135 Years Later!

West Bromwich Albion will be the Reds first visitors of the 2018-19 Championship season, a staggering 135yrs after the same two clubs met in the Wednesbury Cup Final, the first ever trophy to be lifted by Nottingham Forest.

For those of you who thought that football began in 1992, think again! These two famous old clubs have been locking horns long before the football league was even formed, and It’s testament to their resolve that since their formation they’ve amassed 17 major trophies between them in the process.

Until recently, I’d never heard of the Wednesbury Cup and would have continued to do so had it not been for a gentleman by the name of Ron Clarke. Ron published a book called “The Early Days of Nottingham Forest,” and within the labyrinth of ground-breaking information it harnessed, was an in-depth account of how the trophy was won.

So, let’s go back to the 1882/83 season, starting with our opponents. The following information was kindly supplied by Dave Bowler, a WBA historian and lifelong supporter. The season started with significant law changes, like the abolition of one handed throw ins and the mandatory use of solid cross bars, as opposed to a length of tape. The “Baggies, or “Throstles” as they were then known had just moved to their new Four Acres ground. Their kits were a chocolate & blue number or an alternative red & white hooped shirt, the latter being chosen for the final against Forest.

West Brom were in buoyant mood as they prepared to face the Reds of Nottingham, ironically, having lifted their very first trophy just a month before, winning the Staffordshire Cup on April the 21st 1883. They saw off Stoke City in a thrilling final, played at their opponent’s own Victoria Ground. Two Thousand made the journey from the Black Country and witnessed the historic 3-2 win that was itself was the catalyst for entry to the FA Cup for the following season.

As for Nottingham Forest, they warmed up for the final by also playing Stoke City, thrashing them 11-2 on a quagmire of a pitch in the potteries, the match report alluded to the lack of physicality from the home side compared to Forest, a far cry from the Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth era it must be said!

The venue for The Wednesbury National Charity Cup final was to be Aston Villa’s Perry Bar stadium. And, if Forest felt aggrieved by West Brom technically having a kind of home advantage, it was nothing in comparison to the choice of match referee, as it transpired, Mr Crump was a Wolverhampton Wanderers player at the time, which seems inconceivable at any juncture in footballing history.

The full match report from this action-packed final can be viewed in Ron Clarke’s publication, but in a shortened account I can tell you that Nottingham Forest’s 5-3 victory was indicative of the score itself. Forest kicked off attacking uphill but were behind within just three minutes, they equalised soon after but West Brom restored their lead and led 2-1 at the break thanks to a brace from Aston.

The second period saw the Reds equalise through Tinsley Lindley before taking the lead for the first time in the match, a lead they wouldn’t surrender. They went further ahead as they attacked the Wellington Road end of the ground, in a period that saw West Brom looking very troubled. But as the score line indicates, the game continued to ebb and flow. The Black Country men scored again through Bissiker, following an assist from Whitehouse, but the second half and the Wednesbury Cup belonged to Forest as they counter attacked and plundered a fifth goal right on the final whistle.

 I began to wonder if those eleven young men had any inkling that they were paving the way for domestic and European domination further down the line?

For some football supporters, delving this far back into a club’s past seems laughable. But, without these innovative pioneers of the beautiful game where would we be as a club right now? Legacies cannot be fabricated no matter how much money you throw at them. Rushden & Diamonds are a prime example, founded in 1992, bankrolled to high heaven and dissolved nineteen years later. Their state of the art Nene Park Stadium is also long gone. And don’t get me started on MK Dons, stealing another club’s identity has surely angered the footballing Gods? Good luck trying to fill your 30k capacity stadium in League Two by the way; Conference football beckons!

Most worrying of all for me personally is the Red Bull model, it’s the closest you’ll come to the Stepford Wives within the professional game. Leipzig have bought their way from the German 5th tier to the Europa League Semis, whilst Red Bull Salzburg are imposters on every conceivable level. The original Austria Salzburg club have been exiled out in the sticks, but like AFC Wimbledon before them have refused to give in. Finally, you have the New York Red Bulls……who play in the State of New Jersey!

I will refrain from ranting any further and instead continue to focus on Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion ahead of next Tuesday’s reunion. For me, It’s great to once again be playing one of our oldest opponents and I can’t wait to see Forest at home for the first time this season.

Ron Clarke, whom I mentioned earlier in this piece, will be selling bespoke merchandise before the visit of our Wednesbury Cup opponents on Tuesday. He has limited addition Pin and woven badges to commemorate the 1883 final, as well as special encased versions too. This is a great opportunity for both Nottingham Forest & West Bromwich Albion supporters to obtain a little piece of history prior to the game. If you’d like to purchase one of the Wednesbury Cup products, please contact Ron on the following number 07508 184400. The prices are listed below, and he’ll be around the City Ground a few hours before kick-off.

*WC pin badge £5    *WC Woven badge £8

*Early Days of Nottingham Forest book £5.99

*WC Encased Woven badge £10

*XL WC Encased Woven badge £40 (Larger than A4)

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