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© Chris Byrne 2010

1934-1937: Good Times & Bad Times

At the start of the new season the Supporters Club approached the parent club with hopes of healing the rift and regaining official recognition, but their request was rejected.
Having scored twice in the re-election battle against Clapton at the end of the previous season, Dick Bull began his first full season with the Club in fine style as he found the net four times in the Isthmian opener at home to Nunhead, helping City to a 5-1 win. In fact this was to be their best league start as they won their first four matches notching up fifteen goals in the process.
Despite reaching the First Round of the FA Cup in 33/34, the Club were disappointed to find that they were not awarded an exemption till later rounds, but were, perhaps, heartened to find they were matched against Marlow, against whom they had scored ten in the competition the previous season. Unfortunately Marlow, presumably stung by that catastrophic result, had other ideas and battled to a 3-2 win.
However, despite this disappointment, the Club’s league results were reasonable and with another clutch of wins they found themselves on top of the table at the beginning of December with the record P16 W9 D2 L5. They were finally scoring goals regularly, a frequent problem in the previous decade, and, in Dick Bull, had found a top-class centre-forward: he already had 18 goals to his credit. They maintained their league position through to the end of the year.
Having found a good streak of form hopes were high again of an exciting Amateur Cup run, but the side showed its perennial unpredictability and collapsed lamely to a 0-1 defeat at the White House to bottom-of-the-table Casuals, a side whom they had already beaten home and away in the league. Though they had faded slightly as a force in amateur football, Casuals could still boast two England amateur internationals in Howard Fabian (who also played for Derby County) and Bernard Joy (who won a championship medal with Arsenal and went on to become a respected journalist and writer) and would have a swan-song the following season when they won the Amateur Cup before combining with the Corinthians.
The Saturday of the Casuals’ defeat was not one of City’s better weekends as the Reserves were defeated in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup by Headington United – the first time that the side from ‘up the hill’ had managed to defeat their City foes. Unsurprisingly the local press on the following Monday were highly critical of such a poor showing by the City’s premier club!
With just three league matches remaining, Wimbledon, who had been snapping at City’s heels throughout the year, visited the White House in mid-March and, in front of one of the season’s biggest crowds, pulled off a 3-1 win that lifted them above City in the table. And there they remained for the final weeks of the season. A win for City would have seen them claim the championship for the first time, but they had to be content with second place, and with being the league’s top scorers (for the only time in their long Isthmian career.)
There was an Easter Tour to Holland, which City took over from Wimbledon at short notice when the London side were involved in an Amateur Cup Final replay, where they beat Sparta Rotterdam but lost to Racing Club of Haarlem and Velox of Utrecht.
Wimbledon revisited the White House late in May and completed a hat-trick of wins for the season over City as the claimed the Oxford Hospital Cup.

dulwich 1934

The line-up for the match at Champion Hill.

Monday, April 23rd 1934. Kick-Off 7.00
(Hamer was a Welsh international, and Robbins an English international.)

Though the team saw few changes over the summer of 1935, with Nipper Jones, Reg Smith and Dick Bull still at the heart of the attack, the XI could not recapture the goal-scoring momentum of the 34-35 campaign and had only won five matches by the time half the fixtures had been played.
Dismissal from the national competitions came swiftly as well with Dartford (apparently) “...coasting” to a comfortable 5-1 FA Cup win in Kent in November, and Sutton United winning 4-1 in the Amateur Cup after holding City to a draw in Oxford.
It was becoming difficult to fill the Christmas break with attractive matches with teams more and more reluctant to tour at that time of the year. In fact the only ‘festive’ match was a hastily arranged affair against the Post Office Engineers, a London League side, and a very one-sided affair it proved to be as City ran out 7-1 winners with Dick Bull scoring four and Gordon Longford a hat-trick.
It was generally a rather bleak winter and there was considerable gale damage to the ground as high winds hit the south of the country in January. The White House was luckier than Nunhead’s ground, though, where a stand was almost completely flattened by the wind. It was then deemed unsafe by the fire brigade who decided to finish off what the weather had started by burning it down!
There was progress, however, in the AFA Invitation Cup, in which the Club had seen little success previously. Ealing Association (an erstwhile Isthmian side) were beaten 6-1, and Guildhall suffered exactly the same fate. Another London-based side, Old Westminster, were overcome 3-1 before City faced a sterner test with the visit of Moor Green from the Midlands, but goals from Gordon Longford, Dick Bull and an own goal took City through to the semi-final of the competition for the first time. Hastings & St Leonards, a strong Southern Amateur League side, captained by Harry Parks the Sussex cricketer, provided the opposition in the semi-final, played at Redhill, and ran out 1-0 winners.
Having slipped dangerously near the bottom of the table, the team finished the season strongly and, unbeaten from mid-February to late April, won five and drew one of its last eight games and pulled themselves up to eighth place.
A return visit to Holland had been arranged by the Committee, but, as several players dropped out, the tour was cancelled at the last moment, and a disappointing season finished on a low note as Dulwich Hamlet swept the City aside 6-1 to take the Oxford Hospital Cup.

The previous season there had been considerable speculation that the Club was about to appoint a full-time, paid coach for the side and had actually got as far as interviewing Arthur Grimsdell, a Tottenham and England captain from the ‘20s, but he had declined the invitation. In late summer 1936, though, the committee invited Alf Messer, the former Reading captain, to coach the side and he accepted, though he may have regretted his decision when the team lost its first game of the season at home to Tufnell Park by eight goals to four!
Matters turned round quite quickly though, and within three weeks City themselves were scoring eight as they disposed of Leytonstone 8-2.
The national cup drought continued, however, as City fell at the first hurdle in the major competitions yet again: beaten 6-3 by Athenian League Southall in the FA Cup, and 4-1 by the holders, Casuals, with a side containing eight amateur internationals, in the Amateur Cup.
London Caledonians, regular holiday visitors in earlier days, were the Boxing Day attraction, but the Scottish exiles were a waning force and would not seek to rejoin the league after World War 2: City won 2-1.
The Derbyshire Amateurs ended City’s involvement in the AFA cup at the beginning of January to start an eight-match losing run that saw the side concede eight goals for the second time in the season when Tottenham Reserves visited Oxford. In fact only another five league points were picked up over the final eleven games, and the season ended ignominiously on May Day with a 10-0 defeat at Newbury Park by Ilford. This was to be City’s biggest ever Isthmian defeat – and, for reasons presumably best known to the referee, the match was only 80 minutes long!
The Reserves fared even worse over the season and finished bottom of the Reserve Section losing nineteen of their twenty-six matches. They were also dumped out of the Senior Cup in the first round as Witney Town romped to a 6-1 win.
The committee organising the Oxford Hospital Cup decided to make it an Oxfordshire affair with the winners of the Senior Cup facing the champions of the Senior League, and Pressed Steel duly defeated Osberton Radiators 4-2 in the final, held at the White House in mid-May.
The poor season was reflected by the £230 loss that the Club announced at the AGM in June. Mr Benson was again elected President, while Teddy Tobin (who would later become President himself) and Harold Thompson (who would go on to become Chairman of the FA) were elected to the Committee.

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