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The origins and first season of Chesham United Football Club

The following is a series of articles originally written for the Chesham United matchday programme during the 2009-2010 season. Unless otherwise specified, all quotations are from the Buckinghamshire Examiner.

1919-2009 - 90 YEARS OF COMPETITIVE FOOTBALL AS CHESHAM UNITED

It’s a bit of a random anniversary but this year marks 90 years of competitive football under the Chesham United name with the club first contesting League matches as United in the 1919/1920 season. So, after lots of ploughing through dusty archives in the Club office and developing an unhealthy obsession with the microfiche machine in Chesham library, Meadow Magazine will be bringing you some occasional articles about that first campaign over the course of this season.

Part One - “Some of us, if not all, will live to line the ropes again” – the effect of the 1914-18 War on football in Chesham
To begin, let’s go back a couple of years further and take a look at how the Chesham United that we all know today first came into being.

Chesham Town Football Club had been established since 1879 (originally as just Chesham FC) with Chesham Generals being formed eight years later. Both clubs had enjoyed success having played in the early Southern League, Spartan League and having won the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup and competed in the early FA Cup and Amateur Cup. As early as 1902 there had been discussions about merging the sides but it wasn’t until World War One that an amalgamation became a reality. By 1915 most structured league football in England had been suspended, as a correspondent in the Examiner noted in November 1917: “Football in this locality since the war commenced has been of a make-shift character. What few matches there are and have been are mostly in the hands of the Juniors.”

During the 1914-18 war a number of players from both clubs were to lose their lives and by September 1917 a correspondent in the Bucks Examiner disclosed that; “It is by now an open secret that the two Chesham football clubs have made good progress with an amalgamation scheme. The members of both clubs have met and given consent to the scheme, which provides for a coalition of forces in all ways.” By November 1917 the news had reached Chesham-based troops serving on the battle lines and “A Soldier’s View “, by an un-named contributor, was published in the newspaper:
“I have seen in the Examiner about the amalgamation of both the senior clubs of the town. Well, there is much to be said for that and very little against, for after the war it would be very difficult to put out two first-class senior teams, and it would be difficult to find subscriptions to keep two senior clubs going. . . .  From what some of us can see out here they have a kind of little revolution on in Chesham, and we in Belgium and France have no say in the matter. Never mind, some of us, if not all, will live to line the ropes again, if we cannot do anything better. There is one thing certain, and that is that we are the winning side out here, and when the whistle blows for the ‘cease-fire’ we shall all be there. It may be rather slow but it is sure.”

By the middle of November the local paper was able to report that: “The scheme for the amalgamation of the Chesham Town and Chesham Generals Football Clubs is now finally sealed and settled, and that the clearing up meeting of the Advisory Committee was held last weekend (10th-11th November 1917). The new club ’officially’ commences upon December 1st: it has received the official sanction of the Football Association and the Berks & Bucks FA.”  In fact, a week earlier on Saturday 3rd November, a game had been arranged by the new club against the Royal Garrison Artillery Signal Depot. Although not yet officially formed as a club this could be seen as the first game played by a Chesham United side. The game was played on Chesham’s second meadow, known as the ‘pig trough’, and the visitors, who were described as, “Hefty, with plenty of weight to cope with the heavy ground”, won 5-2 against a Chesham team that had been hastily assembled after the army team contacted the club seeking a game. The Chesham line up that day was: “Webb (in his old position in goal); King and Wingrove; Joe King, C. Moulder (once more in his old place) and Brandon; Horace, Reading (still with plenty of vim), Sid Gomm, Wright, Frank Hayes and George Hawes. The ‘whistle holder’ was Mr G. Darvell.”

Apparently there was some debate about the name of the new club. Some had suggested simply using Chesham FC “but apparently there were certain objections,” possibly relating to the fact that the origins of Chesham Town lay in the original Chesham FC. The old colours of Town had been amber and black, with the Generals playing in blue and white, “colours that did not make for an artistic combination and claret and light blue have been chosen as the colours – the jerseys to be claret with light blue cuffs and necklets, and the knickers white.”

Many familiar names associated with the old clubs were to continue their involvement. Lord Chesham, Capt. Ivor Stewart-Liberty (of the Liberty’s of London retailing family) and Mr William F. Lowndes were invited to be vice presidents. The committee consisted of six members from each of the former clubs: “Chesham Generals nominated for their share, Messrs W. Hawes, H. Lacey, E. Hunnibell, W. White, C. Webb, and W. J. Humphrey, all strong ‘footballites’ and workers; and Chesham Town nominated equally strong and well-tried men – Messrs R. Buckley, W. Holliman, H. Smith, J. Wood, F. Keen and G. Darvell.” The committee was sanctioned to stay in place until the 1st August in the third year following the re-commencement of official football, at that time still unknown, and a neutral Chairman was appointed who had not been associated with either of the previous clubs, Mr H. A. V. Byrne.

The first committee meeting of Chesham United was held on Tuesday 20th November 1917. It was decided that the cups and trophies held by the old clubs should be transferred to the new committee. Applications for membership of the new club were invited and the annual membership fee was set at two shillings and sixpence. On Saturday 29th December 1917 the first official match for the new Chesham United took place at the Cricket Meadow when the visitors were once again the Royal Garrison Artillery from Halton Camp who this time ran out as 3-2 winners. However, it was to be another eighteen months before United started to compete in competitive League matches when they entered teams into the Spartan League and the Great Western League when they recommenced after the war.

Part Two – After the War is over, the way back to competitive football
With no senior leagues being played during the war years, football continued to be played on the basis of friendlies and junior teams. With the merger of Chesham Town and Chesham Generals having led to Chesham United being officially established from 1st December 1917, by the start of 1919 there were expectations of the various associations re-opening the full football programme. In February it was announced that the Berks and Bucks Football Association would be convening a special General Meeting in May to finalise plans for the next season as well as announcing that the association’s reserves stood at £337 15 shillings and one penny with a benevolent fund valued at £195 18 shillings and one penny. All the clubs who had been members at the time football was suspended in the 1914/15 season would be invited to take part and no cup fees would be payable by clubs who had not been reimbursed for the disrupted season.

Although Chesham United had played friendly games in the intervening period there was criticism of the new club for not having arranged a programme of games for the early part of 1919. Football in the town was left mainly in the hands of the junior clubs and it was announced that, “To add a little piquancy to the remainder of the season, the local clubs have met and decided to run a makeshift league to be known as the Chesham Victory League.” Some commentators were less than impressed that United were not at the forefront of continuing a footballing presence at this time. “It is argued, and with some amount of truth, that the committee could have been as energetic as the junior club committees have been, and provided some sport, if only of a fit-up character.” With progress being made towards the re-launch of senior competitive leagues, it was feared that good local players would be overlooked: “We have the talent, we have the public interest – is the executive going to do its share? There can be no mistake about it, several of the lads can play elsewhere if they like – they have had invitations or hints to that effect – and if Chesham is not going to provide them with a field they will go elsewhere.”

