CHAPTER FIVE. HERO OR VILLAIN?
Page 2 – Wanderers change their name
Page 3 – Luton Town Cricket Club
Page 4 – A sign of discontent
Page 6 – East Midland Counties F.A. games prove a success
Page 7 – An Easter Festival of Football
The Luton Reporter of 10th January 1885 reports two games from the previous Saturday. Albany played Christ Church Institute in the Albany’s Meadow and ran out one nil winners. “The goal was secured from a splendid corner kick by Sanders, and was rushed through by the Albany forwards. The Albany team deserve great credit for the plucky manner in which they played against a team so much stronger than themselves”. Albany to date have played 12 matches, won 8, lost 3 and drawn one.
The Albany team that day was –
Goal – H. Leete. Backs – A Sanders [note correct spelling] and F Horwood. Half backs – J. Moody and Hubbard. Forwards – A.J. Deamer , J. Otway (right), J.O. Folks and w. Perry (left), W. Otway and J. Pedick (centre). The Otway brothers played in the very first 11 a-side game in November 1880 for Star.
Christ Church Institute lined up;
Goal – J. Johnson. backs – E. Hughes and A. Rance. Half backs – G. Painter and W. Lichfield. Forwards – F. Field and J. Wright (right), T.N. Hughes and Scott (left) H Mc George and Bacchus (centre).”
Luton Wanderers had a busy weekend and drew one all with Hitchin.
“Played at Luton on Saturday. The ground was very hard and slippery owing to the recent frosts, but, nevertheless, a very fast and good game ensued. The home team were the best, and ought to have won easily, but their chances were lost owing to the erratic shooting of the forwards; and when time was called the game was left drawn, each side having scored once”. Hitchin had been one of the 15 teams that entered the very first English Challenge Trophy [the F.A. Cup] in 1871/72. The Wanderers team that day was;
Goal – G Long. backs – D.A.N. Lomax and A Martin. Half backs – E.H. Lomax, G Bennett and H Hucklesby. Forwards – J.C Lomax, G. Deacon, T Brookes, R. Ellingham and A. Deacon.”
Wanderers also played Silsoe at Wrest Park that weekend winning 3 1. This is probably their second team.
“The Silsoe men team were all good men individually, but were not used to playing together, and therefore were of no use against the Wanderers, whose combined play and good passing enabled them to gain the day”.
The following weekend Wanderers obtained revenge on Rushden who had beaten them earlier in the season;
“Played at Luton in a perfect hurricane of wind and rain, which nevertheless, did not prevent a large number of spectators assembling to witness the game. The Rushden brought the strongest team they possibly could get, but were unable to do much against the home team. The visitors played down hill in the first half with the wind in their favour, and succeeded in getting the ball through once. When ends were changed, the Wanderers completely penned their opponents, and shot after shot was made at the goal, but the ball was carried either over the bar or out of play by the wind, else the home team would most likely have won easier than they did. As it was, the game ended in their favour by three goals to one.
Their team was; Goal – G. Bennett, Backs – A Martin and D.A.N. Lomax. No details of the half backs. Forwards – J.C. Lomax, G Deacon (captain), R. Ellingham, A Deacon and E. Wright. Rushden, Goal – Button. Backs – J. Hanger and W. Mackness. Half backs – T. Evans, W. Cox and J. Denton. Forwards – T. Evans, C. Claridge, W. Burgess, F. Chettle and G. Denton.”
Wanderers busy time would continue off the pitch as the Luton Reporter notes that;
“a general meeting of the Luton Wanderers Football Club will be held on Tuesday evening in the St. Matthews school rooms, chair to be taken at 7.30 o’clock. All members are earnestly requested to attend as special and important business will be brought before the meeting”.
Note that the purpose of the meeting is not mentioned.
The following week the outcome of the Wanderers 13th January meeting was published by the Luton Reporter;
“A general meeting of the above club was held on Tuesday evening (by the kind permission of the Vicar) in the St. Matthews Schools, Havelock Road, Luton. There was a large attendance of members, and after Mr R. Ford had been elected Chairman, the following business was transacted. The Secretary read the following report:- The first team have played 17 matches, and of these they have won 12, drawn four and lost one (Rushden, November 15, 0 to 1). The second team have played six matches, won three, drawn two and lost one. There have been 55 goals kicked for the club, and only 11 against. The club entered the English Challenge Cup Competition, and were drawn against the Old Etonians on November 8th, and lost by three goals to one. The following motion was put before the meeting and carried unanimously:- “That the name of the club be altered from Luton Wanderers to the Luton Town F.C.” It was also decided that a match should be played in the Dallow-lane on January 31st, the proceeds of which will be given in aid of the funds of the Luton Town Cricket Club; also that two delegates be sent from the club to attend a meeting of the English Association in London on January 19. A vote of thanks having been passed to the Vicar, the Rev. J. Hine, for his kind permission in lending the schools, also to the Chairman for his service, the meeting separated”.
