Following the election of St Albans Town into the Southern League in May 1897, the club was busy reorganising itself during the close in readiness for its first season as members of a league. The club expanded to take on two extra sides in the form of ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. The man charged with organising the secretarial business for the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams was Frank Sharpe. Frank was familiar with many of the players having previously carried out the same duty for the St. Albans Abbey club, holders of the Bingham Cox Cup. He also played for the B team during the season. The two teams competed in the Mid Herts League; the ‘A’ team in Division I, and the ‘B’ team in Division II.
After sixteen years of playing little more than friendly matches sprinkled with fewer than thirty competitive games, St. Albans Town embarked on their first season as members of a league in confident mood. This they did despite the balance sheet showing a growing deficit since switching to professionalism the previous October. The 1897-98 season was the fourth of the Southern League. The league consisted of two Divisions of twelve teams each, St. Albans were placed into the 12-team the Second Division.
Pinks open with a draw and a win
For their first encounter in the Southern League, St. Albans travelled to Southall on 4th September. Precisely at 3.30pm the Saints commenced life in a league and, with goals from Jack Dimmock and Herbert Vinsen, twice came from behind to salvage a point from a side that had finished the previous season in mid-table. Running the line was George Wagstaffe Simmons.
After the game it was announced that St. Albans had signed the former Old St. Stephen's and Middlesex (four appearances) player J. Sullivan who had commenced work in the city. Sullivan though, appeared in just two competitive matches, defeats by Wycombe Wanderers and Dartford, before moving on.
One week after the Southall match, St. Albans were again on their travels to face Maidenhead. This season was the fourth that the Saints had been playing at Clarence Park, Maidenhead had been playing at their York Road home since 1871. It is believed to be the longest continually used football ground in the world. Walter Giddings (left) scored twice and Dimmock, Harry Laughton and George Groom once each, as the first league win was secured most emphatically, 5-1. Maidenhead merged with Maidenhead Norfolkians to form Maidenhead United in 1919.
On the day that the First team put five goals past Maidenhead, the ‘A’ team, effectively the Town’s Reserve team, kicked off their season with a 7-0 win over Midland Locomotive at St. Stephen’s. There were hat-tricks for forwards Trevor Shrewsbury and Stratton.
The Pinks faced a free Saturday on the 18th but filled it with the annual visit of Clarence. Sir John Blundell Maple’s employees provided rich pickings for George Groom who struck all four of the St. Albans goals in a 4-2 victory. After the match the two sides retired to the Peahen for a social evening. The footballers of Clarence may not have visited Clarence Park for a year but the club itself had called in more recently, as their cricket team had switched its home venue to the Park that summer. There was another connection between Clarence and St. Albans and it came in the form of the one-time goalkeeper for the football club, George Hartley - by now the towel man at Clarence Park - who had topped the batting averages for Clarence during the summer just ended.
Walter Giddings scores F.A. Cup hat-trick
On the final Saturday of the month the Saints began their F.A. Cup campaign with a 1st Round Qualifying tie away to the Metropolitan Railway. A group of around 50 supporters went to the Group 10 game and were well rewarded as Giddings scored another hat-trick to clinch a 3-2 win. The Neasden-based Railwaymen, who had defeated Dover in the Preliminary Round, scored two late goals to threaten the Saints passage to the next Round.
The following Thursday, 30th September, John William Sharpe junior, who played at right-half in the F.A. Cup win, was married to Lilian Alice Pike at the Baptist Chapel in Dagnall Street. It was a wedding of two significant people from St. Albans, something that was reflected in the large congregation. All of Will’s brothers attended including Ivan, who later went on to play for St. Albans City, Leeds City and made eight appearances for England. The Herts Advertiser published a full list of those present and an exhaustive list of the wedding gifts.
October kicked off with a first defeat of the season for the Saints. The Pinks could claim mitigating circumstances for the 2-1 reversal away to Wycombe Wanderers. Dimmock was absent after missing the train while Ernie Sharpe was out due to an injury sustained the previous weekend, and Bert Sanders was unavailable. The player shortage allowed R.S. Nicholson and Tom Long to make their sole Southern League appearances for the club whilst George Wagstaffe Simmons (right) came in for the first of his two league games. Fred Allen scored his opening goal of the season to give the Saints an early lead in front of a crowd of around 1,200.
All of the absentees from the trip to Wycombe were back a week later as the Citizens entertained Dartford in the first Southern League fixture on home soil but other than for a Harry Payne goal it was not a good day for the Saints who were soundly defeated 4-1. Two days later, 11th October, the recently married John Sharpe had further cause for celebration when, at a committee meeting at The Peahen, he received a presentation to mark his ten years as hon. secretary of the football club.