Four junior teams were to compete in the Chesham Victory League in 1919 - Chesham Caledonians, known as the Caleys, Chesham Rovers, St. Mary’s A.C. and the Old Boys who were made up of former Chesham Town and Chesham Generals players. In the opening match, Caledonians met the “Old ‘uns” at the Cricket Meadow on 22nd February 1919. Memories of the recent war were apparent in the reporting as Caleys won 2-1 against a side who included Brandon, “the old Townie whom a spell as prisoner of war in Germany has not robbed of his playing powers . . . There was a crowd of quite respectable dimensions, showing that football has by no means lost its savour, although it has been intermittent and fragmentary.” The following week the Old Boys went on to defeat St Mary’s A.C. 6-0.

By the end of March the Victory League was half way complete with Caleys leading the way having played three, won two and drawn one, followed by Rovers and the Old Boys, with St Mary’s having lost all three games, conceding 14 and scoring 4 in last place. The Old Boys return match with Caledonian had seen another Caley win, this time 3-2 and some things never change as the report declared, “the last goal was a doubtful one.”

The return of football at any level was causing much anticipation and the Victory League was joined by a Victory Cup competition between the local sides with the co-op loaning the local clubs the Generals’ old ground in Bellingdon Road, although: “With junior talent as promising as it has ever been, when the next season comes along clubs will have great difficulty in finding grounds in the town. To enable clubs to finish off the season the Chesham Co-operative Society have loaned their meadow but it is understood that this is not available next season.” 

Despite the concerns about United’s lack of matches, SPEC in the Examiner was much encouraged, though still clearly concerned that talent could be lost. Following a 9-0 defeat of St Mary’s, “A sight of the Old Boys team makes one anticipate next season with pleasure, for surely several of these young players will be donning the United’s shirt – unless they are playing elsewhere of course!”

By 5th April the Chesham Victory Cup was underway as Caleys beat St Mary’s 1-0. The following week Old Boys took on Rovers and, “The attractiveness of our Chesham Cup and the teams participating was shown by the crowd that toed the line, and more often than not trespassed over it, at the Bellingdon-road field, an enclosure that, rumour has it is ripe for development.” This was to be an enthralling game with some wonderful reporting: “The game started with a bang, and it was fireworks all along. There was always something happening – even to a fight! – and it was a typical cup tie, bustle and tear, tear and bustle, vigour and dash, a flare up and a simmering down, all out for blood and a crowd vocal and excited.” All this for a junior four team knockout Chesham Victory Cup semi final, sounds fantastic! And what of that fight? Well, I know it’s not big or clever to concentrate on the fisticuffs but worthy of repeating: “The Ungentle Art – Excitement was at fever heat, naturally, and a reflection of this was seen when Webb (Old Boys’ goalkeeper) and Brandon (Rovers’ forward) framed up and there was about two minutes’ sparring display, with an interlude in which the boy in blue had Webb’s head in chancery and was making great play. According to all accounts Brandon knows how to “put ‘em up” and he showed himself no novice, certainly, in this two minutes’ lightning display. But that’s not football and it was surprising that both did not get marching orders. However, we haven’t got back to the strict etiquette of football yet (war is accountable for a lot!).” Oh, and Rovers won 2-1 after the score had been 2-0 “at lemon time”.

In the final Chesham Rovers overcame Chesham Caledonian by 2-1 to win the Victory Cup and it was reported that due to the excellent crowds that been drawn to the competition £13 had been raised for Chesham Cottage Hospital and £7 for the Chesham District Nursing Association.

The Victory League was decided at the end of April in the final match between Rovers and Old Boys. Both teams could still finish top. A draw would have been enough for the “Old ‘uns” as they had a far superior goal difference but Rovers pulled off a 2-1 victory to take the title.

Meanwhile, the new Chesham United side finally got around to playing their first friendly game of the year. Even then, Wycombe Wanderers had been longstanding rivals of the former Chesham senior sides and, when United travelled to Loakes Park on Easter Monday, “There was a capital following from Chesham . . . colours were sported as if it was a cup final instead of a friendly. What with rattles and bugles the Chesham crowd did not forget to let them know they were there.” Neither did the team. Wycombe were in confident mood and able to select from a full first choice playing staff whereas the United team were struggling with injuries and absentees. However, in front of over 2,000 spectators the final score was Wycombe Wanderers 2-5 Chesham United as the new club started to get ready for the resumption of league football later that year.

Part Three - The meeting that launched Chesham United’s first competitive season 1919/1920

The following extract is taken verbatim from The Bucks Examiner August 1st 1919

CHESHAM UNITED F.C. - An Enterprising Programme

A public meeting was held at the Town Hall, Chesham, on Thursday in last week, to place before the sporting fraternity the intentions of the Chesham United Football Club for the coming season. With the undoubted boom that is coming in football, their programme, heavy though it may appear, should not be difficult to successfully carry through. It has been an acknowledged fact for years that Chesham is one of the chief strongholds of soccer in the allied counties, and, what is quite as important, second to no other country town as a nursery for this and all other sports. The meeting was well attended: there were no dissensions; and it was conducted in a very businesslike manner, quite a lot being got through in a short time.

Mr W. F. Lowndes, JP, one of the Presidents of the Club, occupied the chair, being supported upon the platform by Mr H. A. V. Byrne (chairman of the Committee), Mr J. G. Stone (hon. Sec.), and Mr H. G. Rose. Amongst the many others present were noticed: Messrs R. Beckley, W. Hawes, W. Holliman, F. E. Howard, E. Hunnibell, H, Lacey, and many other enthusiasts and players. All through the proceedings the prevailing note was one of happiness that at last the two pre-war senior clubs had now become properly fused and that those old time rivals, the Town and Generals, had decided to fight for the honour of the town and football under the title Chesham United FC.

Apologies and Sympathies
In opening the meeting the Chairman read apologies from Capt. I. Stewart Liberty and Mr W. Darvell, and expressed sympathy with Mr Darvell in his bereavement. At the outset the Chairman expressed his delight at the union of the two clubs, remarking that when he first came to the district it appealed to him to be expedient. He called upon Mr J. G. Stone to give an outline of the position of the club and its programme.