Note – The election of Chairman, I take to be solely for that meeting as was the custom at the time. It does not mean Mr Ford was elected Chairman of the club.
it is highly likely that this article was written by Herbert Spratley of the Wanderers and submitted to the Newspaper in a similar way to their match reports. The change of name of the Wanderers to “Luton Town Football Club” is tucked away as though it was a small item on the agenda. It was clearly the sole purpose of the meeting. I say this for a number of reasons. Firstly, the summing up of results is usually done at the Annual General Meeting at the end of the season. To sum up the results at just over the half way point of the season seems out of place and pure padding. The reference to a large number of members present voting for the change of name unanimously seeks validity. The gushing and repeated thanks to the vicar is over the top. The charity match to raise money for the Cricket Club is a clear attempt at a charm offensive to win over opinion.
Many prominent members of the community played and watched cricket. The photo above (courtesy of the Luton News) shows the Luton Town Cricket Club in 1885. Of those in the photo, John Long and Samuel Pakes would serve on Luton Town F.C.’s Committee after formation. Charles Brown, Thomas Brown, William Garrett, George Long, Gilbert Small and George Deacon would play for Luton Town F.C.. W.E. Gilder would become a Luton Town F.C. member. The Wanderers fund raising match for the cricket team was therefore a good idea to win favour.
Cricket and football were very close until recently. Ian Buxton was a cricketer for Derbyshire and a Luton Town player in the late 1960’s. I remember Chris Balderstone of Carlisle United and Leicestershire and Phil Neale of Lincoln City and Warwickshire. Some of the great footballers such as Raich Carter and Ted Drake played both sports.
In addition to the charity match for the cricket club, the Wanderers would also play a “novel” match to raise funds for the Bute Hospital.
In the same week that Khartoum fell to the Mahdi and General Gordon died, football in Luton was in turmoil. The newspapers were not too sure bout the change and in order to inform their readers they used a unique description. The Luton Reporter said that “Luton Town (late Wanderers)” lost 3 1 to St. Albans at Dallow Lane on Saturday 17th January. The second team travelled to St. Albans and gained a one all draw.
The same weekend Excelsior Second team beat Engineers 6 0 at Dallow Lane.
The following weekend saw another defeat for Luton Town (late Wanderers) again by 3 1. This time it was to Grove House from Shepherd’s Bush, London. Grove House were the holders of the West End Challenge Cup so were considered formidable opponents.
“The Luton were unable to play their best team or would have most likely won. The ground was very hard and slippery owing to the recent frost. After a very pleasant game, the match ended in a win for Grove House by 3 goals to one”. The team that day was;
Goal – G Abbott. Backs- A. Martin and E.H Lomax. Half Backs – T Brookes, T Read and J Clark. Forwards – J.C. Lomax, G Deacon, R. Ellingham, A Deacon and J. Golby.”
The report concludes by adding that;
“a grand match for the benefit of the Luton Town Cricket Club will be played in the Dallow Lane on Saturday, between St. Albans and Luton Town (late Wanderers), play to commence at 2.45.”
Park Rovers met Engineers at People’s Park the Saturday afternoon. You will recall that Luton Rovers played at People’s Park in 1880. Park Rovers appear to be the same club and were to change their name back to to Luton Rovers later in 1885. Rovers won by 5 goals and one disputed to one. Frank Whitby scored two goals, Buckley two and Lowe one.
The Rovers team that day was;
Goal – J. Windmill. Backs – H Hucklesby (captain) and F. Mooring. Half backs – G Bird, W. Day and J. James. Forwards – E. Buckley, F. Whitby (right wing), H. Lowe (centre), H. Chapman and W. Boston (left wing).
This is the first mention of Frank Whitby who was to be one of the first professional players at Luton Town F.C. He joined Luton Town F.C. soon after they were formed and played in the club’s first real test against one of the “crack clubs in the Midlands”.
The following Tuesday evening;
“the committee and friends of Luton Excelsior F.C. partook of a substantial supper at the Alexandra Coffee Palace, after which they made Mr J.G. Hunt, captain of their team, a present of a valuable marble timepiece, which bore the following inscription: “Presented to Mr Jno. G. Hunt by the committee and members of the Luton Excelsior F.C., as a small token of their esteem for him as their captain on occasion of his marriage, Jan 30th, 1885”. Mr Hunt expressed his thanks for the present in most feeling terms. The rest of the evening was then spent in enjoyable manner”.
The East Midlands Counties Football Association E.M.C.F.A had a committee meeting in Luton on Monday the 26th January 1885.
