The Original Reds

Chapter 25 – 1907/08

Having gained promotion to the Lancashire Combination first division, Workington had an attack of common sense. Although they still maintained their membership of the North-Eastern League, they at least officially entered their reserve side in that competition. In addition, they received permission from the Football Association to withdraw from the Cumberland County League, although they were still required to enter the County Cup.

There is no doubt that Workington were taking a step up with regards to the class of opposition they were now going to face, with the likes of the reserve sides of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton all being in the first division.

There were the usual changes in personnel, and, in the close season, Farrant, after just one season, went to Luton, McCann was released, and Place, Graham (surprisingly) and Richards also left. 

Another player to go was Jon Morley. This was a strange one. Morley joined the Reds, from Carlisle Red Rose, toward the end of the 1904/05 season, and played in the final eight games of the season. Despite this, he only played a couple of games the following season, and in 1906/07 he only played five first team games, spending most of his time in the reserves. Nevertheless, at the end of the season, Sunderland had seen something in him, and obtained the signature of the twenty-three-year-old outside right. He only spent one season at Sunderland before moving (inevitably!) to Burnley, where he played in ninety-six games over four seasons, scoring fifteen goals. He then spent another four seasons with Preston, scoring fifteen goals in ninety-four appearances, before, aged thirty, his career was ended by the outbreak of the first world war. Probably one that got away as far as Workington were concerned.

To replace those that had left, and to bring in good quality players for the challenges ahead, no less than thirteen new players were signed before the start of the season, and another significant one shortly afterwards. These included:

George Dodd – a 21-year-old winger from Stockport County.
Bob Ellis – an inside right from Scottish club Vale of Leven
John Lawrie – an outside right from Partick Thistle
Tom Shufflebotham – a twenty-six-year-old centre half from Rotherham Town
Tom Stokes – an inside left, also from Stockport County
Andrew Swan – a forward from Blackpool
W.B. ‘Billy’ Troughear – a 23-year-old Workington lad signed from local club Marsh Mission.

The season opened on the 5th September, with a home game against Everton reserves. As Everton were the eventual champions, a one-all draw wasn’t a bad start. Workington’s goal was scored by Bob Ellis, and the line-up was:

Stewart: Brown, Hood, Robertson, Sellman, A. Smith, Dodd, Ellis, Pearson, Swan and Lawrie

It took some time for the team to settle into a higher standard of football as, despite thumping both Earlestown (6-1) and Atherton (5-0), they won just the two of their opening seven league games. This included a six-nil defeat at the hands of Preston North End.

John Graham and Jim McCann, who had both been released at the end of the previous season, were re-signed to give depth to the squad, although both played mainly in the North-Eastern League side.

After not taking part in the FA Cup the previous season, the Reds entered this season’s competition in the first qualifying round, with a home tie against league rivals Barrow. A Robertson hat-trick, plus two from Pearson and another from Dodd, gave Workington an impressive 6-2 win, and a place in the next round.

In the second qualifying round the Reds were given a home tie against Cumberland County League side Moresby Parks. Despite Robertson missing a penalty, Workington went through 3-1.

The next round saw Cumberland’s big two, Workington and Carlisle United, drawn to play each other, with the match to take place at Ashfield. The two clubs had both been promoted the previous season, and both were to do well in the higher league. The match was described as ‘one of the best exhibitions to have been seen on the Ashfield ground for some time’. Chances were made at both ends, and both keepers excelled themselves. Sadly, Bob Ellis’s two goals were not quite enough, and Carlisle won by the odd goal in five.

Returning to the league, the Reds hit a purple patch. Starting with a 3-0 win at home against Chorley in November, they went on a run that saw them lose just three of the next twenty-four league games. This rocketed them up the table, and gave them a realistic chance of actually winning the league.

A number of changes were made, with regular starter George Dodd leaving for Notts County in December, and Tom Shufflebotham moving on to Lincoln City.

