Amidst all the glory and plaudits that came the way of St Albans City after lifting the Athenian League title at the first attempt, members of the Club demonstrated a most humble side to their nature by addressing a small crowd with a wreath laying ceremony at the war memorial in the city centre. The memorial, in St Peter’s Green, St Peter’s Street, was unveiled on 22nd May 1921 and the football club, represented by captain George Meagher, Harry Gray (hon. secretary), Frederick ‘Dick’ Martin (chairman), and other members of the committee laid a tribute to the fallen on the 5thJune. The wording on the wreath of white carnations tied with blue and yellow ribbons, read, ‘In memory of our fallen comrades,’ written in blue flowers.
Back at the home of the City work had begun on building banking around the pitch to give spectators a far better view than had been the case up to this point. But the club did receive a setback when the Parks Committee decided not to back a scheme that would have seen the main stand enlarged, giving greater cover for the huge crowds that now attended matches at Clarence Park.
The job of creating terracing around the pitch was made possible with a grant from Government sources that provided the funding for workers previously employed on a scheme elsewhere in the district. The football club contributed £140 towards materials. It was hoped that the terracing would be in place for City’s first home match of the new Athenian League season.
Championship winning squad sign up for another season
The whole of the squad that won the league in 1920-21 signed Athenian League forms for the forthcoming campaign while a number of new signings were also made. But of the new faces only goalkeeper W.Hempsall, signed from Luton Amateurs, made his way into the First XI on a regular basis. Hempsall stood in for W.Innes Tennent who was still singing on the Isle of Man, something that caused him to miss the Athenian League presentation evening at the end of the previous season. Tennent revealed that he was staying fit by playing a lot of tennis.
One former player who would no longer wear the City colours was Leslie Hosier (right) who made 144 First team appearances before the war and turned out four times for the Reserves towards the end of the 1920-21 season. He was, however, still in the spotlight as, during the summer, he scored a club record 1,062 runs for St Albans Cricket Club including three not out scores in excess of 100.
The Athenian League lost Wimbledon (Isthmian League) and West London Old Boys during the summer but gained Cheshunt, Enfield, Guildford and Sutton United, the latter two clubs having moved up from the Southern Suburban League.
City warmed up for the defence of their title with a 5-1 friendly win over Great Eastern Railway on the final Saturday in August, four days later, the 31st, the Supporters Club held it’s first Annual General Meeting at the Abbey Institute.
Title defence off to a winning start
The league campaign kicked off on 3rdSeptember with City travelling to the Old Kent Road to face Metrogas. The Londoners played at a great speed early on and by the 42ndminute had opened up a two-goal lead, both of which had been scored by C.King whom they brought in to replace the highly-rated Calvert who had joined Maidstone. Immediately after the restart Wilf Minter reduced the deficit and within a minute of the second half getting underway he had pulled the sides level. By the end of the game the play had switched completely with City now the dominant force. Ted Miller, with 17 minutes remaining, scored the winner with a shot that took a deflection past the unfortunate H.Steward in the home goal. The champions were off to a winning start. Debuts were given to Hempsall and defender G.Clements. The latter made one more appearance before being relegated to the Reserves where he featured for just one game.
3,500 see opening home fixture
Kingstonian gained a surprise 1-1 draw as the first visitors to Clarence Park but enjoyed some good fortune along the way. St Albans disputed whether G.Laverick’s shot had crossed the line for the K’s goal while both H.Wentworth and Minter claimed that efforts of theirs had crossed the goalline before ‘keeper C.Warner had pulled the ball back. Even so, Minter did get his name on the scoresheet once more as City came from behind with a crowd of 3,500 looking on. Wentworth was a cousin of Minter but this was his only game for the club.
Two more, as it turned out far more significant, debuts were made the following Saturday, 17th, during the visit of Summerstown. The defence was strengthened by the inclusion of Fred Holland, a recent signing from Harpenden Town. The forward line saw Redvers Miller join his brother Ted on the left of a front five that also included Minter (centre) and Phil Pierce and Bertie Butcher on the right. Holland went onto make 176 appearances for the club and Redvers Miller 141.
On a windy day City cantered to a 3-0 win over Summerstown with Minter scoring for the tenth successive league game. Percy Bird, who along with Pierce topped the appearances chart this season when appearing in 39 of City’s 40 games, opened his account for the season. Somewhat ominously for the rest of the league, St Albans were already up to second in the table, one point behind leaders who had played one game more. Enfield, who had played just two games, were the only side with a 100% winning record, bottom dogs Sutton United had lost all three games played.
Hat Trick for Minter on County debut
Two days after the Summerstown game, Minter was joined by fellow Saints Tommy Field, Harold Figg and Bertie Butcher in a Hertfordshire side that beat Bedfordshire 4-1 at Luton in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship. It was Minter’s first game for the county and he marked the occasion by scoring a hat trick.