J.C. Lomax – Luton Wanderers – Vice President (of the Association)
W.G. Thomson – Wellingborough Revellers – Hon Treasurer
A. Pretty – Wellingborough Grammar School – Hon Secretary
G.W. Spencer – Kettering
F. Scott – Luton Excelsior
Brook Knowles – Luton Town
J. Williamson – Earls Barton
W. Hobbs – Burton Latimer
F. Ingram Wellingborough Revellers
It was decided to arrange matches for the season with Cambridgeshire and West End Associations to be played at Cambridge and Luton. A trial match to select the team to represent the E.M.C.F.A. was arranged for February 21st at Wellingborough.
Two things stand out from the meeting. The first is that the players ran the Association themselves. J.C. (John Charles) Lomax was clearly a very dedicated young man, attending Cambridge University, playing every weekend and helping run the E.M.C.F.A. The second is that J.C. Lomax describes his team as Luton Wanderers when two of his team mates around the committee table are described as being from Luton Town. The change of name may have made J.C. Lomax feel uncomfortable enough to make this statement in front of his team mates, the other teams representatives and the people of Luton. He and his two brothers, E.H. (Ernest Herbert) and D.A.N. (David Alexander Napier) had become the most influential footballers in the town, both on and off the pitch.
The last two games in January 1885 ended in defeat for Luton teams. Luton Town (late Wanderers) lost their third game in a row, 2 1 at Dallow Lane to St. Albans. This was the charm offensive game for the benefit of the cricket club.
“The ground was very heavy owing to the rain which also prevented a large number of intending visitors from attending. Nevertheless, there was a large number of spectators present. The match rested in a win for the strangers by two goals to one. J.C. Lomax and Deacon had several fine runs on the left wing, and made some splendid shots for goal. E.H. Lomax also played well for Luton as did Veale in goal. After all expenses are paid, there will be about £5 to hand over to the cricket club. The Luton Town Club also intend before the end of the season to play a match for the benefit of the Bute Hospital”.
There is an interesting report of Dunstable against Luton Albany.
“The return match between these clubs was played on Saturday afternoon in the field of the Dunstable Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club before a large number of spectators. It will be remembered that when these two clubs met before, the game resulted in a victory for the Albany by 8 goals to nil, and in order to retrieve that crushing defeat, the Dunstable club this time, put their strongest team into the field, and had the assistance of some Luton players, while the Albany team were very much weakened owing to five of their number failing to “turn up”. They had to take anyone they could get, and throughout the game played one short. An extremely high wind was blowing during the whole of the game, but notwithstanding this there was some good play on both sides. The visitors had some close shots but were unable to get the ball between the posts and the home team eventually won by two goals to nil.”
Interlude – The American, John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy, beat Alf Greenfield of Britain to remain World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
Sandwiched in between the drama of January and the monumental events that would unfold in April, we have two quiet football months.
February opened with Park Rovers travelling to meet Engineers on the ground of the Engineers in Castle Street. Rovers went back to High Town with a 2 1 victory. The scorers are unknown.
The teams were as follows; Engineers
Goal – Congrave. Backs – Ferman and Saunders. Half backs – Hensman, Sallory and Cooper. Forwards – Deacon, Holloway, Clewlow (captain), Northwood and Wilson. There is not details of who Deacon was. Whether it was one of the Deacon brothers we do not know.
Park Rovers lined up as follows;
Goal – Patrick. Backs – Mooring and Hucklesby (captain). Half backs – Cook, Bird and Day. Forwards – Whitby, Lowe, Chatman, Buckley and James.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) travelled to West Ham Park to play Forest Rangers. The brothers Lomax and Deacon, E. Wright, Ellingham, Martin and Spratley could not go. Considering that they played a very weakened team they did well to keep the loss down to 3 0. This is the fourth defeat in a row suffered by the newly named team. Such a loss of form might indicate a lack of unity amongst the players.
The Luton Reporter gave advance notice that Luton Town (late Wanderers) would play Wellingborough Grammar School in Dallow Lane on 14th February.
“The Grammar School have an unbeaten record this season. The team is announced as follows;
Goal – T Veale. Backs – A Martin and W. Barrett. Half backs – E.H. Lomax (captain), H.G. Spratley and T.B. Knowles. Forwards – J.C. Lomax, G Deacon, T. Read, A. Deacon and R. Ellingham.”
Christ Church Institute did not enjoy their trip to Dunstable being on the end of an 8 1 defeat. This is one of very few drubbings we come across. It may be because they played with only two half backs and six forwards.
Their team was;
Goal – E. Hughes. Backs – A.E. Cawdell and T.N. Hughes. Half backs – A. Saunders, A Davis. Forwards – F. Hill, G.H. Spratley, J Scott, J. Wright, H. McGeorge (Captain) and A. Hewett. Herbert Spratley the Wanderers player turns out for Dunstable.
Luton Excelsior suffered a 1 0 defeat to Rushden at Dallow Lane. This was their first reported game of the year. T.C. Brown in goal for Excelsior kept the score down.
