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Lancs Cricketing Footballers

Lancs Cricketing Footballers

The re-enactment of the first FA Cup Final this week at the Oval, is a reminder of the close links between cricket and football in the early years of organised sport.

In fact a surprising number of our current number of professional clubs were formed by, or evolved from, cricket clubs whose members took up the sport to fill in the winter months while they waited for the next cricket season to start.

And for a long time, when the ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ sports had their separate calendars, a large number of players excelled at both. Ken Grime has trawled the archives to see how many Lancashire players have played 'the beautiful game'.

Part one - Early Pioneers

The way the two seasons now permanently overlap means it is all but impossible to combine a career in both sports unless, like recent Lancashire signing Gary Montgomery, you leave one sport to take up the other.

In fact the early exponents of ‘Association’ football were all amateurs. The first rules, drawn up in 1863, were written with the aim of unifying the public school and university football games, and although the first FA Cup competition – strictly for amateurs – started in November 1871, clubs were not allowed to pay players until 1885.

So our first dual sportsman came straight from this classic amateur class. Francis Birley played for Lancashire three times in 1870 and once in 1872, and in 1879 appeared for Surrey against Middlesex at the Oval. Born in Chorlton, he was educated at Winchester College, before going to Oxford University where he represented the university in two FA Cup finals. The first occasion was the 2nd ever FA Cup Final in 1873, played at Lille Bridge (very close to Chelsea’s present Stamford Bridge ground), where the students lost 2-0 to the Wanderers in front of a crowd of 3,000, but they made amends the following year defeating Royal Engineers by the same scoreline at Kennington Oval, the home of Surrey CCC.

After university, Birley joined Wanderers, one of the leading amateur clubs in the country, and enjoyed two further FA Cup triumphs in 1876 and 1877. Playing in defence at half back, he also played in England’s 3rd and 4th International matches, both against Scotland and both played on cricket grounds. In 1874 England lost for the first time, 2-1 against Scotland at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick on the outskirts of Glasgow in front of 4,000 spectators, and the following year Birley played in a 2-2 draw at Kennington Oval with 2,000 watching. A barrister by profession, he was called to the Bar in 1876, later working on the Northern Circuit and becoming a Justice of the Peace in Surrey.

The amateur game soon became overtaken by the formation of several notable provincial clubs which would eventually lead to the formation of the Football League in 1888.

Blackburn Rovers, formed in 1875, rose to prominence in the 1880’s (pictured above in 1883) becoming one of the leading clubs in the country, and a number of Lancashire cricketers featured in Rovers early history.

The legendary Albert (AN) Hornby played for Blackburn Rovers the first time the club played at Alexandra Meadows, against Partick in 1878, and he went on to play in a few subsequent matches (Hornby also played Rugby Union for England, Manchester and Preston Grasshoppers).

Arthur Paul is also credited with a number of appearances as Rovers goalkeeper during these early years.

Fred Hargreaves (above, fourth in the middle row wearing a cap) joins our list of dual sportsmen by dint of his one appearance for Lancashire in 1881. Educated at Malvern, Hargreaves played his cricket for the East Lancashire club, and Blackburn rented the cricket club’s Alexander Meadows ground for their early home matches. Hargreaves played for England against Wales in 1880 (a 3-2 win at Wrexham) becoming Rovers first England player in the process, then again in 1881 (a 1-0 defeat v Wales, the only football international played at the East Lancs CC ground), and finally against Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1882. The 13-0 win is still England’s record victory.

For Rovers he captained the side that lost that year’s FA Cup final 1-0 to Old Etonians before his football career was ended the following season by a bad injury in a friendly against Aston Villa.

Blackburn Rovers had begun to use their Scottish connections to improve the side following friendly defeats at the hands of teams such as Glasgow Rangers and Partick Thistle. The capture of the Rangers captain Hughie McIntyre (above, middle row, second on left) in 1880 had an enormous influence on the club both on and off the pitch, and caused a certain amount of disquiet both north and south of the border.

In this era of amateur-only players, centre-half McIntyre was ‘attracted’ to Blackburn by his appointment to run the Castle Inn. Rovers insisted they were not paying anyone to play for them, and there was little the FA could do. (When the English FA finally gave way over payments to players for the 1885-86 season, accepting nearly every club was involved in the practise, Blackburn immediately registered as professional with a wage bill of £615 – a huge amount for the time). McIntyre’s move south meant he never added to his one Scotland cap, as the Scottish FA would not select players who played in England.

