The third season of St. Albans City’s existence saw a significant shift in the level of football at which the club would be playing. Although still members of the Spartan League the club had a greatly increased fixture list as the two Divisions’ merged into one. This move was made mostly to counter the growing strength of the Isthmian League which was approaching its sixth season. Due to the reorganisation of the Spartan League the City First team dropped out of the Herts County League with their place taken by the Reserves.
On the playing side City retained most of the previous seasons squad and gave trials to a high number of potential new signings. Amongst the newcomers were some of the most influential figures in the clubs pre-war years. Alfred Seabrook was signed from Barnet Alston whilst trials, held at Pageant Field, were given to a number of Watford players.
Seabrook had played alongside George Webb during the international trial match at Chelsea the previous October and was far from a stranger to Clarence Park having played for St. Albans Amateurs between 1902 and its demise in 1904. Not all of the trialists were to join the Saints but three Watford youngsters, R.S. ‘Dick’ Hammond and the Grimsdell brothers, Arthur and Ernest, did feature in the City side over the coming months although both remained signed on as amateurs for their hometown Southern League club.
The season kicked off on 17th September with the first, and only, meeting with Luton Celtic whose interest in the FA Cup ended in the Preliminary Round with a 5-1 defeat at Clarence Park. A stiffer test faced City in the 1stRound Qualifying with the return of Barnet Alston to the Park. A crowd of close on 2,000 saw City edge out their neighbours who included the former St Albans player Webb Richardson in their ranks. Another crowd of around 2,000 gathered at the Park for the visit of Tufnell Park in the next round but a dull goalless encounter ensued before the north London side won the replay the following Thursday.
City progressed through just one round of the Amateur Cup with the Woolwich-based Army Ordnance Corps, who sacrificed home advantage, being beaten more comfortably in the 1stRound at Clarence Park than the 2-0 score line suggests. It was by the same score that City bade farewell to the cup in the 2ndRound away to Isthmian League side Ilford.
The game against the Army Ordnance Corps turned out to be William Hughes’ final game for St Albans for he suffered such a bad injury during the game that his playing days were brought to an abrupt halt, leaving him with the exceptional record of 37 appearances and 39 goals. Once his days as a footballer were over Hughes left these shores to live in St. Louis. During the close season George Wagstaffe Simmons managed to secure £5 for Hughes from the FA Benevolent Fund.
Herts Senior Cup Finalists
As holders of the Herts Charity Cup St Albans came into the competition at the semi-final stage and promptly left it there following a reversal at home to Herts County League Eastern Division side Waltham Glendale.
Making their debut in the Herts Senior Cup the City made light of Apsley and then Hemel Hempstead Town before drawing 3-3 with Hitchin Town at Top Field. Hitchin, as holders, arrived at Clarence Park proudly displaying the cup but it was the last time that they would see it for 20 years. The North Herts club sent a weakened team to St Albans and Leslie Hosier and R.Weir were only too happy to take advantage of the situation by helping themselves to four goals apiece as City cantered home 10-1.
In the final, played at Hatfield where City enjoyed large support, St Albans faced Waltham Glendale for a second time. Following the meeting in the Charity Cup the Herts Advertiser correspondent felt bold enough to state that City would win in nine out of ten meetings between the clubs. A revision to those words was required when the club from Waltham Abbey completed the county cup double over the Saints to lift the Senior Cup for the one and only time.
Record winning run in Spartan League
With wins of 5-1, 5-3 and 7-1 over Chesham Generals, Tufnell Park and Hitchin Town in the opening three Spartan League games, St Albans looked set to emulate their excellent form of the previous season when the ‘B’ Division was won with plenty to spare. P.Cavanna scored three times against a Tufnell Park XI that showed several changes from their FA Cup team, Ernest Grimsdell, from the penalty spot, also opened his account in that match. Redbourn resident Dick Hillyard helped himself to four goals in the home game against Hitchin.
City stalled with just one win from the next four league games that included a 1-0 reversal at home to reigning champions and league leaders 2nd Coldstream Guards. But the Saints could have done hardly more to challenge the Guards supremacy by taking maximum points from the next ten games; it was a run that was achieved twice more during City’s time in the Spartan League but not repeated in any other league.
The run included completing the double over Tufnell Park, their only league defeats during the season. Dicky Hammond scored four times as City trounced the 3rd Grenadier Guards and, with 18 goals in 21 appearances, he finished the season as the Saints leading marksman.
