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Rowdyism – Kettering Fans

Rowdyism – Kettering Fans

Two of the most serious instances of hooliganism that I have come across in the Victorian era both involve Kettering.  The first came in March 1892 when the Ketts met Millwall in the semi-final of the Luton Charity Cup at Dallow Lane.  The attendance was 3,000 including a thousand who made their way to Luton by special excursion from Kettering.  The Luton Reporter takes up the story;

“The game was one of the roughest I have ever witnessed.  It had been anticipated that the Londoners would be the first to introduce this element, but they played a quiet, gentlemanly game until several of their men were badly fouled, and then they retaliated.  The tactics pursued by the Kettering men are indefensible; they imported an unnecessary display of brute force, and in the second half this became intensified.

The matter culminated in one of the “reds” [Kettering] forwards being ordered off the field, after two warnings by the referee, whose decisions had been characterised by the utmost fairness.  The player had been guilty of foul play and the use of bad language, and refused to obey Mr Maynard [the referee] when requested to go off.  The captain was appealed to, but he also declined to bow to the referee’s ruling until a threat of suspension was held before his eyes.  The game was suspended during the argument and the referee was freely hooted by the malcontent portion of the crowd.

The disorder reached its heights after the whistle blew, when a blackguardly scene took place.  Some hundred of the worse types of roughs made for Mr Maynard with the evident intention of assaulting him.  A strong body-guard of police and officials succeeded in preserving him from the fury of the mob, but it was only by dint of using considerable force.  As it was, Mr Maynard sustained several bruises, and I dare hardly think what might have happened had the police not been present.  The outrage was the most dastardly and unwarrantable that I ever saw committed on a football field.”

Even the Millwall players and official rushed to protect the referee at the final whistle.  The referee’s report absolved the people of Luton and laid the blame firmly with the riff-raff of Kettering.

The second incident was much more serious and involved the Luton Town players in a game at Kettering in March 1896.  A clash between Docherty of Luton and Hoskin of Kettering resulted in a broken leg for the latter.  The sober view was that it was Hoskin’s fault but the Kettering crowd saw it differently.  To further anger the crowd, Luton won the match.  The Luton News takes up the story from the final whistle as told in an interview with the Luton captain, William Stewart;

“The spectators swarmed across the field, and the referee disappeared.  As they made for the dressing pavilion, the Luton players were mobbed and pelted with mud.  The Kettering President, however, managed to pilot them through, and the crowd was eventually cleared.  Meanwhile, the news soon spread in the town, and a huge crowd rapidly collected outside the Park.  After about 20 minutes’ wait, a small party of Luton players comprising Stewart, McEwan, Finlayson, Coupar, Williams and Docherty, with Lawson (the trainer), were conducted through the back gate of the Park, over some fields and gardens.  Speedily discovering their whereabouts, the crowd rushed frantically down the hill and intercepted them.  So menacing was the mob that the Luton players took refuge in a cottage close by, which was at once surrounded by over 800 people armed with missiles of all kinds, and in a state of angry excitement.  Some windows were smashed, and the Lutonians were cooped up inside for an hour and a half, until half a dozen police came to the rescue.  With truncheons drawn, they conducted the Luton men a short distance, until Docherty, who was the butt of the popular rage, and one or two others, could be driven smartly away in a cab to the station.  Both Stewart and McEwen were struck by stones.  Galbraith and Gallacher made a detour of a mile or two by ploughed fields, and Watkins escaped unobserved with Mablestone.  McCartney and Ekins boldly went out by the front gate and got off with some hustling, “Mac” being at first taken for Docherty.

The return of the men at 10.19 was awaited at Luton station by a large crowd with considerable anxiety.”