A Blast from the Past No. 11 The birth of the FA and International Football

The early years 1872 – 1900

C. W. Alcock, one of the founder members of The Football Association in 1863, was one of football’s visionaries. He was the inspiration for both the FA Cup and the annual fixture between England and Scotland, these two events sparked a huge interest in the game and it spread quickly, firstly through Britain, followed by Europe, Africa and then to South America and beyond. Due to his imagination football quickly became a national obsession and by the early 1900’s numerous clubs had been formed in the heart of the country’s industrial communities. Prior to Alcock’s vision, football played outside of the country’s top public schools was considered to be no more than a loose and disorganised riot.

The England – Scotland fixture was drawing crowds of 100,000 and spawned debates over team selection and tactics both before and after the games. His idea for the annual fixture came after he witnessed the enormous interest aroused by rugby’s first international between the two countries in 1872 and he saw the publicity potential in a Football Association equivalent. However his announcement of the fixture, in the FA minutes of October 3rd 1872, did not indicate any real excitement – it read;

“In order to further the interests of the Association in Scotland, it was decided that a team should be sent to Glasgow to represent England”

England Scotland scrum 1878 001

Following the first international game football boomed in Scotland and many new clubs came into existence. The associations intention was for them to teach and for Scotland to learn but in the first ten matches England were humiliated by Scotland only winning twice in the first ten games including losing 6-1 in 1881 and 5-1 in 1882 – and to compound their dismay they only won four of the first twenty fixtures. The Scottish Football association secretary Robert Livingstone did not like the English dribbling game, he thought it was suicidal and instead he adopted the tactic of kicking the ball up the field and running after it and it proved to be very successful. The popularity of the annual fixture was encapsulated in an article which appeared in Bells Life prior to the 1878 match.

“All available conveyances were picked up long before two o’clock and a continuous stream of hansoms, dog carts and buses kept pouring their living freight to the foot of Hamden Hill…every inch of the locality was covered by spectators, In some places, it was packed like herrings in a barrel, but the majority bore it with Christian resignation”

English team -1890 001

The English Football Association Team, 1890

1900 – 1914

The dawn of the twentieth century did nothing to change England’s fortunes Scotland subjected them to a 4-1 pounding at Parkhead. The Football Sun reported;

“As soon as the gates were swung open people flocked in and the long wait was enlivened by patriotic songs, not to mention the whisky”

Two years later football suffered its first major crowd disaster during the England- Scotland game at Ibrox when a stand collapsed. It left 25 dead and hundreds injured but most of the crowd were unaware of the catastrophe in their midst. Early reports indicated that there were only a few injuries so the decision was made to continue with the game to avoid widespread panic. The stand was new and Ibrox had an official capacity of 80,000 but it was estimated that over 100,000 were in the ground – which led to the disaster. The original game ended in a 1-1 tie and was later downgraded to a “friendly”. It was replayed at Birmingham a month later and ended 2-2 with the gate proceeds going towards the disaster fund.

Between the turn of the century and the start of WW1 Scotland continued to be England’s only real competition of the 53 official internationals England lost just 7 games, 5 to Scotland and 2 to Ireland.  The 1909 Home Championship came within a whisker of being cancelled due to industrial unrest across England. The Players Union affiliated itself to the General Federation of Trade Unions and strike action in support of the miners threatened to bring the country to a standstill.

With just days left before the matches were due to begin the Players Union issued a statement announcing that “England would play and do their utmost to win” This was interpreted to mean that the team contemplated deliberately losing. The FA insisted that the players sign a statement declaring their determination to win. England went on to win the Championship without conceding a goal.

England players in 1911 001

England players conferring during a match in 1911

1919 – 1939

The 1920’s were an unsuccessful decade in England’s history. Following WW1 England, and other allied football associations, made the decision not to play against Germany, Austria or Hungary or any other country that agreed to play against their former enemies. This decision was shelved, two years later, when it became apparent that there was no reasonable opposition left to play against. But despite this change of heart England’s only foreign opponents were Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Sweden.