For the second year running City had to enter the FA Cup at the Preliminary Round stage and were drawn away to London League side Edmonton. This was the north London clubs’ first season in senior football and partly to boost their finances agreed to switch the tie to Clarence Park. Another reason for turning their back on home advantage was that their home support would have been hit by close neighbours Tottenham Hotspur being at home to Aston Villa at the same time. Although Edmonton gave a good account of themselves, City were two goals to the good inside the opening ten minutes and sauntered to a 4-1 victory in front of a crowd of close on 3,000.
A family bereavement led to George Meagher missing the game and allowed Harold Figg to captain the side for the first time in a cup tie. A debut was given to Harpenden Town’s inside-right George Minney who, in spite of receiving a favourable report, did not play for the club again. During the 1920-21 season Minney scored twice in a Reserve team match for Derby County and subsequently appeared in the Rams First team’s two games against Manchester United on the 2ndand 7thMay.
Minter and Pierce were back on representative duty on 28thSeptember when selected for the Athenian League against the Sussex County League at Summerstown, Earlsfield. The Athenians won 3-0.
City were now fully into their stride and it would be another six months before they lost to a fellow Athenian League club. New boys Enfield were looking forward to a bumper gate with the visit of St Albans on 1stOctober, they were not disappointed as around 500 City supporters made the journey. After scoring in eleven consecutive matches Minter finally drew a blank but Ted Miller did score the goal that secured both points for the champions.
The following Wednesday saw Field, Figg, Butcher and Minter back on county duty at Hitchin and the latter duo both got on the scoresheet during a 4-0 win for Hertfordshire over Northants in the Southern Counties Amateur Championship.
Aston Villa move to sign Harold Figg
St Albans had, again, been drawn away in the FA Cup but, as in the previous Round, persuaded their opponents to switch the tie to Clarence Park. The opponents on this occasion were familiar foe in the form of Spartan League side Polytechnic. Ted Miller bagged his first double for the club while Minter and Figg chipped in with one apiece as City went through 4-2. Amongst City’s highest gate of the season thus far was a ‘spy’ from Aston Villa who was watching Harold Figg for the second time in a fortnight. Attempts to sign him after the game were unsuccessful.
City were without a game on the 15thOctober but the Reserve team were in action at Clarence Park against Scottish Strollers and included several players hoping to force their way into the First team. The game was a complete mismatch with City scoring four times going up the slope in the first half and adding nine more after the break. Two of the most promising players looking to progress were Harold S. Miller, who had one First team game under his belt, and Harry Hankey of the St Albans Gasworks team. Hankey scored four times and Miller once. Two days earlier Hankey scored a hat trick for St Albans Thursday during a 5-4 win over St Albans Postal.
The FA Cup was back in City’s sights the following Saturday with a ground record crowd of 5,300 at the Avenue Ground seeing Hampstead Town beaten 4-2 in the 2ndRound Qualifying. The attendance included 730 City supporters that went on a special rail excursion, while it was believed that around another 800 got to the ground by other means. The ‘take’ was £172; after expenses, City’s cut would be around £55.
City were without Fred Holland at Hampstead due to a family bereavement, his place at centre-half was filled by centre-forward Hankey. Hampstead fell well short of their quality from the previous season and could not stop Butcher from opening his account for the season, while Pierce added a brace and Minter a single. Four days before the game Percy Bird, who missed just one City match during the season, made his debut for the Bedfordshire county side.
Aston Villa were again keeping an eye on Harold Figg and offered him a run out in their Reserve team in a Central League match on Wednesday, 2ndNovember, he accepted the invitation.
Holland, who scored from the penalty spot, returned for the visit of Chelmsford on 29thOctober, this allowed Hankey to move forward and score his first goal for the club as City came back from two-down to claim a draw. But it was very much a case of one point dropped, City dominated throughout and Hankey hit the woodwork three times, but the winner would not come. City were without Minter and Butcher who were representing the Athenian League against the Isthmian League at Wimbledon, the latter won 3-1. This was the first of just two occasions when all three Miller brothers appeared in the same City line up. Harold Sidney, for whom a career at the top level of the game was not far away, next appeared in the City team in March 1922 following a lengthy spell in the Reserves.
The airmen of R.A.F. Henlow provided little resistance as City won the Divisional Group of the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Biggleswade & District League side at their Bedfordshire home on 5thNovember. City travelled to the game by char-a-banc while an excursion was laid on for supporters by Messer’s Thomas Cook. Departure times were 1pm from St Albans and 1.10pm from Harpenden with a return ticket costing 4s 6d and 3s 9d respectively.
Returning to league action the following week City made amends for the slip up at home to Chelmsford by winning 2-0 at the Essex club’s Kings Meadow home, a venue surrounded by water and later owned by British Home Stores. Pierce opened the scoring and Minter added the second but had the misfortune of having another effort dubiously rubbed out for offside. Minter’s frustration increased when a header of his was caught by a defender who accepted that it crossed the goalline. The referee thought differently and awarded a penalty that Holland saw saved by ‘keeper W.Freeman. With just three points gained from their seven league games played Chelmsford were one place off the bottom of the table. St Albans rose to second place, five points behind leaders Metrogas but with five games in hand.