The Outlook
Mr J. G. Stone said that the Berks and Bucks FA had decided to do all possible to place the game upon a pre-war basis, and were prepared to subsidise clubs whose financial status had been lowered through the war. He emphasised the need for an increased membership. The union of the clubs was largely due to the late Mr P. C. Dormer, whose loss they lamented, and Mr Darvell. Throughout football circles the amalgamation was viewed with satisfaction. He mentioned the fact that Maidenhead Town and the Norfolkians had taken similar steps. The club had entered the FA Cup, Amateur Cup, the Bucks Charity Cup, the Spartan and Great Western Leagues. Each of the leagues will produce 22 matches – 44 games in addition to cup-ties. He then read the text of agreement between the two clubs and also the rules. Passing on he spoke of the difficulty of the playing ground and thanked Mr Rose for his kindness with regard to his meadow, and hinted at negotiations for a second within a few minutes’ walk of the town. They might need three at times. Their first match was a cup tie upon Sept. 20th.

Mr R. Howard enquired if the ground would be available on that date, and was informed it would be so. Mr Wright enquired if it was intended to run two senior teams, apparently rather doubting the possibility owing to loss of players through the war. Mr Stone thought they still had the basis of two senior elevens. Mr Rance quite agreed that it was possible. He had noted four teams during the past season.

Mr Stillman put the question as to which of the two leagues would be considered of most importance. Mr Stone replying said that according to rules it was their duty to play their best team in both of them, and he thought there would be no difficulty about producing two good elevens. Mr J. W. Humphrey remarked that if they had lost good players through the war other clubs were in the same position. He thought much credit was due to the Committee who had carried out the amalgamation.

Mr Hunnibell pointed out that for 20 years in Chesham they had run two senior teams, both of which had won the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup. Surely there would be no difficulty. He emphasised the need for another ground. Endeavours should be made to get back the old Generals’ ground, especially for the beginning and end of the season, and at times they would have two senior matches at home upon the same day.

Mr Hawes agreed that it was necessary to get the ground, and spoke of negotiating with the Co-operative Society, and also of a third. He was pleased with the amalgamation and would like to see all of the sports of the town combined – football, cricket, athletics, with a common ground. There was no reason they would not be successful. They would need a good membership and big gates, for the tax took off some of the receipts. A good stand would be a great asset to the club.

Mr R. Beckley also expressed his approval of the union of the clubs, having always been sorry to see two rival teams in the town. He expressed his opinion that in such a sporty town it was by no means impossible to buy a ground. The question had arisen, ‘Which was to be the First Eleven?’ Both league teams would be upon an equal footing, and their players would have to play for their places in the cup ties. There was sure to be a boom in football and he appealed to young men to back up the club, and for the loyal support of the players.

Mr R. Howard thought the stand might be built. He suggested the issuing of 10s. shares for the purpose, and set forth how successful this idea had worked previously.

Mr Lacey, who is in charge of the Junior Section, said the Juniors had not been forgotten. They had entered for the Chesham League, Aylesbury League, Berks and Bucks Cup, Bucks Charity Cup, and Chesham Charity Cup. The opportunity would be given them to work their way into the senior elevens, and he would be pleased to do all he could for Junior football.

Mr R. Howard moved that the best thanks of the meeting be given to the Committee who had carried out the amalgamation, and that the meeting pledge itself to support the Club. This was duly seconded, and carried amidst applause. Mr H. A. V. Byrne, as Chairman of the Committee, acknowledged the compliment. In course of some humorous remarks, he said he was selected a neutral chairman, not that he knew anything much of football, but perhaps because he did not. He used to be a member of both Clubs, and liked them both. He was fond of sport of all kinds. He had noticed with regret, whilst watching matches, too much jealousy or over-anxiousness upon the part of players to shine individually. He thought often, that the man who passed the ball deserved quite as much, and in some cases more praise than the actual man who put it through. He thought newspapers were responsible for this to a great extent, and appealed to them to treat the players more generally, for it occurred to him often that an inferior team which used science should be the equal of a superior team with stars in it. Goals were often lost through the anxiousness of one player to score when the side would have better served had he passed to another player. He thought Mr Howard’s idea of raising money for the stand by the means of 10s. shares was a splendid one. He said if the club was well supported, no club in the neighbourhood would be able to touch them.

The Chairman proposed thanks to Mr Rose for the manner in which he had met the Club regarding the use of his meadow. Mr Byrne seconded. Mr Rose, in acknowledging, said he was always pleased to do anything for sport, and the Club could rely upon his support, financially and otherwise. Apologies for the absence of the Hon. Treas. (Mr F. J. Wilson) were given, and in connection with the finances, it was stated that between £10 and £12 stood to their credit.

Well Done Frank!
It was stated that Mr F. Hayes had consented to become trainer for one team.

Junior Referees
Mr Beckley brought before the notice of the meeting the fact that there would be a need for Junior Referees. He urged those having inclinations in this direction to apply for examination. Mr Hawes said that if sufficient number came forward an examination could be arranged at Chesham.

Peace Celebrations
A letter was read from Mr R. J. J. Swan (chairman of the Carnival Committee) suggesting that Club members, in football ‘kit’, take part in the Peace Celebrations.

The two leagues in which Chesham United have entered are constituted as follows:-
Great Western League: Newbury Town, Maidenhead, Yiewsley, Guards (Windsor), Bothwell’s Mission, Marlow, Wycombe Wanderers, Uxbridge, Reading United, Slough, Windsor, and Chesham United.
Spartan League: 2nd Coldstream Guards, Great Eastern Railway, Tufnell Spartans, Newportonians, St Albans City, Aylesbury United, Great Western Railway, Wycombe Wanderers, Hoffmans United, Polytechnic, Sutton Court, and Chesham United.

 Part Four – preparing for the first competitive Chesham United season
At the beginning of August 1919 the fixture lists for Chesham United’s first competitive season were published and the new club was to begin League life with a Great Western Suburban League match away at Yiewsley on Saturday 30th August. The following Saturday, 6th September, their first Spartan League campaign as United was scheduled to get underway with a trip to Polytechnic FC. These matches were to be followed by three home fixtures against Wolverton in the Bucks Charity Cup, Guards in the Great Western League, and Tufnell Park in the FA Amateur Cup, although the schedule was soon disrupted with some of the early games being re-arranged. With two leagues having been entered there was concern about the availability of football grounds in the town and about the prospects for the likely success of the new venture. One commentator in the local press noted that, “It is a thousand pities that United have not a good second meadow available for the beginning of the season – a ground in a central position that would enable the club to draw good gates.”

Similar concerns were expressed on the playing side: “Since the meeting of Chesham United FC discussion has waged fast and furious as to the club’s prospects for the coming season. There are two camps of opinion and both are as far as the poles asunder.” The optimists thought that a great, but achievable, challenge had been laid down by the new club. However, the opposing view held that entering two leagues in the first season was foolhardy in the extreme and that, “Two teams of good strength cannot be run; there will be jealousies between the teams.” A further concern was that the main club committee was still looking after team selection and arguments were put forward for the establishment of a sub-committee comprising those who most regularly saw the teams play who could also deal with another of the playing concerns; that some of the previously well-established players – the “Old ‘uns” – “have been passed over in the anxiety to get new blood and young blood.”