After suffering two league defeats, the Saints turned their attention back to the F.A. Cup on 16th October with the visit of Thames Ironworks for a Second Round Qualifying tie. The Ironworks went on to win the London League this season but bowed out of the Cup at Clarence Park when second half goals by Allen and Giddings extended the Saints run in the competition. The Ironworks had offered a financial inducement to play the game at the Canning Town home of the east London club - later to be known as West Ham United. Club officials discussed the proposition ten days before the game and decided to stick with playing the game at Clarence Park where they would expect to make no more than £20 from the gate.
St. Albans looked, but failed, to complete their first double the following weekend when Maidenhead held out for a 1-1 draw at the Park. The Saints totally dominated the second half but had only Ernest Northern Sharpe’s sole Southern League goal to show for their efforts.
Cup run comes to a crushing end
The win over Thames Ironworks in the previous Round of the F.A. Cup was a notable achievement but the likelihood of success in the 3rd Round Qualifying away to Royal Arsenal was never going to be anything more than fanciful. Arsenal had turned professional in 1891 and joined the Football League two years later, at the time of this game they were in Division II. Captain Herbert Vinsen won the toss at the Manor Ground in Plumstead but that was about as good as it got for the Saints. A small band of supporters followed the team to the Gunners south London home but were hopelessly outnumbered by the 3,000 home fans. The goals scored column was equally one-sided. Adam Haywood put Arsenal ahead on 12 minutes and by the call of time Arsenal had cruised to a 9-0 win with Fergus Hunt scoring a hat-trick. Making his St. Albans debut at half-back was Conny Watkins. Arsenal progressed to the First Round before losing 3-1 at home to Burnley.
This somewhat unusual cartoon, depicting the powerful Gunners against a poorly armed St. Alban, appeared in the London Leader and was reprinted in the Herts Advertiser.
Following their exit from the F.A. Cup, St. Albans had to wait a full month before playing their next league game and filled the blank weekends with five friendly matches. First up, on 6th November, were the London Hospital who were seen off 2-0. The Saints fielded a number of trialists when the Hertford & District League visited Clarence Park the following Thursday. The attack featured many familiar names with Giddings and Allen both scoring twice.
A stronger side was put out two days later for the short journey to Watford to face West Herts at Cassio Road. The Saints, though, were out of sorts and were comfortably beaten 5-0. St. Albans were late arriving at the ground, causing the kick-off to be delayed by 15 minutes to 3.00pm and the afternoon went downhill from there. West Herts were a goal up inside three minutes with Beech scoring from the penalty spot. He later added the fifth goal too. By all accounts, the Saints did not play all that badly but their finishing was poor. Play was restricted to 40 minutes each way.
The game may have been over but there was controversy surrounding goalkeeper Tyrell Paul Margetson. It was alleged that he was not sober and this contributed to his poor performance on the day. With club secretary Wagstaffe Simmons unwell, control of the team fell upon Jack Dickerson. Dicky went to press with a letter in which he refuted the allegation and stated that Margetson said that he was nervous and lacking in confidence. Whatever the truth, Dickerson replaced Margetson for the next two games and the 22-year-old played just once more for the club.
Thames Ironworks took some small measure of revenge for their F.A. Cup defeat when defeating the Saints 2-1 at the Memorial Grounds in Canning Town on 20th November but the run of friendly matches ended on a high with the 2nd Coldstream Guards beaten 6-1 at Clarence Park. George Groom led the way with one of his five hat-tricks in 106 games for the Saints.
A return to Southern League football was made at the start of December but it was nothing short of a disaster as Bristol club Warmley handed the Saints their heaviest league defeat of the season, 7-0. Greenwood bagged a hat-trick. Margetson was recalled for the long trek west but it was his last game for the club. Warmley finished the season as runners-up to the Royal Artillery (Portsmouth) and had the honour of being the first club in the history of the Southern League to score over a century of goals. But Warmley's success was short-lived as the club completed only 16 of their scheduled 24 games the following season before folding due to financial difficulties, they also had their ground closed for four weeks after a referee was attacked.
The defeat in Bristol meant that St. Albans had conceded sixteen goals in their last two competitive games but few changes were made for the visit of neighbours West Herts to Clarence Park for the first league meeting between the two close rivals on 11th December. The crowd of around 1,200 included a sizeable contingent from Watford. At late notice, it had been decided to provide a special train for West Herts supporters that left Watford Junction at 1.30pm. Few people were aware of this train, which led to the regular service fifteen minutes later being crowded. Return tickets were priced at 9d. Admission to the ground was, as usual, 4d.
Groom was moved from his more familiar position of centre-forward to centre-half while W.L. Miecznikowski came in for his Southern League debut to lead the attack. Play got underway at 2.40pm and with a goal from Giddings the home side led at the interval. Allen doubled the Saints advantage and an exciting game looked to be going the way of the Saints before goals from William Ray and Ike Marsh rescued a point for West Herts.