The second weekend in February saw Christ Church Institute play Engineers at the Institute Meadow, Park Road. After the big defeat at Dunstable, the captaincy was taken away from McGeorge and given to Davis. They persisted with six forwards and this time it paid off as they ran out 4 0 winners. This may have more to do with the quality of the opposition rather than the captaincy or the tactics. The Christ Church Institute team was;
Goal – E. Hughes. Backs – J. Johnson and A. Cawdell. Half backs – T. Hughes and A. Davis (captain). Forwards – C. Squires, J. Gates, W. Hills, McGeorge, J. Scott and J.Wright.
Engineers lined up; Goal – Congrave. Backs – Ferman and Saunders. Half backs – Hensman, Sallory and Cooper. Forwards – Wilson, Cooke, Clemore (captain), Holloway and Northwood.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) games against Wellingborough Grammar School attracted 400 spectators at Dallow Lane. The best game of the season saw the “strangers” winning 1 0. “Strangers” was a term used for the away team.
The team that day was;
Goal – T. Veale. Backs – E.H. Lomax (captain) and A. Martin. Half backs – T.B. Knowles, H.G. Spratley and W. Barrett. Forwards – J.C. Lomax, G Deacon, T. Read, A Deacon and R. Ellingham.
Excelsior meanwhile bounced back from the defeat to Rushden with a 2 1 victory over Hemel Hempstead at Dallow Lane.
“The goals gained for the Luton team were kicked by Smith and Eling. There would most probably been no goal for the visitors had not Mr T. Brown been knocked down”. The dangers of being a goal keeper, and the need for protection from his full backs are demonstrated here.
Albany beat Grosvenor College 3 0 at Albany’s Meadow, Dallow Lane.
Their team was Goal – T. Hurdley. Backs – A. Sanders and F. Horwood. Half Backs – W. King, A Smart and J. Moody. Forwards – W. Miller, J. Scarborough (right), J. Otway and W. Perry (left) with A. Neill (centre)
The final game that weekend saw Victoria beat Engineers 3 0 at the Richard III Meadow.
A trial match was announced in the press.
“The East Midlands Counties Football Association – a trial match under the auspices of the above association will be played at Wellingborough to-morrow (Saturday), when the following players will represent Luton: G. Deacon, J.C. Lomax, E.H. Lomax, A. Martin and T. Veale (Luton Town) and G.H. Small (Luton Excelsior). By communicating with the secretary, Mr G.H. Spratley, persons who may wish to witness the game may obtain railway excursion tickets”.
Note that Herbert George Spratley’s initials are reversed. This highlights one of the problems in identifying players from the reports of the day. He may well have been referred to as “George” by family and friends.
The third weekend in February saw one reported match in Luton, Albany drew 2 2 with Luton Town (late Wanderers) second eleven. The latter’s team was as follows;
Goal – West. Backs – R. Ellingham and H. Palmer. Half backs – T. Read, Brentnall. Forwards – W. Wheeler, Warboys, Looms, Lowe, C. Brown and J. Robinson. Note the six forwards again.
The E.M.C.F.A. trial match took place between teams captained by J.C. Lomax and Mr A. Pretty. Several hundred people attended and saw the latter’s team win by five goals to two. The team to play the first match was selected.
The last weekend of February saw some interesting games but few details. At Engineers Field, Luton Town (late Wanderers) 2nd eleven beat Engineers 1 0. Christ Church Institute returned to Dunstable looking for revenge for their earlier 8 1 defeat. They came away with a 4 2 victory. Albany beat Victoria 2 0 at Albany’s Meadow, Dallow Lane. Victoria appear to have been trying to strengthen their team by inviting other players in the town to play for them. They had a very strong team out;
“composed of members of the Park Rovers, Wanderers, Engineers, and their own club, but the Albany played well, and in the end won by two goals to nil.”
