Five St Albans City players celebrated the start of the fifth season since the formation of the club with an appearance for The Spartan League Representative XI against a powerful Isthmian League XI. For Ernest Grimsdell and Herbert Smith it was their second and last game for the Spartan League, while Arthur Wiggs, Jimmy Brandham and George Edmonds made their sole appearance as the Isthmian’s cruised to a 6-1 victory at Clarence Park. The game was refereed by JR Schumacher who, in April 1912, had taken charge of the FA Cup final between Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion. Dick Schumacher, a schoolmaster, was also the founder of the Spartan League. After the game all of the players, officials and match officials were entertained at the Kings Head Hotel, Market Place, St Albans.
Just one departure had been announced during the season with outside-left Oliver Summers, a teacher at the London Colney School, entering Saltley College, near Birmingham. It was the same college were Robert ‘Bob’ Fox, St Albans City’s hon. secretary, had received his scholastic training.
Three additions were made to the squad. George Webb rejoined the club and was reinstated as an amateur, W.B. Clark, formerly of St Albans Crusaders, signed on as did A.Aylott formerly of Hoddesdon, Barnet Alston and Leyton. Webb made 26 appearances for City during 1909-10 before signing on as a professional with Luton Town. His return to the Park, though, was brief with him appearing in just one more game. As a member of the St Albans Crusaders, Clark played in two particularly interesting games against French side Caen. In 1909 he played against Caen in St Albans and at Easter 1910 played in Caen during a reciprocal trip by the Crusaders. Clark had also played for Hertfordshire under both the F.A. and A.F.A. code. Grimsdell was appointed captain of the City First team.
Four hat-tricks for George Edmonds
City began their defence of the Spartan League title with a disappointing goalless draw on 14th September against Polytechnic that was classed as an away fixture but was played at Clarence Park. Just a week later and cup football returned to the Park but it was not much of a contest as Herts County League side Hoddesdon were hammered 9-1 in the semi-final of the Herts Charity Cup. George Edmonds helped himself to the first of four hat tricks that he notched that season. Aylott was registered with both clubs and chose to turn out for Hoddesdon who, at one time, were holding out at 1-1.
The Charity Cup was safely back in the City trophy cabinet for a second time on 26th October when a second Herts County League side, Hertford Town suffered another heavy beating at the Park, this time 8-1. Hertford could claim mitigating circumstances, as goalkeeper, and captain, G.Trory was in outstanding form and kept City at bay until suffering a leg strain that caused him to depart early. Never one to waste an opportunity Edmonds took full advantage to add another hat-trick to his tally on a day when heavy rain reduced the crowd numbers considerably. The cup was presented to Grimsdell by Alderman WS Green. After the game the two parties took ‘high tea’ in the cricket pavilion in Clarence Park with George Wagstaffe Simmons (hon. secretary of the Hertfordshire FA) being amongst the speakers.
In between the two Charity Cup ties City had suffered their first league defeat, recorded their first win and made progress in the FA Cup. The defeat came at Cambridge United, where a succession of missed chanced proved costly, but the defence of the title began in earnest a week later when Sutton Court were beaten at the Park. Jim Butcher, younger brother of George Butcher, now with West Ham United, made his debut against Sutton Court. He went on to play three times for the Saints but his second game was not until January 1914 and his final appearance in January 1920.
One week after the win over Sutton Court the Saints FA Cup campaign commenced with a short trip to Salmon Meadows to face Apsley. Two ‘brakes’ were taken to the game, one containing players and club officials, and the other supporters. Goals by Archie Michell and Grimsdell, with his third penalty in the opening five games, carried City through to the 2ndRound Qualifying.
Aylesbury routed 14-0
Saturday 19th October 1912 is a day that Aylesbury United probably wish had never happened, as they took to the pitch at Clarence Park with just eight men for the Spartan League meeting between the two clubs. Aylesbury played with their reduced numbers until just before half time. City were in no mood to show much sympathy. Dick Hammond took the opportunity to score the Saints first double hat trick, Edmonds netted his highest personal score of four and W.Clark chipped in with three goals as City established what remains as the club record win of 14-0. The result also stands as Aylesbury’s record defeat. City, in addition to missing numerous other chances, also had one goal disallowed while Grimsdell also missed a penalty. Aylesbury were in arrears of eight goals by the time that they had a full XI players on the pitch
Given their shortage of players Aylesbury could have been forgiven for opting for damage limitation but, instead, went for a formation of one full-back, three half-backs and three forwards. It was football suicide. The missing three players eventually arrived by car but the visitors shipped another six goals even with their full quota of players. It was a sorry day for Aylesbury and their Hon. Secretary sent a letter of apology (printed at the foot of this article) that outlined the reasons for their disastrous day.