The 1930,s began promisingly with a triumph in the Victory International over Scotland; the game was played in appalling conditions and England’s team, nine of whom had seen service in WW1, found themselves 4-2 down at half time.  But in the second half, despite the continuous downpour, they turned the game around and won 5-4. Andrew Ducat, a member of the English team, died while batting at Lord’s during WW2. The win proved to be only a brief respite for England as they only won 6 of the next 17 games against Scotland during this period and had to wait until 1930 to win their first Home Championship since 1913.

Everton’s Dixie Dean played his first game for England against Wales on February 12th, 1927.  In the 1927/28 season he scored an astonishing 60 league goals, including a hat trick against Arsenal in the last match of the season, a record that is unlikely ever to be broken

Dixie Dean 001

England had a habit of stepping up their performances in important games and this showed in games against Italy and Germany. The match against Italy in 1934 was dubbed “The Battle of Highbury” it proved to be so violent that The FA seriously considered ending its participation in international football. Italy were the reigning World Champions and Italian newspapers called it the most important football game played anywhere in the World since the Great War.

An ankle injury to Italy’s Monti after just 3 minutes sparked a match of unrelenting violence. Centre- forward Ted Drake one of 7 Arsenal players in the line up, was punched on the chin early on and Captain Eddie Hapgood suffered a broken nose after a deliberate elbow flattened him. England went up 3-0 and after the game Hapgood recalled that the Italians started to hit everything in sight and fought back to 3-2. Arsenal’s Wilf Copping was in his element, he was considered to be the “hardest” man to ever pull on an England Shirt. His specialty was the, then legal, two footed lunge and he shoulder charged and tackled with ferocious enthusiasm. He more than any other player saved the day for England when their goal was under siege and they hung on for a famous, but ugly, victory.

England vs Italy 001

England’s Captain Eddie Hapgood wasn’t smiling after his nose was broken.

England faced Germany on May 15th, 1938 amidst a growing tension between the two nations, like Mussolini, Hitler’s Nazi re3gime understood the symbolic power of sport and the game against Engald provided an ideal arena for their propaganda machine.

110,000 spectators greeted the players in Berlin’s Olympic stadium amid a mass of red swastika flags with just the odd Union Jack.

Amid a storm of controversy back home English diplomats had agreed that the English team would give the Nazi raised arm salute. Captain Eddie Hapgood later reflected;

“I’ve been in a shipwreck, a train crash and inches short of a plane crash but the worst day of my life was giving the Nazi salute in Berlin”

Hitler was desperate for a symbolic victory over the mother country of football but the German team proved to be no match for Stanley Matthews and company and England ran out 6-3 winners.

England vs Germany 001

Action from the game in Olympic stadium May 15th, 1938

More to come………..



70 Responses to A Blast from the Past No. 11 The birth of the FA and International Football

  1. FIRST !!!
    Anyone seen Norfolk ???

    Looks good, Gunner N5
    I think a nice cuppa and a chicken sarnie for this post…

  2. stevepalmer1 says:

    Very very good Post N5
    Football is all about the opponent, No matter how good they are, its the will to win.

    Even today, Politics plays its roll in sport. But a game is just a game,

    War is war and hopefully we will never see another one, But it does show that politics is always there.

  3. MickyDidIt89 says:

    In for a swift coffee break, and a great read to go with it. Thanks GN5.

    Few things. Blimey, that Dixie Dean fella looks like the Kray Twins more unpleasant elder brother!

    Another thing. That 1911 pic has an England player with a number on his back. I thought those came years later.

  4. MickyDidIt89

    Possible answer – England wore numbers on the back of their shirts for the first time in the 3-1 loss to Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow on 17 April 1937.
    Found this info on a quick search. May be right, may be wrong (?).

    Maybe Gunner N5 ‘made’ that number in Photoshop just to open a debate.

  5. chas says:

    Belting post, GN5, thanks.

    The Battle of Highbury

    p.s. I think they are rugby players in that photo as numbers were used from the turn of the century. (they look like egg-chasers as well) 🙂

  6. chas says:

    Nice outside of the foot goal from Boy Bastin playing for England.

  7. chas says:

    Germany v England 1938

  8. RA says:

    Brilliant piece, GN5.