Dickerson was in goal against West Herts but for the next two games the Saints tried out W. Sygrove from the ‘A’ team. Sygrove had made his debut back in January 1895 and his 30 games for the First team spanned just over five years.
Goals flow in seven-game winning run
Clapham Rovers made their fourth and final visit the St. Albans on 18th December but signed off on a low note with the home side recording a comfortable 4-0 win. The Saints were in action on Christmas Day with a trip to Luton to play against the Town’s Reserve team. Former Luton players Roland Brown (2), and Jimmy Dimmock celebrated their return to Dunstable Road by scoring three of the goals in a 4-2 win, the total was completed by an own goal. Sygrove was praised for his performances in both matches but was replaced for the next 13 games by Dickerson, who, at the end of the previous season, had announced the end of his playing days
Just 24-hours after the win at Luton, the Saints were back in action at Clarence Park to hammer Anerley 11-1. It was the first time since November 1890 that the side had hit double figures, it was also the last time that the club would do so. Walter Giddings led the way with four of the goals. Earlier in the day, Boxing Day, the ‘A’ team had also been in action at Clarence Park with H. Sibley scoring three times during a 4-1 win over Hitchin Blue Cross.
The goals continued to flow in the final game of the year, on 28th December, when Miecznikowski struck four times during an 8-1 romp against Bow at Clarence Park.
St. Albans played their eighth Southern League game of the season on New Year’s Day and with a 6-0 thrashing of Old St. Stephen’s at the Park recorded a first league win since September. Winning the toss, the Saints elected to play up the slope towards what, in later years, would be known as the York Road goal. At this time York Road did not exist and was just a footpath. Fred Allen took advantage of the out of sorts visitors to score the Saints sixth, and final, hat-trick of the campaign.
A week later and St. Albans clinched back to back wins in the Southern League for the first time when a 2-1 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers from earlier in the season was reversed at Clarence Park. The kick off was delayed by half an hour due to the late arrival of the visitors but the wait was worthwhile for the Saints as goals by Giddings and Groom kept the side in seventh place, four points clear 11th placed Wycombe and bottom club Royal Engineers Training Battalion (Chatham). Wycombe remained as an amateur club throughout their time in the Southern League.
Bert Sanders retires
The winning run was extended to a seventh game on 15th January when Watford St. Mary’s went down 6-1 at the Park in a friendly. Walter Giddings scored two of the six goals to take his tally for the season to twenty. Missing from the Saints line-up was full-back Bert Sanders. He had announced that business commitments meant that he would no longer be available to play, and so ended his 79 games since joining the club from Luton Town. Bert ran his own piano tuning business from Manchester Street in Luton but was also an entertainer. He was later a Pianoforte Warehouse Manager and lived in Rushden with his wife Elizabeth and children Elsie and Reginald.
The return fixture with Old St. Stephen’s on the 22nd should have seen the winning run continue but missed chances left the Saints settling on a point with a 1-1 draw at the west London club’s home ground in Shepherd’s Bush. At the end of the season Old St. Stephen’s merged to form Shepherd’s Bush with the new club taking their place in the Southern League for the next three seasons.
St. Albans were looking forward to the biggest crowd of the season at Clarence Park when Southern League leaders Royal Artillery (Portsmouth) provided the opposition on 29th January. Unfortunately, there was a counter attraction just up the road where Luton Town were playing Bolton Wanderers in the F.A. Cup 1st Round, that match attracted a gate of 4,500. Even so, there was a good attendance at the Park to see the south coast club win 2-0. Conny Watkins was unavailable for the Pinks, his place was taken by A.T. Porter, a centre-forward with the Ilford-based Civil Service club. Portsmouth led by those two goals at the interval but were put under heavy pressure in the second half, during which time both Giddings and Allen had goals disallowed for offside. These decisions did not go down well with the locals and at the final whistle their displeasure boiled over. Referee Mr. C. Graham was jostled by spectators who also ‘hooted’ him and threw clumps of grass and pebbles at him.
Royal Artillery Portsmouth had been one of the sides to miss out on being elected to the Southern League at the meeting that saw St. Albans gain entry. However, two months later, Southampton side Freemantle withdrew from the league and their place was filled by the Royal Artillery. The 1896-97 season had seen them finish as runners-up to Isle of Wight side Cowes in the inaugural season of the Hampshire League, and in the season prior to then the Royalists were the Amateur Cup runners-up – in the final they lost 1-0 to Bishop Auckland at Walnut Street, Leicester.
