1872 - The FA Cup Semi Final

In 1871 Glasgow club, Queen's Park FC, was invited by the English Football Association to take part in the first playing of the FA Cup. The invitation was accepted, one of only twelve clubs to do so of the fifty in England eligible. In a sense it was a bit of a last throw of the dice but also, if it worked, marketing genius on the part of Charles Alcock, the FA's Secretary. The problem for him was that there was, if anything, shrinkage of interest not growth. 

And then finance, geography and logistics took over. The first game of the first round was between Barnes and Civil Service, near neighbours. The second featured Hitchin and Crystal Palace, a little more distant, played at Hitchin but facilitated by a relatively good train connection over the intervening forty miles. The third pitted Marlow against neighbouring Maidenhead, the fourth in London similarly close Upton Park and Clapton Rovers, which takes us to the fifth. It drew Queen's Park at home with the opposition Lincolnshire's, indeed southern Lincolnshire's Donington School. 

The distance between wee Donington and Glasgow is three hundred miles. Travelling them by the then only means, the train, would mean a road journey of five miles to Swineshead and even today six and half hours on the rails to Central and another fifteen minutes to Crosshill. We are talking ten hours each way, then at least three £2, but also three days away with two nights accommodation on top. It was not going to happen, nor did it with the found being to give byes to the next round. 

But what do you know! When the draw to the second round was made not only was Queen's Park at home once more but Donington again came out of the hat as opposition, at which point they gave up and the Glasgow team not only had a bye but was in the semi-final without kicking a ball. It also found the boot to be on the other foot. Both matches were to be played at The Oval in London, two weeks apart, the first on a Saturday the second on a Tuesday, with kick-offs back of 3pm. 

Somehow the Scottish club managed to find the money to make the journey down for their game on the Tuesday and for an hour and half they ran around the otherwise cricket ground presumably, since it was early March, towards the end in the semi-dark and at the end of it all the result was goalless. A half-hour of extra time was then proposed by the opponents of the day, The Wanderers, and declined. Why is not clear but there would have been reasons and it did not happen leaving as the only alternative a replay.   

In fact the replay did not take place all because Queen's Park as a whole and/or its team members could not afford financially or perhaps in terms of time-off-work to do the whole thing again. The Wanderers were in receipt of a walk-over, went to the final unopposed, promptly won it and became the first FA Cup holders. However, the prospect of the even the semi-final had already caused interest in Scotland outwith the immediate confines of football North of the Border such as they were. The Glasgow Herald had spotlighted the visit south the day before it took place. The Scotsman reported on it on the day. And that interest could only have been sustained by the eventually theoretical possibility that a Scottish club might have been "English Champions". In other words not only did Alcock's original Cup-idea have the effect he wanted of raising the game's profile South of the Border but also set the ball rolling, albeit slowly, north of it too.

But impetus is only part of the interest that the 5th March encounter engendered. It also gives us a first real glimpse of who individually in Scotland was involved and potentially how. Except there is a problem. Queen's Park seems to have had two teams, the one reported by The Glasgow Herald and the other by Robinson, when later in 1920 he wrote the history of his club. 

Apart from the order of the names, which can probably be ignored, with Robinson's more likely to be accurate, clearly the teams are much the same. Moreover, of the three differences one, James Weir, would feature further, indeed be a future international. In fact, of more interest are the respective punctuations. The Herald simply lists. Robinson subdivides, reporting a 2:2:6 formation, the question being is it record or an assumption? The former means the distinctively Scottish formation was already formulated by March 1972, the match the introduction, the latter innovation reported in or by the therefore accepted November.

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