The beginning of March saw some very attractive representative E.M.C.F.A. matches which drew big crowds. The first game saw the London Association (2nd team) come to Luton;
“played on the Luton Excelsior Meadow, Dallow-lane on Saturday afternoon. There was a very large attendance of spectators, including many visitors from London and the surrounding district. Soon after the start, it became apparent that both teams had been well selected, and were thoroughly representative. It will be remembered that the team to represent the East Midlands Counties was selected after a trial match at Wellingborough, and though the selected team of the Association was chosen exclusively from Beds and Northamptonshire, yet a better eleven could scarcely have been chosen. The London team, too, had evidently been carefully picked, including players from the Old Etonians, the Old Westminster, and the Clapton Clubs. During the first half, it was evident that the teams were well matched, for each side scored two goals. On both sides the men played well together, though the London goal keeper might, perhaps, have saved the second goal kicked by the Midlands men had he exerted himself a little more strenuously. The ball was not kicked at all hard, and rolled through the posts very slowly, amid the laughter of the spectators. On the Midlands side the play of the brothers Lomax and Taylor (of Bedford) was particularly brilliant. The passing and dribbling of the brothers Lomax was very fine, while the kicking of J.C. Lomax was magnificent. For all round play, however, the palm must be given to Taylor, who scarcely missed a shot, and worked hard all through. The London men also played well together, the Clapton representatives with the Old Etonian men showing conspicuously brilliant play. After the teams changed ends, the play was scarcely so satisfactory, for although the Midland men worked very hard they were unable to score, while the London association added two more points. The home team, however, had very hard luck, for the ball was kicked clean over the bar by Midland men three times, while on a fourth occasion it was “tipped” over by the goal-keeper. Of course, three shots did not count, and, although the play was in the London quarters during almost all of the second period, the Midlanders failed to improve their position. It may be mentioned that each side kicked a disputed goal, which the umpires decided should not be scored. The arrangements were successfully carried out by members of the Excelsior and Luton Town Clubs, and the match was, in every respect, a great success. The following are the teams: London Association: Goal – F.G. Wall (Rangers), Backs – H. Denny (Dulwich) and J. Barbour (Clapton). Half backs – R.H. Clarke (Clapton) and C.L. Bird (St. Bartholomews). Forwards – J.E. Paul (Old Westminster), F.D. Darbishire (Old Etonians), R. Hales (Vulcans), F. Kransslach (Hanover), J. Morris (Dulwich) and S.G. Pailthorpe (Acton). East Midlands Counties Eleven: Goal – H. Eddlestone (Northampton). Backs – A.W. Platt (Wellingborough Grammar School) captain and J. Owen (Wellingborough Revellers). Half backs – E.H. Lomax (Luton Town) and A. Taylor (Bedford). Forwards – J.C. Lomax and G. Deacon (Luton Town) left wing, W.H. Garne ((Wellingborough Grammar School), A.R. Bower (St. Neots) centres, J.B. Challen (Wellingborough Grammar School) and J. Deitoa (Wellingborough Revellers) right wing. The E.M.C.F.A. umpire was F. Scott of Excelsior who was a member of the committee. The referee was N.L. Jackson, the editor of “Pastime.”
It seems that the officials of Wanderers and Excelsior could still work together for the greater good despite the animosity caused by the former’s name change. Both sides played the out of date 2-2-6 formation.
The same week, Bedfordshire went down 4 1 to Huntingdonshire. This game was played at neutral Hitchin and the Bedfordshire goal was scored by George Deacon.
Albany’s game against Victoria was abandoned towards the end in an incident that highlighted the weakness of the laws of the game and the two umpire system. Albany’s Walter Miller;
“was in the act of passing between the posts when one of the Victoria backs knocked the ball out with his hand. For this the Albany team claimed a goal, but the other side disputed it, although their umpire had at first admitted the point. In consequence of this disagreement the game came to a premature termination”.
There were no penalty kicks at this time. Albany knew they would only get a free kick which meant that 11 opponents would line up just six yards away. They, of course, had no right to claim a goal as the ball had not passed between the posts. With no referee, it was the team umpires to agree a resolution. If they could not, then the team captains could try to resolve the dispute.
The following week the East Midland Counties played West End of London.
“This match was played in a meadow in Dallow-lane, on Saturday afternoon last, when there was a very large number of spectators, many of whom had come in from the neighbour-hood. Throughout the afternoon a high wind was blowing, and this, of course, served to render play uncertain. The London team undoubtedly had the worst of the wind in the first half, but their play did not seem to improve to any appreciable extent after the change of ends. They did not seem to play together nearly so well as the home team, though it must be admitted that at times very fine play was witnessed, the “passing” of some of the men being particularly fine. The fact that the Londoners were greatly overmatched soon became apparent, but this appearance may in some measure, be attributed to the splendid play of the home team who worked together all through. The brothers Lomax, with Deacon and Challen “passed” magnificently, and so successful were their tactics that several times the ball was within measurable “shooting” distance of the goal of the visitors, though unlucky “shots” at the goal rendered their most arduous efforts abortive. The centre forwards – Garne and Bower – played well, while Taylor again specially distinguished himself by his brilliant exertions. Platt (the captain), was a articulately fine back, but Hunt did not prove to be such a success. The play of the London team did not seem to be so good as it might have been, but Ward and Houghton showed very fine form, the latter kicking magnificently, and saving many dangerous shots by his fine play. The result was a victory for the home team by 5 goals to 1. The following are the teams:- West End Association: Goal – Evans (Grove House). Backs – T. Houghton (Prairie Rangers) captain and W. Lamicraft (Cavendish). Half backs – T. Manby (Grove House), A. Humphreys (Grove House) and W. Ward (Prairie Rangers. Forwards – W. Juckes (Grove House) and Lowes (Waterloo) left wing; J. Reddall (Grove House) centre; J. Black (Grove House) and E. Collard (Unity) right wing; W.H. Morrison (Clarence) umpire. East Midland Counties Association- Goal – T. Brown (Luton Excelsior). Backs – A.W. Platt (Wellingborough Grammar School), captain and J.G. Hunt (Luton Excelsior). Half backs – A. Taylor (Bedford), and E. Lomax (Luton Town). Forwards – J.C. Lomax (Luton Town) and G. Deacon (Luton Town) left wing; G.W. Garne (W.G.S.) and P.H. Bower (St. Neots) centres; J.B. Challen (W.G.S.) and J. Denton (Wellingborough Revellers) right wing; J. Fernie, (Wellingborough Grammar School) umpire.”
