The Original Reds

Chapter 6 – 1889/90

Workington’s move to their new ground at least eliminated the problem of the slope. In fact, in comparison with Schoose Close, the Cricket Field, with changing rooms and perimeter fencing, was almost palatial. 

Guirdham, who had stood in as captain in Biltcliffe’s injury absence, now had the job full time. A number of established players had moved on, including Gilmour, Hayes and Morewood from the previous season’s cup winning team, whilst several others joined. 

The new season opened, badly, at the end of September, with an unexpected 5-1 defeat, at home, against old rivals Carlisle. It got worse a few weeks later when, in the return at Carlisle, the Reds were hammered again, 6-3! 

Having once more entered the FA Cup, Workington were drawn away to Blackpool South Shore (one of the forerunners of the current Blackpool FC) in the First Qualifying Round. However, they decided not to make the trip and withdrew from the competition. 

Once again, the County Cup, the premier (only) Association competition in the county, was plagued by a strange system of drawing the matches (with the Reds receiving byes in both the first round and the semi-final), as well as the inevitable protests from beaten teams. 

After getting a bye, as stated, in the first round, the Reds were drawn at home against Keswick in the second round, with the game taking place in mid-January. There were no dramas as, with the benefit of another bye, a straightforward 3-1 win saw the Reds through to their fifth straight cup final appearance. 

The final, against a Carlisle side who had already beaten them twice earlier in the season, and put eleven goals past them, was scheduled to take place at Egremont on the 22nd March. The weather on the day turned out to be awful, with a strong wind and heavy rain. Carlisle arrived at the ground, got changed, and went out onto the pitch. They then apparently just stood there, getting wet and cold, waiting for the Workington team to appear. Unfortunately, due to a train delay, Workington were thirty minutes late arriving. When they did arrive and got changed the game eventually got under way. The weather didn’t lend itself to good football, and the match was decided, in Workington’s favour, by a solitary Johnstone goal. 

Inevitably, Carlisle protested the result on the grounds that by the time Workington had arrived their players were so cold and wet that Workington immediately had an unfair advantage. The protest was upheld by the Association Committee, who ordered the match to be replayed, at Workington, on the 12th April. Workington flatly refused to take part in any replay, saying that they could not be held responsible for a delayed train! Further discussions and Committee meetings took place, and Workington, grudgingly, eventually relented, agreeing to replay the final at Maryport on the 19th April. 

Thankfully both teams turned up, the weather was fine, and the replay took place in front of a large crowd estimated at between three and four thousand. Two goals from Harpwood, one in each half, was enough for Workington to make it four cup final victories in a row. There were no appeals this time, and the victors, on returning to Workington, were said to have retired to the Old Crown Hotel ‘where the evening was spent in congratulations and conviviality’.  

The line-up for the first match was; 

Brown. T; McLuckie. A, Guirdham. A (capt), Brannan. M, Harpwood. J, Henn. J, Johnston(e). W, Lowes. M, Kaye. L, Sparks. W and Biltcliffe. T. 

One change in the replay saw Hothy Brown replace Sparks. 

Guirdham, Harpwood and Kaye thus maintained their record of being ever-present in all five County Cup Finals to date (six counting the above replay!) 

A full and varied number of friendlies were played throughout the season which ended, as it had begun, with a heavy defeat – this time by 6-2 at Frizington Rovers. 

Bad weather during January and February caused a number of matches to be cancelled, but a number of new opponents were faced, including more teams from over the border. Benefit matches were played, against Frizington Rovers in March, when £7 (a lot of money in 1890) was raised for injured Reds player C. Phillips, and against a District X1 in December, in aid of a Black Diamonds player who had suffered a broken leg. 

Once again teams arriving late in those pre-floodlight years caused a problem. When Arlecdon turned up an hour late in November the match was reduced to just twenty minutes each-way, and still ended in almost complete darkness. 

The annual ‘double-header’ day out at Keswick took place on Easter Monday, with both Reds 1st and 2nd X1s losing graciously to their hosts. 

Toward the end of the season there were rumours that a number of clubs had discussed forming a County League for the following season. The ‘Workington Star’ correspondent welcomed this and said: ‘it is to be hoped that the proposed Association League for the county would raise standards and allow clubs to compete with other areas of the country’. 

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