St Albans City retained the majority of the previous season’s players although two more had departed in addition to Archie Michell. Sam Hatton moved north after finding work in Leeds while Arthur Wiggs took up an appointment as a technical instructor under the Birmingham School Authority. George Edmonds was also expected to play in a greatly reduced number of games after signing Southern League forms for Watford.
Jimmy Brandham could have joined the exodus from the Park after drawing interest from Luton Town. The half-back appeared in a scratch team that was put together to give a Luton a game on 16th August and after the match the Strawplaiters asked him to sign professional forms with them, fortunately for St Albans, he declined the offer.
Joining the City was P.Wingfield, a centre-half formerly of Spartan League rivals East Ham. WA Lane, 21, joined St Albans after spells with Luton Clarence and Luton Amateurs. A trial was also given to A.Norman, a centre-forward previously with Newcastle District side Desmond Dene, and JT King formerly of South Weald and the wonderfully named Bronzo Athletic. Norman and King played in a pre-season friendly against Tufnell Park, that the visitors to Clarence Park won 3-2, but were not seen again.
Charles Paul had been listed to play against Tufnell Park but suffered a bad injury on the day before the game and had his place filled by his brother Willie.
The club was clearly concerned about the strength of the forward-line following the departure of Michell and impending loss of Edmonds. In an attempt to attract new talent an advertisement was placed in two London Daily newspapers on Saturday 2nd August, it stated, ‘St Albans City have vacancies for good forwards; excellent ground and dressing – Apply Fox, Liverpool-road, St Albans.’ The Fox mentioned was Bob Fox, the City hon. secretary.
Two new forwards were given a run out in the final friendly, a 3-0 defeat at home to Barnet Alston, but neither was retained. W.Hewitt featured at outside-left while R.B.Turner was given a go at centre-forward.
City’s first competitive game of the season saw Letchworth Athletic, holders of the Herts Senior Cup, visit the Park as one of four sides taking part in the Herts Charity Cup. St Albans enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 win over a side that included A.Smith, the younger brother of City ‘keeper Herbert Smith in its attack. The game raised £7 14s 6d for Hertfordshire charities.
Following on from the platitudes that the club received from its cup exploits during 1912-13 the City suffered a humiliating exit at the Preliminary Round stage of the FA Cup one year on. The problems in attack persisted and a debut given to W.Davidson, at left-half for the injured George Meagher, proved to be his only run out in the Saints colours as Middlesex League side Page Green Old Boys pulled off a shock single-goal victory at the Park.
There was a two-week gap before the start of the Spartan League season, to fill the void City hosted Watford Reserves in a friendly. Tommy Bradbury, of Leavesden Asylum was brought in at centre-forward. The experienced forward scored all of the City goals in a 3-0 win and held his place for the opening league game of the season but was not seen again after that until September 1920.
The Spartan League had a new-look for the 1913-14 season with three clubs, Cambridge United, 3rd Grenadier Guards and East Ham, having all moved on, while Great Western Railway (based in Ealing) and Tunbridge Wells made their debut in the league.
For that first league encounter, at home to Woodford Albion, on 11th October, City were without Ernest Grimsdell and George Edmonds due to both players turning out for Watford. Grimsdell also featured in eight of Watford’s next nine Southern League matches but played for St Albans when Watford had cup ties and appeared more frequently for the Saints after the turn of the year. Edmonds scored ten times in 14 games for Watford that season, including four in one Southern League game against Coventry City at Cassio Road. He also scored eight times in nine games for St Albans during the season.
Woodford Albion had finished bottom of the table the previous season and made a losing start to the new campaign, as Willie Paul scored the only goal of the game. For the second league game, at home to Chesham Generals, City were without five regulars, and it showed as the Generals won 1-0.
City’s grip on the Herts Charity Cup was ended on 25th October with a 5-0 defeat to Barnet Alston at Underhill. The final score might not suggest such but City performed well only to find that lady luck was not with them that day. Across the county at Harpenden the locals held Page Green Old Boys in the FA Cup but, seemingly, bowed out in the replay. The Harps protested that the Old Boys had fielded an ineligible player, the FA upheld the protest and called for a replay at Harpenden. This time Harpenden successfully terminated the visitors run.