McIntyre went on to play in four FA Cup finals in five years as Blackburn dominated English football. Defeat in the 1882 final was followed by a hat-trick of victories; 2-1 in 1884 and 2-0 in 1885, both against Queen’s Park, and 2-0 in a replay against West Bromwich Albion in 1886 – the only time the final was played at Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Racecourse ground, (at the time it was also the venue for Derby County’s home games in their pre-Baseball Ground days).

McIntyre also played his cricket at Alexandra Meadows for East Lancashire following his move south, and this close connection between the two clubs and sports looks certain to have led to his one appearance for Lancashire against Derbyshire in 1884 where he kept wicket (claiming 1 catch and 2 stumpings) as R.G. Barlow and Alex Watson bowled Lancashire to an innings victory.

Frank Sugg was a hugely talented sportsman, playing top flight cricket and football for many years. Such was his versatility that, besides his prowess at cricket and football, he excelled as a long distance swimmer; held the record for throwing the cricket ball; reached the final of the Liverpool Amateur Billiards Championship; won prizes all over the country for rifle shooting, bowls, and putting the shot, and was famed as a weight lifter.

Sugg played cricket for Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire – where he gained his two Test caps – and he gained fame as a footballer with Derby County, Burnley, Everton and possibly Bolton Wanderers.

He was born in Ilkeston, but was brought up in Sheffield from the age of four, and on those grounds he was able to play cricket for Yorkshire in 1883. Most biographies of Sugg also credit Sheffield Wednesday as one of his clubs around this time (and that he was captain at some point), but an extensive check of their archives have drawn a blank as no-one called Sugg is listed as a player. In the pre-Football League days, this is not unusual. Clubs were often formed on an ad-hoc basis, or like The Wednesday (as they were originally known) from an existing cricket club, and record keeping is often poor. The participants were keener on playing than recording their deeds for posterity!

Sugg definitely played for The Wednesday Cricket Club, scoring a century in one match, and it is possible that he also played for the football club under a different name, possibly to disguise the fact he was very likely being paid. However, in a contemporary newspaper interview, Sugg states he was "proud to be have been captain of Derby County and Burnley", but makes no mention of having played football for the Sheffield club.

What is known is that during the same period in which he played cricket for Derbyshire, Sugg appeared in many games for Derby County, going on to captain the side. These friendly games are not listed as 'official' competitive appearances, so Sugg is shown in Derby’s archives as having played just one game - their first-ever cup tie in 1884, scoring County's first competitive hat-trick in a 3-0 away win at Stafford Road.

The strong, robust centre forward left Derby to take up an engagement with Burnley CC, and settled in so quickly that he decided against further games with Derby County and joined Burnley FC, playing for the Clarets between 1884 and 1888, again in friendly matches. Burnley’s records credit him with 3 full appearances in the FA Cup in seasons 1886/87 and 1887/88. At some point in this period it is believed he played a number of friendly games for Bolton, contemporary records stating that he ‘assisted’ Wanderers although the actual dates are uncertain.

His only Football League appearances were made with Everton - 9 games in 1888/89 in the first season of the Football League - and one appearance in 1889/90. He subsequently played for Southport Central in the Lancashire League in 1890/91, now at centre half, and - ever the entrepreneur - was ‘in charge’ of some new floodlights that he had erected at Southport's old Central ground for a couple of exhibition games.

His relocation to Lancashire from Derbyshire enabled Sugg to qualify via the residency laws to play cricket for Lancashire. This he did to great effect for thirteen seasons - 1887 to 1899 - and he scored over 10,000 runs for Lancashire at an average of 26, playing in two home Test Matches for England, both against Australia in 1888, and both won by England with an innings to spare.

After retiring as a player, Sugg became a first-class cricket umpire - he stood in 1926 and 1927 and was a very well-known name throughout the world of sport, after establishing a renowned sporting goods company Sugg and Co. Sugg cricket bats were widely used by first-class and amateur players alike and for many years a Sugg football was used in FA Cup Finals. 

Part two - Merseyside stars

Part three - After the war


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