After winning the Charity Cup the following weekend, City, the last surviving Spartan League club in the competition, bowed out of the FA Cup on 2ndNovember with a 2-0 defeat at Enfield. City’s prospects of retaining the Spartan League championship improved with successive wins over Polytechnic and 3rdGrenadier Guards before three setbacks were suffered.
The first reversal was at Burton’s Court where the 2ndColdstream Guards did their chances of regaining the title no harm in overturning a two-goal deficit (Clark, Michell) to win 3-2. A bigger surprise came the following week, 14thDecember, when the newly-formed club Watford Orient gained a 2-2 draw at Clarence Park. In the Orient side was former St Albans goalkeeper P.Shrimpton and also in their ranks, although not playing in this game, was another City old boy in Alec Hedderwick. During the game a collection was taken on behalf of Arthur Gathard who had suffered an ankle injury on 9thNovember when playing for the City reserves against Fleetville at Sutton Road. Gathard had been unable to work since that time but did return to action in February. The collection raised £2 7s 4d, while the Reserves chipped in with 18s 6d.
Two more points were lost a week later when Tufnell Spartans recorded their only victory in eight meetings between the two clubs. City, minus Micker Smith for the first time in 43 games, and forwards Dicky Hammond and Edmonds, were well short of their best as the Watford club chalked up a merited victory. Smith’s absence allowed Reserve team ‘keeper William Flint to come in for his debut.
Just when the season appeared to be drifting away from them St Albans rediscovered their best form and lost just one of the next 20 games. The recovery began with victory over East Ham at Clarence Park on Boxing Day. Attention turned to the Amateur Cup on the first Saturday of the New Year with City travelling to Shepherds Bush to face Isthmian League opposition at Loftus Road.
The two clubs had met before under different guises. Shepherds Bush were founded as Old St Stephen’s and faced the original St Albans (then playing as St Albans Town) in the Southern League in January 1898. St Albans won the first meeting at the Park 6-0 with Fred Allen scoring a hat trick. Allen also scored in the drawn return game at Shepherd’s Bush when St Albans hon. secretary, and the future founder of St Albans City, George Wagstaffe Simmons played at centre-forward as cover for injuries.
Falling behind early in the second half Grimsdell equalised from the penalty spot after Archie Michell had been tripped. The scores were still level after 90 minutes when the referee, linesmen and captains agreed to proceed with extra time. With the light fading City’s fate looked bleak when Adams restored the Bushmen’s lead only for the game to be terminated shortly after due to the poor light. The score at 90 minutes stood and the two sides reconvened at Clarence Park the following Saturday.
It was the first time that City had played host to an Isthmian League club and it was a memorable day for the Saints, as a first half goal by Edmonds secured a most notable victory in front of just over 1,000 spectators on a day of dismal weather.
For the third consecutive weekend City were in Amateur Cup action on 18thJanuary when they visited former Spartan League colleagues Tufnell Park who had moved upwards to join the Athenian League for its inaugural season, 1912-13. City had a troubled start to the game with Tommy Hearn arriving late due to his train being delayed in fog. It was said that when he arrived at the ground he was changed and on the pitch within four minutes. A Leslie Hosier goal gave City another praiseworthy cup scalp as they became the sole Spartan League side left in the competition.
City had a four-week break before the Third Round and used the time well to strengthen their Spartan League position with convincing wins over Watford Orient, Woodford Albion and East Ham.
Amateur Cup holders ousted at Clarence Park
The draw for the next round of the Amateur Cup could hardly have been tougher for the Saints, as it pitted them away to the holders, Stockton. The Herts Advertiser & St Albans Times named the City side for the tie, including reserve Charlie Paul and trainer George Hatrley, and said that all were available thanks to the consideration of their employers. The newspaper then gave full details of the arrangements of how the club intended to get to Stockton’s Victoria Ground.
‘The party leave King’s Cross by the 5.30pm train, Friday, dining on the train, and arriving at Stockton at 10.25pm. the Royal Hotel is the head-quarters during the stay. The return will be by the 5.20pm, Saturday from Stockton, arriving King’s Cross 10.45pm, and St Albans 12.35am on Sunday. The local party will leave G.N.R. (St Albans) by the 4.14pm, train on Friday for King’s Cross to join the other players.