Guards see off the City
Despite that phenomenal winning run, the odds were still stacked against City winning the title and the 2nd Coldstream Guards ensured, on 26th April, that they retained the title, two points clear of Tufnell Park and St Albans, by seeing City off 3-0 in Aldershot. The Guards dominated throughout but the reporter for the Herts Advertiser offered some mitigating circumstances for City’s limp display.
“The City players had obviously not recovered from the effects of a tiring railway journey, followed by a long walk to the ground, which had served to fatigue them before the match was started. And when they did turn out, what a ground they had to play on! Consisting of large bumps, small bumps and ups and downs, the pitch – which the writer was informed was an enclosure borrowed, owing to the Coldstreams’ usual ground being prepared for cricket – was the very opposite to that of Clarence Park.”
The Guards ‘usual’ ground was The Brigade Ground, Aldershot.
Three days after securing the league title the Guards were back at Clarence Park in a Champions v The Rest match that finished 3-3. Included in ‘The Rest’ side were St. Albans players Herbert Smith, Ernest Grimsdell and Charlie Patrick. Early in the season Smith, who was with the Saints for 13 years, was invited for trials with Luton Town but he declined the offer. Barnet had also expressed an interest in the City ‘keeper during the 1909-10 season.
Over the course of the season just one player, Tommy Knott, was ever present while ‘Micker’ Smith missed just one game between the sticks and at the end of the season was presented with his County badge after playing in four Hertfordshire matches. Smith was not the lone City player in the County side as he was joined by Arthur Grimsdell (2 games), Ernest Grimsdell (3), William Hughes (4), George Price (1), P.Cavanna (2), Tommy Walker (2), George Webb (3) and the wonderfully talented outside-left Ivan Sharpe (2).
Ernest Grimsdell scored five of six penalties that he took during the season, but it was the inclusion in the side of his younger brother that was most remarkable. Arthur Grimsdell was a regular in the Watford Reserve team and, in addition to making eight appearances for the Saints, scoring two goals, played in the Brewers final two Southern League games of the season. He signed professional forms for Watford in October 1911 and joined Tottenham Hotspur in December 1912 in a double swoop that also took W.S. Tattersall to White Hart Lane for £500. Arthur played 360 times for Tottenham, was captain of their 1921 FA Cup winning side, won six caps for England and later spent six years as a director at his home town club where he also owned a newsagents and tobacconists. But for the war, in which he was one of the first of the professional footballers to sign up, he would have gained a good deal more international caps.
Attendances at Clarence Park for the season totalled 24,348.
At the end of the season Wagstaffe Simmons oversaw another tour by the Amateur England side, this time to Holland and Germany. Although no St. Albans players were involved the trainer was City’s George Hartley, who was also a veteran of the original St. Albans Football Club. Ivan Sharpe, by this time with Glossop North End, did not feature on this tour but played the following month during a 4-1 win over Switzerland in Berne. Sharpe joined Derby County at the start of the 1911-12 season and scored six times in 28 league games (plus two FA Cup ties) as the club won the Division Two championship.
City’s second season opened on 18th September 1909 with an FA Cup Preliminary Round tie at home to Tufnell Park that was won courtesy of a Leslie Hosier goal. All of the first eight games of the campaign were cup ties with success and failure being experienced in equal measure in both the FA Cup and Amateur Cup, a longer run was enjoyed in the Herts Charity Cup.
The FA Cup run ended in the 1st Round Qualifying when Barnet, following a draw at the Park, won a Thursday afternoon replay at Underhill. During the first meeting George Webb gained the dubious distinction of being the first St. Albans City player to be dismissed since the formation of the club, Barnet’s Gallienne was also sent off.
Two days after the Barnet replay City began their bid for the Amateur Cup with Tommy Walker scoring three times during a 5-2 win over Hertford Town at Hertingfordbury Park. Tufnell Park returned to Clarence Park in the 2nd Qualifying Round and soundly beat the Citizens 4-1. With winter fast approaching, the game being played on 23rdOctober, the council took steps to make viewing football at Clarence Park more enjoyable by providing ‘foot-racks’ for spectators.
Local interest in the national competitions may have come to an end but, after a replay at Salmon Meadow, City removed Apsley from the Herts Charity Cup and followed that with victory over Ware at The Thrifts, London Road, Ware. The Spartan League season finally got underway on 6th November, with a 7-1 thrashing of Newportonians at Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, Tommy Knott scored a hat trick.