    I feel I know more about this period of football because it is like knowing/studying the War of the Roses, or the facts of the 100 years War from our school days. Loved it!

    Oddly enough, before I saw Chas’s comment I was going to say that the white shirted/panted players in that ‘photo of the England player with No.10 on his back was a ‘photo of the England Rugby team.

    Google might say what the England footie colours were in that period which would resolve that, if it matters.

    You are going to bring a lot of pleasure to people when they read today’s Post, but do not be too disappointed if the number of comments are not too high today, because this sort of article doesn’t really call for questions, arguments or discussions, other than for history buffs.

    Fans will just love it for what it is. 🙂

  9. stevepalmer1 says:

    Everton losing 2.0 at Southampton 2 own goals

  10. stevepalmer1 says:

    Where is everyone, its football weekend i know we don’t play till Monday but results today can change many things, A blinding post and nobody here. What are you all out shopping.

  11. chas says:

    Everton losing makes a mockery of trying to predict anything. Makes Monday a “must win game’ hahahahs.

  12. stevepalmer1 says:

    Afternoon Chas, Looking good at the moment still 2.0 Spuds a goal up at Stoke always something to spoil the afternoon, Wenger Staying has pleased me no end but many will groan. Never mind they may be happy if we win the cup, Well until a couple of days that is.

  13. arnie says:

    blinding post, indeed, GN5. 🙂 🙂 🙂 just having a tough week. 😦

    Chas: I thought Everton was always predicted to drop points. We were always favourites to qualify for CL. Question is how much better can we be! 😛

  14. stevepalmer1 says:

    Shawcross sent off Spuds playing against Ten.
    Afternoon Arnie, been a busy week mate.

  15. arnie says:

    and, BTW, who (other than GiE) ever expected Arsene to not stay? certainly not me. there is a job to be done, and whatever else Wenger is or is not, he is certainly not deserter! 🙂

  16. arnie says:

    Steve, top comment this morning! 🙂

  17. White Bear says:

    gorgeous – is JC going on Monday?

  18. stevepalmer1 says:

    That pleased me as well Arn 🙂

  19. stevepalmer1 says:

    Just googled the England strip and what colour the first shirts was, White, Apparently before the shirts, teams wore caps, I take it that they all wore the same colour, I assume that is why players are awarded caps for playing for their countries

  20. kelsey says:

    A real history lesson GN5,may I say well researched.

    I didn’t know that it was agreed to give the nazi salute before the international in Berlin. Why in heavens did the English diplomats agree and I wonder who they were and if they were government or football heirachy.

    I remember reading Hitler walking out of the same stadium when Jesse Owens won an Olympic Gold in 1936.

  21. mickydidit89 says:

    Evening all

    As no-one has found an answer to my shirt number spot, and I always thought it was introduced by our own Herb, I just googled it, and on Arseneal dot com I found this:

    “he introduction of shirt numbers was largely down to the visionary Herbert Chapman. His idea was that it would be easier for players to know where they were on the field in relation to their team-mates.
    The earliest record of shirt numbers being worn dates back to August 25, 1928. Arsenal played away at Sheffield Wednesday and lost 3-2.”

    So, I’m going with RA’s suggestion that maybe the pic was a rugger team

  22. mickydidit89 says:

    Ooo, and I see Everton lost.

    So as Chas says, a must win game on monday then 🙂

  23. mickydidit89 says:

    Just a quick enormous question: when did Arsene say he was definately staying for two more years?

  24. mickydidit89 says:

    I expect answers on my desk by the time I get back 🙂

  25. RA says:

    Micky Mouse,

    He said in an interview with the French sports paper, L’Equipe, something like – of course I shall be staying – I have given my word to Arsenal, and have said so many times.

    — “Je resterai, bien sûr, – je m’ ai donné ma parole a la Arsenal, et je l’ ai dit à plusieurs reprises.

    OK the French translation is mine – and probably cobblers. 🙂

  26. Big Raddy says:

    Sorry chaps been out enjoying a rare day of warm sunshine. Mrs Raddy forced me to cycle 40kms up the coast.

    Gn5. Another fascinating post. I love these history lessons.