With another free Saturday on 1st November City entertained Athenian League side Catford Southend and chalked up a welcome 5-2 win. Fielding a stronger side than of late St Albans gave a hint that they could yet have a decent season. The suspicion that City were on their way back gathered momentum when Aylesbury United, who had enjoyed a good start to the season, were crushed 8-2 at Clarence Park. No one player score a hat trick but the bother’s Paul – Willie and Charlie – bagged a pair each.
The run of home games continued with Tunbridge Wells making their first visit to Clarence Park. The Kent side finished bottom of the Isthmian League the previous season but had made a good start to life in their new surroundings. The game finished all square but City, had they accepted any number of good chances that came their way, ought to have collected both points.
The following Saturday saw Luton Clarence win a friendly at the Park but a return to league action a week later on 29th November was scheduled with champions 2nd Coldstream Guards. A large crowd began assembling at the Park when a telegram was received from Quartermaster Sergt. Webb from Watford stating, “Had motor accident on road, several injured, cannot play today.” The soldiers were en route to Clarence Park in two cars when one of the vehicles ran into a ditch in Croxley Green. The injured were taken to hospital in Watford but no serious injuries were suffered and they were subsequently transported back to Windsor.
Three weeks after the last league game City played their first away Spartan League encounter on 6th December and won with few problems away to bottom side Watford Orient. The game attracted barely 100 spectators, with at least half coming from St Albans and the Herts Advertiser questioned how the club could survive on such gates. Come the end of the season and the Watford club did resign from the league and soon disbanded.
City suffered a major blow on 13th December when Polytechnic won 4-0 at the Park. It was the Chiswick-based club’s only win in ten meetings with St Albans between 1911 and 1948, and only one of two occasions when they didn’t lose to the Saints. It was Polytechnic’s biggest away win in the Spartan League prior to the First World War and City’s heaviest league defeat since the 1908-09 season.
A home friendly with East Ham the following week enabled City to go into Christmas on the back of a win. The visitors arrived a man short and borrowed City’s assistant secretary P.Staines to make up their number. Three points were collected from two very windy games played on Boxing Day and the 27th when City came from behind in both games. Sutton Court were beaten 2-1 at the Park and a draw was then played out with Tufnell Spartans at Barnet’s Underhill home. City, but for a penalty save by Spartans ‘keeper E.Newman from Leslie Hosier, would have claimed maximum points from the two yuletide fixtures.
The exploits of the club in the Amateur Cup during 1912-13 was not replicated this time out as City bowed out in the 1st Round, 4-0, at home to Great Western and Suburban League champions Southall at Clarence Park. St Albans desire of regaining the Spartan League title looked dim after a 3-2 defeat to Sutton Court at Clarence Park that saw Hosier successful from the penalty spot.
City had 12 league games to play and set about mounting a second half of the season challenge with wins of 4-0 and 3-1 over win Newportonians and Great Western Railway, both at the Park. The latter game was played on a hard, frosty, surface that only went ahead after the lines had been cleared. A debut was given to H.Whitworth against GWR at centre-forward and he responded with two goals. Another new face in the side was Frank Butterfield, the inside-right for St Saviours and he, too, announced his arrival with a goal. The inclusion of Whitworth, however, was costly as there was a problem with his registration and City were deducted two points by the League; the same fate also befell bottom of the table Watford Albion.
On the final day of January City faced the short journey to Aylesbury United, the Ducks were perched second in the table, despite their 8-2 mauling earlier in the season at Clarence Park, and City had risen to third. Chesham Generals were way out in front with maximum points from 14 games. The two sides fought out a goalless draw at the Printing Works Enclosure, Tring; it was one of just two goalless matches in which City featured in 127 Spartan League games.