George Butcher was the next City player to score at will by knocking in four during a 10-0 Herts Charity Cup win over Welwyn at Clarence Park. The cup ties were good publicity for the club but the financial gain was small.
Large crowds, small rewards
The attendance for the FA Cup Preliminary Round tie with Tufnell Park included 750 paying adults and 158 boys. The total receipts amounted to £10 19s. 1d. and, after paying expenses, City’s share was a mere 15s. 5d. Tufnell Park took £5 5s. 9d. of the gate money, including the railway fares of their team. City had turned down an offer by the North London club to switch the Amateur Cup tie from home soil to their Caledonian Park home; at £7 10s the offer had been quite tempting.
The visit of Barnet Alston for the drawn FA Cup encounter on 2nd October attracted the largest attendance thus far to Clarence Park with 1,276 spectators paying a total £19 10s 8d. Bizarrely, St Albans financial gain from the replay at Barnet was greater than for the home games with either Barnet or Tufnell Park although the attendance for the Thursday replay (3.30pm) was lower than for the home games.
The home Herts Charity Cup tie against Apsley brought in gate receipts of £9 13s 4d (597 adults, 184 boys), of this £4 7s went to Hertfordshire charities.
The final two rounds of the Charity Cup were held over until the New Year and Harpenden provided little opposition in the semi-final as City sauntered to a 4-0 win at the end of January. The amount handed to the Charities Fund was £5 4s 6d. The final, against Barnet Alston, was due to be staged at Underhill but due to a flooded pitch the game was switched to Clarence Park.
A new record attendance was set with 2,200 spectators witnessing a memorable encounter that City won with goals from Willy Hughes and George Butcher. The takings, £33 2s were a record for the Charity Cup and after expenses of £7 2s, £26 went into the Charity Fund. Due to the large crowd and takings the Herts FA presented gold medals to the winners and silver ones to the runners up.
George Butcher joins West Ham United
The cup final was Butcher’s 31stand last game for the City; during his final 11 games the 19-year-old had scored 17 times for his hometown club. Earlier in the month, on 2nd March, Butcher had made his debut for West Ham United against Watford in Division One of the Southern League; a crowd of 1,000 saw the game at Cassio Road that Watford won 2-1 with George netting for the Londoners. He signed professional forms shortly after and scored 24 times in 114 games for West Ham before joining Luton Town in January 1921. After five years with Luton he returned to Clarence Park to assist with the coaching.
Butcher had the distinction of being the first player to move from St Albans City to the ranks of the professionals but life was not all a bed of roses for him. In January 1912 he was summoned to appear at St Albans Sessions, for discharging a stone from a catapult on 10th January. P C Ward stated that he saw the defendant with some other lads in Sandridge Road on the day in question, and saw him shoot a stone at a bird in the hedge, from a catapult. There were a good many people about, including children.
Superintendent Hassle explained that the defendant was a professional footballer and as he was playing for West Ham that day, he was unable to attend the court.
Mr H.J. Toulmin: ‘Did he hit the bird?’ P.C. Ward: ‘No, sir.’ The Chairman (Alderman H.P. Smith): ‘It is a dangerous practice. He will be fined 2s.’
County League Champions
The 1909-10 campaign was to be the second and final season in which St. Albans City competed in two leagues and, more significantly, it was the first in which the club won silverware. The Herts County League Western Division was defended successfully but this time the Saints went a step further and clinched the title outright with play-off victories over Hitchin Town, 3-0 at Top Field, and Ware, 7-0 at Clarence Park, with Webb Richardson and William Hughes each bagging a hat trick.
City’s County League form had been irrepressible throughout the season. Although just eleven of the scheduled fourteen games were played – three matches became ‘four pointers’ – City were victorious in ten of them with a 12-1 rout of Boxmoor being the highpoint. Boxmoor were probably grateful that the match was one of the ‘four pointers’ after seeing Willy and Frank Hughes score three apiece while Tommy Knott helped himself to four goals. Boxmoor’s goal came from the penalty spot. Boxmoor had been due to visit Clarence Park for the return fixture on the morning of Boxing Day but scratched at late notice, for which the FA ordered them to pay St Albans £1 10s compensation.
