The Original Reds

Chapter 4 – 1887/88

Workington started the new season in early October, as was the norm in those days, with another new captain. Tom Biltcliffe, who had been with the club since the beginning, taking over the reins from Kaye. 

It was also announced that the club had decided to take the big step of entering the National FA Cup for the first time, and they duly took their place in the draw for the North-West Region 1st Qualifying Round. The draw paired them away against Bootle, with the match to take place on the 15th October. Unfortunately the trip south didn’t go well, with the Reds being on the end of a 6-0 drubbing. The club’s first competitive match outside of their Cumberland bubble therefore being a bit of a wake-up call, and it would take another seven years of trying before they were to win their first FA Cup match. 

The team that faced Bootle lined up like this: 
H. Harrison; T. Biltcliffe, T. Botham, H. Brown, J. Brown, A. Guirdham, J. Harpwood, F. Hayes, J. Henn, L. Kaye and A. Morewood. 

The match at Bootle turned out to be (almost) the last game in Workington red for Fred Hayes. Having been instrumental in introducing Football as we know it to Cumberland, and having played a big part in the club’s formation, Fred left and went to play for Keswick.  

When the draw was made for the first round of the County Cup Workington were paired, once more, against their old rival from Carlisle. There were no dramas on this occasion as on the 10th December the Reds eased to a comfortable 3-0 away win. 

The number of entries for the cup had now increased to twelve, with the Association again using an eccentric method of deciding who played who, and once again ending up with three semi-finalists. Workington did not receive the benefit of any byes, so were required to play in every round. 

In the second round they were again drawn away from home, this time against Millom on the 28th January. Once again the bigger club won, with Workington reaching the semi-finals by 3-1. 

There were now three clubs left in the competition, Workington, Distington and Keswick. When Keswick received a bye, it left Workington and Distington to play-off against each other in the one semi-final. 

Workington were drawn at home, and the match took place on the 11th February in a heavy snowstorm. After winning the toss Workington decided to play ‘downhill’ and with the wind and snow blowing in the faces of the Distington players. Not surprisingly the Reds built up a substantial 4-1 half-time lead and, despite battling the elements in the second half, they eventually won 6-3. Distington however decided to tread the appeals path, and became the latest club to complain to the Association that Workington had unfairly benefitted from the Schoose Close slope. Once again the committee dismissed the appeal, but only on the casting vote of the chairman. 

The cup final against Keswick was arranged to take place at Arlecdon on the 10th March. According to the local press; ‘Favourable weather prevailed, and there was an excellent concourse of spectators’. Indeed, a special train had been laid on to ‘convey a large number of enthusiasts from Workington, whilst there were ‘a number of conveyances run from Keswick’. The crowd was varyingly estimated as being between 1,500 and 3,000. 

In truth the match was literally a case of men against boys, with the press reporting – ‘the Workington club had placed its first eleven in the field, and their smart appearance seemed to fill their sympathisers with every confidence. Keswick also fielded its strongest team, which was constituted mainly of youths; no less than eight being apprentices’. 

One of the Keswick team who wasn’t a youth was Workington’s old friend Frederick Hayes, who clearly played well and was described as ‘giving splendid service’ to his new team. 

In the match Workington scored twice early on, and despite conceding just before half-time they lead two one at the break. Two further goals in the second half saw the Reds win 4-1 and thus retain the cup. 

The cup-winning line-up was: 
H. Harrison: A. Guirdham, A. McLuckie, T. Botham, J. Henn, H. Brown, T. Biltcliff (capt), J. Harpwood, A. Morewood, L. Kaye and J. Armitage. 

Apart from the cup competitions Workington had varying success in the other, friendly, fixtures. For instance, in the away match at Distington in October they only turned up with half a team, and had to ‘pick up substitutes who were new to the game!’ 

In November the club travelled across the border to meet Annan. Despite only having ten players, six of whom were from the second team, Reds won their first match abroad by 5-2. 

In order to catch their train back to Workington, the away match against Carlisle in January was played over just two thirty-minute halves. I suspect Carlisle weren’t too upset as it prevented the Reds from winning by more than the 6-0 margin. 

At the end of the season a prestigious friendly was arranged against just about the most famous and successful club in the country at that time, Preston North End. The match was to be played in the grounds of Hall Park, the proceeds were to be donated to the St Helen’s Colliery Disaster Relief Fund, and, as a farewell gesture, Reds included Fred Hayes in their line-up for his last game for Workington. Preston provided a splendid display for the big crowd, and completely overwhelmed Workington to the tune of 7-0. 

Workington lined-up as follows: 
H. Harrison: T. Biltcliffe, T. Botham, A. Guirdham, J. Harpwood, F. Hayes, J. Henn, L. Kaye, A. Morewood and J. Murchie. 

Workington introduced a number of new players during the season as well as retaining most of their better ones. One of the new players, who remained with the club for several years, was one A.McLuckie. To illustrate how difficult it was to research football in the nineteenth century, this player’s name was spelt variously McCluckie, McLuckie, MacLuckie, and McLucky, together with a number of different initials!  I haven’t unfortunately been able to establish if this player was in fact one of Phil’s ancestors! 

Details of known matches:

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Once again, a number of goal-scorers have not been identified. Additionally, there were a number of other games played, the details of which were not reported.


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