The Saints faced more military opposition a week later with a trip to Chatham to face the Royal Engineers Training Battalion at Brompton. The R.E.T.B. were part of the Royal Engineers who had won the F.A. Cup in 1875 and appeared in three other finals. This was their only season in the Southern League and they stayed rooted to the foot of the table when goals by Brown and Allen earned St. Albans a 2-0 win.
Prior to the next match a significant event was taking place on the 11th February as Harry Thomas Minter and his wife, Emily Edith, welcomed into the world Wilfred Harry at their home in Culver Road. Young Wilf went on to be better known as Billy and became the record goalscorer for St. Albans City (founded in 1908) and an Amateur England international. Below: ‘Billy’ Minter’s birth certificate.
For the only time during the club’s stay in the Southern League, a second successive clean sheet was achieved when Southall were beaten 3-0 at Clarence Park on 12th February. On a day of particularly strong winds, the sides went in level at half time but with the wind to their backs St. Albans gained a comfortable victory with goals from Allen, Giddings and Groom. Both teams contrived to miss from the penalty spot in front of a crowd of around 400.
The following Saturday saw the team travel by train for a league encounter with Chesham. Leaving St. Albans on the 12.08pm they had a meal en route and changed at Watford and Rickmansworth. The Saints named an unchanged XI for the third consecutive league match, it was the longest run without making changes in either of their two years in the Southern League. On a heavy pitch the Saints went down to a 2-1 defeat.
Wagstaffe Simmons stands down as Hon. Secretary
The club was forced into making some backroom changes on 25th February. The committee met to discuss the written resignation of hon. secretary Wagstaffe Simmons after just nine months in the position. Wagstaffe Simmons' workload outside of football was blamed for his decision that was accepted by the club with regret. He vowed to assist the club in the future in any manner he could. On 20th May, at a meeting held at the Mitre, Chancery Lane, his own standing within the game received a boost when he was elected onto the Southern League Division Two management committee by a large majority.
At the time of Wagstaffe Simmons' departure from St. Albans he stated that expenses outstripped income by around £12 (£252 expenses against £240 income). The difference had been £20 at the start of the season but when other outstanding dues had been collected the deficiency was expected to be closer to just £5. Having accepted his resignation, the committee agreed to split the tasks of secretary and treasurer and duly appointed Jack Dickerson (left) to be secretary for the remainder of the season. Dr W.N. Puddicombe was elected treasurer. True to his word, Wagstaffe Simmons did stay loyal to the football club and on 15th April he spoke in glowing terms of the club and St. Albans sport in general at a sports meeting held at the Town Hall.
Dulwich made their fourth and final visit to play the original St. Albans club in a friendly on the final Saturday in February, the day after the committee meeting, and, by virtue of the Saints winning 5-3, the sides finished with two wins apiece. Groom and Allen both scored twice. St. Albans had been due to play Uxbridge in the Southern League on this day but the west London club were involved in the 3rd Round (Quarter-Final) of the Amateur Cup. After drawing 1-1 at home to Wycombe Wanderers, Uxbridge won the replay 4-2.
Five league games were scheduled for March and a good start was made with George Groom scoring twice to secure a 2-2 draw with West Herts at Cassio Road. The game got off to a sensational with the Herts Advertising claiming that the opening goal had been scored inside the opening five seconds; “Robins (the West Herts captain) won the toss, and Groom kicked off. Directly the ball started Groom put to Allen, and he, with the assistance of Groom went right through, and that player shot by Baker (the West Herts goalkeeper) before the game was five seconds old.”
In a bid to win at Watford, St. Albans brought in two players from Hitchin, Harry Williams and J.W. Walker. Williams was a regular in the Hertfordshire county XI who captained Hitchin to success in the Herts Senior Cup this season and also played for Luton Town. The crowd at Cassio Road was given as almost 2,500, this included two trainloads of supporters from St. Albans.
A league double was completed over bottom of the table Royal Engineers Training Battalion on 12th February. Fred Allen scored another brace in a fairly low-key encounter but it was a costly afternoon for Dickerson who again put his knee out and looked likely to miss the rest of the season.
Saints rise to fourth in Southern League
At the time that St. Albans were beating R.E.T.B., Uxbridge were making progress through to the final of the Amateur Cup with a 1-0 win over Old Malvernians at Marlow. The following Wednesday saw the Saints play their first midweek league game with a short journey to play the delayed game at Uxbridge. The home side fielded ten of the side that had played against The Old Malvernians while the Albanians again called upon the services of Hitchin players Williams and Walker. With Dimmock, Giddings and Groom each getting onto the scoresheet, the Saints won 3-1 to climb above West Herts, on goal average, into fourth place in the Southern League table.
Sitting above West Herts proved to be short-lived as a 3-1 defeat to Dartford at Summers Meadow the following Saturday, coupled with a draw for West Herts at home to Maidenhead, allowed our neighbours to reclaim fourth place. Dartford’s win moved the Kent side to within three points of the Saints.
