The Original Reds

Chapter 28 – 1910/11

‘The Reds start the season with a heavy financial handicap’ – Workington Star 02/09/1910

In the summer, after six seasons in the league, Workington left the Lancashire Combination. There is evidence to show that both Workington and Carlisle United were actually expelled, or going to be expelled, from the Combination, as a result of continuing complaints from other member clubs regarding having to travel outside of Lancashire. Certainly, this issue had been simmering for many years. However, for financial reasons, Workington, after balloting the supporters, intended to leave anyway (as did Carlisle). The club subsequently disbanded their Reserve side and entered the first team in place of the Reserves in the North-Eastern League.

In a further attempt to improve their financial position, the club introduced a new share issue, and a one shilling subscription fund. 

Pre-season, there were actually fewer changes of personnel than usual. Four regular first-team players left, Gallacher, Garland, Laycock and Robertson, and four newcomers arrived. Bob Ellis’s brother, Harry, was signed, thirty-three-year-old Dick Smith returned after six seasons at Burnley, and John Lawrie arrived from Bristol Rovers, also for a second spell at the club. 

The fourth newcomer was another thirty-three-year-old, Cockermouth born Charlie Satterthwaite. Charlie, a left-sided forward, started his career with local club Black Diamonds, before moving on to Bury, Burton Swifts, New Brompton (who later became Gillingham) and West Ham. In 1904 he signed for Arsenal (then called Woolwich Arsenal), for whom he scored forty-five goals in a hundred and twenty-nine appearances over six seasons. Charlie’s younger brother, Joe, also had a brief spell with Workington, without actually playing for the first team, and also played, briefly, with his brother at Arsenal. Both Charlie and Joe served in the First World War. Charlie survived, living to the age of seventy-one. Joe tragically lost his life in 1916, at the age of thirty.

Although the club were now, on paper, playing in a lower standard of competition, it was imperative that they got the results needed to attract decent crowds to watch a winning team. Sadly, the start they made was exactly what they didn’t want.

The season started on the 1st September, with a trip to Tyneside to play Newcastle United Reserves. The Reds lined up:
Carter; H. Ellis, Gane, McCallum, T. Robson, Waite, Lawrie, R. Ellis, McNairn, Woods and Satterthwaite.

It was a tough start, against a Newcastle side who were to win the league for the fourth time in five seasons. Although Workington played well earlier on, and scored twice through McNairn and Woods, they were eventually overwhelmed to the tune of 5-2. When Seaham Harbour came to Lonsdale Park two days later, and won 4-0, the club must have feared the worst.

Results-wise, things did actually improve, with only one defeat in the next seven matches. Sadly, the attendances remained below the level required to give any confidence for the club’s future. To illustrate the point, the following warning appeared in the press on the 21st October:

‘We understand that the Workington Directors are urgently in need of financial assistance, the receipts so far this season not being up to expectation. This is to be regretted. The team is doing well, and quite good football is being provided as was seen in the Lancashire Combination; but the attendances so far have not been particularly large. Apart from the gate money, the Directors are asking for additional capital, and they have also opened a shilling subscription fund which so far has not been well responded to. There ought to be – there are – good sportsmen within the district who could render valuable assistance to the club, and it is to be hoped for the sake of the sport that they will do so. Should the directors be compelled to cease operations it would certainly be a loss to the townspeople from a trade point of view, apart from the sport. Now is the time to render assistance. What offers?’

The day after the above article appeared, Workington were at home to Wallsend Park Villa. The FA asked the club, and they agreed, to take part in an experiment whereby the game was played using a new type of rubber-cased ball, instead of the normal all leather one. Workington won the game 2-0, but there is no record of how successful the experiment was!

Die-hard followers of the club were doing what they could to help, and on the 5th November a meeting was held at the Central Hotel, attended by a ‘large number’ of supporters. A Mr Beveridge of Wybrow Terrace chaired the meeting, which discussed ways of raising money for the club. A committee was formed, and it was decided to start the fundraising by organising a Whist Drive the following Wednesday evening. 

On the same day as the supporters held their fund-raising meeting, Workington achieved probably their best result of the season, beating the powerful Newcastle United team 3-1 at Lonsdale Park.

As a result of their exploits in the competition over the last two seasons, the Reds were given a bye straight to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup. Their opponents were to be fellow North-Eastern League side, they of the ‘rubber ball experiment’, Wallsend Park Villa. The match took place, at Lonsdale Park, on the 19th November, and was not without incident. Wallsend finished the match with only nine men, one having been sent-off, one having been carried off, and Workington won by the only goal, scored by Bob Ellis.

Ellis was having a bit of a goal-scoring purple patch at the time, having scored in nine out of eleven games, including scoring in six league matches in a row.

