150 Years of the FA Cup


The Little Tin Idol

Charles Alcock & The Little Tin Idol

150 YEARS OF THE FA CUP 1871-72 TO 2021-22

The first FA Cup known as ‘The Little Tin Idol’

On the 26th February 1867, the London Football Association held their Annual General Meeting at the Freemasons Tavern in Covent Garden and were in complete disarray. There were just six attendees representing four clubs, all sat around the giant oak table. Arthur Pember, Ebenezer Cobb Morley and Robert Graham were attending on behalf of Barnes Football Club. Charles Alcock was there representing the Wanderers Club; Walter Cutbill was present on behalf of the Crystal Palace Club and William Chesterman had made the long journey south from Yorkshire on behalf of the Sheffield Football Club. This was probably the lowest point of the London FA’s short existence and to make matters worse Arthur Pember proceeded to resign as President.

Having created the thirteen original rules of Association Football in 1863, it seemed the FA’s work was done. Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the FA’s newly elected President, suggested the members should consider dissolving the Association forthwith. However, there was one gentleman sat at the table who was having none of this. This was to be a new beginning for the Association and the new winter sport of football was set to become the most popular sport in the land. The gentleman’s name was: ‘CHARLES WILLIAM ALCOCK’

Charles Alcock was just twenty-five years of age. He had learnt to play football on the muddy fields of Harrow School scoring the winning goal in the ‘Cock House Cup’ Final in 1859. Upon leaving school, he formed one of the first football clubs, ‘The Forest Club’, with his brother John Forster Alcock and another Harrovian, the Reverend John Pardoe. Despite now being married, Charles was playing football two or three times a week either for his own Wanderers Club or for other local sides. He was also a sports journalist working for ‘The Sportsman’ newspaper and was aware of the success of a knockout tournament, ‘The Youdan Cup’, which had taken place in Sheffield.

Eager to ensure that the London Football Association remained the ‘top dog’ when administering the English game and, conscious of the threat of the newly formed Rugby Football Union in January 1871, Charles Alcock announced:

“It is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete.”

Charles William Alcock, the great administrator,
sat in the offices of The Sportsman newspaper

So, on the 23rd October 1871, the first ever FA Cup draw took place. The competition would eventually feature just fifteen teams:
The Wanderers v. Harrow Chequers
Barnes v. Civil Service
Crystal Palace v. Hitchin
Donington Grammar School v. Queen’s Park
Royal Engineers v. Reigate Priory
Upton Park v. Clapham Rovers
Maidenhead v. Great Marlow
Hampstead Heathens (a bye)

The first ties took place on the 11th November 1871 and here we are, 150 years later, ready to celebrate the most famous Cup competition in the world. What happened in this tournament? Who would get through to the first-ever FA Cup Final? What were the rules? How did a team from Scotland and also a small school team from Lincolnshire, come to enter the competition?

And so, the inaugural FA Cup competition kicked off 150 years ago. It featured disallowed goals, late kick-offs, extra-time, replays, disputed decisions, cup-tied players and teams playing ‘ringers.’ This ensured it would become the most famous domestic Cup competition in the world.

To find out more read my new book:
‘Charles Alcock & The Little Tin Idol’
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (3 Oct. 2021)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 330 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8479058967
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.7 x 2.11 x 20.32 cm
Price : £8.99 plus £2.99 postage and packing

Now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. For direct orders and signed copies, please email Ian Chester at: ianchesteri@btinternet.com

About the Author

Ian Chester is an independently published author whose writing experience was developed in the world of football fanzines, local non-league football programmes and magazines about living in France. Ian is also a keen historian and has had articles published in local history magazines.

Ian’s first book was entitled ‘The Green Toothed Witch and the Yellow Canary’ and told the story of his 5,560km journey around France following the 1919 Tour de France on the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey.

His second book ‘Charles Alcock and The Little Tin Idol’ is a fitting tribute to the man who created the first-ever FA Cup 150 years ago.


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