City claim Isthmian League scalp in the F.A. Cup
City had already progressed through more rounds of the FA Cup than in any previous season and a trip to face Isthmian League side Clapton, at The Spotted Dog Ground, in the 4thRound Qualifying was a demanding prospect. Clapton had won the Amateur Cup three times and were founding members of the then six-club Isthmian League. The game kicked off at 2.30pm, City headed to east London on a 12.50pm excursion from St Albans. Clapton’s neighbours, West Ham United and Leytonstone, were at home that day to Barnsley and Ilford respectively, which was partly to blame for the crowd falling short of expectations with just short of 2,500 present, of which a thousand were believed to have followed the Saints. Clapton led twice but a strike by Butcher and two from Minter carried City to a deserved victory.
Lieut. Col. C.D. Crisp, secretary of the Athenian League, was unrestrained in his praise of the City performance and the numerous glowing platitudes that came St Albans way included good coverage in both the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express. Minter was in exceptional form at Clapton and Crystal Palace, who were present at the game. moved quickly to announce their desire to sign him. The League Secretary also made a speech at the Supporters Club Whist Drive the following Friday, and Innes Tennent, now back from the Isle of Man sang several numbers.
November ended with City making a first visit to the new home of Luton Clarence at Round Green, a second half goal by Minter secured another victory for the Saints. The match was blighted by thick fog, which caused the play to be reduced to 80 minutes in front of a record crowd for the new ground that included over 1,000 City supporters. The Clarence side included former Saints Arthur Webdale, George Plester and Harold Ford.
Watford express an interest in ‘Billy’ Minter
Interest in Wilf ‘Billy’ Minter continued to grow with Watford being the latest club attempting to entice him into the professional game. After writing to St Albans notifying the club of his interest in signing Minter, Harry Kent, the Watford manager, called on Minter personally with a Watford director by his side. Throughout his career Minter snubbed offers to turn professional by insisting that he wished to carry on working with his father at their store in Culver Road, St Albans. Mr Kent soon discovered that Wilf, who had been playing senior football for fewer than ten months, had no desire to deviate from his plan and rejected an offer to turn out for Watford the next day against Queens Park Rangers or in a forthcoming midweek fixture.
Making their first appearance in the Fifth Round Qualifying of the FA Cup, City faced Isthmian League opposition for the second time in a fortnight, this time in the shape of Nunhead. The south London club were exempt from the competition until this round and had the honour of being the first club to stop St Albans from scoring since 1stJanuary as the match finished goalless. Back in the cathedral city, the score was announced to supporters outside the Herts Advertiser offices at 4pm.
City made no mistake the following Thursday in the replay at Clarence Park that kicked off at 2pm. The Saints were at full strength, despite, the midweek afternoon kick off, but Nunhead did have to make business-related changes from the first encounter. Second half goals by George Meagher and Ted Miller clinched victory for the City.
Terracing installed at Clarence Park
The attendance for the replay was given at around 3,500, a thousand up on the first meeting. Supporters were able to enjoy the clearest view of the action since the formation of the club, as the work to install banking and terracing, railway sleepers, had been completed. The work had stalled due to the sheer obstinance of the Parks Committee at St Albans but with the drive of Arthur Marshall and Frederick Martin, the City chairman, the club contributed greatly in getting the work done. Marshall had recently replaced T.Carr as hon. secretary when the latter stood down due to pressure of work. Possibly generously, it was estimated that the ground could now hold 10,000 spectators. Gate receipts from the replay were £117 while a collection at the game for the Mayor’s Christmas Parcel Fund raised £5 7s 8d.
City were back at Clarence Park two days later for the visit of Sutton United in the 1st Round of the Amateur Cup. It was the Saints seventh (eighth including the Nunhead replay) cup tie of the season but the first time that they had been favoured with a home draw. The Citizens were not only handicapped by having played a cup tie just 48 hours earlier, but they also played for over 50 minutes with just ten men after Tommy Field hobbled off with an injury. Even so, it was only the brilliance of Sutton goalkeeper W.Hill that restricted the City to a slender 3-2 victory with Pierce bagging a pair and Minter a single.
While City directed all of their efforts towards extending their run in the national cup competitions and retaining the Athenian League crown, the interest in Minter and Figg intensified. Crystal Palace wrote to the club for a second time requesting that both players turn out for them in a midweek fixture. Tottenham manager Peter McWilliam (the first person to win the FA Cup both as a player and a manager), Steve Bloomer of Derby County and representatives of Watford, Luton Town and Palace were present at the Nunhead replay, all hoping to secure Minter and Figg’s signatures. Crystal Palace then put in a formal 14-day notice of their intention to sign Figg as a professional and acquire Minter as an amateur. The notice expires on Boxing Day. Aston Vila also continued to keep in close contact with Figg.