The half-time and full-time scores will be wired from Stockton to Clarence Park, where the Reserves play Leavesden Asylum in the Herts League, kick off 3.30pm.’
The G.N.R. station was in London Road, St Albans. It closed in 1951.
City were at full strength for the game but the three-times winners were without their England Amateur international forward Reginald Henry Callender who was representing Cambridge University against Oxford. In the Stockton line-up, though, was T.Sutherland, scorer of the winning goal in the previous season’s final. Although the weather was fine at the time of the kick off the pitch had suffered from heavy rain and soon cut up badly. St Albans gave an excellent account of themselves during the game and with a goal by Clark secured a second shot at their revered north-east hosts.
Well, St Albans and the referee certainly thought that the game was over after 90 minutes. The City players headed back into the dressing room and removed their mud-caked kit while the referee left the stadium having been given no notice that extra time should be played in the case of a draw. Fortunately, the referee did return to the ground and informed both teams that extra time must be played, there was a further delay of around ten minutes as the City players again donned their dirty kit.
There was no addition to the score during extra time and throughout the afternoon the locals, numbering 6,000, had been gracious in their appreciation of the City’s efforts. Before St Albans left the ground Stockton made a very generous offer of £75 to also play the replay at the Victoria Ground. The offer was, politely, rejected.
Due to the delayed finish to the game. St Albans return home was a good deal later than planned. The party finally left Stockton at 10.51pm and arrived at St Pancras at 6am.
Callender, who also played for The Corinthians, was back in the Stockton side for the replay that attracted a then record crowd of 2,904 to Clarence Park. The takings totalled £71 2s 4d and were boosted by the normal admission price rising from 4d to 6d.
City began encouragingly but Stockton generally edged the first half particularly the latter stages and led 2-1 at the interval, Edmonds scoring for City. Stockton were put under heavy pressure during the second half but held firm until five minutes from time when referee J.Reynolds awarded City a penalty for handball. A deathly hush engulfed the Park as the ever-reliable Grimsdell stepped up and hammered a typical blistering drive towards the Hatfield Road goal. The ball crashed into an upright and went, at speed, just inside the opposite post and out of the goal through the net. Worse was to come for the Tee-siders with just under two minutes to go when B.Loney, under pressure from Dicky Hammond and Edmonds, sent a powerful kick into his own net. The holders were out.
Reginald Callender was killed in France in the First World War on 15thOctober 1915.
The celebrations and congratulations that befell the club following the win over Stockton had barely subsided when City headed off to Bromley in the Fourth Round (quarter-final) on 1st March. The Kent League side had won the competition in 1911 and wasted no time in disposing of St Albans at the first attempt. A goal down inside the opening minute, City went on to give one of their poorest displays of the season. Michell missed the game through injury and replacing the inside-right with full-back Sammy Hatton was, clearly, a terrible mistake.
The gate receipts at Hayes Lane were £52, a new record for the ground with around 200 spectators having travelled to the game from St Albans.
St Albans did not enter the Herts Senior Cup this season, so could now turn their full attention back to the Spartan League. First up were 3rd Grenadier Guards who were on the receiving end of Edmonds’ final hat trick for the club as City bounced back to winning ways with a 6-1 win at the Park. Cambridge United effected a draw in City’s next match but with maximum points from three games in four days over the Easter period St Albans kept the pressure on the leading sides.
On Good Friday the away Spartan League fixture with Woodford Albion was played at Clarence Park, City were without five players, including Grimsdell and Edmonds, who were touring with Oxford City, and George Meagher who was away with Barnet & Alston.
By the end of the weekend City were in second place in the table, six points behind leaders, and favourites, 2ndColdstream Guards, with two games in hand and the Guards still to visit the Park.
2nd Coldstream Guards thwart City once more
The winning run continued with a second win in eight days over Chesham Generals seriously denting their hopes of lifting the title. Sutton Court were dispatched 5-0 and fellow challengers Newportonians were seen off 2-0 at the Park in an ‘away’ fixture. St Albans donated the takings from the day to the St Albans Mid Herts Hospital funds. City took care of all the matchday expenses while the Mayor, Councillor W.Fisk, paid the ground charge. A large crowd witnessed the game contributing £11 7s 9d to the hospital. A further £8 15s was collected from adverts.
