The Original Reds

Chapter 2 – 1885/86

Football was now beginning to get more established in the area, and in October the Cumberland Football Association, which until now had existed purely for the administration of the Rugby game in the county, announced that there were now seven affiliated clubs with teams playing games under Association rules. These being Workington, Carlisle, Wigton, Distington, Arlecdon, Keswick and Parton. In addition, the Association announced plans for both an Association Cup (a County Rugby Cup had been in existence for a number of years) and representative matches against other associations.

Workington had retained most of the players from the previous season, indeed many of the names were to become fixtures in the side for many years, and the club colours were, not surprisingly, red jerseys with either black or dark blue trousers. The fixture list for the season consisted of friendly matches against other clubs within the county, together with matches in the new county cup.

In January the draw was made for the first matches to be played in the County Cup. The County Association announced that there had been five entries, from Workington, Distington, Carlisle, Wigton and Arlecdon. In view of this the obvious thing would to have had one first round match with three clubs given byes to the semi-finals. Strangely, the County FA decided to have two first round matches, Carlisle v Wigton and Reds v Distington, with Arlecdon getting a bye, meaning there would be three semi-finalists!

Reds’ first round match against Distington was played on the 27th February, thus becoming the first ever competitive fixture played by the club. Workington were clear favourites, being the bigger club and playing at home, and duly won by four goals to one (although some reports say the score was actually 6-1!)

With Carlisle beating Wigton in the other first round match, they, the Reds and Arlecdon went into the hat for the semi-final draw. When the draw was made Workington got lucky and received a bye to the final where they would meet either Carlisle or Arlecdon. With Carlisle beating Arlecdon 4-0, the final was arranged for the 27th March at Wigton.

It is fair to say the final was a feisty affair, and ended in total chaos. In fact, the actual result wasn’t known for some weeks after the final whistle had been blown. During the first half Workington’s Harpwood scored what appeared to be a perfectly good goal. Indeed, neither umpire (as was the norm in those days both teams provided one umpire or linesman each) saw anything wrong. The referee however saw it differently and ruled the goal offside. This decision was strongly disputed and argued at the time. Workington did then score an allowed goal (described as ‘being rushed through’, but credited generally to Harpwood) and led 1-0 at half-time. However, Carlisle’s White scored twice in the second half, and at the end of the game Carlisle and the referee believed the score to be 2-1 to Carlisle, with the Reds maintaining they had at least got a 2-2 draw. More than that, they protested immediately after the game that not only was their first ‘goal’ wrongly disallowed, but also the referee had allowed Carlisle’s first goal before they, Carlisle, had appealed (as in cricket) as was required by the rules. Therefore, Workington maintained they had actually won the game 2-1!

An emergency committee meeting held immediately after the game failed to reach a decision. Indeed, a number of County FA Committee meetings held over the next few weeks also failed to resolve the issue, and it was only when Workington eventually decided to withdraw their appeal that Carlisle were declared the winners.

It should be noted, and as will be seen frequently over the next few years, that it was not unusual for clubs to protest results, often for the most spurious of reasons. It was also sadly not unusual for some of the appeals to bizarrely be upheld! Additionally, the Carlisle club the Reds faced in the final had nothing to do with the current Carlisle United club.

Workington’s team in the final was: H. Harrison; A. Guirdham, H. Taylor, W. Leek, L. Kaye, T. Botham, A. Holmes (captain), J. Harpwood, T. Biltcliff, F. Hayes and A. Morewood.

Workington fared better when the County Association selected their representative sides. Initially a trial match was held on the 26th December in which Workington were represented by five of their players (Taylor, Low, Biltcliffe, Guirdham and Holmes). On the 2nd January at Wigton the County team who played against Airdrie (Pains) contained Workington’s Guirdam, Low and Hayes, and on the 10th April the team that played against Furness at Workington contained no less than seven Reds’ players (Harrison, Botham, Kay, Holliday, Biltcliffe, Morewood and Guirdham).

Sadly, apart from the County Cup matches, and in-depth reports of the Association Committee meetings, there was still very little coverage of Association Football in the local press. Friendlies that were known to have taken place that season were:

31/10  Wigton Athletic (Home)  Won 8-5
25/12  Wigton Athletic (Home)
13/03  Whitehaven (Away)  Won 4-1
20/03  Whitehaven (Home) Won 6-2
27/04  Keswick  (Away)  Drew 0-0

Additionally, a match was played against Distington, as well as home and away matches against Barrow (Our Boys).

The match against us on the 31st October was Wigton’s first match following the amalgamation of the Wigton Excelsior (Rugby) and Wigton Athletic (Association) clubs.

Fred Hayes continued to be a virtual ever-present in the team.

To be continued……… 

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