The 2-2-6 formation beat the 2-3-5 formation.
Many players turned out again the following Wednesday when a Beds and Hunts team played Northants and Rutland. A. Martin replaced J.G. Hunt in this game. Again, the Wellingborough Grammar School players proved their superiority in a 4 3 victory for Northants and Rutland. I am sure these games would have been invaluable by demonstrating, to a public new to football, the very best quality that could be offered at the time. The large crowds that turned out to watch shows that there was an appetite for football in the town. The idea of gathering together the best players to form a good team would not have been lost on the Luton men who desired a united “Town Club.”
These representative games also gave the best players in the region the chance of playing together and forming partnerships on the pitch and friendships off it. The friendships formed with players of other clubs would help in the arrangement of future club games. Football in Luton was in its infancy and it had a lot of catching up to do. The representatives games exposed the players to new tactics and styles of play which they could incorporate into their game. The Wellingborough Grammar School players would be able to demonstrate the benefit of regular practice sessions. The school had playing fields upon which the Masters and pupils could practice during lessons and straight after the final bell. They would have had competitive internal school matches. The younger players therefore grew up learning the game and improving. The school also entered local Charity Cup competitions giving further experience. The mixture of Masters and students produced a formidable eleven which would never be beaten by a Luton team.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) B team beat Dunstable 3 0 away that same weekend, on 21st March.
The last weekend in March saw another new team appear on the scene. Beds Teachers Association drew 0 0 at Dallow Lane with Luton Excelsior. The game was stopped after an hour and 20 minutes as there were no goals and no prospect of goals.
The Excelsior team was;
Goal – T. C. Brown. Backs – J.G. Hunt (captain) and W.C. Hopewell. half backs – T Lawrence, Fisher and Sayce. Forwards – Boxford, centre, W Ealing and J. Sandridge (right wing), W. Smith and G.H. Small (left wing).
It is interesting to see that they played for an hour and twenty minutes before deciding that there was no prospect of a goal. It had been decided by the F.A. in 1877 that the duration of a game would be 90 minutes. So a local arrangement must have been in place for these friendlies. If it was a friendly on a Wednesday afternoon then a shorter game would have been played due to dusk arriving early in Winter. This arrangement would not help stamina levels when a 90 minute game was played
Luton Town (late Wanderers) A team went to Hitchin and suffered a 3 1 defeat. Hitchin had secured the services of the Bower brothers from St. Neots “and about five or six other prominent players from other clubs, and consequently were much too strong for the visitors”. Their B team beat Victoria 3 2 at Dallow Lane.
Albany beat another team new to the scene, Old Buxtons, 8 0 at Albany Meadow, Dallow Lane. There was a Buxton Road school so this may be a team made up of old boys or pupils and teachers.
Finally the E.M.C.F.A. lost 2 1 to Cambridgeshire at Kettering.
Interlude – 21 February, the Washington monument is dedicated by President Chester A. Arthur.
Interlude – In March 1885 the Prussian Government expels all Poles and Jews holding Russian citizenships, 300,000 are forcibly deported.
There are some wonderful snippets of information in the newspaper reports from the Easter period. Good Friday was not so good for a player named Folks who was playing for the Luton Albany at Dunstable. He was a compositor at the Luton Reporter newspaper and broke his leg “a little below the knee. The unfortunate man was immediately taken to the vagrant ward, and Doctor Spokes was sent for”. I believe the vagrant ward would be at the Bute Hospital.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) played six matches over Easter and it should have been 7 had one team not turned up. Only 3 Phoenix Athletic players arrived to everyone’s disappointment. Even so it was a formidable programme of games and some would have been second team games. The Luton Times says that all games were “well patronised by the public, more especially the one on Monday between the Clapton Pilgrims and the Luton Excelsior”. Even so, five of the the games were played at Dallow Lane so we can only imagine what the state of the pitch was especially bearing in mind it was the Spring.
