In the summer of 2015 a fascinating photograph came into our possession dating from 1stMay 1922. It was spotted amongst a job lot of photos in an antique shop by the former St Albans City physio Graham Coleman, who wasted no time in passing it on to the City club historians.
The photo depicts the Hertfordshire side that faced Essex in the final of the Southern Counties Amateur Championship at Lynn Road, Ilford. Unfortunately, Hertfordshire lost the game 2-1 to a goal five minutes from time, scored by the Barking Town player J.Dillimore. R.Cooper, of Cheshunt, had earlier equalised for Herts after F.Blake had opened the scoring direct from a free kick. The attendance was stated as around three thousand.
The influence of St Albans City on the county team at this time was immense from the very top of the organisation right through to the players. The treasurer of the Hertfordshire FA in 1922 was George Wagstaffe Simmons, the man who is credited with the formation of St Albans City in April 1908. As a player he turned out for the original St Albans club and Hertford Town. He served the County FA for 50 years and two years after this photo was taken he began a 27-year stint as county chairman.
To the far left of the back row is Len Morrison. He was Hon. Sec. of the Referee’s of the County League and had served as a member of the very first St Albans City committee in 1908.
Second left is Eddie Andersonwho acted as trainer (physio) in the match against Essex. Eddie joined the City from local club St Saviours with his debut coming in only the Saints third game (October 1908). He was assistant Hon. Sec. during our first season and later served as chairman.
R.Cooperis one of only two players in that particular Hertfordshire team who never turned out for the City.
Goalkeeper Cecil Cannonwas with Hitchin Blue Cross prior to joining St Albans for the 1924-25 season. During his 105 games for the City he played in two Amateur Cup semi-finals and was a member of our 1926-27 Isthmian League winning side. Cecil made a record 58 appearances for the county team, 17 of which were during his time with St Albans, 18 with Hitchin Town, 13 Hitchin Blue Cross and 10 Cambridge Town.
Harold Hankeywas at the end of the first of his two seasons with the Saints when he lined up for Hertfordshire against Essex and was brought into the side as a replacement for C.B.G. Hunter, the president of Cambridge University who lived in Harpenden.
Full-back Tommy Fieldwas with the City at an exciting time in the history of the Saints, as he joined the club during the first season after the Great War and played throughout our three seasons in the Athenian League – a time that included two championship successes. He also figured in the (in)famous 8-7 FA Cup defeat at Dulwich Hamlet.
Completing the back row is Ernest J. Scott, who held the position of county Hon. Secretary for ten years.
To the left of the front row is the imposing figure of Fred Dearwho joined City from Welwyn in 1923, at the start of our more than 80 years in the Isthmian League (1923-2004). Fred played nine times for the county while his 86 games for St Albans included an Amateur Cup semi-final against Southall in March 1925. The date clashed with an Amateur England trial but both he and Wilf Minter opted to play in the cup tie. Minter was given another chance to gain international honours but Dear was never again considered by the international selection committee.
Bertie Butcher, second from left front row, was a favourite son of the club for many years. His debut came in September 1919 and his penultimate appearance was in November 1923; his final game came over 25 years later in January 1949 when he filled in due to a shortage of players. It is the longest gap between games of any player in our history. He came close to international honours when twice selected as Reserve for England trial matches. For many years Bertie was also the sponge-man, or man with the towel, he also served on the team selection committee. His brother George played 31 times for St Albans between January 1909 and March 1910 before embarking on a professional career with West Ham United.
Two names from the 1920’s are etched into the minds of City supporters as greats of the club, one of which isHarold Figg. A wing-half, Harold was the first player to make 300 appearances for the club. By the time he hung up his boots in 1933, after 370 games, he had featured in five championship winning sides and appeared in three Amateur Cup semi-finals. Other honours include playing in the City side that claimed its only Football League scalp in the FA Cup – Brentford in November 1924 – seven Herts Charity Cup winners medals (plus two runners-up), one Herts Senior Cup success, two triumphs in the Victory Cup (in Guernsey) and one appearance in the final of the AFA Senior Cup. He had two trial games for Aston Villa Reserves and played for the FA as well as the Athenian League and Isthmian League Representative sides. At the time that he retired he was the fourth highest goalscorer in our history. Like several members of the City team from the 1920’s he later served on the team selection committee.
The centre half of the team was the formidable W.T. Colesof the famous Corinthians.
Next to Coles is the more nimble figure of Wilfred ‘Billy’ Minter, St Albans City’s greatest goalscorer. For much of his career the former Hatfield Road schoolboy averaged more than a goal a game, when his career ended his record was a staggering 356 goals in 362 games. Capped three times by Amateur England he is Hertfordshire’s all-time top goalscorer with 57 goals in 37 appearances. He scored nine goals in the four Group matches en route to the 1922 final against Essex. His representative honours include appearances for the Athenian and Isthmian Leagues, the Middlesex Wanderers, The South (England trial match), The Amateurs (against The Professionals of The South, at Highbury, in an experiment to change the offside law), The Amateurs (against The Professionals, in the FA Charity Shield at Maine Road, Manchester), The Rest (v Amateur England) and the Football Association. He is in the record books for scoring the most goals by an individual player in an FA Cup tie and still finishing on the losing side. This happened on 22ndNovember 1922 when he scored all seven City goals in an 8-7 4thRound Qualifying defeat at Dulwich Hamlet.
Completing the list of current St Albans players at the time that the photo was taken is Redvers Miller(sometimes recorded as Reuben rather than Redvers). One of three Miller brothers who played for St Albans during the 1920’s he made one Football League appearance with Watford (when standing in for brother Ted), and later turned professional whilst playing for Queens Park Rangers Reserves. He is seventh in the list of appearances for Hertfordshire (21), one place behind Ted.
Bert Saggerswas with Walkern at the time of the match with Essex and had completed his 29 appearances for Hertfordshire by the time that he played two games for St Albans City in February 1925 and April 1928. Only Minter and Cannon made more appearances for the county than Saggers.
Below is the Hertfordshire Football Association Committee for 1924-25.
Wagstaffe Simmons (Chairman) is the left hand figure of the three sitting on the bench. Over his right shoulder (standing, second left) is the future FIFA President, (Sir) Stanley Rous. Standing two to the left of Rous is the one-time City committee member Len Morrison, the Hon. Secretary of the Referee’s Committee. Ernest Scott, despite being the Hon.Secretary, was only partially granted a seat as he positioned himself, somewhat precariously, with his left leg on the ground and the right one on the bench.