Less surprising was a 4-1 defeat to table topping, and the champions-elect, Royal Artillery (Portsmouth) on the 26th March. It was a day that those involved were probably happy to forget. The party left St. Albans on the 7.40am train and arrived at Portsmouth just before midday. After a meal and a rest they made their way onto the pitch to be greeted by a blinding snowstorm. T. Shrewsbury, a regular in the ‘A’ team, came in for his first game of the season and marked his Southern League debut by scoring the Saints goal on the south coast. At the opposite end of the pitch, goalkeeper W. Sygrove made his final appearance of the season.
Back at Clarence Park on this date, the final of the Herts Senior Cup was being played out between Hitchin and Aldenham School. Harry Williams and W. Walker were in the Hitchin side while Wagstaffe Simmons was one of the linesmen. Unfortunately, a storm of rain, hail, sleet, snow and wind led to the game being abandoned after just 30 minutes with Hitchin already four goals to the good. An emergency meeting of the Herts F.A. was held at The Peahen in St. Albans two days later where it was decided that the game should be replayed at Hitchin on the Wednesday, 30th March. This time Wagstaffe Simmons was entrusted with the role of referee. Hitchin were again successful, this time by a more modest 2-1.
Right: Hitchin captain Harry Williams with the Herts Senior Cup.
Having just lost to the champions in their final away league game of the season, the Saints, in their next game, squared up to second placed Warmley who had travelled to the city on the day before the game. The Bristol-based club were the highest scorers in the Division with, also, the meanest defence. St. Albans started the game with just ten players until W. G. Long arrived, they were further handicapped by an eye injury to full-back Walker. With his vision quite badly impaired he continually put the ball out of play. It was not a good day for Long either, as he was booked for questioning a decision by referee Mr Crabtree. The visitors took the lead just before the interval and after Groom equalised Warmley wrapped up the points with a 3-1 win. A good-sized crowd attended the game but earned the wrath of Mr Crabtree in the closing stages when he halted the play to caution the spectators against the use of bad language.
Death of Bingham Cox
Local football suffered a great loss 24 hours later, 3rd April, when Mr William H. Bingham Cox died at his home at 26 Southampton Street, off the Strand in London. Catherine Bingham, his half-sister who lived with him, was with him at the time of his death. The cause of death was stated as heart disease (chronic Bright’s disease) with him having been unwell for several weeks. Bingham Cox was born in Gloucestershire on 21st February 1841 and was buried in Southrop Churchyard, near Lechlade.
The Pinks faced a busy Easter with four games arranged between the 8th April (Good Friday) and the 12th (Tuesday). H. Wagstaffe made his debut in goal as the Easter programme kicked off at Wiggenhall Road, Watford, with a friendly against Watford St. Mary’s. Both clubs were strongly represented; the Saints, again, called upon the Hitchin duo of Walker and Williams, and J.W. Walker of the London Caledonians was drafted in for his second and final game. A goal by Dimmock ensured a share of the spoils in front of a crowd of 3,000 spectators, the figure was boosted by West Herts supporters, as their club was without a game.
Dimmock was on target again the following day as another 1-1 draw was fought out at Clarence Park with an XI put together by W.L. Miecznikowski. For much of the first half the visitors played with just ten men but this was partially compensated for by having a strong wind to their backs. The Saints had a new face at full-back in the shape of J.A. Lange of Hammersmith Athletic.
Just over a week after the death of Bingham Cox, the cup that he launched for local clubs was won by Harpenden who defeated Stanville 2-0 at Clarence Park on Easter Monday morning. Stanville wore white shirts with a black band on the left arm in memory of the late doner. The cup was presented by the Mayor of St. Albans but the Harps days was soured when a group of thugs attacked them on their way to the railway station on the way home. G. Fells, one of the Stripes players, suffered a severely bloodied nose and another of the group was struck upon the temple.
After having a rest on Easter Sunday, pretty much the same group of players that had performed in St. Albans’ first two games of the holiday period were back in action on Easter Monday afternoon, as Chesham visited the Park for the return Southern League game. Although a figure was not stated, the attendance was described as ‘capital,’ as good weather and the Bank Holiday enticed the locals to watch a bit of football. Chesham took the lead early in the second half but Groom equalised and Dimmock was on target once more to secure victory for the Pinks. The referee for both of the games played at the Park that day was Cecil Knight of the Referee’s Association.
Another new face appeared in goal just 24-hours later for a friendly away to Luton Town Reserves. J. Mailing, of Harpenden, became the fifth different custodian used by the Saints during the season in what was his only game for the First team. Although much changed from, the previous four games, St. Albans got a decent side together for the game at Dunstable Road and romped to a 5-0 win with Miecznikowski starting a run of four games for the club with a goal.