Other local sides were also preparing for the new season whilst counting the tragic losses of the war years. A correspondent in the Bucks Free Press noted that Wycombe Wanderers would also be entering both the Spartan and Great Western Leagues, although, “The grim realities of war have left their mark and many of our gallant ‘footers’ sleep in heroes’ graves. Out of 560, Wycombe’s total losses, one could recall many brilliant exponents of the winter pastime.” Meanwhile Marlow were forced to move out of their Crown Ground as it was being put to other uses but they, “will, however, play on the Star Meadow, where, if I know the pitch rightly, they will have plenty of free sightseers – unless the Club goes to heavy expense for canvas.” Aylesbury United were another local side entered into the Spartan League for 1919/1920, but they were not due to open their league programme until 20th September. In the meantime, like Chesham, they were holding trial matches to sort out their various teams and also took on an RAF team from Halton Camp. In the FA Amateur Cup Chesham had been drawn against Tufnell Park but it was reported that Aylesbury were to be one of 40 teams granted an exemption from playing in the qualifying competition, “on account of its good performance during the season 1913-14  . . . it is clear that (Aylesbury) stands well with those responsible for the management of English football.”

With the senior teams getting ready for the new season, the new Chesham United club was also preparing reserve sides. The Chesham & District Football League had expressed concern about whether they would be able to run two divisions for the new season due to a possible lack of players and also a lack of grounds to support enough teams playing. However, at the end of August a meeting at the Crown established the line ups. One change to the expected clubs was that Rickmansworth had indeed been unable to find a ground in the town and had moved to Mill End under the name Mill End FC. The Chesham League comprised the following teams:
Division One: Amersham, RAF (B Section), RAF (M Section), Harefield, Chesham United Reserves, Wendover and Mill End
Division Two: Wendover Reserves, Chesham United Thirds, Amersham Reserves, Chorley Wood, Chalfont St Giles, Great Missenden, Chesham Moor, Wendover Athletic, Kingshill, Holmer Green, Mill End Reserves and RAF Reserves.

Part Five – Chesham United’s first competitive league fixture
The opening league game of the 1919/1920 season, and the game that must go down as Chesham United’s first real competitive match, took place in the Great Western Suburban League on Saturday 30th August. It generated a good deal of interest and in a preview the week beforehand it was noted that: “The team chosen, together with the reserves, seems purely an experimental combination and the teams must be so for some weeks until the form of the old hands and the new men can be judged.”

The United team that travelled to Yiewsley on the 1.44pm train from Chesham was:
C Webb (goalkeeper and captain), H Redding, W Brandon, B Sawyer, A Gomm, LT Stillman, E Carter, F Butterfield, W Keen, GH Barnes, and J King. Also travelling were George Darvell as linesman and Frank Hayes as trainer.

 The full match report taken verbatim from The Bucks Examiner Friday 5th September 1919

Great Western Suburban League Saturday 30th August 1919
Yiewsley 2-4 Chesham United
The teams opened the league tournament for this season on the Rabbs Farm enclosure at Yiewsley before about 500 spectators including a good sprinkling from Chesham.

Chesham won the toss, and the homesters kicked off and a\t once made tracks for Webb’s charge. Returning, Barnes forced the first goal kick after receiving from Keen and working towards the home goal. Stillman was early prominent, working through and sending across a fine centre which Keen met and made a fine effort to turn to account, but without success. Chesham continued to press, and Carter forced a corner, which, however, was not improved upon, the ball rolling behind from the flag kick. The visitors’ forwards were playing well and confidently, and the three inside men especially showing some nice footwork. After seven minutes’ play their efforts were rewarded. A fine passing movement carried the play near to the home goal, Keen secured possession and after drawing the defence adroitly passed to his left, and Barnes dashed in and scored with a nice cross shot. From the centre kick Yiewsley bore down towards Webb. Showing plenty of dash, their forwards beat both Brandon and Redding, but Stillman dropped back and cleared in the nick of time. Nothing daunted, the homesters returned to the attack and Smith equalised the score with a long shot, Webb appearing to be unsighted. Give and take play followed. Gradually Chesham re-asserted themselves and, following a free kick against Yiewsley, Barnes secured, cleverly tricked the Yiewsley backs, and beat Morement with an oblique shot. It was a fine effort, and the goalie was surprised to see the ball in the net. Keen was next to the fore with a great shot which only just went over the bar. Although having only four forwards (Butterfield having to retire injured) Chesham continued to enjoy the best of the exchanges, Gomm putting in some telling work at centre-half, and sending his forwards away with beautiful ground passes. Keen made another creditable attempt to score without success, and Barnes tricked several opponents, but was forced over the line ere he could get in his shot. The Chesham inside forwards were giving the Yiewsley defence a trying time. Keen burst through in his own inimitable style, and working towards the wing sent in a nice centre. Barnes fastened on and just topped the crossbar with a ripping shot, but the whistle sounded for offside. The homesters livened up, and after some good work, Dorrington secured and beat Webb, bringing the scores equal once more. Encouraged by this success Yiewsley returned to the attack and a miskick by one of the Chesham defenders let in Bateman, who sent in a fine shot which Webb did extremely well to save. Chesham took up the running again and Keen ran through the defence and sent in a lovely centre. The ball travelled temptingly across the goal mouth, but King was just too late to turn the centre to account. Half time was signalled with the score two goals each. The pace had been very fast and the referee wisely allowed a good long interval.

Butterfield came on the field again on the game being resumed, but was forced to retire for good after a few minutes’ play. Chesham soon got down from the re-start, and shots were rained on the Yiewsley goal, but nothing occurred. Bateman was again in evidence for the homesters. Getting through the Chesham defence, he appeared to have the goal at his mercy, but Webb dashed out and literally took the ball from the centre-forward’s feet, Stillman eventually effecting a clearance. The homesters were very persistent just now, and several corners were forced in quick succession. The Chesham defence was passing through a trying period, and Redding was forced to concede another corner which was cleared. Soon afterwards the Chesham goal had a miraculous escape, Webb clearing his lines with great difficulty at the expense of a corner. The ball appeared to hover on the goal line and the homesters appealed for a goal but the referee ignored the claim. Butterfield’s defection was a great handicap to Chesham, Carter finding it very hard to work on his own on the right wing. However, Chesham again got going, thanks to some nice work by the half-backs. Gomm sent Keen away once more, and Chesham’s dashing centre-forward ran right through the Yiewsley defence, and with a well-judged cross shot gave Chesham the lead. Yiewsley made efforts to equalise without success. Following a very fine clearance by Webb, Stillman secured and sent Barnes away on the left wing, a fine centre from him was met by Keen, who flashed the ball into the net with an oblique shot well out of Morement’s reach. This was quite the best goal of the match. It was the last incident of note, and time arrived with Chesham winners by 4 goals to 2.