Whilst the Herts County League Western Division was won at a canter with a goals record of 40-7, it was in the Spartan League that City really found their shooting boots. St. Albans romped home in their opening nine ‘B’ Division matches scoring 59 times with four hat tricks and a dozen doubles being notched by the rampant City attack. Seven times in those nine games City found the back of the net on seven or more occasions, and had Charlie Patrick not missed two penalties during the 8-0 win over Hitchin Town in December then the club would have gone into double figures in three different competitions during the season. Another fixture played during December lacked a touch of seasonal goodwill when visitors Luton Clarence had five players dismissed during their 7-1 defeat at Clarence Park; all five went for different offences after the scoring had been completed.
Five Luton Clarence players dismissed
A joint commission of the Herts and Beds Football Associations’ met at Dear’s Temperance Hotel, St Albans, on 20th January to discuss the unusual match in which five players from one team were sent off yet not a single player from the home side had been so much as cautioned. The commission believed that there had been provocation on the part of one, maybe two, St Albans players but referee J.J.P. Cole of Hitchin had seen only the actions of the visitors. Two of the five Luton Clarence players were suspended for 21 days, one for seven days and two players were cautioned. No action was taken against St Albans.
Despite fielding the same XI that had completed the County League season with a 6-0 win over Rickmansworth four days earlier, the club marked the first anniversary of its formation, 13th April, with a 2-0 defeat to London Caledonians at Highlands in the final Spartan League fixture. City failed to return to winning ways for the Spartan League play-off match at home to the 2nd Coldstream Guards on 30th April and went down 1-0 to the ‘A’ Division champions. Any disappointment with this result was quickly washed away as the club held its Annual Dinner Dance later that evening at the White Hart Hotel.
The 1909-10 season was significant for a number of City players with one player, Willy Hughes, setting a record that has survived right through to today. Between 4th December and 19th March, St. Albans played 14 games and Hughes scored in every single one of them, in all he netted 26 times during that remarkable run which included two hat tricks and one five goal haul. By the close of the season he had scored 31 times in 23 league games, his record in all competitions was an outstanding 35 goals in just 26 games. Both goal scoring records survived until the arrival of Wilfred Minter in the 1920s.
Tommy Knott was also no slouch with a goal-a-game record from his 24 games, and Butcher achieved the same record from his 19 appearances. At the opposite end of the pitch, goalkeeper Herbert ‘Micker’ Smith kept a clean sheet in 18 of City’s 35 matches. Tommy Walker, Charlie Patrick and ‘Micker’ were the first players to be ever present for the club during all the league games for one season while Walker and Smith extended that record to include cup ties.
Aggregate attendances for the season rose to 26,836 with the highest being the excellent 2,200 that attended the Herts Charity Cup final with Barnet Alston.
Fred Fayers - City’s First England International
Frederick Leonard Fayers (known as Fred ‘Tiny’ Fayers) gained the greatest honour possible for an amateur when selected nine times for the Amateur England international side. One of his England appearances was recorded during his time as a St. Albans City player, this in spite of him making just two appearances for the Saints. Fayers, although signed to Watford and having already played four times for them that season, signed County League forms for St. Albans on 18th September and made his debut a week later during a 2-2 draw with Apsley. Thirteen days later he played for the England Amateur side at Hull during a 7-0 thrashing of Sweden and was listed as a St. Albans City player. Fayers’ one other game for the Saints was the away 7-0 Spartan League win over 3rdGrenadiers that was played at Clarence Park.
George Webb had the humiliation of his dismissal wiped away on 10th January when he was selected to play for the Southern Counties during a 4-1 win over London at Stamford Bridge. The game was widely billed as an Amateur International trial match and although Webb did not get an Amateur England cap, he did sign professional forms with Luton Town on 23rd July.
However, Ivan Sharpe, who made a couple of appearances for the City during 1908-09, did play for England Amateurs in Denmark during May 1910. He was amongst the party gathered for a trip that was organised by the Saints founder George Wagstaffe Simmons, who was on the Football Association’s International Selection Committee. The tour was a solemn affair following the death of King Edward VII after the first match, a planned second game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Pictured are the Saints team with the Herts Charity Cup.
Tommy Noel, George Webb, Herbert Smith, Charles Patrick, Robert W. Fox*
George Hartley (Trainer), Webb Richardson, Eddie Anderson, George Price, Jack Squires, Harry Gray, A.Welch*
Leslie Hosier, Frank Hughes, Willie Hughes, Tommy Knott, Tommy Walker