The Original Reds

Chapter 7 – 1890/91

Workington commenced their seventh season with a new captain, McLuckie taking over the reins from Guirdham, and a new challenge.

As muted toward the end of the previous season, a number of clubs in the County did form what was known as the Cumberland Association League. The clubs involved being Workington, Distington, Arlecdon, and two Frizington clubs, United and Rovers. However, despite the title, the ‘league’ appears to have been semi-unofficial, and more of an attempt by the clubs involved to formalise the fixture list. Certainly, unlike the now established County Cup, it received almost no publicity, and no mention at the County Association meetings. There were no league tables published, and even where there were match reports in the press there was no mention of the games being league matches. However, the good news was, based on the results available, Workington, losing just one ‘league’ game all season, were the winners.

The first league game, at Frizington Rovers ground, took place on the 11th October. The side, showing no changes from the previous season, got off to a winning start as, with Guirdham scoring twice, the Reds won 4-2.

Brown. T: Brown. H, Biltcliffe, Brannan, Guirdham, Harpwood, Henn, Kaye, McCluckie, Phillips. C and Scott. J.

Further wins were obtained, against Distington at home and Arlecdon away, before the Reds really turned it on at the start of the new year, scoring seven at Frizington United, and putting nine without reply past Arlecdon at the Cricket Field.

The one ‘league’ defeat was a bit of a surprise, as Frizington Rovers gained revenge by coming to Workington and winning the return by the odd goal in five.

The Reds FA Cup campaign started, in the First Qualifying Round, with a home draw against Clitheroe. However, for whatever reason, the Lancashire side decided not to make the journey to the West Cumberland coast and promptly withdrew. In the Second Qualifying Round Workington, for the second year running, were again drawn away to Blackpool South Shore. Having scratched the previous season, Workington decided to make the trip this time, and were thrashed 10-0 for their troubles. It was clear that, whilst being at the top of the tree in Cumberland, they were still a long way behind the rest of the country.

Workington’s defence of the County Cup, which did receive a degree of publicity, started with a First Round tie at Cockermouth in the middle of December. There were now fourteen entries into the cup, including sides called Black Diamonds and Moss Bay Exchange. Both of these clubs were from Workington, and, as will be seen, over the next few years would challenge the Reds for the title of being the town’s best.

Cockermouth were simply brushed aside, with a Croall hat-trick, and two goals apiece from Phillips and Guirdham, contributing to a 10-2 Workington win.

The second Round paired Workington with an away tie against fellow league side, Frizington United. However, being apparently unable to raise a side, the opposition scratched, giving the Reds a bye to the Semi-Finals.

The Semi-Final, on February 28th, saw Workington paired at home with the aforementioned Moss Bay Exchange. On this occasion Moss Bay couldn’t live with the Reds, and a 5-0 win saw them safely through to their sixth consecutive County Cup Final appearance.

The final saw Workington face the other league side from Frizington, the Rovers, with the match taking place on the Moss Bay ground on the 21st March. Having lost at home to the Rovers just a month earlier the outcome was anything but clear-cut. However, goals from Lowes, Biltcliffe and Guirdham gave the Reds a 3-1 victory over what was described as a side who were ‘plucky, but no match for the winners’.

So, Workington not only retained the cup, they won it for the fifth year in a row, with Guirdham, Harpwood and Kaye maintaining their ever-present record in the six finals played to date.

The Frizington goal in the final was scored by Harry Landells, who was later to both join, and have a distinguished career with, Workington.

The Workington team in the Cup Final was:

T. Brown; H. Brown, A. McLuckie (capt), M. Brannon, J. Harpwood, J. Scott, M. Lowes, T. Biltcliffe, W. Croall, L. Kaye and A. Guirdham.

Ten of those players had been ever-present during the cup run, with J. Phillips (deputising for Kaye in the first round) being the only other player to make an appearance.

The County Association did arrange two representative games, and not surprisingly Workington were well-represented. H. Brown, C. Phillips and Guirdham all played against Northumberland in November, and against Lanarkshire in April T. Brown, H. Brown, Lowes and Harpwood all turned out to represent the County.

The introduction of the ‘league’ meant fewer friendlies were arranged. However, a number of such games did take place against sides both local and from across the border, and in April Workington also played two Benefit matches for local causes. The first was against a District X1, in aid of the ‘Children’s Free Tea Fund’. It’s difficult, in this day and age, to understand how such a thing needed to exist. However, in those pre-welfare state days, the less fortunate relied almost totally on charity. The second Benefit match was played at Keswick, and was a fund-raiser for Keswick player and broken-leg victim W. Milburn.

So ended another successful season, with the Reds not only retaining their stranglehold on the County Cup, but also cementing their place as the premier ‘dribbling game’ club in the County.

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