For the second successive Saturday Chesham provided the visitors to the Park on the 16th and again left without success as Allen scored twice to clinch a 2-0 win for the Saints. The game was scheduled to start at 3.45pm but, as frequently happened, the start was delayed by around 30 minutes. When the game got underway the players were felt to be going at half pace, which was on account of it being an extremely hot day. Former hon. secretary John William Sharpe refereed the game and another former St. Albans secretary, Wagstaffe Simmons, was also in action that day as he took charge of the Herts Junior Cup final between Hitchin Blue Cross and Watford St. Mary's Reserves a Hitchin. The home side won 3-0.
The warm weather was again evident the following Saturday when Old St. Stephen’s were the opposition for the third time since the start of the year. Old St. Stephen’s left the Southern League at the end of the season due to the increasing levels of professionalism within it. The visitors put up a good show at the Park, in what was the final friendly of the campaign, but found Wagstaffe in excellent form as he kept a third successive clean sheet. Playing at full-back for Old St. Stephen’s was J. Sullivan who had played three times for the Saints earlier in the season. He had been jeered during his time at the Park but was in good form on his return with the club from which he had joined St. Albans.
Amateur Cup finalists thrashed 7-1 at Clarence Park
St. Albans first season in the Southern League came to a remarkable conclusion on 30th April as Uxbridge were hammered 7-1 at Clarence Park. Jack Dimmock (right in Luton Town kit) scored the second and final hat-trick by any St. Albans player during our two years in that league. Dimmock may have taken the honours in that particular game but full-back Albert Sharp and forward Walter Giddings created another piece of history by being the only players to feature in all of the Saints Southern League matches during the season. Heavy rain in the morning and a strong wind in the afternoon kept the crowd to smaller than had been anticipated although the Mayor and several other councillors were present.
Such a handsome victory over a side that fielded six players who played in the previous week's Amateur Cup final - a 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough at Crystal Palace (attendance: 1,500) - should have been cause for celebration but Uxbridge faced disciplinary action from the Southern League due to fielding just nine players at Clarence Park. The absence of the other two players was put down to them having missed their train. Of the nine that did play in the game, three of them were the Woodbridge brothers; A.E., A.R., and E.W. The last two named were both county players for Middlesex.
After the game the players and all connected with the club were guests of the Mayor, Thomas Oakley, for some refreshments in the cricket pavilion. Glowing tributes were heaped on all the players who had assisted the club during the campaign just ended whilst mention was also given of the players the club hoped would wear its colours during the following season.
The win over Uxbridge secured fifth position for St. Albans but the Saints hon. secretary, Jack Dickerson, although pleased with such a high placing in their first season, believed it was something which could be improved upon in twelve months’ time. When he said the only club St. Albans need fear next season is Watford a voice in the crowd shouted back, "We fear nobody!" Dickerson responded by saying, "Well then, we ought to be first. If our team will work as they have done this year, we ought certainly to be first with a decent amount of luck."
Throughout the season the team had a solid backbone with five players featuring in twenty or more of the twenty-two league games played. In addition to the ever-present Giddings and Albert Sharp, George Groom missed just one match and Fed Allen and Jack Dimmock two games each. Allen, with eleven goals, and Groom, with ten were the Saints top scorers in league matches.
The function following the Uxbridge match clearly put St. Albans in party mood as on 12th May a 'Smoker's Function' was held at County Club Hall, St. Peter's Street, with the proceeds making a significant contribution to the Saints funds.
The St. Albans ‘A’ team, competing in Division One of the Mid Herts League, finished a disappointing third out of four but were hit during the season by a number of injuries and departures. Despite this they had the satisfaction of handing champions Harpenden their only defeat of the season with a 2-1 win in Harpenden. But it was the Harps who ended the Saints interest in the Bingham Cox Cup with a 2nd Round 2-0 victory at the same ground. Stanville proved to be a thorn in the Saints side throughout the season, the Villains took three points off the ‘A’ team in the League and, at the start of December, tipped St. Albans out of the Herts Junior Cup.
The ‘B’ team was an eleven of youngsters who did themselves, and the club, proud. Whereas the ‘A’ team played just six league matches the ‘B’ side had fourteen Mid Herts League games to contend with plus sixteen friendlies. The Colts failed to score in just two of their thirty matches, one was a meaningless friendly away to Luton Stanley while the other saw them go down 4-0 at home to Campfield in the Mid Herts League. By then the Saints had already played, and won, six league games and the defeat by Campfield did little to damage the form of the youngsters who duly won their seven remaining league games to take the title with a magnificent record of twenty-six points out of a maximum twenty-eight. The goals record was equally impressive; sixty-three for and just a dozen against.
