Liverpool’s first canter for the English Cup


October 22, 1892
Musha, but it was hard on a lot of ould vitrius to be obliged to go away to play a cup-tie at such an outlandish place as Nantwich. Given an ordinary sort of day, I dare say it might be pleasant, as the town is quaint enough in its appearance and surroundings to challenge admiration. This is all true enough, but the man who had the courage to stand in the steady downpour of Saturday and pretend to admire anything does not, I think, live up our way! An unfortunate fellow scribe and myself trudged through the market-place in search of the telegraph office, and then bent our steps towards the football ground. We found it, but also found that a dirty farm-yard and a muddy field had to be travelled before the enclosure was reached.

We got there at last, walked past a little wood cabin, which I believe was the pay gate, without the sentry shouting “who goes there?” In fact, I thought we were the only unfortunates on the spot, but just then I caught sight of two Liverpool officials carefully stepping on the field, which looked decidedly narrow. One yard over was the verdict. We then turned our attention to the (to us) all important question, i.e., what accommodation have they got for press? Result, none whatever. We had almost decided to take possession of a roughly constructed summer-house in an adjoining garden, but unfortunately gave up the idea for fear of our view being obstructed by the spectators (save the mark). Our fears were badly founded.

The Liverpool team were out prompt to time, and knocked the ball about for five or ten minutes when they bolted for the shelter of the before-mentioned summer-house. Here they were kept shivering for 30 minutes, owing to Mr. Turner, the referee, having missed his train. The home team must have got wind of this pretty-early, as they kept under cover until that gentleman arrived. It was most trying to the visiting team, and decidedly hard in the few hundred spectators who had the hardihood to turn out and shout their best for the village team.

It was cold comfort we all had during this wait, the spectators trying to find shelter in a big ditch under the hedge, whilst a good old Liverpudlian shared his umbrella and a small plank (which he had raised somewhere) with me. At last the whistle sounded, and, my conscience, the villagers went off with a terrific spurt, which, of course, had they been able to maintain would have troubled Liverpool very much. They did keep it up for the first half, and this, combined with the clean kicking and able tackling of Richard Keay, and the exceptional ability of Champion (the old Earlestown goalkeeper) in goal, kept the Liverpudlians at bay. One other cause also affected them, and that was the big slope down which they had to rush. The ground being so slippery, the forwards fairly fell over the ball time after time instead of landing it in the goal-mouth, and when they did have a fair opening the ball persisted in turning over their feet and going elsewhere but the right place.

Two exceptions only place in the first half. First, when John McCartney shot with tremendous force the ball went as true as a martini bullet. Champion met the shot, and just slid the ball over the bar. The shot was good and the save equally so. From the corner which followed Thomas Wyllie brought Champion on his knees, but the ball was got away, half-time arriving without a score.

My first telegram was now despatched, but I had grave doubts as to the possibility of its being read. What between being nudged on either side at short intervals and the rain almost obliterating the words I was not a bit astonished as not being able to recognise my own message when I saw it in print. After this I pocketed my book for the day and looked on with the air of a martyr. I should have mentioned that in one instance in the first half Malcolm McVean, had he only kept his hair on, might have dribbled right through the Nantwich goal. Moral: Don’t be in too great hurry when there is only the goalkeeper to be dealt with.

The second half proved exactly what I expected. The Liverpool men played uphill, did not slip, their passing became effective and their shooting equally so, hence Champion’s trouble were of no ordinary kind. Yet, like a good man, which he undoubtedly is, he performed grandly before Wyllie at last beat him, and then three other goals followed, Wyllie, Andrew Kelvin, John Cameron, and McVean having a fair share of the honour of bringing the ball within reach and leaving John Miller to do the final.

One of these goals was fairly amusing, showing the state the ground was in. The ball went in with good speed but struck the ground under the bar and came to a dead stop. Champion and Miller rolled over, and their efforts – one to kick the other out, and the other to get the ball right through – were highly amusing, as neither of them could get quite within reach. At last someone did the useful, but until the ball was placed in the middle of the field I was not aware of the success, as there was not a sound pr or con. On a dry ground, even with Champion in goal, Liverpool would have given them a terrible gruelling.
(Source: Cricket and Football Field: October 22, 1892)

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