The possibility of St Albans retaining the title slipped away on 12th April when six goals were shared evenly with Aylesbury United at Tring. A 4-0 win over Newportonians merely confirmed that City would finish as runners-up to 2ndColdstream Guards who celebrated their success by beating St Albans, once more, 1-0 at the Park on the final day of the season, 19th April. The Guards victory ended City’s 27-game unbeaten home record in the Spartan League (24 of which were victories) and, with it being their sixth win in seven meetings over the course of three years, confirmed their superiority over the Saints.
The championship trophy may have slipped from their grasp but in the evening of the game with the Guards the City players, officials and friends congregated at the New Abbey Institute for the club’s annual dinner.
Archie Michell emigrated to Canada shortly after the end of the season after scoring 14 times in 28 games for the club. At a committee meeting of the club on 29th April the City chairman, Frederick Martin, presented him with a leather writing set and George Meagher, on behalf of the players, handed Toronto-bound Archie a fountain pen.
City players honoured
Several St. Albans City players were once again honoured with pride of place going to Grimsdell who was selected for The South, at left back, in an international Trial Match against The North at York in December. Ernest did his international prospects little harm by converting a penalty during the South’s 4-0 win. On New Years Day he was in action at Stamford Bridge and notched another goal when playing for the Southern Counties against London, the match finished all square at 2-2. Grimsdell’s wonderful season with the Saints was rounded off with an appearance alongside his City teammates Jimmy Brandham and Meagher during a 1-1 draw at Clarence Park for ‘The Rest’ against champions 2nd Coldstream Guards.
But for Grimsdell his campaign still had a little while to run as he was selected to go on tour with the English Wanderers to Belgium and Denmark. The Wanderers side, captained by Vivian Woodward, partook in the Ghent Exhibition during Whitsun and defeated a Bruges & Ghent XI and then Sparta (Holland).
Some personal landmarks were also set during the season. Herbert ‘Micker’ Smith, during a run of 42 consecutive appearances, played his 100th game during a 2-0 win over Sutton Court while Leslie Hosier completed his century of appearances when 3rd Grenadier Guards were defeated in mid November.
George Edmonds’ time at Clarence Park was drawing to a close. He signed Southern League forms with Watford during the 1912-13 season and broke into Harry Kent’s First team the following season, but he did fit in a further nine games for St Albans.
Hertfordshire played five games during the season in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship with Brandham the only ever-present St. Albans player although he was joined in the side by; Grimsdell (4 appearances), Sammy Hatton (1), Leslie Hosier (1), Meagher (3) and Charlie Paul (1).
During the course of the season the City lost one of its former players with the death of Fred Habbijam in February. Buried in Watford, Habbijam played in City’s first match on 19th September 1908.
Over the course of the season the aggregate attendance showed little change from a year earlier with 23,682 spectators entering Clarence Park, admission prices for the season were up 1d from previous seasons to 4d.
The club reflected on its season at the AGM on 14thJune and also looked to the future. Due to the dominance of the Spartan League by the Saints and the 2nd Coldstream Guards, City officials talked openly about applying for membership to the Isthmian League where they anticipated facing sterner opposition. Ultimately it was decided not to push ahead at this time due to the general consensus that the Isthmian League was a closed shop and any club that gained admission was most fortunate.
Below is the letter sent from the hon. Secretary of Aylesbury to the City hon. Secretary Bob Fox, following the game at Clarence Park on 19thOctober.
“My committee desire to express their sincere regret as to what took place on Saturday last. They feel that it was no credit to themselves as a club and must be injurious to the management of the Spartan League, and can give no satisfaction to your club and indeed your supporters.
We are, however, tempted to say that we turned out what was our best team, but it was due to three of our players missing their train at Leighton Buzzard that caused us to take to the field with eight men. I gave the three players in question instructions to travel by the 1.40 train from Leighton Buzzard, and informed them that we would join them at Cheddington Junction at 1.47.
The missing of the train at Leighton Buzzard appears to have been due to some misunderstanding between another would-be passenger and the booking clerk. They telegraphed me at St Albans to the effect that they would arrive about 3.45, but the next train from Leighton Buzzard to Watford was half-an-hour late. Hence the lateness of their arrival at St Albans.”
Final Standings 1912-13
|1||2nd Coldstream Guards||24||20||1||3||73||20||41|
|2||ST ALBANS CITY||24||16||4||4||77||24||36|
|10||3rd Grenadier Guards||24||8||3||13||34||53||19|