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© Chris Byrne 2010

1912/13: A Tour & A Cup Final

A week after the relatively short trip to Reading for the Amateur Cup Semi-Final, Oxford City were to find themselves playing much further afield as they undertook by far their most adventurous tour to date. Though warning signs were already evident of unrest in Europe the Club ventured further east than ever previously for a four-match programme in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ten of the First XI made the trek along with two local ‘guests’, Heap and Callender, as well as two St Albans City players: England Amateur international Ernest Grimsdell, brother of Arthur Grimsdell the Spurs captain after WW1, and George Edmonds. They won two and lost two matches, with Edmonds cracking in a hat-trick to beat the Budapest University team.
The multi-coloured Hungarian poster for the Temesvar match perhaps slightly overstated City’s prowess as an “English Championship Team”.

City's opponents for the Amateur Cup Final, to be played at Reading on 12 April 1913, were to be one of the three great Northern teams who had dominated the Amateur Cup since it started in 1893: South Bank, based in Middlesbrough.
6,000 fans converged on the stadium to watch two of the best amateur teams in the country contest the Final of the Amateur Cup. 2,500 at least of them were from Oxford, filling four long special excursion trains for the half-hour or so journey. Only about 40 brave South Bank supporters were able to attend, however.
There was mixed news on the team front. The Revd Kenneth Hunt had been married on the Thursday, but was nonetheless declared available to play! Less welcome was the news that Arthur Berry’s knee injury was still preventing him from playing. HG Smith was also unavailable. Coupled with some recent disappointing results, the omens were not very encouraging.
South Bank had a strong side out, including three England Amateur Internationals: Howling, the goalkeeper, Prest and Carr, each with one cap. The City team was: Herbert Harley (goal); Henry Cadwell and Fred Ansell (backs); Joseph Radnage, Revd Kenneth Hunt and Heber Percy Slatter (half backs); Frank Draper, M. McKinnon, Guy Buckingham, Alfred Jakeman and Bertram Honeysett (forwards).
The game itself was relatively undistinguished, and the Oxford Chronicle report not as effusive as it had been for City’s previous Final appearances in 1903 and 1906. Both goals were scored in the first half, South Bank opening their account through Borrie in the 30th minute, despite a good deal of pressure from City in the first period of play. City fought back, and ten minutes later earned their reward with an equaliser by Buckingham.
In the second half the northerners had the better of the play, and City were apparently devoid of creativity up front. It proved to be a stalemate, although South Bank did have a goal disallowed quite near the end, much to the relief of the blue and white army.
Interestingly The Times on the Monday reported the match in just four short lines, while giving the AFA Final (between Casuals and New Crusaders at The Stadium, Shepherd’s Bush, won 3-2 by the former) almost quarter of a column, beginning by saying, “It is encouraging to find that there is real support for the best of amateur Association football…”!

So for the second time, Oxford City were given a second bite of the Amateur Cup cherry. The replay was arranged for the following Saturday, 19 April, at Bishop Auckland, the same day as the English Cup Final between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Crystal Palace.
The City team went up by train on the Friday, while the supporters’ train, with 150 on board, set off at 4.20 am to travel via Crewe and Leeds. This roundabout route was for loading gauge reasons: the GWR coaches could not travel on NER metals, so could only go as far as Darlington, via this particular route.
The City team showed two changes from the previous week. Arthur Berry was determined to play, despite a persistent weakness in the troublesome knee, so he pronounced himself fit to play. It was a brave but (as it turned out) unwise decision. The other alteration was to bring back Smith instead of Honeysett on the left wing. The South Bank team was unchanged.
It was another dour struggle, with little to commend it or to separate the teams. Two incidents in the first half, however, put the northerners on the road to victory. The first, on 20 minutes, was when Berry badly aggravated his knee condition, and had to go off for seven minutes. He did return, but only as the proverbial ‘passenger on the wing’, taking little part in the remainder of the game. It was a great blow for City, as of course there were no substitutions allowed in those days. This was a disappointing finish to Berry’s brief career with City, and heralded the end also of his international career after twenty-seven caps and two Olympic team Gold Medals. He was in any case taking up a career as a solicitor in his native Liverpool, where his father was Chairman of Liverpool FC.
The second incident was even more disappointing for City as, on 31 minutes, South Bank scored what was to be the only goal of the game. This signalled the end of the road, both for noteworthy incidents on the field and also for City’s chances of landing the Cup for the second time.

Hungarian poster (straightened and retouched)
1913 Dinner

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