First F.A. Cup meeting with Football League opponents
The 1920s was a decade without compare with any other time in the history of St Albans City and on 17thDecember 1921 another first was set when City squared up to Football League opposition. In the Sixth Round Qualifying (the latter-day equivalent being the 2nd Round Proper) City faced Division Three South side Gillingham at Priestfield Road in Kent. Gillingham’s form was indifferent while City, although clear underdogs, boasted an unbeaten run that was just two weeks short of stretching for a whole year.
City gave a good account of themselves but were generally second best throughout and Gillingham went through 3-1 in relative comfort although they were put under a spell of sustained pressure during the second half. George Meagher, who had won the toss and elected to attack with the wind behind his team in the first half, scored the City goal and, for a while, the odds of City gaining a replay appeared to be narrowing before Gillingham grabbed a third goal. The attendance of around 8,500 was the highest in which City had played in front of until this time. The City support was greatly down from what had been witnessed during the season to date with barely 50 loyal fans making the journey. Gillingham faced Division One side Oldham Athletic in the 1stRound.
The following Saturday, Christmas Eve, St Albans played a fifth successive cup tie and knocked out Herts Charity Cup holders Watford Old Boys 3-0 at Clarence Park in the semi-final. The Saints were back on league duty on Boxing Day and by defeating Barnet 3-0 at Underhill became the first side to go unbeaten for twelve months in the Athenian League, the most recent defeat had been by Barnet, 5-1 at the same venue on 26thDecember 1920. In the Barnet XI was former Saint Willie Paul. The crowd was close on 3,000 with over a third having made the short journey from St Albans. Ted Miller began a run of scoring in six consecutive games during the win over Watford Old Boys while younger brother Redvers Miller scored his first goal for the club during the win at Barnet.
After playing competitive games either side of Christmas Day the year was seen out with friendlies at the Park against Hertford Town and Tottenham Hotspur. Figg and Minter missed the Hertford match, that City won 2-0, due to being called upon to play for the Athenian League against Arsenal at Highbury (kick off 2.30pm). Minter scored for the Athenians while Figg was outstanding at half back and secured a place in an international trial match for The South v The North at Norwich early in the New Year.
In goal for Spurs at Clarence Park was Alex Hunter who, earlier in the year, kept goal in the FA Cup final. In spite of being beaten three times he was in excellent form at the Park and helped the cup holders to a 4-3 win. Harry Hankey scored twice for City with Bertie Butcher claiming the remaining goal. Peter McWilliam wrote to St Albans after the game expressing a wish to make the fixture an annual event, he also confirmed that he would like to give both Minter and Figg a trial.
The New Year began with City playing another friendly, this time against new opposition in West Norwood who were making their only appearance at the Park. Both sides were below full strength and City won 4-3.
International trial for Figg
On the same day that City played West Norwood, 7thJanuary, Harold Figg was looking to strengthen his dream of playing for the England Amateur international team in the trial match at The Nest, Rosary Road, Norwich. The South defeated The North 4-3. Needless to say, Crystal Palace sent a representative to the game but, once again, were unsuccessful in signing Harold.
City played their first competitive match for almost three weeks on 14thJanuary when Oxford City were entertained at Clarence Park in the 2nd Round of the Amateur Cup. The Isthmian League side contained three Amateur Internationals but were guilty of squandering several good chances and were condemned to a 3-2 defeat. The attendance was the highest of the season so far with Oxford supporters numbering around 300 in a gate of 4,000, bringing receipts of £121.
St Albans had been due to visit Guildford on the 21stbut due to a newly formed professional club in that city playing at home that day, it was agreed to switch the game to Clarence Park. City were without Figg who had been selected as a Reserve for the Amateur England team against Wales at the Vetch Field, Swansea. Figg did not get to play but he was not the only Clarence Park connection at the game, as committee member Eddie Anderson was chosen as trainer (physio in modern times) to the team. The Sportsman echoed the thoughts of many when it stated, ‘one regrets the fact that a place could not be found for that indefatigable Albanian H.Figg.’
Tommy Field, through illness, was also absent against Guilford, something that allowed utility man Harry Hankey to try out another new position in the team. Guildford had climbed above City, by one point, into second place in the table but had played five games more than the reigning champions. Ted Miller put City ahead but Guildford, who created enough chances to have won comfortably, drew level to cling onto second spot.
The City Reserves also had a frustrating time when making their way to Berkhamsted for a Herts County League fixture. Travelling by char-a-banc their vehicle broke down four miles from Hemel Hempstead. The players then walked to Hemel and took taxi-cabs to Berkhamsted, but due to not arriving until 4.20pm the game was called off.
Seven straight league wins
City’s response to dropping a point against Guildford was to win the next seven league games starting with a 7-1 destruction of Luton Clarence at Clarence Park. Minter secured his second four-goal haul for the club and Ted Miller notched his first treble in the Athenian League. With goalkeeper W.Hempsall injured, Innes Tennent made his first appearance of the season. It was an unhappy return to the Park for former City player Arthur Webdale, now captain of the Luton club. Two weeks earlier Clarence had set a new Athenian League record by scoring nine times in one game.