The first game was on Good Friday, 3rd April 1885, against the London team, Grove House and the Times says it was the best match over the holiday period;
“the most remarkable feature in this game being the splendid rush of Spratley, who went head-long at the ball and breasted it through the post amidst great excitement. I have written so often of the brothers Lomax that it is useless to say more in their favour. One thing I hope is that they will never leave our club; then Taylor our half-back, was “all there again”. Of the Grove House team the backs Messrs McLeman and Houghton, played remarkably well. They were very weak in their forwards, and I notice that nearly all the London teams are strong back players. Houghton kicked a goal from a very slow shot. I thought surely our goal-keeper was sleeping; it looked to me anyone could have stopped it. Then for the home team, Albert Deacon kicked a goal – a very long shot – thus winning by two to one. I should like to say here the onlookers were very uncharitable to the visitors; I don’t mean all – a few roughs, I think they should be termed, who cannot go and see a match without making personal as well as general remarks, some of them most offensive, and many players spoke to me about the matter. I like to see good play, and give hearty support; but if there is any bad play the umpires know their duty, and gentlemen do not like to come forty or fifty miles to get a bullying. I hope that next time it occurs the committee will order the culprits off the field. Sides – Grove House Eleven – Goal. Hunt: Backs, Houghton and Lamecroft: Half backs, McLeman, Ward, and Gunn; centre, Fry; left wing, Cobbold and Lowes; right wing, Smith and Bambridge. Luton Town Eleven – Goal, Long; backs, Martin and Bennett; half-backs, Taylor, E. Lomax and Brooks; centre, Spratley; left wing, J.C. Lomax and Deacon; right wing, Ellingham and Deacon”.
This report gives us some great insight, even though it does appear to have been edited by the newspaper. Spratley was playing in the same team as J.C and E.H. Lomax. It appears from the report that the Lomax brothers were talking about leaving the club, no doubt unhappy that Wanderers had “stolen” the name Luton Town. The correspondent, a Wanderers official, is clearly siding with the Lomax brothers. Besides their undoubted playing ability, there was a further benefit of having the Lomax brothers in their side. We saw A. Taylor of Bedford play for the E.M.C.F.A. and receive high praise in the reports. He played for the Wanderers against Grove House presumably at the Lomax brothers invite. A friendship had been formed but more than that, the local football lovers would have taken notice of the Lomax brother vision and ambition. The brothers were able to improve the strength of the team with the addition of Arthur Taylor, one of the best half-backs in the region. Who else could the Lomax brothers attract? The other questions football lovers had to ask themselves was who could Herbert Spratley attract and what exactly had he done for football in the town?
The clash between the gentlemen and the rough working class of the town is fascinating. The correspondent objects to the remarks made by some spectators towards the Grove House players. Football attracted both ends of the social spectrum and they did not always enjoy each others company. The “roughs” at this game wanted to let off steam and put off the opposition. The gentlemen had a more neutral “may the best team win” attitude, and some possibly wanted to keep the working class “in their place.” We shall see more conflict when Wanderers travel to Chesham on Tuesday.
Luton Town (late Wanderers) B team beat Albany 2 1 on the following day. Easter Monday saw the Wanderers play three games at Dallow Lane against London opposition. The first game started at 10.30am and Moreton Rangers were seen off 4 0. Dalston Rovers were beaten 4 1 but they lost the last game of the day 2 1 to Kildare.
The Luton Town (late Wanderers) team against Albany was;
Goal – Allen. Backs – H. Hucklesby and Firmin [Ferman/Furman?]. Half backs – G Bennett, Bird and G Abrahams. Forwards – H.G. Spratley and H. Palmer (right), W. Smith and Wheeler (left), D. Davis (centre).
On the Tuesday Wanderers travelled to Chesham and won 1 0. The Luton Times report gives a fascinating account of the day.
“On Tuesday the Wanderers took a ride to Chesham to play a match, and of all places for ruffianism this is the worst that I have been into for the last 30 years. Our team was very weak but they managed to get one goal, while Chesham, I suppose, will claim the disputed goal. Well, I think it will be the last they will have. The treatment of the Wanderers was shameful in the extreme. As soon as they began play the Cheshamites began bullying and making use of the vilest remarks on the players; also nearly all of them lost their tempers, charging, malicious tripping whenever they could. Our team had plenty to do to keep cool. Mr Bollook, our left wing, got hit in the mouth. He appealed to the player, who immediately told him “That’s where you ought to have it” and rushed up to him in a menacing manner. I never saw such an uncivilised lot of people before. They told the umpire to get home as quick as he could, or perhaps he would not, and he availed himself of the good advice. He now writes these few remarks and would say to the Cheshamites, “You will never have any football playing in your town except when you learn how to treat your opponents properly”.
The Luton Reporter adds,
“The spectators were very unfair and when the Luton team left the field the crowd hooted them to the dressing room”.
Chesham Town was founded in 1879 by Reverend Reade, the curate of Christ Church. He could not control his flock on this day as the ruffianism of the Chesham players started from kick off. The players and the crowd then vented their anger at the Wanderers umpire after the disallowing of the Chesham “goal”. As a referee is not mentioned it seems that the game was officiated by an umpire from each club. They had to agree for a decision to stand.