The fifth FA Cup qualifying round saw Workington drawn away against crack Southern League club, Croydon Common. The Southern League was, at that time, considered to be at least as strong as the second division of the Football League, and included clubs such as West Ham United, Norwich City, Southampton, QPR, Crystal Palace, Watford and Millwall. Indeed, nineteen of the twenty clubs in the league were to go on to become successful members of the Football League itself.

The match took place on the 3rd December. However, despite the state of the club’s finances, the Reds players and officials started their journey on the 1030 train out of Workington the day before the match. They then stayed in London overnight, before travelling out to Croydon on the Saturday morning. The match was played on a poor pitch, but in front of a big crowd, with Croydon overwhelming favourites. However, contemporary reports say that Workington were, for the large part, the better team. Two goals from Hesham put Croydon in front, but Charlie Satterthwaite pulled one back before half-time. Workington attacked constantly in the second half but couldn’t find the equaliser. Eventually, a break-away goal from Thomson gave Croydon a 3-1 win that they hardly deserved.

Had the Reds won, they would have had to travel to Grimsby Town in the first round proper.

On the 9th December, the week after the cup match at Croydon, the club made an announcement that showed just what a critical state the club’s finances were in;

‘In consequence of the financial position of the Workington AFC, a meeting between the directors and players has been held this week, the result being that the players agreed to accept reduced wages until the first week in January, when the directors hope to be in a better position. It is understood that, should the finances allow, the players will be paid their ‘back money’’. 

Despite a dip in form over Christmas, which was hardly surprising in view of the announcement regarding the player’s wages, the club actually started the new year in decent form. Wins at home against Jarrow Croft, and away at Hebburn, saw them comfortably in the top-half of the table, with more wins to their credit than loses.

In a further attempt to raise money, the club arranged two fund-raising friendlies on free Saturdays in January. The first of these, on the 14th, saw Workington visit Maryport and beat the local side 2-0. The Reds received three pounds and ten shillings for their efforts.

However, just three days later, and before the second fund-raising friendly could be played, an announcement was made that virtually sealed the club’s fate.

The hope expressed in December, that the players would receive their back pay, came to nothing. Consequently, no less than ten of the club’s senior, and best, players declined to continue to play for the club. The players involved were: Carter, Gane, Lawrie, Bob Ellis, McNairn, McCallum, Harry Ellis, Robson, Waite and Woods, all of whom were regulars in the side. All ten were given free transfers.

Within days, Carter had gone to Barrow, Gane to Bradford City, McNairn to Haslingden (near Rossendale), and Woods to Burnley. McCallum, Waite and Lawrie also left for pastures new. Robson and the two Ellis’s, whilst remaining on the transfer list, did however see out most of the rest of the season with the club.

Workington did manage to put a side together to play in the second friendly, a 3-0 home win over Dalbeattie Star, but the experienced backbone of the side had now gone.

With no money available to replace the departed players, the club were forced to recruit inexperienced locals to put a side on the field. New players arrived from clubs such as Cockermouth, Carlisle YMCA, Broughton, Cleator Moor and Whitehaven. 

It was too much to ask these players, even with the help of the few regulars who remained, to be competitive, and so it proved. The new line-ups first two games resulted in a 1-6 defeat at Darlington, and a 0-7 home loss to Sunderland. The club was now in free-fall, losing the next ten games in a row, scoring just six times. Numerous new players were tried, but none could arrest the club’s slide down the table.

Probably the clearest indication of how far the club had fallen came in early April in the County Cup. Receiving a bye to the semi-finals, Workington were drawn against qualifiers, Lowca Juniors. The first match, at Lowca, ended goal-less. The replay, at Lonsdale Park, was also drawn, despite extra-time being played. Satterthwaite, the most experienced player left, even managed to miss a penalty. Even after two lots of extra-time, the third match, at Maryport, still couldn’t separate the sides. Eventually, at the fourth time of asking, Workington threw in the towel, and lost by two goals to nil. So, a club that, twelve months earlier, came within a whisker of knocking Manchester City out of the FA Cup, had been beaten by a team from a tiny pit village near Whitehaven. Lowca lost to Carlisle United in the final by five goals to nil! 

Workington did, somehow, manage to get to the end of the season and play out their fixtures. The last four games (all played at home in front of pitiful crowds) even managed to produce three wins, including beating Carlisle United.

The final match of the, against Hartlepools United, saw the Reds lose their nineteenth league game of the season, 2-0. The Workington side was:
Steel; Bell, Caulfield, R. Ellis, Kelsall, Lamontey, Pooley, I. Robson, T. Robson, Rowe, and Satterthwaite.

Of those players, only Bob Ellis and Tom Robson had been in the side that had opened the season, back in September, against eventual champions Newcastle United.

Due to their decent first half of the season, Workington actually managed to finish in a creditable thirteenth place out of the eighteen teams, with twenty-seven points from thirty-four games. Three points and two places above Carlisle United. Charlie Satterthwaite finished as top league scorer with just ten goals.

So, with no crowds, no money, and few decent players, the big question now was, would the club be able to carry on?

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