Part Six – into September 1919 and United’s first FA Cup campaign
After Chesham United’s first league game as a newly formed club, a 4-2 Great Western League victory over Yiewsley, the next game saw a ‘friendly’ visit to face arch rivals Aylesbury at the Printing Works Ground on September 13th 1919. A crowd six deep “that lined the ropes . . . had no reason to complain of either the quantity or the quality of the fare provided . . . the ancient rivalry showed itself anew, there was as much partisanship upon the part of a section of the crowd as there ever was.” With admission of eight pence the gate was declared as £18 10 shillings which would have produced a crowd of around 550 for this friendly. Sadly an experimental Chesham side went down to a 4-3 defeat against a full strength home team and an editorial in the Examiner was horribly reminiscent of our recent meetings with the modern-day Ducks: “After seeing it I should certainly be inclined to back Chesham, if only Chesham could reproduce any of its proper form at Aylesbury, but there’s the rub . . . My recollection of games at Aylesbury is that I have never seen a Chesham team reproduce a tenth of its true form.” So, looks like little changes – let’s hope this year we do see Chesham trounce the “ancient enemy!

The following week, September 20th, United entertained Newportonians at the Cricket Meadow in front of around 750 people (a ‘gate’ of £25 was announced) in a Spartan League fixture. A fine Chesham performance saw them 3-0 up by half time with a final score of 5-0. As a much-changed Chesham line up dominated their visitors, Gomm in particular stood out as he was, “in his real trim, and that means that he is a box of tricks whom all opponents have to beware of – he does some surprising and disconcerting things for an opponent, including a clever back-heel trick, and his passing is as good as his tackling.”

On 27th September 1919 the new United made their debut in the FA Cup with a Preliminary Round tie at the Cricket Meadow against Tufnell Spartans. The preview was cautiously hopeful: “Judging by the ‘paper’ form – a very unsafe guide by the way – Chesham should win, and that easily, but one never knows. Chesham are inclined to be cautious and methodical: Tufnell Spartan may be fast and dashing; a contrast in style and anything may happen.”

The previous week spectators had been held up entering the Newportians game and changes were recommended: “Given a fine day there should be a £30 gate. To give ‘change for a bob’ (or a note!) in almost every case will require some doing and double attendants at the gate are needed.” In fact the game was held up for entirely different reasons as the railways were hit by a strike that created a “long and anxious wait” before the Spartans finally arrived in their “motor lorry”.

In the end there was no need for caution in the optimism. “Goals Galore. And plenty of Dash and Excitement” was the headline as Chesham eased to a 6-0 victory (2-0 at half-time) in front of a £34 crowd that was “one of the largest seen at the meadow.” By my calculation that would translate into a paying attendance of at least 1,020 but could well be more if junior or concessions rates were available. United lined up as: Webb, Redding, Brandon, Sawyer, Gomm, Stillman, Wright, Carter, Keen, Barnes and Vine. The win earned Chesham a First Round Qualifying tie away at Enfield on 11th October.

The goals were certainly flowing that weekend. 6-0 to the first team, the second team playing an Aylesbury League match at the “Chesham Second Meadow” beat Thame 7-1. In other local FA Cup matches Maidenhead beat Henley 12-1, Wycombe Wanderers won 6-2 against Reading Town and Newbury beat Uxbridge 6-0.

With a first FA Cup tie win under their belts, Chesham United entered the FA Amateur Cup for the first time the following Saturday 4th October. The first month of competitive matches for the new club had provided four games and three wins – 4-2 away at Yiewsley, then at home 5-0 against Newportonians and 6-0 against Tufnell Spartans. It was reported that the people of Chesham anticipated a good result against another team of old pre-war rivals as Uxbridge were the visitors: “Small wonder that there was a thousand people to watch the Amateur Cup-tie at Chesham Cricket Meadow, and that the crowd lined the ropes as thickly as wasps round a honey pot.” The opening three wins had seen 15 goals scored by United with Keen scoring 9. He was to add another 4 to his personal tally against Uxbridge and the crowd’s confidence was fully justified as Chesham went on to win the game 8-0.

This set up the following week’s FA Cup visit to Enfield nicely. “What supporters are asking themselves now is: ‘Can Chesham win at Enfield?’ They are due there tomorrow in the First Round of the FA Cup. With a full team Chesham should give a good account of themselves, but a win – well, that’s another matter, but by means a hopeless one.”

With the draw being regionalised the difference in travelling convenience at this time is clear from the discussions that took place about how Chesham should be placed in a west of London draw as it was so difficult to get to Enfield! However, plans were afoot to address the dependence on rail travel for away games: “Chesham are endeavouring to lessen the toil and trouble of the out-journey by fixing up a motor service. If arrangements could be completed with the Amersham Bus Company and they utilise one of their roomy buses, there would be room for plenty of supporters to accompany their side.”

Once the team made it to Enfield they found that, “It was a fine old rough and tumble, Enfield are heavy and bustling, but very wild: they played in a manner to sweep Chesham off their feet in the closing stages of the game.” United went ahead through G.H. Barnes’ goal before that closing onslaught brought a penalty for Enfield as Brandon handballed. “The kicker did not mark well, however, for he struck the crossbar, but he caught the rebound and drove the leather home. A goal was signalled, but the Chesham players protested, as they had a right to do, and the decision was reversed.” Ah, finally proof that it does pay to argue with the ref! As the ball had not been touched by another player following the spot kick the penalty taker was not entitled to score from the rebound.

So, a 1-0 win away from home and into the draw for another possible pay day. The reward was a Second Qualifying Round tie away at Leavesden Asylum. Rather than providing a pay day this was expected to leave Chesham out of pocket as, “the Asylum men take very little gate.” An approach was made by United to host the game instead, but, in a statement entirely of it’s own time, “Leavesden will not listen to the blandishments of Chesham, and so, tomorrow Chesham face the Mental Hospital Men upon their own ground.”

Part Seven – United’s first season in the national cups continues
Following Chesham’s resounding 8-0 win over Uxbridge in the previous round, they were drawn at home to Wealdstone in the FA Amateur Cup of this inaugural 1919-1920 season.