The Wanderers umpire wrote the report and was still upset by his experience when he handed it to the newspaper offices. Being virtually chased out of town by Cheshamite ruffians had shaken him up. It is interesting that he feels no need to justify his performance in the game. His “curse” on the Cheshamites worked as they have remained in the lower leagues for their entire existence.
His reference to the worst ruffianism he “had been into for the last 30 years” is intriguing. Is the reporter saying that he is 30 years old, or is he saying that he has been following football for the last 30 years? This suggests to me that he has been following football for the last 30 years which takes us back to 1855. Football had been around for centuries and it is inconceivable that it was not played in Luton since early times. There is no reason why the umpire could not have been following his favourite teams at their games around the region, or indeed playing in games himself. Travel became easier in 1858 when the railway arrived in Luton.
Luton Excelsior had a less busy Easter. The beat Prairie Rangers (London) either 2 0 (according to the Luton Reporter) or 3 0 (according to the Luton Times) in Dallow Lane on Good Friday. The Luton Times reports;
“The play was very smart throughout, both sides playing up remarkably well, but again the London team was too weak in their forwards, whereas the Excelsior team were strongest. The players who most distinguished themselves were for the Rangers, Houghton and McLeman, and the left wing, but they would not pass the ball to their left, so he did not get much to do, but what did come his way he rushed it up the field at a rare pace. Of the Excelsior, Hopewell kicked at random, while Lawrence played very well; also the other half backs. J.G. Hunt played a bit dashing, and his charges sometimes are a treat. The game ended in a very easy win for Excelsior by three goals to love”.
Their team was;
Goal – T.C. Brown. Backs – J.G. Hunt and W.C. Hopewell. Half backs – A. Taylor, T Lawrence and E. H Lomax. Forwards – J.C. Lomax and W. Eling (left wing), G.H. Small (centre), W. Smith and Boxford (right wing).
We see the Lomax brothers and Arthur Taylor in the Excelsior team on the same day that they played for the Wanderers.
The Luton Times says that;
“on Easter Monday a good match was played between the Clapton Pilgrims v. Luton Excelsior before 1,500 to 2,000 people, and amongst them at least 100 of the fairer sex. I also noticed the Mayor, The Rev. T. Beeward and family, Mr Joe Hawkes, Mr W.J. Cawdell, Mr Bootham, Mr Southam and the Misses Southam, and a lot of others, for the first time many of them I am told, and they were highly amused, though they could not, of course, enter into all the points of the game. Our side was very strong, and easily defeated the Pilgrims by five goals to love, all kicked by Jones”.
The report concentrates more on the crowd than the game itself. Celebrity worship is nothing new albeit this was at a very local level. The term “amused” infers that they thought the game funny. It is always interesting to hear the views of people who know nothing about football. The imperfect game of football at that time was still awaiting many important laws and tactics to make it more structured and organised. To a novice it must have appeared very confusing. I assume the reporter was a tennis players as he uses the tennis term “love” rather than nil. He clearly had love on his mind with the rare reference to the fairer sex at the game.
We see that the Park/Luton Rovers captain H. Hucklesby turn out for Luton Town (late Wanderers). Note also that W. Smith played for Wanderers and Excelsior. Whether there was more than one W. Smith we do not know. He turns up and plays any game he can. More significantly, we have two of the star Wanderers players, the Lomax brothers, playing for Excelsior. With Wanderers playing six games over Easter we must wonder why they played an unnecessary game for Excelsior. We have no details about whether they played in any other games over the Easter period.
This Easter festival of football had been a great success and would be an annual event in the town. Easter was a long holiday and if the weather was decent the crowds turned up. It is remarkable that up to 2,000 attended the Excelsior v Clapton Pilgrims game. England v Scotland on 21st March 1885 at the Kennington Oval attracted 8,000. On the 4th April 1885, 12,500 spectators saw Blackburn Rovers win the F.A. cup by beating Queen’s Park 2 0 at the Kennington Oval.
The season was coming to a close and Albany gave a report of their season.
“The match with the Town Club on Saturday concluded the Albany’s football season. Notwithstanding that most of their opponents have been teams much heavier and stronger than their own, their season has been a very successful one. They have played 22 matches, of which they have won 13; lost 5; and drawn 4; and have scored 58 goals to their opponents 19”.
The Luton Reporter announced that;
“A match of a novel character will be played on Saturday by the Town Club. They have arranged to play in high hats, one team in white and the other in black. The whole of the proceeds of the match will be given in aid of the Bute Hospital. The Alliance Brass Band, under the leadership of Mr G Bryer, will give their services, and will start from the headquarters of the club in High Town road at 3.30, and parade the town previous to the match, which will commence at 4 o’clock. The Town Club wish to make the match a success, and would like a large number of visitors present, so that there will be a substantial balance to hand over to the hospital”.
This novel match, part of the charm offensive by Luton Town (late Wanderers), was arranged for the 11th April 1885.