Above: Photo from the Beds & Herts Pictorial Telegraph showing City on the attack against Luton Clarence. In the background are spectators standing on the recently installed terracing.
City were now back in second place and kept the pressure on leaders Metrogas with another seven-goal feast the following Saturday, 7thMarch, at the expense of county rivals Cheshunt. Cheshunt held out for almost 30 minutes before Phil Pierce scored the first of his three goals, his only hat trick for the club. Ted Miller scored twice taking his good run to nine in six games. George Meagher missed the game after suffering the heartbreak of three family bereavements within the space of a couple of days.
More than 18,000 see City in Amateur Cup against Dulwich Hamlet
City’s scoring spree set them up perfectly for the glamour tie of the Amateur Cup 2ndRound as Isthmian League high-flyers Dulwich Hamlet made their first visit to Clarence Park. It is doubtful if any other amateur side could pose as strong a threat to City’s Amateur Cup aspirations as Hamlet. They had won both the Isthmian League and the Amateur Cup two years earlier; they were the current Isthmian League runners-up and had just been deposed from pole position by Ilford. The side was packed with amateur internationals with the jewel in the crown being their all-time top goal scorer Edgar Kail, an amateur who played for the full England side.
The game lived up to expectations and honours were even at the end of extra time. Butcher scored both City goals in a 2-2 draw but the player to emerge with most credit was City captain Meagher who, bravely under the circumstances, returned to the starting XI. Minter had scored 21 times in the 21 matches City had played since the start of the season but he was unable to add to his tally on what was his 24thbirthday.
If anything, what happened on the pitch was a backdrop to events in and outside of the ground. The terracing could hardly have been installed at a more important moment in the club’s history, as a new record attendance of 7,440 witnessed the game. City, though, had upset supporters by increasing the cost of a seat in the stand to 8d. the committee claimed that the decision had been taken due to limited spaces being available. Given that the stand was likely to have been filled several times over if possible, it was a decision that made little sense and was heavily criticised by supporters and in the press. Tickets were distributed on a first come first served basis and with 900 Dulwich supporters arriving at the railway station at 2.15pm St Albans followers needed to get there early to secure a seat. The game was seen by several members of the F.A. international selection committee and the secretary of the Isthmian League, Henry Huband.
Above: Inness Tennent clears his lines at Clarence Park as Edgar Kail, Tommy Field and Percy Bird look on. Bird had to leave the field for a while to have stitches inserted in a facial wound by the club doctor J.W. Cleveland at his nearby surgery.
The scenes at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill home for the replay the following Saturday were even more remarkable. The attendance was announced as 10,800 but it is believed that at least another 3,000 forced their way into the ground after the gates were closed and they faced the prospect of not seeing any of the action. Supporters climbed onto the roof of the stands; others stood on the roof of a nearby building while the really agile ones climbed trees. Every vantage point was snapped up. City’s share of the gate was £128 17s while Dulwich had to spend £25 on repairs to the ground.
Phil Pierce gave City an early lead but Dulwich had no intention of surrendering their unbeaten home record stretching back two years. Kail got Dulwich back on level terms before the interval and with two more goals during the second half the south London club became the first amateur side to defeat St Albans for more than 13 months.
Above: Minter (white shirt) puts pressure on the Dulwich defence in the replay, Ted Miller looks on.
More detailed accounts of these two games against Dulwich, and two more from later in the year, can be found here on the website.
Major national cup glory had eluded the Saints but Figg and Minter still aroused plenty of attention from higher up the football ladder. Spurs, though, were disappointed that neither turned up for a friendly against Oxford university at White Hart Lane. A letter had been sent explaining that neither player would be available but, unfortunately, it only arrived after the game. Tottenham had waited right up until the final minute for the duo to arrive and manager Peter McWilliam was sporting enough to offer both players another trial when convenient.
The Amateur Cup dream was over for another year but the club still had 15 games remaining in which to retain the Athenian League title. For the first game after the cup exit City were not at their best but on a blustery day at Clarence Park beat an equally off-form Enfield 3-1. Phil Pierce, Percy Bird and George Meagher scored the goals that stretched the unbeaten league run to a 25thmatch.
Sutton United were the first visitors to the Park in March and a weakened side proved to be no match for the Saints. Sutton played for the opening 20 minutes with just ten men but conceded only one goal during this time. With a full quota they conceded another six, including four in the final 13 minutes, as City scored seven times in a league game for the third time in four outings. Minter missed the Enfield game due to ‘flu and marked his return with a hat trick. Minter’s fellow forward Bertie Butcher, in his 71stgame for the club, chipped in with his only hat-trick. Figg completed the seven-goal haul.