1897-98 Season Line-ups
|Sep||4||SLD2||Southall||(A)||D||2||-||2||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sharpe JW||Sharpe EN||Taylor AH||Vinsen H (1)||Dimmock J (1)||Payne H||Groom G||Giddings W||Laughton HR|
|Sep||11||SLD2||Maidenhead||(A)||W||5||-||1||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sharpe JW||Sharpe EN||Vinsen H||Payne H||Dimmock J (1)||Lloyd T||Groom G (1)||Giddings W (2)||Laughton HR (1)|
|Sep||18||Fr||CLARENCE||(H)||W||4||-||2||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sullivan J||Sanders B||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Giddings W||Laughton HR||Groom G (4)||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Sep||25||FAC1q||Metropolitan Railway||(A)||W||3||-||2||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Vinsen H||Sharpe JW||Dimmock J||Allen F||Groom G||Giddings W (3)||Laughton HR|
|Oct||2||SLD2||Wycombe Wanderers||(A)||L||1||-||2||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sullivan J||Nicholson RS||Vinsen H||Simmons GW||Lloyd T||Allen F (1)||Groom G||Giddings W||Laughton HR|
|Oct||9||SLD2||DARTFORD||(H)||L||1||-||4||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Sullivan J||Payne H (1)||Dimmock J||Allen F||Groom G||Giddings W||Laughton HR|
|Oct||16||FAC2q||THAMES IRONWORKS||(H)||W||2||-||0||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Groom G||Vinsen H||Brown R||Laughton HR||Giddings W (1)||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J|
|Oct||23||SLD2||MAIDENHEAD||(H)||D||1||-||1||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN (1)||Groom G||Vinsen H||Brown R||Allen F||Giddings W||Dimmock J||Laughton HR|
|Oct||30||FAC3q||Woolwich Arsenal||(A)||L||0||-||9||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Vinsen H||Watkins C||Brown R||Allen F||Groom G||Dimmock J||Laughton HR|
|Nov||6||Fr||LONDON HOSPITAL||(H)||W||2||-||0||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Watkins C||Vinsen H||Sharpe JW||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Nov||11||Fr||HERTFORD & DISTRICT||(H)||W||6||-||1||Barker W||Payne F||Childs A||Watkins C||Clements EC||Sharpe JW||Brown R||Giddings W (2)||Groom G (1)||Allen F (2)||Dimmock J (1)|
|Nov||13||Fr||West Herts||(A)||L||0||-||5||Margetson TP||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins C||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Nov||20||Fr||Thames Ironworks||(A)||L||1||-||2||Dickerson J||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins C||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J|
|Nov||27||Fr||2nd COLDSTREAM GUARDS||(H)||W||6||-||1||Dickerson J||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins C||Vinsen H||Sharpe JW||Brown R (1)||Giddings W (1)||Groom G (3)||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Dec||4||SLD2||Warmley||(A)||L||0||-||7||Margetson TP||Sharp A||Sanders B||Long WG||Groom G||Vinsen H||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W||Dimmock J||Allen F|
|Dec||11||SLD2||WEST HERTS||(H)||D||2||-||2||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Groom G||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W (1)||Miecznikowski WL||Allen F (1)||Laughton HR|
|Dec||18||Fr||CLAPHAM ROVERS||(H)||W||4||-||0||Sygrove W||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins H||Vinsen H (1)||Sharpe JW||Brown R (1)||Giddings W (1)||Groom G||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J|
|Dec||25||Fr||Luton Town Reserves||(A)||W||4||-||2||Sygrove W||Williams H||Sharp A||Watkins J||Walker JW||Giddings W||Brown R (2)||Miecznikowski WL||Groom G||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Dec||26||Fr||ANERLEY||(H)||W||11||-||1||Dickerson J||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins J||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN (1)||Dimmock J (2)||Allen F (2)||Groom G (1)||Giddings W (4)||Brown R (1)|
|Dec||28||Fr||BOHEMIANS (BOW)||(H)||W||8||-||1||Dickerson J||Sanders B||Sharp A||Watkins C||Vinsen H (1)||Giddings W (1)||Brown R||Laughton HR||Groom G||Miecznikowski WL (4)||Dimmock J (2)|
|Jan||1||SLD2||OLD ST. STEPHENS||(H)||W||6||-||0||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Vinsen H||Watkins C||Dimmock J (1)||Allen F (3)||Groom G||Giddings W (1)||Brown R (1)|