The clean sheet that the City defence and goalkeeper ‘Micker’ Smith kept against Aylesbury was just one of nine shut-outs during the final 11 games of the season. The draw with Aylesbury was also the last time that City failed to collect maximum points, as all of the final ten games ended in victory.
The winning run started against Woodford Albion, the first side to take a point off Chesham Generals but not in contention for the title. City recorded a comfortable 2-0 win at the Park in what was classed as Albion’s home game. Albion were unfortunate that George Edmonds was in the City side for the first time this season and he made an immediate impact by notching both of the goals. Ernest Grimsdell was also back in the side on a regular basis and the return of these two players, along with the experience that they had gained in the Southern League with Watford, went a long way towards improving St Albans fortunes.
As a clear demonstration that their in-different first half of the season form was well behind them, City handed Chesham Generals their first reversal of the season on 14th February. The only goal of the game, at Berkhamsted Road, was scored by Jack Rainsden who, with Arthur Wiggs unavailable, was called up the First team at inside-left for the first time since February 1911. Rainsden played six times for First team games, these games were spread over three different seasons. Ironically, both Rainsden and Wiggs were to lose their lives in the World War. The Generals merged with Chesham Town in 1917 to form Chesham United.
Tufnell Spartans gained a point when meeting St Albans earlier in the season but were brushed aside 6-1 second time around. The Spartans cause was made all the more difficult when L.Newman sustained an ankle injury early on and could take no further part in the game. The pitch was extremely heavy after prolonged rain, and snow throughout the game made conditions underfoot slippery. At half time the two teams changed ends without trudging across the Park to the cricket pavilion for refreshments.
Tunbridge Wells entertained St Albans at Coombley Park for the first time at the end of the month but put in a poor display and were fortunate to go down to just a two-goal defeat. The club folded at the end of the season.
Great Western Railway stood between City and a fifth straight win on 7th March. The Herts Advertiser gave full transport details for the Saints first trip to Castle Bar Park, Argyle Road, Ealing, the home of GWR.
‘The kick-off is at 3.30, and the players leave the Midland Station, St Albans, at 1.15, for King’s Cross Met. at 2.2, and from West Ealing the journey is finished by motor train at 2.25 for Castle Bar Park Halt, which adjoins the ground. Party fares (2s 3d), allowing a return by any train, will be arranged.’
Having navigated their way to Castle Bar Park, St Albans made light of the Railwaymen and another heavy pitch to romp home 6-1 with H.Whitworth scoring a hat trick. A break was taken from league football on 21st March to entertain Southern League Division Two side Luton Town. The Herts Advertiser claimed that it was Luton’s first visit to St Albans for 20 years and that they recorded a 6-1 victory to match the score on their most recent visit to Clarence Park. Luton had, however, visited St Albans a year later, in November 1895, and won 10-0 in the Luton Charity Cup. Polytechnic returned to Clarence Park in early April but came nowhere near to matching their big win of earlier in the season and returned home beaten by a goal from Whitworth.
City faced a hectic Easter but, at last, the football was blessed with good weather and that, in turn, brought about some good attendances. On Good Friday, 10th April, Barnet & Alston were beaten by a Charlie Paul goal in a friendly and 24-hours later Watford Orient were swept away 4-0. Grimsdell got his name on the scoresheet with a three-times taken penalty. His first effort went wide but the referee deemed the goalkeeper to have moved and ordered a retake. Grimsdell scored this time but a third attempt was ordered due to encroachment and this time the goal was allowed to stand.
City had just two games left to play, both against familiar and feared foe in the form of the 2nd Coldstream Guards. Both clubs had enjoyed a good second half to the season but the days of City playing second fiddle to the Guards were over and, on Easter Monday, goals from Edmonds, Whitworth and Willie Paul secured a 3-1 win for the Saints. There was an unusual intervention early in the first half when the City Reserve team arrived at the Park fresh from a 7-0 win over Waltham Albion in the final of the Herts Junior Cup at Hertford played in the morning (kick off 11am). Upon arriving at the Park, PG Staines, City’s assistant secretary, raised the trophy and was greeted by loud cheers from all around the ground.