City rise to the top of the table
The likely destiny of the Athenian League championship took a significant shift on 11thMarch as challengers Hampstead and Bromley suffered defeats and leaders Metrogas had a blank afternoon. City took full advantage to move to the top of the table with a hard-earned victory over Southall at Western Road. Southall were on top for long spells but Harry Hankey, taken as reserve to most matches during the season, secured victory with his first goal on foreign soil and sparked a run of scoring in four successive games. Southall had been given a glorious opportunity to open the scoring when Field was adjudged to have handled a cross. Southall called up goalkeeper G.Holding to take the kick but shot wide, many felt that justice had been served. It was the first spot kick awarded against the Citizens for eleven months.
Five City players were back at Clarence Park at 4pm the following Thursday as Hertfordshire faced Hampshire in the semi-final of the Southern Counties Amateur Championship, Herts went through to the final by virtue of a 2-1 win. The City quintet were Butcher, Field, Figg, Redvers Miller and Minter, while of the remaining players three did later join St Albans.
Hampstead’s fading title bid suffered a fatal blow at the Avenue Ground on 18thMarch when City came from a goal down to inflict on the north London side their only home reversal of the season. More than 1,000 City supporters looked on as Pierce, Minter and Hankey got the goals that took their side a point clear of Metrogas on 27 points and eight clear of third placed Hampstead. Four days after the Hampstead game Minter was due to make his fourth appearance for the Athenian League representative XI, and thereby be awarded his ‘cap,’ but a snowstorm led to the postponement of the match against the Sussex County League at Lewes.
The away games kept coming with City finally getting to play at Guildford on the 25th. While Metrogas were busy ousting Dulwich Hamlet from the Surrey Senior Cup, City overturned an early deficit to move three points clear at the top of the table. Hankey, playing at inside-left, scored both of the City goals including one, from some distance, that was very much his trademark.
H.S. Miller reappeared at Guildford for his first senior appearance since October. The reporter for The Hertfordshire News was a fair judge of a player and said of Harold Stanley, ‘When he develops physically, H.S. Miller will probably outshine his brothers.’ He went on to play for Charlton Athletic, spend sixteen years at Chelsea and win an England cap.
Unbeaten league run ends at Cheshunt after 29 games
City were now in complete control at the top of the table but there was a suspicion that the next opponents, Cheshunt, at Albury Ride on Thursday 30thMarch, could be the venue where the unbeaten league record may fall. The predictions were well founded and a match played in far from ideal conditions ended with City’s run of 29 Athenian League matches brought to an end. The game kicked off in fading light at 6pm and, due to the poor visibility, play was reduced to 80 minutes with the sides simply changing ends at half time without taking a proper break. City played for the opening 15 minutes with just ten men due to the late arrival of Pierce. Working in Luton, he was picked up by a kindly supporter, Fred J. Preece, and taken to the ground. Pierce made amends by scoring one of the City goals in a 3-2 defeat; Hankey netted the other from the penalty spot.
A second half Fred Holland penalty, after Minter had been tripped, was required to stave off a second successive defeat in City’s next match, away to fast improving Summerstown. Both sides had opportunities to win the game but the loss of three points in two games hardly threatened St Albans grip at the top of the table. However, a third slip in the next game, at home to second placed Metrogas on the 8thApril, could open up the way for the Londoners to steal the title.
St Albans were unchanged from the Summerstown game and the break of a week did the Citizens a power of good as Metrogas were brushed aside 5-0 during a fractious afternoon at Clarence Park. Metrogas gave a better account of themselves than the final score suggests but were short of a couple of regulars and had played in a tough cup tie two days before this game. City, on the other hand, played at the top of their game. Butcher bagged a brace while Minter, and two of the Miller brothers, Redvers and Ted, grabbed a goal each.
The game also contained several unsavoury moments. The Hertfordshire News described events most graphically, “A number of fouls occurred during the course of the exchanges and the referee had occasion to speak to three of the visiting players about their tactics. Some unfortunate incidents occurred before the final whistle blew. When the visitors’ goalkeeper was watching a centre from R.Miller roll out of play Minter, rushing up, charged him with the result that the custodian was sent sprawling. A few seconds later, when the goalkeeper was gathering the ball, Minter rushed him. After the ball had been cleared, Leech and Minter came into contact and the Citizens’ centre forward was carried off unconscious and, after a spectator’s endeavour to rush on the field had been frustrated, the few remaining seconds of the match were concluded.
As soon as the final whistle was sounded there was a hostile demonstration against Leech but, in consequence of the action of the police, club officials and some of the City players, although surrounded by a large crowd which surged on to the field, the goalkeeper was, in the end, safely escorted to the dressing rooms, where Minter, who had received a heavy blow on the point of the jaw, soon came round.”