Although the crowd was smaller than the thousand who saw the Uxbridge game, it was still estimated that over 800 were present on 18th October 1919. Wealdstone played in the London and Middlesex Leagues. Local rivals Harrow did not run a league side, “so Wealdstone have it all their own way so far as players in that district are concerned.” The visitors were described afterwards as, “the best team to have been on the ground this season” but that was probably no consolation as Chesham ran out 4-2 winners, though they did score the first goals conceded by United at home that year. “The humorous tit-bit of the afternoon – the antics of the referee – Mr. H P Middleton. A smart official, there was no doubt about it, but his pantomime gestures when signifying why he gave a decision and the way he had of going down almost on his knees to watch the play was in itself a treat.”

Wealdstone dominated the opening and a muddle in Chesham’s defence after 10 minutes saw them take the lead. “The crowd got exceedingly anxious and there were invitations to their pets to ‘come along’. Keen came along all right with an extra special (goal).” Now apart from the rather worrying use of the word ‘pets’ in this report it does go to prove that one our current supporters (here you go Cookie, told you I’d get you a mention) has been right along – we should be chanting Come Along Chesham instead of Come On. I bet they managed to keep it going for more than three more often than we do as well! So, Keen’s “slashing first timer” brought Chesham level and then he tapped in a dropped shot from Sawyer to make it 2-1. Just before half-time Vine made it 3-1 with “one of his characteristic drives that made the goal rock.” In the second half Gomm missed a penalty for Chesham and then, “as the game wore on and the visitors struggled, the excitement increased and the crowd gave tongue . . .In the hurly burly Brandon hooked Kirby up and a penalty was awarded.” 3-2. However, with the last 15 minutes “in fever heat”, Barnes headed home to give a 4-2 victory “to the huge delight of all the Cheshamites.” United lined up as: Webb, Redding, Brandon, Sawyer, Gomm, Stillman, Wright, Carter, Keen, Barnes and Vine. Their reward was to be an away tie with Yiewsley in the next round of the Amateur Cup.

The same line up was selected by the committee to travel by motor to Leavesden Asylum for the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round the following Saturday, 25th October 1919. It is interesting that at this time the committee made all team selections early in the week before matches and for this weekend they also selected an ‘A’ team, for a Spartan League match against Great Eastern Railway, and a Reserve team for a game at Amersham.

Part Eight – October / November and the cup matches continue
Chesham United’s inaugural season as a newly merged club continued on Saturday 25th October 1919 as they travelled to Leavesden Asylum in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. The report in the Examiner noted that, although disappointed to have missed out on a home draw, “the spectators have still the confidence in their team that they are prepared to follow them, and about one hundred and fifty went to Leavesden by charabanc, bus, and bike – not a few cycling.” A goal early in the first half from Gomm, and another from Keen late in the second, gave Chesham a 2-0 victory.

In other local FA Cup action that week Wycombe Wanderers were held to a 3-3 draw by Slough Town at Loakes Park in front of a £77 gate of over 3,000 fans. In a remarkable replay Slough went 3-0 up before half-time only for Wycombe to score four times in the final 25 minutes with a fourth Slough goal forcing another draw. Wycombe then scored a fifth in extra time to secure their next round FA Cup trip to Hampstead.

Chesham’s own “wretched luck” with Cup draws was reported as continuing as they were drawn away to Luton Clarence who had beaten St Albans. The tie was scheduled for 8th November 1919 and was to be held at Dunstable’s ground. In what could only be a ninety year old preview of a trip to Dunstable this was thought to be, “an ideal ground, according to all accounts, and this should suit Chesham to a ‘T’ and make for pretty football.” I’m sure we all felt exactly the same before our last visit to Creasey Park!

The following Saturday, 1st November 1919, there was more cup action as Chesham United continued their opening Amateur Cup campaign as a new club away at Yiewsley.

Although Chesham had already defeated their hosts in a Great Western Suburban League match, the local paper reported that Yiewsley felt confident ahead of the game. “Since then five men had left the army and were in the team . . . All Chesham had come over for was a hiding.” With Yiewsley scoring first, on the half hour, this may have seemed the case. However, “never did a game change more quickly” as Chesham remarkably scored three times before the interval. Firstly, Wright crossed in to the area where the ball “dropped clean into the goalmouth and Barnes breasted it home.” Shortly afterwards Chesham continued to “swarm to the attack . . . Keen had the ball from Stillman, was by the back in a twinkling, and drove it home.” Then a third Chesham goal within seven minutes. “From a rattling drive of Keen’s the ball hit the upright and rebounded into play: Wright dashed in and caught it on the bounce and centred, and Barnes headed home.” Half-time Yiewsley 1-3 Chesham United.

Within eight minutes of the re-start it was 1-4 with a goal scored in contentious circumstances. With Chesham attacking a whistle was heard but it did not come from the referee. Whilst some players came to a halt, Chesham’s Keen did not: “He was quite forty yards from goal, but he lifted the ball high and dry over the heads of all and it sailed away and dropped sheer beneath the bar without Morement (Yiewsley’s keeper) having the smallest chance of saving.” This prompted unpleasant scenes with fans encroaching onto the playing area and Yiewsley finishing the game in an extremely physical manner.

However, Keen rounded off a fine display by taking advantage of a defensive mistake to beat Morement from a narrow angle for a memorable 5-1 victory.

This however did not please the locals! “No sooner was it finished than the crowd swarmed onto the ground again and made directly for the referee, and he was surrounded by an ugly crowd. But the committee had the precaution to get there first and he was escorted off the ground. A section of the crowd apparently thought that he had taken refuge in the Chesham party’s charabanc, and that was surrounded by a menacing crowd, but the demonstration was confined to booing and shouting, and there were no bones broken.”

The following Saturday, 8th November, Chesham made the trip to Dunstable to face Luton Clarence in the FA Cup. Chesham went into this fourth FA Cup game of the season in fine form. In the previous rounds they had beaten Tufnell Spartan at home 6-0, Enfield away 1-0, and Leavesden away 2-0. This was reflected in the mood as Chesham fans made their way to the game: “The confidence that Chesham people feel in their bonny cup fighters was shown on Saturday. Heavy roads led to Dunstable, through the glorious Ashridge and over the Downs, but that did not deter enthusiasts cycling the long, muddy miles. . . Quite 150 covered the distance and they constituted the bigger ‘half’ of the crowd, and, incidentally, made quite as much noise (by aid of mouth, rattle and motor horn) as all the remainder put together.”

Despite the travelling Chesham fans the gate was described as “shockingly poor” and Luton “sorry that they did not accept the £25” offer to switch the tie to Chesham. Chesham were at full strength with a line up of: Webb, Redding, Brandon, Sawyer, Gomm, Stillman, Wright, Carter, Keen, Vine and Barnes. However, it was not until the last ten minutes of the first half that the visitors showed anything approaching form. “Two things were quickly evident 1) Luton were all out to give Chesham a gruelling and 2)that the slippery nature of the ground and the greasy nature of the ball were going to be factors in the situation.” As the first half came to close Chesham finally took the lead as Barnes slipped past a defender, “there was jam of players and we saw the leather cross the goal and slowly enter at the goalkeeper’s left.”

