For many today is simply the 7th January, which I suppose it is, but for this football club the date is something of an anniversary.
For those of you who did not realise it, it is 53 years ago today that Weymouth Football Club, with a team that included our Club President, Bob Lucas, made the journey to Manchester for an FA Cup 3rd Round game with the “Red Devils”.
This famous game was the first FA Cup tie played at Old Trafford after the 2nd World War; they had played at Maine Road in the previous season. As a matter of fact they had hosted our near neighbours and great rivals, Yeovil Town in the corresponding round of the 1948-49 season. The result then had been an 8-0 win for United, so I suppose they thought that the game with Weymouth would see a repeat of that scoreline.
The ‘Terras’ FA Cup run had started way back on September 17th 1949 when Totton, of the Hampshire League, visited the Rec. and were beaten 6-3 in front of 5,110 people. In the succeeding rounds Weymouth won 6-2 at Ryde (IOW), where the crowd was 2,500, beat Poole Town 4-0, at home, with 6,059 paying to watch and then returned to the Isle of Wight to beat Cowes by 5-1 (attendance 2637). The final qualifying round saw a visit by Trowbridge Town and a superb attendance of 7,779 saw a really tight game finish at 3-3. The resultant replay, which drew 9,009 (which still stands as the Wiltshire side’s record attendance) finished in a Weymouth victory by 2-1.
In round 1, Aldershot Town, of the Football League, were our visitors, and an all ticket crowd of 10,039 saw the match end all square, at 2-2. A fairly late equaliser from the “Terras” belying the fact that the FL side were fortunate to get a second chance. The midweek replay was only watched by 4798 and the Hampshire side raced into a 2 goal lead, but the magic of “Wee” Sammy McGowan and the resilience of the whole side resulted in a wonderful comeback which saw the “Terras” progress with a 3-2 win. This was Weymouth’s first ever competitive defeat of a league club away from the Rec and remained, until 1982 at Cardiff, the only such result.
The luck of the draw saw another home tie in round 2, this time against fellow Southern League outfit, Hereford United. At the time of the game Hereford were struggling in the league and had already tasted defeat at the Rec. on the occasion of their league visit. Weymouth’s hopes were high then. A very competitive game ensued in which the “Terras” were slightly fortunate to record a win, at least so the newspapers of the time report! The crowd, all ticket again, is recorded as 10,000 and they saw a 2-1 victory.
We can only imagine the joy felt by the players, officials and supporters of the club when the draw was made for round 3. I am not sure whether the draw would have been broadcast over the radio back then, but I do know that a fairly large number of people gathered outside the Echo offices to await the posting of it, taken from the ‘wire’. Manchester United, the cup favourites and a team renowned at that time as today. Also being away from home I suspect that the financial benefits of the draw were also welcomed at the club.
At the time the average weekly wage bill for the Weymouth club ran out at some £134, it was mentioned in some papers that this would equate to only a couple of the United player’s!
When the Supporters Club committee met, on 13th December 1949, to discuss the provision of transport to the match it was stated that a minimum of 300 people, paying £2 per head, were required to run a special train to the game. As a comparison it was reported that coaches could be organised at a cost of £1 15/- (£1 75p) a head. Believe it or not there was much discussion before the committee agreed to book the train! Eventually 462 tickets were sold for the train so there must have been a few bob made there too. Tickets for the match were also made available, at a cost of 5/- (25p) which could be compared with the similar ticket at Weymouth, costing 2/-. Incidentally 28 people also flew, in a Dakota, to the game and their journey took 71 minutes (for some reason it took 87 for the return!). Sadly, despite an appeal in the Evening Echo a few weeks ago, no one has come forward to say that they were one of those intrepid travellers. However, I do know of people who made the journey by other means so suspect that there must have been around 1000 Weymouth fans in the ground.
Supporters at PicadillyAs can be seen from this photo of the Weymouth supporters at Piccadilly station, along with some of the players who went to meet them, the local delicacy, a crab, was taken along as a mascot. Holding the crab is Johnny Caryle, of Portland, who eventually sold the thing to a Manchester hotelier, who, presumably, fed it to a client!
The players travelled north on the Friday morning and stayed in the Queens Hotel over the weekend. As the photograph above indicates some went around to Piccadilly to meet the supporter’s train, which had left Weymouth at 22-00 the previous evening and had arrived at 06-00. Joe Townsend was later to recall how Woolworths had opened early especially to sell cooked breakfasts to the hungry, but excited, travellers.
The club had ensured that the squad were well taken care of and arrangements were made for them to attend a show on the Friday night and a circus on the Saturday, after the game, before leaving Manchester early on the Sunday.
Nothing was left to “chance” as the club’s preparations for the big game went on. This included a visit to Upwey Wishing Well in the week leading up to the game!