The final game of the season took place the following Saturday at Burton’s Court, Chelsea, and it was another victory for St Albans as the 2nd Coldstream Guards put up little fight in going down 2-0. Suitably enough it was City’s two most influential figures, Edmonds and Grimsdell, the latter from a last-minute penalty, who found the target as City secured third place in the table. Given their form during the first half of the season it seemed inconceivable that a title challenge could be mounted. But, ultimately, had City not had two points deducted, and picked up a point somewhere else along the way, then they would have brought home the Spartan League title for a second time. No side lost fewer games than St Albans during the season and no side conceded fewer goals, but the title eluded them by three points.
The Spartan League season concluded with the champions, Chesham Generals, facing The Rest on 25th April. A decent sized crowd gathered at Chesham to see the champions triumph 4-1 with Grimsdell scoring for The Rest. Two other City players joined Grimsdell in playing for The Rest, Jimmy Brandham and George Meagher. The championship trophy was presented to Chesham by the City secretary and treasurer Bob Fox.
The season was a particularly memorable one for Ernest Grimsdell, as a number of honours came his way. On 24th September he made the first of four appearances for the County as Hertfordshire drew 0-0 with Bedfordshire at Luton in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship. This was followed up by a 7-1 win over Berks & Bucks at Maidenhead, a 2-1 win over Oxfordshire at Watford, in which he converted a penalty, and a crushing 5-0 defeat to Devon at Plymouth in the semi-final.
Grimsdell’s chances of being picked for England were boosted on 24th January when selected, for the second time, for The South against The North at Oxford. In the summer of 1914 he finally made his way into the England Amateur international team for a tour of Denmark and Sweden in June. Grimsdell did not play in a 3-0 defeat to Denmark but featured in both games against Sweden in Stockholm on 10th and 12th June. England won 5-1 and 5-0 respectively and also in the side was former St Albans City player Ivan Sharpe who scored a penalty in the first game. George Wagstaffe Simmons was a member of the organising party and was the England linesman for the three games.
Jimmy Brandham (pictured right) and Leslie Hosier also played in all four Hertfordshire matches in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship while George Edmonds played in three games and against Berks & Bucks (2) and Oxfordshire (1). WM Clarke also appeared in the draw with Bedfordshire.
Brandham, a blacksmith from Markyate, was, for the third successive season, ever present. He played in all of City’s 91 competitive games from the start of the 1911-12 season through to the start of the war and also appeared in City’s first game after the war, which happened to be his final appearance too. After a friendly against Luton Town on 21st March 1914 Brandham was presented with a kit-bag to mark playing in 100 consecutive games. At this time he had actually played 86 times for the City in competitive games and the Luton game was his 12th consecutive friendly match.
The maths may have been slightly out on the number of games that Jimmy had played at that time but his record of completing three consecutive seasons without missing a game was not matched until 1931-34 by goalkeeper Wally Gatward. The first player to exceed that record was another goalkeeper, Mark Pearson, who played in 224 consecutive (competitive) games between 13th August 1983 and 26th September 1987; a total of four complete seasons.
The number of spectators attending matches at Clarence Park during the season was consistent with the two previous seasons at 23,882.
Pictured top right: England team v Sweden, 12th June. Ernest Grimsdell is fifth from the left in the back row, and Ivan Sharpe is at the right end of the front row.
Pictured bottom left: St Albans City Reserves 1913-14
Bob Jeffries, William Flint, Walter West
Fred Halsey (Trainer), L.Garner*, Albert Trulock, K.O’Brien, A.Barker, Jack Rainsden, P.Staines (Assistant Secretary),
H.Wilkes, H.Waller, Peter Walker, Albert Furness, Charley Wiggs.
Trophies: Herts Junior Cup, Mid Herts League Championship Shield.
Final Standings 1913-14
|3||ST ALBANS CITY||*||22||16||3||3||54||16||33|
|4||2nd Coldstream Guards||22||11||3||8||41||33||25|
|7||Great Western Railway||22||8||3||11||36||50||19|
|Two points deducted||*|