Early in the second half “Barnes got the leather and drove it beneath the bar with a capital shot” to make it 2-0 to Chesham. Then with fifteen minutes left, “Keen beat the defence altogether and swung the ball in, and before Bird could make good Carter fastened on the ball and drove it home.” Another clean sheet and another three goals in this first FA Cup campaign gave Chesham their fourth win of the tournament and continued an excellent start to the new club’s history. In all the cup matches so far during this 1919/1920 season Chesham’s record now stood as having played and won four home matches, scoring 23 goals and conceding 2. On their travels they had played and won five matches, scoring 15 and conceding 3. Of the 38 goals scored, Keen claimed 18, Barnes 11, Carter 4, Vine 2, Stillman 2 and Gomm 1.

With Chesham fans still desperately hoping for a home draw, they were rewarded with a tough away fixture, “against one of the best amateur combinations in the South of England – London Caledonians. When they face them at Tufnell Park on the 22nd (of November 1919) they will have the hardest nut of the season to crack.”

Part Nine – Chesham Generals FC: “a sporting finish to the official winding up”
Taken from the Bucks Examiner Friday 28th November 1919.

“A special general meeting of the Chesham Generals Football Club was held at the Chesham Institute on Friday night (21st November), Mr A H Reynolds being voted to the chair in the regretted absence through illness of Mr W Hawes. A special notice had been given to members on the 1913 -14 lists whose subscriptions were paid, and there was a capital response.

The business before the meeting was to consider the disposal of the old club’s financial balance, amounting to £88 / 1 / 41/2. Various suggestions were made during the pleasant discussion that took place. The scheme which gained an overwhelming majority – in fact a unanimous verdict (not a contrary vote being recorded in the end), and one evidently very dear to the hearts of all present, was the acquiring of a permanent sports ground for the town of Chesham. Members giving their support were the Brothers A. and R. Stephenson, Messrs. W J Humphrey, H Lacey, E Hunnibell, R Abbott, W Darvell, to which the Chairman added his blessing. Mr Hawes wrote strongly recommending it.

It was reported that a movement was already on foot for the purpose, and it was resolved that so soon as a properly constituted body and representatives of all forms of sport in the town had been elected, the balance be handed over – time limit one year. Pending this Messrs. W Hawes and F J Wilson are to act as custodians of the money, which has to be invested until such time as it is called for.

Resolved also, ‘That this meeting offer it’s heartiest congratulations to the new club upon its initial success, and tenders best wishes for the future, and instructs its chairman to convey these sentiments to the new club.’

Resolved further, ‘That this meeting be recognised as the official winding-up of the Chesham Generals Football Club.’

A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated a pleasant one and a half hours discussion. It will be seen that Chesham Generals have wisely allocated their balance, and this form the nucleus of a Sports Ground Fund. Well done the Generals – it is a sporting finish.”

Part Ten – Onwards in the Amateur Cup with “Chesham’s Premier Performance So Far!”
With the old Chesham Generals club having been officially disbanded on the 21st November 1919, following their post-war merger with Chesham Town, the newly formed Chesham United continued with their fine inaugural season cup runs.

The excellent 1-5 win at Yiewsley on 1st November had been rewarded with a trip to Hampstead Town in what was the Divisional Final of the Amateur Cup, in effect the final qualifying round in today’s terms. In the FA Cup Hampstead had just beaten Wycombe Wanderers 4-1 and had agreed with United to bring their Amateur Cup game forward as Chesham were also still involved in the FA Cup with a trip to London Caledonians. So, on 15th November Chesham made their way to Cricklewood Lane along with several hundred fans in a crowd of 2,500. The London sporting press had been commenting on “the phenomenal luck of the Town” as Hampstead had so far been drawn at home in nine consecutive ties in both national cup competitions. Wycombe had surrendered their unbeaten record in the FA Cup and Chesham now came to try their luck described as “Berks and Bucks stalwarts”.

United lined up as: Webb, Redding, Brandon, Sawyer, Gomm, Stillman, Wright, Carter, Keen, Barnes and Vine.

Reports of the game in the Bucks Examiner say that “The merry band of Chesham supporters took it as a happy omen when Cyril Webb guessed correctly the spin of the coin,” but Hampstead started brightly – “they were like an avalanche in their impetuosity” – and continued to press the Chesham side. “The Town went for the goal like a stone from a catapult and soon had the Chesham defence penned and all higgledy-piggledy.” The home side took the lead on the half hour. An attack on the right saw Brandon failing to stop his attacker and Webb in the Chesham goal left his line in desperation but was beaten to the ball before the Hampstead striker, Bullough, rolled the ball slowly into an empty net.   

Within three minutes of the second half Chesham were level as, “Gomm tried one of his specials that banged the ball onto the cross goal timber . . . It bounced down and there Keen was waiting and bustling about he shot it home.” United continued to press, going “for it at pell-mell” as the equaliser “was like new wine to the Chesham team and their proud supporters.” Hampstead were not giving up though and, “The fact (they) did not score was really a marvel and an unsolicited testament to the United defence.”

After 21 minutes of the second half Chesham went into the lead, “amidst a scene of frantic joy from their followers.” Keen passed wide to Wright who centred, “to a nicety right into the goal mouth . . . and there Keen was ready to do duty and he scored at close quarters.” The home side struggled in vain to get back into the game but, “they met with their match, and more than their match” as the Chesham defence held firm to secure a memorable 2-1 victory.

The result against Hampstead did seem to put Chesham on the football map at the time. “The London scribes have just discovered their existence – and all because they beat a team in the mighty metropolis . . . They are ‘one of the three best teams of the season’ (but) have to wait until they get to the hub of the universe to learn that they are such good boys.” With the newly merged Chesham United side having now beaten both Hampstead and Luton Clarence in their cup runs during this first season, an article about the selections for the England national amateur team, published in the Westminster Gazette, makes interesting reading. “For years before the war the methods of the Committee in selecting Amateur teams for the Internationals were beyond the comprehension of the best judges amongst the club officials, and no-one understands why the players in the best teams of the season were ignored for the game against Ireland. . . It is a pity that the Committee failed to realise what a splendid thing the choice of players from the most successful of the London teams would have been for the Amateur game . . . there has not been a more convincing winning side than Hampstead Town . . . (whose) long run of success has been equal to anything seen in Amateur football this season . . . Another club that means to make a big bid for the Championship is Luton Clarence.” Nice to see than that in their first season United were beating teams with players who were being recommended for International honours.

