The Original Reds

Chapter 26 – 1908/09

It didn’t take long for the Workington side that had done so well to finish third in their first season after promotion, to break up. In fact, by the time the new season had started, no less than eight of the side that had finished the season had moved on, leaving just Callis, Duffy and Troughear remaining from the starting eleven. Joe Cassidy had retired at the age of thirty-five, Bob Ellis and John Lawrie had both gone to Blackburn Rovers, Graham, Hood, Smith, Swan and Robertson had all been released.

To replace the departed players the club made ten new signings, but it was clear that the new men did not have the pedigree of the ones that had left, and none had top-flight playing experience. However, two of the new players, Musgrave from Wigton and Pickering from Carlisle, would have a considerable impact during a remarkable run in the FA Cup.

The first sight the Workington supporters had of the new players was in August, when two public trial matches were held. The verdict of the press was that ‘none of the new players assembled by the club impressed in any way’, which didn’t bode well, but, on the plus side, £34 was raised for charity.

The Lancashire Combination Division One still consisted of twenty teams, with promoted Blackburn Rovers Reserves, Burnley Reserves, Colne and Nelson, taking the place of relegated Manchester City Reserves, Chorley, Earlestown and Barrow.

Workington Reserves remained in the North-Eastern League, which had expanded rapidly and now consisted of eighteen teams. 

The Reds opened their Combination campaign with a home match against Blackburn Rovers on the 3rd September. A ‘disappointingly small crowd’ witnessed an entertaining game, with the sides sharing six goals.  Newcomers, McGraw (from Hamilton) with two, and Pickering, scored for Workington, who lined up like this:

Callis: Duffy, Troughear, Gallacher, Little, McIntyre, McMillan, Garland, McGraw, Pickering and Wallace.

Up until the new year Workington’s form was erratic, with some big wins (5-0 v Accrington, 5-2 v Blackpool and Atherton), and some heavy defeats (3-6 v Preston and 0-5 v Rossendale). However, the big story of the first half of the season revolved around the FA Cup.

In the first qualifying round the Reds were drawn at home against Barrow Novocastrians. The Reds were far too good for the ex-pat Geordies, and Musgrave, McGraw and Pickering all scored hat-tricks in a 9-0 win.

The next round saw Workington drawn away against Hindpool Athletic, who were also from Barrow. As often happened, Hindpool gave up home advantage for a share of a bigger gate at Ashfield. Once again, the Reds demolished their guests, this time scoring eleven goals without reply. Musgrave added to his first-round hat-trick by scoring no less than six times!

The 3rd Qualifying Round gave Workington another home tie, this time against Lancaster from the Combination second division. Another rampant performance, with Pickering scoring four times, saw the Reds win 8-0. This meant that they had scored an amazing twenty-eight goals in three matches, with Musgrave getting ten of them and Pickering nine.

Next up were South Shields Adelaide from the North Eastern League. South Shields comfortably did the double over Workington Reserves during the season, but they were no match for the Reds first team. Even without the injured Pickering, another Musgrave hat-trick, plus one from McMillan, saw Workington win 4-1, and take their tally up to thirty-two goals in four matches. At least the opposition scored this time.

Workington were now in with the big boys. The next round saw them drawn, at home, against Crewe Alexandra who, at the time, were in first place in the strong Birmingham and District League. Another tremendous performance saw Workington obtain a famous scalp by beating the Railwaymen 4-1. Musgrave scored another two, giving him a total of fifteen goals in five cup matches.

Workington had now made history by reaching the FA Cup proper, and their reward was a First Round home tie against Football League First Division side Bradford City. This was, without a doubt, the biggest game in the club’s history. Although they received criticism for doing so, Workington opted to play the tie at Bradford. In reality, the attendance at Bradford was going to be far higher than if the match had been played at Ashfield, and you couldn’t really blame the club, in their financial position, for cashing in.

The game took place at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground on the 16th January. Workington put out their strongest team, and they were cheered on by a sizeable number of supporters who had made the long journey across country. Reports of the game say that the Reds more than matched their illustrious opponents, and had chances to take the lead, but half-time was reached with the score at 0-0. Shortly after the start of the second half the sky began to darken ominously, and then it started to snow. The weather got steadily worse, and, in the fifty-ninth minute, the referee had no option but to abandon the match in a blizzard.

Workington had to return to Bradford the following Tuesday to try again. This time, despite a heroic performance from the Reds, Bradford triumphed 2-0. They went on to beat West Bromwich Albion in the second round, before falling to Sunderland.

