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Author Topic: Trophies, exclusions and dual internationals  (Read 435 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Trophies, exclusions and dual internationals
« on: May 25, 2020, 01:09:35 PM »
Much like the current one the 1919-20 season was a bit weird, in fact possibly even more unusually was one of our neighbours won the league and Villa's trophy-winning captain was actually a test cricketer.

1919-20 was the last of the two division structure of the Football League before a further two divisions were added for the following season but both of these would be Division Three; one for the North and another for Southern clubs.

It was also the first season after the First World War, which meant lots of ageing players and raw youth made up the teams which fans flocked to watch. The first half of the season would see Harry Hampton conclude his glittering Villa career before drifting to the dark side in Small Heath. Fortunately Villa had a ready-made replacement, as Billy Walker played the first games of the 478 he would complete for the club. To add to the surreality the perpetually hard done by from Smethwick actually managed to win the league for the only time.

Elsewhere a side called Leeds City (not to be confused with Leeds United, their successor club who were formed in 1920) were expelled from the league for financially irregularities after eight games and, bizarrely, Port Vale took over their fixtures with no preparation or league experience and still managed to finish thirteenth in the second division. This was six places above Wolves, who just about avoided applying for re-election to the league, and seven above Coventry, who were re-elected.

Coventry appeared to be luckier than Grimsby, who finished bottom and dropped into the new thirddDivision. Both were better off than Lincoln, who finished next-to-bottom and were kicked out of the league completely, without being allowed to join the new lower division, and were replaced in the second division by Cardiff who had finished fourth (fourth!) in the Southern League.

Villa, not wanting to be outdone by their traditional local rivals from The Hawthorns, got to the FA Cup semi-final where they found themselves playing against a side who were competing to play the final on their own ground. Chelsea had only been in existence for fifteen years but had been beaten in the previous cup final, in 1915, getting outclassed 3-0 by Sheffield United at Old Trafford. The west London side found themselves one game from a home final at Stamford Bridge but two goals from Billy Walker and another from Harold Edgeley carried Villa through to a final against second division runners-up, Huddersfield. It was the West Yorkshire outfit who prevented Hampton from leading his new side to promotion when Blues, by now on their third name but without a suffix, missed out by one place put six points. An early entry in their hall of ‘glorious’ failures.

It would be the first of the three FA Cup finals at Stamford Bridge post-First World War but pre-Wembley and, like the two that would succeed it, was an absolutely terrible game. An extra time goal from Billy Kirton won the game for Villa although it wouldn't be Villa’s injured club captain Joe Harrop who collected the trophy but rather, one of those annoying types of people who is able to master every sport he seemed to turn his hand to.

Andy Ducat not only was an FA Cup winning captain for Villa but an England international at both football and cricket, serving as a forceful batsman during the summer for Surrey. Ducat had joined Villa in the summer of 1912 from Arsenal before they annoyed Spurs in perpetuity by moving north of the River Thames to Highbury from Woolwich in 1913. Ducat found himself part of a squad who would win the FA Cup for the fifth time thanks to Tommy Barber's header against Sunderland although he didn’t play in the final having broken his leg earlier in the season.

Despite his success at Woolwich Arsenal, where he had gained three England caps, and later at Villa, where he found himself back in the England team for three more appearances in 1920, Ducat is probably best remembered as a cricketer of some repute, if one who suffered from ill fortune. From joining The Oval groundstaff in 1906 Ducat amassed 52 first class centuries for Surrey including a knock of 306 against Oxford University in 1919. To add to his FA Cup winners medal Ducat was later named one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year.

In 1921, the summer he left Villa for Fulham, Ducat played his only test for England, against Australia at Headingley. However, in his first innings a short ball chipped a sizeable splinter from the shoulder of this bat, which not only dislodged his bails but also enabled a close fielder to take simple catch for just three runs. He didn't fare any better in the second innings, getting just two.

After retiring from playing football in 1924 Ducat missed that summer's cricket season, as he broke his arm in a nets session. Two disappointing years managing Fulham ended the former Villa skipper's involvement in professional football in 1926 but he continued to play the summer game with 1928 being one of his most successful, as he scored nearly a thousand runs in six weeks. After retiring in 1931 Ducat coached cricket at Eton and tried his hand at sports journalism but went on to hold a still unique place in the cricket world. Playing in a charity game at Lords between two Home Guard teams in 1942 Ducat suffered a fatal heart attack during the lunch break and remains the only player to have died at the home of cricket during a game.

However the 2019-20 season ends, if it ends at all, it will still have some way to go before it matches some of the events and at least one player's story of that a hundred years before.

Stacy Murphy


 


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