tom Brown injured, reserve keeper Blackburn took his place in goal and, with glorious understatement, was said by the local paper to ‘not have excelled’.

Workington lined up:

Blackburn: Beddard, Brannan, Burrows, Claridge, Croall, Durnion, Guirdham, Hawkins, Murray and Waite.

The Reds got their act together for the start of the league campaign, winning their first three matches, against Black Diamonds (5-0), Frizington Rovers (2-1) and Black Diamonds again (6-4). However, searching for their best side, no fewer than 16 players were used in those three matches, with several newcomers being tried alongside regulars Clarridge, Durnion, Guirdham, McLuckie and Waite.

In the first qualifying round of the FA Cup Workington were drawn at home against a club called Higher Walton. However the match never took place as their opponents withdrew, giving the Reds a bye to the next round, where they were again required to travel to the Lancashire coast to play Southport Central. Workington’s dismal record in the national cup competition continued as they returned home having been beaten 5-1.

There was a severe storm in November which caused a lot of damage across the area, including ripping off a large part of the grandstand roof at Workington’s Ashfield ground.

After surprisingly dropping a rare league point in a high scoring draw at Carlisle City, Workington made easy work of winning their next four league matches, scoring twenty-one goals and conceding just three in the process, as they reached Christmas comfortably ahead of their rivals. The press did report an amusing incident that took place in the home match with Carlisle in late November. Due to bad weather the sides agreed to play just twenty-five minutes each way. However, after Workington had gone three-nil up, the Carlisle captain asked both the Reds and the referee if the match could be stopped and declared a draw! Workington declined, and went on to win 5-0.

There was a shock in store at the start of the New Year, with the Reds first dropping another point, this time at Keswick, before again having six put past them by Moss Bay. Although this was their only league defeat, it didn’t bode well for the County Cup campaign that was about to start.

In the first round of the cup Workington demolished an extremely weak Keekle side to the tune of 12-1. This took them through to meet League rivals Carlisle City in the second round.

Despite being drawn at home, Workington failed to make that advantage count, and by all accounts were lucky to get away with a draw. The replay was to take place at Carlisle the following week.

Sadly, and tragically not for the last time at Carlisle, the match was marred by crowd trouble, with various objects being thrown and spectators encroaching on the pitch. Despite goals by Burrows and Clarridge for Workington, Carlisle won 4-2. Or thought they had! It came as no great surprise when Workington protested the result. However, the grounds for the appeal were not in connection with the crowd trouble, but on the basis that the goal posts were too short!  An emergency Association committee meeting ruled in Workington’s favour, and ordered the match to be replayed the following week at Keswick.

Workington fared no better in the replay, and lost again by the odd goal in seven. However, still not satisfied, they appealed again. This time on the basis that Carlisle had fielded a suspended player! Once again a formal meeting discussed the matter, and found in Carlisle’s favour. Workington were out, not even having reached the semi-final.

The league having finished, and being out of the cup, the next few weeks involved playing the usual friendlies, with varying success, until the start of a new tournament in April.

With there now being three senior clubs in Workington, Moss Bay Exchange, Black Diamonds and the Reds, the decision was taken to introduce a Town Championship, which would also include a fourth local team (Imperial Rovers or Distington) to make up the numbers. The format was to be two semi-finals and a final, with the eventual winner then playing a further match against a Select X1 made up of players from the other three teams. The rules of the competition stated that only players living in the town were eligible to play.

Workington were drawn against Imperial Rovers in the first semi-final, held on the Moss Bay ground on April 14th. Goals from Guirdham (2), Jones, Claridge and Landells saw the Reds through comfortably to the final, where they were, once again, to meet Moss Bay.

The final took place the following week on Workington’s Ashfield ground, and was a feisty affair. Although the match ended goalless there was plenty of action off the ball, and this resulted in the first recorded sending off of a Reds player when Swift received his marching orders. The replay took place at Moss Bay the following Thursday, and, in a calmer match, Workington won to claim their second championship of the season.

Two days later the match billed as ‘Workington, the medal competition winners, against the rest of Workington’ took place, and ended in a 3-3 draw.

In a hectic end to the season, the final match took place, with yet another friendly against Moss Bay, on the 30th April, and also ended in a 3-3 draw. 

During the course of the season six Workington players gained representative honours for the county, with Tom Brown and Burrows facing Cheshire in October, and Waite, Hawkins, Clarridge, Durnion and Brown again, facing Northumberland in December.

At the end of the season a number of regulars left the club, including Croall (who transferred to Imperial Rovers), Durnion, Hawkins and McLuckie. 

McLuckie, a full-back, is a player who provides a direct link, through Phil McLuckie, to the current Workington AFC. He had been with the club since 1887, had captained the side, and played in four cup finals, only missing out on a fifth through injury. He never obtained representative honours for Cumberland, as only players born in the county were eligible for selection. I will give fuller details of his life and career in a future article.

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