|Jan||8||SLD2||WYCOMBE WANDERERS||(H)||W||2||-||1||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Sanders B||Sharpe EN||Groom G (1)||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W (1)||Long WG||Dimmock J||Allen F|
|Jan||15||Fr||WATFORD ST. MARY'S||(H)||W||6||-||1||Dickerson J||Vinsen H||Sharp A||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Watkins C||Dimmock J||Allen F||Groom G (2)||Giddings W (2)||Brown R (2)|
|Jan||22||SLD2||Old St. Stephens||(A)||D||1||-||1||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Hall||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W||Simmons GW||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J|
|Jan||29||SLD2||ROYAL ARTILLERY PORTSMOUTH||(H)||L||0||-||2||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Groom G||Brown R||Giddings W||Porter AT||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Feb||5||SLD2||R.E.T.B.||(A)||W||2||-||0||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Watkins C||Brown R (1)||Giddings W||Groom G||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J|
|Feb||12||SLD2||SOUTHALL||(H)||W||3||-||0||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Watkins C||Dimmock J||Giddings W||Groom G (2)||Allen F (1)||Brown R|
|Feb||19||SLD2||Chesham||(A)||L||1||-||2||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Feb||26||Fr||DULWICH||(H)||W||5||-||3||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Vinsen H||Watkins C||Long WG||Sharpe EN||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G (2)||Allen F (2)||Dimmock J (1)|
|Mar||5||SLD2||West Herts||(A)||D||2||-||2||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Williams H||Walker PF||Long WG||Watkins C||Dimmock J||Allen F||Groom G (2)||Giddings W||Brown R|
|Mar||12||SLD2||R.E.T.B.||(H)||W||3||-||1||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Sharpe JW||Sharpe EN||Long WG||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W (1)||Groom G||Allen F (2)||Dimmock J|
|Mar||16||SLD2||Uxbridge||(A)||W||3||-||1||Sygrove W||Sharp A||Williams H||Walker N||Long WG||Watkins C||Brown R||Giddings W (1)||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Mar||19||SLD2||Dartford||(A)||L||1||-||3||Sygrove W||Taylor AH||Sharp A||Watkins C||Long WG||Sharpe EN||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Mar||26||SLD2||Royal Artillery Portsmouth||(A)||L||1||-||4||Sygrove W||Sharpe JW||Sharp A||Watkins C||Long WG||Groom G||Brown R||Giddings W||Shrewsbury T (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Apr||2||SLD2||WARMLEY||(H)||L||1||-||3||Dickerson J||Sharp A||Williams H||Watkins C||Long WG||Walker PF||Brown R||Giddings W||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J|
|Apr||8||Fr||Watford St. Mary's||(A)||D||1||-||1||Wagstaffe H||Williams H||Sharp A||Giddings W||Walker JW||Watkins C||Dimmock J (1)||Allen F||Groom G||Shrewsbury T||Walker PF|
|Apr||9||Fr||W.L.MIECZNIKOWSKI'S XI||(H)||D||1||-||1||Wagstaffe H||Lange JA||Sharp A||Watkins C||Long WG||Giddings W||Brown R||Walker PF||Groom G||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Apr||11||SLD2||CHESHAM||(H)||W||2||-||1||Wagstaffe H||Lange JA||Sharp A||Watkins C||Long WG||Giddings W||Brown R||Dimmock J (1)||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Walker PF|
|Apr||12||Fr||Luton Town Reserves||(A)||W||5||-||0||Mailing J||Watkins C||Williams H (1)||Payne F||Cother||Walker PF||Brown R||Groom G (2)||Miecznikowski WL (1)||Shrewsbury T||Wheeler C|
|Apr||16||Fr||CHESHAM||(H)||W||2||-||0||Wagstaffe H||Dimmock J||Watkins C||Richardson J||Long WG||Giddings W||Brown R||Sibley A||Groom G||Allen F (2)||Miecznikowski WL|
|Apr||23||Fr||OLD ST. STEPHENS||(H)||W||3||-||0||Wagstaffe H||Lange JA||Sharp A||Watkins C||Long WG||Giddings W||Brown R||Miecznikowski WL||Groom G (1)||Allen F||Dimmock J (1)|
|Apr||30||SLD2||UXBRIDGE||(H)||W||7||-||1||Wagstaffe H||Williams H||Sharp A||Watkins C (1)||Walker PF (1)||Giddings W||Brown R||Miecznikowski WL||Groom G (1)||Allen F (1)||Dimmock J (3)|
1897-98 Appearances & Goals
|Harry R 'Daddy' Laughton||11||1|
|Tyrelol Paul Margetson||12||0|
|Ernest Northern Sharpe||23||2|
|John William Sharpe jun||9||0|
|George Wagstaffe Simmons||2||0|
|Arthur Holey Taylor||2||0|
|Southern League Second Division||P||W||D||L||F||A||Pts|
|St. Albans Town||22||9||5||8||47||41||23|
|Old St. Stephen's||22||7||2||13||47||66||16|