Musgrave, sadly, was to pick up a serious injury in March, causing him to miss the final twelve matches of the season. During the cup run he had scored an unbelievable fifteen goals in just six matches. In twenty-five league matches he managed just nine!

The Reds line-up in both matches against Bradford was:
Doggart; Troughear, Duffy, Gallacher, Waite, Wallace, McGraw, Garland, Musgrave, Pickering and Hemphill.

Five days after being knocked out of the cup, Workington were at home, in the league, against Manchester United Reserves. This match, on the 23rd January, became the story of the second half of the season.

Reports of the match suggest that the referee, a Mr Bell from Oldham, made a series of ‘strange decisions’, most of which were in favour of the visitors. The crowd became increasingly vocal, with the referee being the target of their displeasure. Their mood wasn’t improved when the match ended with Workington having lost 3-0. As the final whistle sounded:

‘A portion of the crowd swarmed onto the ground and surrounded the referee.  Workington players, officials, and the Police formed a guard and escorted the referee to the dressing rooms.

The referee then alleged that, after leaving the ground with a linesman, a crowd rushed toward them, and they were forced to jump on a passing milk-float, which then took them the two miles to the railway station.

The authorities were always going to take a dim view of an incident that was sadly reminiscent of what had happened to the Workington team following the County Cup Final at Carlisle some years earlier. A FA commission was set to meet on the 1st March, at Penrith, to discuss the matter.

The incident didn’t seem to upset the team too much, and they were unbeaten in the five matches played between the Manchester United game and the date of the hearing.

At the meeting, the only witness called was the referee. In giving his evidence Mr Bell also said that he had been told that:

‘The Manchester team had been stoned on entering their brake, and several players were kicked and hit with cinders’.

This may have happened, but as no United players or officials were called to give evidence, and Mr Bell had only been told this had taken place, it was uncorroborated hearsay evidence. Nevertheless, the commission decided to fine Workington £15, and ordered that their ground be closed for the whole of March. Workington’s ‘home’ matches in that period were to be played a minimum of six miles from Ashfield.

The Workington Star reporter who had been present at the match, whilst he would clearly be biased, disputed the referee’s version of events. He went further by calling the punishment both ‘harsh’, and ‘another attempt to squeeze the club out of the Lancashire Combination’.

The decision was made that the two league matches scheduled for March would be played at Whitehaven, with the Whitehaven club receiving a percentage of the gate.

The two matches played at Whitehaven produced widely different results. In the first, against Colne, the Reds went to town by winning 5-1. The second, against championship chasing Liverpool Reserves, resulted in a 6-1 defeat, which was Workington’s heaviest loss of the season. The Reds goal against Liverpool was described as ‘being rushed through following a scrum’! Yes, things were different then.

The downside of having a good cup run was the problem of fitting in the league matches that had to be re-arranged. As a result, Workington had to play nine matches in April, as well as fitting in the County Cup Final.

The format for the County Cup, following an application from the three ‘senior’ clubs (Workington, Carlisle United and Penrith), was changed. The senior clubs were all given byes to the semi-finals, with the other ten teams playing off for the one remaining semi-final place. Interestingly, Moss Bay entered both an ‘A’ and ‘B’ team into the tournament.

In the semi-finals Workington’s North-Eastern League side won 2-1 at Moss Bay ‘A’, and Carlisle United beat Penrith. The final, to be played at Devonshire Park in Carlisle, was set for the 10th April.

Both sides fielded their Lancashire Combination 1st X1s, and the Workington line up was:
Callis: Troughear, Keenan, Duffy, Glenn, Waite, Garland, Laycock, McGraw, Morrison and Hemphill.

Workington’s performance was charitably described as ‘not being of their usual standard’, and, despite a goal from McGraw, Carlisle were comfortable 3-1 winners.

After finishing in third place the previous season, Workington’s 13th place this time around was a disappointment. However, this disappointment was mitigated by the achievement of having reached the FA Cup proper for the first time in the club’s history. Everton Reserves were the champions for the second season in a row.

Pickering finished as top league scorer with 20 goals (to add to his 9 in the cup).

The North-Eastern League side had an indifferent campaign, finishing 12th out of the 18 teams. (Newcastle United were champions for the third season running.) However, by not playing at all between February 20th and March 27th, the Reserves were hampered by having to play thirteen matches in the last four weeks of the season. This included having to play at North Shields on the 10th April, play at both Hartlepools and Seaham on the 12th April, then play at South Shields on the 13th April. Not surprisingly, all four games were lost by scores of 0-5, 0-5, 0-5 and 0-6!

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