The five-goal win, a clean sheet and City moving six points clear at the top of the table made for a particularly good weekend for Innes Tennent, who had performed at the Town Hall on the night before the game. The concert was sponsored by the Supporters Club with tickets available for 1s 3d, 2s 4d and 3s 6d. Due to forthcoming singing commitments of the Kiwi, St Albans signed Percy Bird’s brother Sidney as cover between the posts. Bird had been playing for Luton Amateurs this season but made his debut in Luton Town’s Reserve team on 8thApril. He made his only appearance in the Luton First team on 16thDecember 1922 during a 2-1 win over Portsmouth at Kenilworth Road.
Miller brothers amongst the goals
Hampstead Town, third in the table but a distant ten points behind the champions-elect, provided the opposition at Clarence Park on the Saturday of the Easter weekend, 15thApril. City simply carried on from where they left off the previous weekend and hammered their visitors 6-0. This remains as the record margin in any games played between St Albans and Hampstead in their various guises (Golders Green, Hampstead Town and Hendon). Minter was in sublime form as he sprayed the ball around the pitch and chipped in with two more goals but Ted Miller took the headlines with his second hat trick of the season, Butcher completed the scoring in front of a crowd approaching 4,000. The St Albans Silver Band took a collection during the game and collected £8 3s on behalf of the St Albans and Mid Herts Hospital.
The wonderful attendance against Hampstead was surpassed just two days later when, on the Easter Monday, over 4,000 people saw neighbours Barnet beaten 3-2 at Clarence Park. Injuries to Percy Bird and Phil Pierce enabled the trio of Miller brothers to turn out in the same City side for the second and last time. City also had a change in goal. Tennent was off on another singing tour and his place was taken by Hempsall who had returned to Peterborough since losing his place earlier in the season. It was Barnet’s third game in four days and it showed as they got away with just a 3-2 defeat in spite of being on the back foot for much of the game. Redvers Miller took full advantage to score his only hat trick in 141 games for the club. Another collection was taken at the ground with £17 being raised for the Mayors Appeal for the St Albans District Nursing Association.
City’s next game was on 22ndApril but if they were to secure the championship that day then it would have to be done without the services of Harold Figg. Earlier in the month he had signed amateur forms for Aston Villa and had accepted an offer to play for their Reserve team against Leeds United at Villa Park that day. He was joined by Barnet full-back Frank Fletcher who had also played at Clarence Park the previous weekend.
Bird and Pierce returned in the absence Figg and Harold Miller in what was to be Hempsall’s final game for the club. A muddy pitch and non-stop rain at the Adult School Sports Ground (later better known as the Borough Sports Ground, Gander Green Lane) was not to City’s liking and they were well beaten with 3-0 not flattering the home side. One person with particular cause to celebrate was the Sutton president C.S. Collingwood. He was also president of Cheshunt and within the space of four weeks had seen both of his teams lower the City’s colours.
Due to a short break between concerts Tennent was able to return to the City side that travelled to Kingston on Wednesday 26thApril. Figg also returned as the team looked to wrap up the title for another year. Minter gave City an early lead but after that a succession of misfortunes denied them the victory that their performance warranted. On 18 minutes Ted Miller suffered a recurrence of a foot injury that had sidelined him for six weeks earlier in the season and was forced to sit out the rest of the game. Minter had what appeared to be a perfectly good goal disallowed for handball, something that he strongly rejected, and to cap it all W.Wright grabbed a late equaliser for Kingstonian from a disputed penalty.
Athenian League title secured, Figg snubs Villa
Tennent, in his final game of the season, was present as City were confirmed as Athenian League champions but, with the Citizens, losing 2-0 at Bromley on 29thApril, the title was won courtesy of Metrogas failing to win at Guildford. City were again without Figg who was due to have a second run out for Aston Villa but changed his mind at the last minute and ended up having a day off. A debut was given to Harpenden Town centre-forward E.P. Atkins but he was moved from his usual position to inside-right.
Figg was not the only Saint to remain loyal to the club and choose to decline offers to further his career elsewhere. One day after the game at Kingston Minter turned down a place in the Athenian League side to face Middlesex at Hampstead. Instead, he was back at Kingston turning out for St Albans Postal against Kingston P.O. in the final of the Evanson Cup. St Albans won the cup 3-2 after extra time with Minter scoring twice. The City centre forward qualified for the Post Office team through his fathers’ grocery and post office store in Culver Road.
Then, on the Saturday, more significantly, he opted to play for City at Bromley rather than in Division Three of the Football League for Queens Park Rangers against Plymouth Argyle at Loftus Road.
The title was wrapped up and City were the first club to retain the Athenian League title but there were still two games to play on the 4thand 6thMay to complete the league programme. Before then six City players were selected to help Hertfordshire in the final of the Southern Counties Amateur Championship against Essex at Newbury Park, Ilford. A highly entertaining games was seen by around 3,000 spectators with the home county grabbing a late goal to lift the trophy for the first time by virtue of a 2-1 win. After the game the two teams dined at the Cauliflower Hotel at Seven Kings. The six St Albans players involved were Field, Hankey, Figg, Butcher, Minter and Redvers Miller.