    RA. I noticed you wrote that AW has confirmed he will sign a new contract – great news. Just checked and he said it in an interview with beIN TV

  27. kelsey says:


    What else did you expect AW to say.

    “Staying” in what capacity.

    Why hasn’t he signed the darn thing 🙂

    I have my own theory but don’t want to give LG 10000000 comments.

  28. stevepalmer1 says:

    Arsene, Wengers contract is not up till the end of the season, he has said that he always see’s his contracts out. that is how the man thinks contracts should be honoured, What’s the point of signing early. Its been well stated that Arsenal want him to stay, and Wenger must have agree’d in principal, So he will sign when his old contract runs out. He has said many many times how he feels contracts should be honoured, we should not expect anything different.

  29. Big Raddy says:

    kelsey. I bet you LB’s bike (his best one) that AW stays.

  30. kelsey says:

    Bikes are no good to me, I have difficulty walking down the street,Raddy 🙂

    I am sure he will stay regardless of what happens this season. Growing displeasure from a section of the fans will grow if things go pear shaped and even if we get forth,,but I get the impression it is more on blogs than from those who actually attend.

    He has to sort out who is leaving and replace them and strengthen the team as a a whole.it needs to be done early this Summer which is a general change of policy and not have drawn out negotiations which often end up with us losing a player.
    My main concern is how do you evaluate what a player is worth on the budget provided. AW doesn’t like going overboard,though of course Ozil was an exception.

    If players like Walcott and Wilshere come back fit and don’t break down again that is a bonus. The same applies to Gibbs.

  31. arnie says:

    and Diaby? 😛

  32. Big Raddy says:

    Valuation is the same as it always is … market prices.

    With such a shortage of the type of players we need and so many wealthy clubs in the hunt for similar types of player there will be very little value this summer – especially with the WC in the middle of it.

    No player will be willing to talk to clubs during the WC which means there will be an almighty scramble.

  33. Big Raddy says:

    BTW Carlos Vela has scored 19 times in La Liga this season in an average side. Shame we let him go

  34. neamman says:

    Great post, very interesting.

  35. neamman says:

    Just read yesterdays post on DanDan and 1971. I have a somewhat similar story from the Galatsary final where I flew to Copenhagen from Canada on the promise of meeting someone I had never met before outside the ground. Long story short I hadn’t met him with 2 hours to go and I brought one from a scalper. Ten minutes later my friend, coming from Germany by ferry, showed up. We somehow connected had a few bevvies and in my joyful expectation of victory GAVE me now surplus ticket away.

    Lets end the story there, no need to relive the rest of the night but I remember walking out after the game and the entire Arsenal crowd walked in virtual silence, an amazing and eerie feeling.


    Cheers GN5, some great history.

    Ive heard of the battle of Higbury. It always surprises me when Italians get violent. When they tried to invade Greece they did so playing the mandolin and threatend not to fall in love with those who resisted.

    Riding ferocious donkeys and drugged up on Ouzo, we smashed a few plates on there heads and they legged it.

    Sad that the England players were forced by the slimey politicians to give that stupid Nazi salute.

    I never liked that Hitler bloke, total wrongun. Impotency is a terrible thing. I honestly believe that if Viagra had been discovered earlier instead of been a meglamaniac, Hitler would have been a Plumber.

    Of course the great news today is that it seems that Arsene will stay. Like others, I always thought he would, he is a man of his word.

    The Ghosts of the Thirties are Stirring

  37. GOONERKAM says:

    Nice writeup. Long but well worth the read. It took real chotsba to step into the Olympic stadium and inside their propaganda machine. They toped of the cake by giving that bas•••• a nice black eye to go with his funny mustache.
    Interesting to know that Scotland were dominant in the early years of international football. Old footage must be very fun to watch.

  38. GOONERKAM says:

    Thanks for the video footage of the highlighted games..

  39. GOONERKAM says:

    I buy into the theory that number ten is photo shoped. As far as AW is concerned, as far back as Jan 27 of this year IVAN indicated ARSENE was definitely staying at ARSENAL.
    he just doesn’t want anything to take away from the focus of his players at this time. He will pen a deal right after the campaign is over. I’m not concerned at all. Why leave now just when the fruits of your labors are about to mature. No one deserves to be at the helm when THE ARSENAL start flying high.