From left to right, in the photograph above, the men are: –
“Wee” Sammy McGowan who was outside right and one of the greats of our club, he had joined south from St Johnstone in 1948; “Porky” Hillear who was the trainer and a former Weymouth keeper; Paddy Gallacher the inside left and player manager; Arthur Haynes – inside right; Fred Marsden – right back; Des Lawes – left half (although born in India he had lived most of his life in Weymouth and was a county cap in 3 other sports); Glan Jones – outside left; Bob Dunn – he was to be the reserve at Old Trafford (their were no substitutes in those days); Mr Andrews – a club director; Eddie Grant – right half (he was to play in the football league for Sheffield United after leaving the club); Charlie Burke – he was not destined to play at Old Trafford, through injury; Denis Horlock – as with Burke did not play in the game; Ron Johnston – centre forward (who was later to play for Brighton) and Bob Lucas – the goalkeeper who is still part of our club today.
As for Manchester United, they had finished as runners up in the Football League Division 1 in all three post war seasons, 1946-47, 1947-48 and 1948-49, and had last won the FA Cup in 1947-48. In 1948-49 they were beaten in the semi final by Wolverhampton Wanders. These bare fact highlight the difficulty faced by Weymouth in the game as, even then, United were a top team. The side was managed by the legendry Matt (later Sir Matt) Busby and included such famous names as Jack Rowley, an English International, who scored two of the goals and is reputed to have apologised to Bob Lucas as he admitted that his second (scored 2 minutes from time) should not have stood as he was well offside!
programme coverAs for the match itself, Weymouth performed magnificently and were a credit to themselves, and the club, town etc.
Throughout the match the “Terras” tried to play football, they never tried to kick their illustrious opponents off of the park, as often happens on this sort of occasion.
Right from the kick off it was clear that United were not going to allow Weymouth too much latitude and Pearson was trying everything he knew to pierce the “Terras” defence. Weymouth fought hard and repulsed the advances of the start studded Northerners and matched them, in all but their basic speed of thought. “Wee” Sammy gave Aston a hard time, occasionally leaving him groping into thin air with his trickery on the ball. On one such occasion Sammy’s weaving run left three defenders in his wake, before he crossed for Grant to drive just over the crossbar. When United did come forward they found the visitor’s defence to be in no mood for capitulation and, when this defence was breached the United forwards came upon the ‘Man of the Match’, Bob Lucas – who was in brilliant form.
The first of United’s four goals came after 32 minutes when Delaney beat Marsden and centred for Rowley to score with an overhead kick. Unfortunately a misplaced pass from Lawes was intercepted by Pearson who beat off two challenges, rounded Lucas and scored.
In the 51st minute Lucas made his only mistake of the game when he misjudged a corner kick from Delaney which swerved over his head into the net.
At this stage many a side would have been swamped, as, perhaps, their confidence dropped, but Weymouth did not allow this to happen. A few minutes later Jones took a corner and Grant met the ball with a bullet header. This beat goalkeeper Feehan ‘all ends up’ but, sadly for the “Terras”, Carey was on the goal line to affect a clearance. The fourth and final goal came as late as the 88th minute, and was probably unjust as the scorer himself said, when Rowley scored again.
In all the papers over the following couple of days Weymouth were hailed for their performance and efforts. Amongst the comments made, after the game, by United’s supporters was one that was later quoted by many: –
“We were met with both skilful and doughty opponents. There are quite a few first and second division teams who would get a shock if they met the Weymouth lads”
Another said: “We had not a great deal of knowledge of the Weymouth team and it was a pleasant surprise to see that they played to such a high standard.”
For my money the comments that must have pleased the Weymouth manager and players more than any was made by Matt Busby in the following weekend’s match day programme, Busby said:-
“These boys went out in the best traditions by playing football in the best sporting spirit, gaining the admiration of us all at Old Trafford”.
High praise indeed from one of footballs ‘greats’.
It was, incidentally, the national newspapers that nominated Bob Lucas for the “Man of the Match” which, unofficial as it may have been, assuredly gave Bob a lot to be proud of.
The Weymouth team arrived home at the railway station at 22:30 on the Sunday night to be met by a “large crowd of supporters” who had assembled in the Weymouth station yard. These supporters gave the team an enthusiastic welcome and were gratified when player manager Gallacher took a few moments to thank them for the welcome home.
A couple of other points of interest from the game are the colours both sides wore for the match. Manchester United wore blue shirts and white shorts, whilst Weymouth wore green shirts and white shorts, with green stockings (or socks as we now call them). I have no idea why United wore blue, but I do know that the “Terras” borrowed the green shirts from the Dorset FA in order to wear our Dorset County colours for this one match. The shorts were also lent by the county, but “for some reason” they could not provide the socks so Upwey and Broadwey allowed the club to loan a set of green socks from them.
The gate for the match was 38,284 and the takings from this amounted to £3,557, from this figure Weymouth received their share of £1,514 6/6 (£1514 32p), which came from the net figure after expenses. The club also received a payment of £104 for their expenses. Did this include the admission to the circus, I wonder?
A photograph of the 1949-50 Weymouth side, courtesy of the late Joe Townsend.
This article has been written without first hand knowledge, contrary to popular belief I was not at the game! Neither have I had the chance to discuss it in depth with Bob Lucas, so I will apologise “in advance” for any errors.
Whilst I accept that we must look forward, I hope that many people will find looking back on such a famous day to be equally as interesting as I do.