The Road to Wembley starts this weekend and 26 of our North West Counties League sides are lucky enough to play in it.
In total 736 have entered this season, which is the 135th season that the FA Cup has been contested. This is a far cry from the very first FA Cup which was in 1871/72 season, eight years after the Football Association had been formed. It was a very strange competition for a number of reasons!
The FA Cup was the idea of a remarkable man called Mr Charles William Alcock. He was born in Sunderland before being educated at Harrow School and in 1863, the grand age of 21, he helped establish The Football Association, becoming Secretary in 1870.
One year later he declared “it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete”. At the time, just 50 clubs were eligible, but just 12 clubs chose to take part.
Before the First Round, three teams withdrew to limit the number of clubs to nine, although six more teams came forward to compete including the leading Scottish club at the time, Queen’s Park.
The first games took place on 11th November 1871, with the first goal in FA Cup history scored by Jarvis Kenrick of Clapham Rovers in their 3-0 win at Upton Park. Another notable game saw Maidenhead beat Marlow 2–0, with these two teams being the only entrants from the first competition that are still playing in the FA Cup. Both clubs have only ever missed one season.
Regrettably Reigate Priory and Harrow Chequers withdrew without kicking a ball which created a problem. Queen’s Park and Donington School, who were drawn to play each other, could not agree on a date, so the FA did the only sensible thing – they put them both through without playing!
The second round saw Queen’s Park drawn against Donington School, with Donington withdrawing, giving Queen’s Park a walkover to the Quarter Finals. Crystal Palace, Wanderers, Hampstead Heathens, and Royal Engineers were the others through.
So into the Quarter Finals and we have five teams. Royal Engineers beat Hampstead Heathens 3-0 to progress. Wanderers and Crystal Palace drew 0-0. Should we have a replay? No! The FA simply put both sides through. The other side? Queen’s Park! They were given a bye so were in the Semi Finals and hadn’t kicked a ball yet!
The FA insisted that both Semi Finals and the Final were played at Kennington Oval. Royal Engineers and Crystal Palace drew 0-0, with Royal Engineers winning the replay 3-0. In the other Semi Final, Wanderers and Queen’s Park also drew 0-0. However there wasn’t a replay as Queen’s Park could not afford the return train travel from Glasgow to London for a second time so Wanderers were given a walkover.
Queen’s Park – the team who hadn’t kicked a ball until the Semi Finals and who went out having not scored or conceded a goal!
The Final saw Wanderers take the lead after 15 minutes through Morton Betts and, under the rules at the time, the teams changed ends which you did after each goal! Engineers were unable to take advantage of the fact that the sun and wind were now behind them, and the Wanderers saw out the game 1-0 – the first ever FA Cup winners! And one of the winning forwards was Mr C.A. Alcock, the man whose idea the Cup was!
And if to highlight the bizarre decision’s that was made at the time, the FA gave Wanderers a bye straight to the final of the following year’s FA Cup so they could defend their trophy!