  40. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Actually, today could be big. A Chelsea loss and they would be mathematically finished, and a City loss would leave them 9 behind with three to play, so Pool only needing one point from two games.

  41. MickyDidIt89 says:

    If Utd steamroller through their last games, would YOU give Giggs and Co the job if you were Le Grand Fromage at Utd?

    I would.

  42. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Oh, and while I let you lot warm up, I don’t think it’s a cert yet that Arsene will be here next season, and what he said in France is meaningless.

    Fairly certain, just not 100%.

  43. chas says:

    As l
    I first said at 11.33am, those are rugby players. There’s even a number 4 from the opposition sat on the floor.

    I’d give it to Giggs. Much better for us than to someone with loads of experience. And I’m not talking about looking after your brothers wife.

  44. Gööner In Exile says:

    Thanks GN5 for another blast. I knew about the Drake goals and that the Italy game being played at Highbury….no idea it was such a bloodthirsty match.

    When did Wembley become home of International games?

    Good result for us yesterday.

    On Arsene I thought I heard the audio of that conversation in English but may have just imagined it.

    We have known Wenger to spin in the past, would he want the final 4 games played amidst new manager speculation in the media? Unlikely….so until he signs on the dotted line I remain uncertain.

  45. chas says:

    Those Everton own goals were funny. Good job I bought 3 Everton defenders for my fantasy team on Friday to curse them!

  46. chas says:

    I’m on an overnight stop in Leamington Spa after a punk all-dayer yesterday. Ant’s been baking one.

  47. MickyDidIt89 says:

    “Much better for us than to someone with loads of experience.”

    So I’m guessing you are from that school that believes being a football manager is a difficult job then 🙂

    Morning Ant 🙂

  48. White Bear says:

    Giggs is a figure head, Fergie is on the other side of the Dictaphone.
    I wonder if the Mancs will replace banners ‘The Chosen One’ with ‘The Hairy one’ )

  49. Ant says:

    Morning Micky. Chas is the baker!

  50. chas says:

    Brian Giggs every day for me.

  51. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Another classic from the keyboard of TMHT. “Impotency is a terrible thing. I honestly believe that if Viagra had been discovered earlier instead of been a meglamaniac, Hitler would have been a Plumber.”

    What a line to start my day with 😀

  52. Big Raddy says:

    I thought Micky was the Baker.

  53. arnie says:

    Motning all.


    The Football Association (FA) has launched a search for descendants of the eight men that helped establish the world’s most popular sport 150 years ago. Can you help?

    The founding fathers of football are:

    1. Ebenezer Cobb Morley (1831–1924)
    2. Arthur Pember (1835–1886)
    3. Charles William Alcock (1842–1907)
    4. Francis Maule Campbell (1843–1920)
    5. John Forster Alcock (1841–1910)
    6. Herbert Thomas Steward (1839–1915)
    7. George Twizell Wawn (1840–1914)
    8. James Turner

  54. stevepalmer1 says:

    Morning all,
    Arsene to stay, Good news for me. Sagna has a deal on the table, its up to him what he wants. Giggs to be United’s Manager, Couldn’t really care. United have Giggs Scholl’s Nevill and Butt, and the players are a disgrace. I feel that a vendetta to get rid of Moyes inside the club shows that player power can get anyone sacked, can only mean trouble along the way, United need players and some will have to go, Giggs, should he get the job permanently, will soon find out, that even with years of playing experience, that pleasing players is harder than it looks.

    Everton losing yesterday has given us a little breathing space, although i don’t like how they mess the fixtures up, at least we know what we have to do.. Keep winning and we have no problems that cannot be sorted after the season ends.

    I hope Kalstrom gets asked to stay as i feel he could ft in very well.

  55. arnie says:

    GN5: Your fantastic post also got me interested in Charles William Alcock’s contributions to cricket.

    In cricket, Alcock captained Middlesex in the first county match in 1867, before playing for Essex. He played only one first-class fixture, for MCC, in 1862 (Essex was not yet a first-class county). Between 1872 and 1907, Alcock served as secretary of Surrey.

