The first FA cup final at Wembley. It wouldn’t happen today.

 

It was in 1923 that the Football Association decided to move there Challenge cup to a new permanent home. Interest in the game, seen as the pinnacle competition of world football and its oldest still to date, had risen massively and there were concerns that the public turning up would struggle to be accommodated. What they got was a crowd so unprecedented there is still nowhere in the country today that they would all fit. The match was played by Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United two of the oldest and most established professional football teams at the time (and both still going strong). They played in long shorts and cotton tops with large hobnail boots to grip the surface, a far cry from the “carpet slippers” and water resistant clothing worn today. You can bet that there training did not feature Football Training drill Videos like the ones you can get at https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Football/Crossing-and-Finishing/1-2-and-cross-f110016.jsp though you’d have thought that some of the coaches might have liked them too. When you also consider that they played formations of two three five (the players in the defence first) you might have thought that the two nil score line (to Bolton) was unusual.

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There are many other differences between that game in 1923 and the one that we shall have in 2019. It was not unheard of for the players to smoke and drink plus their idea of a diet was to lay off a steak or pie at lunch before the match. 2 times around the pitch was the sum total of the training exercise. The pitches were short and manicured depending on what type of style the team preferred. If it was a hoof it up the pitch sort of thing then the groundsmen liked to keep the area around the goal quite thick. The cotton jerseys certainly kept the chill out and as the league didn’t start until September time this was a bonus.

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The main difference that you’d certainly notice was the experience of the crowd. Wembley in those days could hold up to one hundred and twenty-five thousand people all standing. Three hundred thousand turned up. There were so many that the Bolton players had to walk to the stadium through them all. The staff abandoned the gates and the flood came in. The terraces soon filled and the only place left to go was the pitch. It’s pretty inconceivable for us now to see the pitch lines and behind the goal mouth full of people.

How a disaster never occurred is a miracle. The day is remembered for the valiant actions of the Police trying to keep order and Billie the white horse the mount of a particular officer keeping the peace. Also amazingly the crowd themselves seemed to be in a good humour, could we say that now?