The match reports for the Kingstonian and Bromley games, news of Figg and Minter’s loyalty to St Albans City, and the report of Hertfordshire’s game against Essex, all appeared in the final edition of the Hertfordshire News that was published for the last time on Tuesday, 2ndMay 1922.
The return fixture with Bromley allowed City to take swift revenge for the defeat at Hayes Lane the previous weekend. Sid Bird was handed his debut in goal and Harold Miller marked his return to the side with two goals. Pierce also bagged two in a 4-1 win for the Saints in front of one more crowd of around 3,000. During the final league game of the season City played for half of the game with just ten men after Butcher failed to reappear for the second half having been injured early in the game. Unphased by the handicap of being a player short goals by Pierce and Minter, his 30thof the season, clinched a 2-0 victory over Southall.
The achievement of winning the league in successive years underlined the strength of the City squad at this time but for Pierce and trainer Herbert Jones the championship success was their third in a row, both having won the title with Luton Clarence in 1920.
Harold Figg was absent for both of the final two league games due to being away in the south west of the country having trials for Exeter City. His first game was at Dawlish in an ‘exhibition’ match and the second was for Exeter’s Reserve team against Luton Town Reserves in the Southern League.
Herts Charity Cup retained
City’s 40thand final game of the season took them to Hatfield on the 13thof May to face Hertford Town in the final of the Herts Charity Cup. The Hertford line up contained a sprinkling of former Saints but City cruised to a comfortable 5-1 win with Minter scoring twice to take his goals tally to 49 in 51 games since making his debut. The other scorers at Hatfield were Redvers and Harold Miller, and Percy Bird.
After the game City captain George Meagher received the cup from Captain G.C. Kekewick, he also presented the medals to the players individually. Capt., Kekewick distributed further mementoes to various City players with regards to their appearances for the county. Field and Minter both received a cap and badge, Figg and Butcher were handed a cap each while Redvers Miller received a badge. Pictured is Figg’s embroidered county badge.
Plans for enlarged main stand revealed
Throughout the season St Albans City lobbied the council for a new, or at least enlarged, main stand. Having the terracing installed (four tiers, three feet wide) helped boost attendances significantly. But dry accommodation was still in short supply at the Park. Plans were outlined late in the season to extend the current stand from 104 feet long to 290 feet. The extension would stretch another 106 feet towards the Hatfield Road terrace and 80 feet towards the York Road entrance.
The existing stand had five tiers, the club planned to remove these and insert six tiers, each about one foot higher than the other. At the front of the stand would be another row of seating running the entire length of the structure, this would increase the seating by a further 200 to 1,700 seats. The club was keen to stress that it would bear the brunt of the cost, estimated at £1,000, not a penny would be contributed by the taxpayer, yet ownership of it would remain with the local Corporation.
At the quarterly meeting of the St Albans City Council on Thursday 11thMay 1922 Alderman H.Slade, chairman of the Parks Committee, said, “It is with great pleasure I move the adoption of this scheme.”
The Council duly approved the scheme in principle but the Herts Advertiser reported that there was no comment from the council congratulating the club on another outstanding season. During the season the club had improved the council’s facilities with the installation of terracing at Clarence Park and had hot water baths installed in the dressing rooms (in the pavilion outside the football ground). All done at a cost to the club and not to the council whose facilities were improved.
It was agreed that the football club could continue to use the football ground for the next five years with an annual rental agreement of £150, providing that the club remained amateur. The club would also have to pay an extra £3 3s for each of its home midweek matches.
The football club was greeted more warmly on the 20thMay when a reception was held in its honour at the Town Hall. Around sixty guests were present ranging from the players and top brass of the club to various councillors. One of the guests was Jack Dickerson who, as captain of the original St Albans Football Club, had the honour in 1893 of being the first St Albans player to lift the County (Herts Senior) Cup. A qualified referee who took charge of the 1911 Amateur Cup final, he was also a teacher at the Hatfield Road School where Wilf Minter learnt his football.
One week later, on the 27th, another party of 40 from the football club were on the receiving end of more awards and kind words at the Athenian League Annual Dinner at the Café Monaco in London. The players, plus Trainer Herbert Jones, hon. secretary Arthur Marshall and Frederick Martin, the chairman hon. treasurer, all received miniature replicas of the Athenian League trophy. Speeches were given by City captain George Meagher and the founder of the club, George Wagstaffe Simmons, who also distributed the replica trophies.
At the Supporters Club annual meeting at the Abbey Institute on the 25thMay the chairman Bob Fox announced that membership stood at 500 and that the organisation had a balance in hand of £16 14s.
Fred Holland, Sid Bird, Tommy Field
Herbert Jones (Trainer), Harry Gray*, T.Ashby*, Harry Hankey, Percy Bird, George Meagher (Captain), C.Crawley*, William Green*
H.Higgins*, Phil Pierce, Bertie Butcher, Wilfred Minter, Ted Miller, Redvers Miller, Arthur Marshall (Hon. Sec.)