    In this capacity, he organised the historic first meeting between England and Australia on English soil at Kennington Oval on September 6, 7, 8, 1880. The game took a lot of diplomatic skills to organise.

    Alcock, in the modern idiom, had a lot going for him. A shade under six feet and weighing 13st 6lb, he was a clear-eyed, facially handsome man with an impressive moustache. Moreover, he had been educated at Harrow. And a hundred years ago that, again to revert to a contemporary phrase gave him the inside track. Even so, he also needed tact, charm and diplomacy. He prudently went down to Canterbury during cricket week to ensure Lord Harris was not merely an assentor but an ally.

    The fateful meeting which gave birth to Test cricket in England was held in the pavilion at Hove, presided over by the Earl of Sheffield, President of the Sussex County Cricket Club. Alcock and Lord Harris were given a sympathetic hearing, and Sussex agreed to put back the dates of their match with the tourists until later in September.

    Alcock was also instrumental in the visit by the fiirst Indian cricket team to England. In the summer of 1886, a team entirely consisting of Parsis became the first team from India to travel to England to play in cricket matches.

    The earliest plan at a tour of England by a Parsi team was made by A.B. Patel in 1878. It fell through when Patel got involved in a libel suit and was unable to proceed with the plans. A few years later Patel, with the help of B.B. Baria and Dr. Dhunjishaw Patel, made another attempt to organise the tour. C.W Alcock, the Secretary of the Surrey Cricket Club, made the series possible.

    The Parsis played 28 matches on the nearly 3-month long tour, winning only 1 and losing 19. The team’s first ever match on English soil was played against Lord Sheffield’s XI at Uckfield’s Sheffield Park. The two-day match was drawn, with the visitors being all out for just 46 (53/4 in the 2nd innings, following on) in reply to the host’s 142. A few days later, the Parsis played for the first time at the hallowed Lord’s, facing the Marylebone Cricket Club.

    Source: mainly Wisden.

  56. Big Raddy says:

    arnie. Great stuff!

    Growing up close to Lords I was a regular at the weekends and during the summer hols.

    Arsenal and Middlesex. How lucky was I to be born within walking distance of two to the most historic sporting institutions in the world!

  57. stevepalmer1 says:

    Hopefully with an FA cup in the cabinet, and another year in Champions league Trev.

  58. MickyDidIt89 says:

    My money says Ant ‘n Duck have trashed their room, and got their marching orders before they had a chance to throw up all over the breakfast table. Filthy Punks 🙂

  59. MickyDidIt89 says:


    Although no cricket man, I do love that history info.

    If the FA really want to unearth the founders of the beautiful game, they’ll have to phone a couple of top public schools, where they’ll be told to “Sod Orf” 🙂

  60. stevepalmer1 says:

    That’s your prerogative Trev, What you going to do if we win the cup.

  61. Big Raddy says:

    Steve. We have a troll and try not to respond to it.

    Easily recognised by the two sentences of anti- Wenger bile.

  62. stevepalmer1 says:


  63. Big Raddy says:

    Didit. I thought you had punk tendencies?

  64. MickyDidIt89 says:

    In spirit, yes, but A ‘n D still live it 🙂

  65. kelsey says:

    Now I remember,, Steve used to be a regular on HH, am I right

    and Good Morning and guess what, Gibbs is injured again and misses Monday.

  66. arnie says:

    Thanks, Raddy and Micky. It was fun. 🙂 I have played cricket with a fantastic father-son duo who also have the family name Allcock, though with a small variation. Drew a nought in tracing their family, but unearthed the above info. 🙂

  67. Rasp says:

    Morning all,

    Sorry I wasn’t around yesterday. Thanks to GN5 for yet another entertaining and informative post, I hope he knows how much we all appreciate his efforts.

    If you have time, watch all of this youtube clip, I think dandan would have approved ….

  68. arnie says:

    Fantastic, Rasp. 🙂

  69. Morning all

    Fantastic read from GN5 yesterday, thank you.

    We have a New Post ………………

  70. My brother recommended I might like this
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    You cann’t consider just how so much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

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