The Reds were still having problems with penalties, and after Duffy managed to miss two in the same match against Chorley, the next one was entrusted to the goalkeeper! Stewart showed the others how it should be done and promptly scored in the return match against the same opponents. In total, throughout the season, Workington missed six of the eleven penalties they were awarded.

At the home match against Oldham Athletic in November the Workington players wore black armbands in memory of ex-player Lister Kaye, who had recently passed away. Kaye was another pioneering legend of the club who had been there from the very start. He played in the first recorded match the club played in 1885 and was still turning out (often as an emergency goalkeeper) ten years later. His last recorded appearance being in a friendly against Imperial Rovers in October 1895. He captained the club in the 1886/87 season and won five County Cup Winners medals (only missing out in 1892 because of injury), two Association League Winners medals, and one Senior League winners medal. In addition, he represented, and captained, the County Representative side on numerous occasions. Another club stalwart who deserves his place in the hall of fame.

A strange incident occurred on Christmas day, during an away match at Accrington. Workington were in the middle of their excellent run and, despite losing at Liverpool a few days before, were expected to come away with at least a point. In fact, they lost 4-0, their second heaviest defeat of the season. However, it was the antics of Workington goalkeeper Stewart that was the talking point after the match, with contemporary reports describing his behaviour before, during, and after the game as ‘strange’. Reading between the lines I think it was clear that he had been enjoying Christmas a bit too much! It would probably have been best to have said nothing, but the club decided, a few days later, to make a public statement saying that Stewart hadn’t in fact been drunk as had been suggested, he was just a bit under the weather. The fact that Stewart was then dropped, and never played for the first team again, probably tells its own story!

Even though the side were performing brilliantly, the attendances at Ashfield continued to be disappointing, and most weeks fell below the level required for the club to break even, let alone show a profit.

By the end of March, the club were in second place in the league and still in a position to challenge Everton for the title. Although not scoring as prolifically as in the previous two seasons, defensively they were very solid, with Callis proving a more than capable replacement for Stewart in goal.

The turning point of the season came when, following the home match against Preston North End in March, it was announced that top scorer and fan’s favourite, Harry Pearson, had been transferred to Bury. Since arriving at the club in October 1905 Pearson had scored sixty goals in just ninety-four appearances and had been top scorer every season. The fact that he was allowed to leave without a replacement having been recruited was seen as a huge mistake. Without Pearson, only six goals were scored in the final eight league matches.

In April, Workington’s first team played Carlisle United twice in two days, in different competitions, fielding the same eleven players in both games. On Easter Monday the reserves were playing Wigton in the County Cup Final replay, so the entire first team were fielded against Carlisle reserves in a North-Eastern League match. The following day the same team played Carlisle’s first team in a Lancashire Combination match. Both matches took place at Ashfield, with the Reds beating Carlisle reserves 2-1, but losing 2-0 to their first team twenty-four hours later.

Following Harry Pearson’s departure, the season ended in disappointment, with no wins, and just three points, from the final seven games. The club still managed to finish third, six points behind Carlisle and eleven behind champions Everton, which was excellent, but it could have been even better.

Harry Pearson and Tom Stokes finished joint top scorers, with eleven goals each.

The reserves finished eleventh out of twenty-four in the North-Eastern League. They also had issues with penalties, missing three in their first four matches. Taking the lead from the first team, goalkeeper Callis took the next one, and scored against Leeds City. Opposing teams still hadn’t totally grasped the train timetable, and, in November, Shildon became the latest team to miss their connection at Carlisle and fail to arrive.

The North-Eastern League side were used throughout the successful County Cup campaign. After knocking out Carlisle United (in a replay) and Penrith, they faced Wigton Harriers in the final. After a 3-3 draw in the first match, the Reds won the replay easily 6-0. Both matches took place at Maryport.

Overall, it had been a very successful season on the pitch. Off the pitch things weren’t looking so good.

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