Football in Bracknell
History & Nostalgia

What a weekend football round up was like in 1896

Steve Gabb reports from the 19th Century

What a weekend football round up was like in 1896

In the 19th century there wasn’t a Bracknell News or a Football in Bracknell to help keep up to date on the scores and big moves.

So we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what was going on in local football in late November 1896 by taking a look at the Reading Observer on the 28th November 1896.

The football coverage of local newspapers in the late 19th Century was impressive. A four page sporting supplement came with the Reading Observer every Saturday.

Every local town had a representative who enjoyed reporting back the latest going ons at their own club. The Reading Observer had correspondents at towns such as Newbury, Henley, Wokingham, Maidenhead, Twyford and Bracknell.

Each correspondent went by a pseudonym. Henley’s called themselves “Thamesis”, Maidenhead was “Nemo”, Wokingham’s Acorn and Bracknell’s “On-Side”. Each week they reported back match reports, news and gossip from their teams.

The following contains excerpts from the reports on the 28th November 1896.

Wokingham

It seems that Wokingham’s reporter was very much annoyed about the conditions his side had to endure during an away trip to Sunningdale.

His views were: “One thing I should like to advice the Sunningdale Executive to do, and that is to provide a proper dressing room for their visitors, and not as in this case compel them to change in a vile-smelling stable.” 

The “moderate number” of Wokingham fans who traveled to Sunningdale were treated to a 3-0 victory over their rivals in the Junior Cup 2nd Round.

This was despite the fact the club didn’t have a few of their stars, including Caldecott – who is surely the Ernest Caldecott we have covered on this site before.

Henley

There was awful news from Henley who saw one of their players sustain a very serious injury against Clerkenwell.

“in stopping the ball the shins of the two players crossed, with the result that Hobbs’ leg was broken in two or three places just above the ankle. Had the unfortunate young man been much older, he would have undoubtedly lost a foot, but I am glad to know that Hobbs won’t be a cripple for life, which at first seemed impossible to avoid”

Football in the late 19th Century could be a brutal sport and players were known to have died or sustained serious injury that affected their work-life severely.

Hobbs of Henley was one of the lucky ones. It sounded like an awful injury.

Thamesis (the nom-de-plume of the Henley correspondent) explained that “several men had fainted on the ground on Saturday when they saw the accident”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Henley lost the game to Clerkenwell by two goals to one.

Bracknell

As any local football follower knows, the Old Bracknell Wanderers were formed in 1896.

The (then) village were still struggling to put out a solid football team and unfortunately had to pull out of their match at Twyford.

On-Side explained “The Secretary tried hard to get a team, but as there was no possibility of taking more than six players he wired to the Twyford Secretary on Tuesday evening”. 

It’s heartening to know that player availability was also an issue in 1896, and as always it’s the beleaguered club secretary who is left to do all the hard work.

Related: 1896 isn’t the definitive date in Bracknell’s footballing history you thought it was

Maidenhead

The section on Maidenhead was written by Nemo and details their FA Cup qualifying round exploits.

Maidenhead were a better side than most of their local rivals and got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup three times in the 1870s. In 1896 they faced Chesham in the FA Cup second qualifying round and were clearly very confident. Their correspondent writes “Maidenhead never expected to experience any difficulty in defeating Chesham in the English Cup Competition, and their win on Saturday was no surprise to them or their supporters”. 

Nemo was clearly impressed by the Maidenhead goals in their 2-1 victory, writing “Tom Gray scored both of the Maidenhead goals by magnificent shots. That by which he scored the first goal was the finest shot I have ever seen.” 

Maidenhead defeated Norwich CEYMS in the next round before losing in the fourth qualifying round to Tottenham Hotspur by six goals to nil.

Information via the British Newspaper Archive

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