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FA Cup Final Today!

FA Cup Final Day!

Today is the 142nd Football Association Challenge Cup Final and one with a distinct local interest. The following piece has been adapted from my forthcoming book on Manchester United and it concerns United’s first final – in 1909, which took place in the now long-vanished Crystal Palace stadium, so named because the original Crystal Palace that hosted the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park had been moved all the way down here to south London. It burnt down in 1936.


>The Times was full of excitement about the 1909 final and the sort of people who would be travelling down from Manchester: “There are no people in the world like the Northerners. They spend their money, they have their quaint ways. They bring stone jars of strong ale and sandwiches an inch thick packed in the wicker baskets which can be used for conveying carrier pigeons.” United wore white shirts that bore a huge ‘V’ and the red rose of Lancashire, specially ordered from star player Billy Meredith’s sport shop, and presented to them by music hall star George Robey.

The final was United’s first and Bristol City’s only. United were clear favourites, given they had won the League the previous season. United left-back Vince Hayes was injured and had to leave the field, but there were no substitutes in those days. Sandy Turnbull, who had been prised away from Manchester City a few years previously in suspicious circumstances, scored the only goal of the game. The trophy was presented by Lord Charles Beresford, commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet, who told the players: “I do not think I have seen finer specimens of British humanity.” Turnbull stole the cup final lid the following day for a prank. The United mascot, a goat called Billy, unfortunately drank too much champagne and died of alcoholic poisoning. But his head was preserved and hangs on the wall of the United museum.<