To get the ball rolling the first article looks back at the first St Albans City side to take to the pitch for a competitive game and then the XI who turned out in our kit for our most recent competitive game. The most recent game at this time was the final game of the 2022-23 season; the National League South Play Off final away to Oxford City that was screened live on BT Sport 3.
OUR FIRST – COMPETITIVE GAME
Leavesden Asylum 1-1 St Albans City. 19th September 1908
St Albans City had been founded earlier in the year, 13th April, and had spent the summer gathering together a pool of players from various local clubs. The XI, no substitutes back then, that took to the field for our first competitive match just across the county at Leavesden, reflected the local make-up of the club.
Goalkeeper K.McIntyre had previously worn the chocolate and white of Watford club Victoria Works. McIntyre played in two Herts County League games for the Saints and three cup ties. City’s two full-backs at Leavesden were Victor Bourdon and Charles Patrick. Bourdon had spent the previous season as hon. secretary to Watford Victoria Works. Later in the season, Patrick made one appearance for Hertfordshire.
The midfield consisted of three players; Harry Davis, Tommy Noel and Harry Chapman. Davis had formerly been with Hatfield United while Chapman was a versatile player who could also fill in at centre-forward. Tommy Noel played just 15 times for St Albans but was familiar to Clarence Park having, since the demise of our forerunners, St Albans Amateurs in 1904, played for St Albans Abbey who had the Park for their home ground for a couple of seasons.
These were the days that teams lined up with five players in the forward line. On the left of the front line was Leslie Hosier (left) who holds the distinction of being the first St Albans City player selected for Hertfordshire. With 12 goals in 23 games during the season, Hosier was our second highest scorer of the season. At inside-left was Hugh Day, signed from Hertford Horns. Day had the honour of firing City into the lead against Leavesden and with it he claimed the accolade of being the scorer of the first goal for the new club.
The match report in the Herts Advertiser shows George Habbijam as being centre forward, he is another to have switched to St Albans from Watford Victoria Works. At inside-right was Tommy Walker who ended the season as our top scorer with 14 goals from 24 games. Walker had previously played for St Saviours who had their home ground at Sandridge Road, St Albans. Walker went on to make 109 appearances for the City, 42 goals, and held the title of our goal leading scorer from 21st November 1908 until 25th March 1910.
According to the match report, A.H. Puddephatt took to the field on the right wing but it is thought that this was actually Roy Morrison. Morrison played seven times for the club this season but later had spells with St Saviours and Catford Southend before making three more City appearances in 1910-11.
The match with Leavesden was played on a hot day on the ground of the Leavesden Hospital and ended in a 1-1 draw, Thompson scoring an equaliser for the home side. The attendance was recorded in the Herts Advertiser as ‘not large’ but still numbered close on 1,000.
We ended our first season as winners of the Western Division of the Herts County League but the title of League Champions went to Ware after a series of play off matches. City also competed in the Spartan League in 1908-09 but finished bottom of the five-team table – twelve months later we were crowned champions of both the Herts County League and the Spartan League.
Leavesden Asylum: Crosley; Simons, Bennett; Richardson, Ware, Coxhill; Cornfield, Thompson, Kimpton, Templeman, Whitemore. Goalscorer: Thompson.
St Albans City: K.McIntyre; V.Bourdon, C.C.Patrick; H.Davis, T.Noel, H.Chapman; L.G.Hosier, H.Day, G.Habbijam, A.T.Walker, R.Morrison. Goalscorer: Day.
Referee: J.Homans (Hemel Hempstead).
OUR LAST - COMPETITIVE GAME
Oxford City 4-0 St Albans City. 14th May 2023
The last, or most recent, time that City took to the pitch for a competitive match was in Oxford last May. It was game that most spectators at Clarence Park today are probably familiar with. Comparisons between this game and the one at Leavesden may be futile but are also fun.
Both were played on warm sunny days but any similarities pretty much end there. With their home ground at Court Place Farm flooding frequently, Oxford City were one of the first clubs in National League South to have a plastic pitch inserted. Prior to the game in May, we had won two of our seven games on the ‘new’ surface.
The make up of the St Albans team at Oxford bore no relation to the one that played at Leavesden. The ever changing nature of the game is highlighted by our team for the play-off final containing just one resident of our city. Unused substitute Huw Dawson was truly ‘one of our own’ living, as he does, in St Albans. The rest are spread far and wide.
That said, on loan Norwich City goalkeeper Dylan Berry, who ‘celebrated’ his 20th birthday that day at Oxford, was a St Albans City season ticket holder when he lived in Harpenden. Mitchell Weiss, being from Hemel, can almost claim St Albans citizenship, as can midfielder Ben Smith from Watford. Callum Adebiyi, from Luton, might also be classed as an associate Albanian but Ryan Blackman at Stevenage is pushing things a bit far.
Another stark difference between our two teams from May this year and 115 years ago is the use of loan players. The loan system was not in operation when we faced Leavesden but the side that David Noble fielded at Oxford had three loan players in the starting XI and another one on the bench.
That we featured at all in the play-off final is a credit to those players who turned around our early season form that led to the departure of manager Ian Allinson. We had created precious few chances in the play-off victories over Chelmsford City and Dartford (the latter on penalties) and were unlikely to be granted many by Ross Jenkins’ side at Court Place Farm. However, had either Weiss or Chay Cooper tucked away a chance that came our way inside the opening minute then the outcome may have been somewhat different. As it was, Oxford were ahead inside three minutes, further ahead on 14 minutes and out of sight on 31; a fourth goal during first half added time was unnecessary.
There was a lot riding on the outcome of this game. We eyed a return to the National League that we graced during 2006-07, Oxford sought to make their first appearance at that level. For the losers there was the possibility of being placed in National League North next season, a situation caused by the number of southern based clubs relegated from the Division above at the end of last season. Oxford could have found themselves in the North had they not won the play-off while we escaped that move thanks to that piece of good fortune landing on Bishop’s Stortford’s doorstep.
The City side facing Weymouth today bears only a passing similarity to the one that went down to that televised 4-0 defeat at Oxford City. The three loan players returned to their parent club while four others have moved to pastures new. Similarly, three of the five substitutes that day are also no longer at Clarence Park .
Back in 1908 the team was selected by the club’s committee, at Oxford the sides were selected by two of the youngest managers in National League South. Saints manager David Noble is 41 while Oxford City boss Ross Jenkins is even younger at just 32.
Oxford City: Chris Haigh, Lewis Miccio, Josh Ashby, Andre Burley, Lewis Coyle, Reece Fleet, Zac McEachran (Joe Wilson 78), Josh Parker (Klaidi Lolos 88), Alfie Potter (Latrell Humphrey-Ewers 25), Aaron Williams, Canice Carroll, unused subs: Jack Davies, Joe Iaciofano.
Goals: Fleet 3, McEachran 14, Ashbv 31, Parker 45.
St Albans City: Dylan Berry, Devante Stanley, Aidan Francis-Clarke, Callum Adebiyi (Shaun Jeffers 36), Ryan Blackman, Zane Banton, Mitchell Weiss (Glenn McConnell 56), Joy Mukena, Tafari Moore, Ben Smith, Chay Cooper (Joe Neal 56), unused subs: Michael Clark, Huw Dawson.
Referee: Ben Atkinson (London). Attendance: 3,100.