Meanwhile back in Chesham, the Great Western League side entertained Newbury at the Cricket Meadow. They ran out 3-0 victors with goals from White and Ringsell in the first half then a second Ringsell strike after half time. Line up: Wilkins, Sear, Pearson, Dean, Joe King, Moulder, Pipkin, White, Ringsell, Russell and Jim King. In the Bucks Junior Cup Chesham United Reserves hosted Wendover and with each side having scored a penalty before the interval the visitors then scored in the second half to win 2-1.

With United’s cup side still undefeated after the trip to Hampstead, attention now moved to the following week’s visit of “Chesham’s Invincibles” to face London Caledonians (“the Cockney Scots”) in the FA Cup 5th Round at Tufnell Park on Saturday 22nd November 1919.

Part Eleven – It’s the 5th FA Cup tie of the season for the new Chesham United
Chesham United’s first season had seen remarkable success in the national cup competitions. The victory over Hampstead in the Amateur Cup saw Chesham them through to the equivalent of the First Round proper and, having entered the FA Cup at the earliest possible qualifying stage, they now faced a trip to London Caledonians in their 5th FA Cup tie of the season.

The ‘Caleys’ played at Tufnell Park and were one of the ‘big’ teams in non-league football in the early part of the last century. Having been founder members of the Isthmian League in 1905, they won the league two years running between 1906 and 1908. They then also won a hat trick of titles from 1911-1914 prior to organised football being disbanded with the outbreak of World War One – in those three years they lost only five league matches out of sixty played (there were much smaller divisions in those days).

On the 22nd November 1919 United and their followers travelled on the 11.25am train from Chesham to join a “crowd of not more than 1,500” in London. The Chesham following was boosted by the presence of “Cockney-Cheshamites from all over London” meaning that “the Chesham voice could be heard to advantage!” Arrangements were made for a pre-match meal at the Tufnell Park Hotel.  Gate receipts for the game were declared as 29 pounds, 15 shillings and 3 pence with United’s share being 14 pounds and 15 shillings. The cost of travel accounted for 4 pounds, 1 shilling and 3 pence.

The Caledonians had been able to see Chesham’s tie with Hampstead the previous week and on the basis of what they saw chose to re-organise their own side for this game, making three changes to their normal starting line up. United selected their usual ‘cup team’ lining up as: Webb, Redding, Brandon, Sawyer, Gomm, Stillman, Wright, Carter, Keen, Barnes and Vine.

In the opening minute Chesham had a great effort as Keen drove the ball towards the bottom corner only for Dawson in the home goal to turn the ball around the post. London Caledonian took the lead though when Chesham’s keeper, Cyril Webb, safely claimed a shot from Johnson but then, “Before he had could attempt to clear, Gaul slammed in and kicked the ball clean out of his hands and Kelso pushed it home.” Shortly afterwards Gaul himself made it 2-0 to the home side and Chesham looked to be struggling against opponents better suited to the surface at Tufnell Park. “On a damp day . . . it is pudding-like and all against light players as it tears them to pieces. Not so the Caleys. They can give Chesham stones in weight all round . . . and in a mud-lark they are it.”

Despite this Chesham’s “nippy little lot” kept going and got a goal back after thirty minutes when Vine broke away and, “let go and the ball described  a fine curve and beat Dawson altogether.” At half-time the score stood at London Caledonian 2-1 Chesham United.

Fifteen minutes into the second-half Gaul struck from long range for the Caleys and with Webb a little late getting down to the shot the home side led 3-1, a lead they were to maintain for the rest of the game. So, Chesham finally lost their first cup tie of the season but they “went down game. All agreed that against mud and weight, and experience and dash . . . the Chesham team put up their pluckiest fight of this season’s history against the best team they have met.”

London Caledonians went on to beat Kings Lynn 6-0 at home in the following round of the FA Cup before going out 3-2 away at Castleford Town. The eventual winners of the FA Cup that season were Aston Villa – they had been the first ever winners of the trophy in 1887 and this first post-war contest gave them their sixth competition victory after seeing off QPR, Manchester United, Sunderland, Tottenham, Chelsea and then Huddersfield Town in the final.

In the Great Western League on the same day, Chesham’s ‘A’ team travelled to Maidenhead United looking to maintain their own unbeaten record for the season. With Maidenhead having beaten Yiewsley by eleven goals the previous week the odds looked to favour the York Road side but Chesham battled hard in an evenly contested match. With ten minutes left a Maidenhead effort struck Albert Moulder, Chesham’s defender, on the elbow and a penalty gave the home side the lead. However, with just four minutes remaining Filby sent in a “beautiful centre” for Chesham which was, “Met obliquely by Dean with two men in front of him, he pushed the ball straight ahead and going right through placed the ball in the corner of the net.” A well-deserved 1-1 draw which led ‘TROPS’ writing in the Examiner to say that, “let the team get settled down and understand each other, and we shall entertain rosy aspirations for the Great Western and Spartan Leagues.” The Chesham ‘A’ league team lined up as: Wilkins, Sear, Pearson, Dean, King, Moulder, Crook, Pipkin, Ringsell, White and Filby.

Part Twelve – and the renewed rivalry with Aylesbury gets under way
Having lost their first tie of the season when London Caledonians ended United’s inaugural FA Cup campaign in the fifth game of the competition, Chesham’s “cup team” was straight back in action the following week as they visited Aylesbury United in the first round of the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup. It’s an interesting distinction with the way top level football seems to have gone in recent years that reports at the time use the phrase “cup team” to indicate the first team. The cup competitions were clearly a much higher priority than the league matches and, indeed, matches in both the Spartan League and the Great Western League took place on days when cup ties were played and would then feature the Chesham United ‘A’ side instead of the usual first team. The pecking order seems to have been that the first team would be selected for cup games and Spartan League games when there were no cup matches and the ‘A’ team would play in Spartan League when games clashed with the cups or the Great Western League otherwise. A third team played in the Chesham & District League and Aylesbury League as Chesham United Reserves.

That was the situation on Saturday 29th November 1919. The “cup team” travelled to Aylesbury for the Berks & Bucks competition whilst the ‘A’ side entertained Newportonians in the Spartan League.

With their success so far in both the FA Cup and the Amateur Cup, Chesham’s followers travelled in big numbers to Aylesbury and were full of confidence. The local paper reported that the numbers travelling from Chesham would have been “much larger had it not been for the wretched conditions at Chesham. We had very heavy snow and the conditions were all against football.” Those who did travel, however, found that the snow cleared beyond Wendover and “the Aylesbury ground was in very fair condition.” The gate was announced as being worth £52. Assuming Aylesbury charged similar prices to Chesham (8 old pence admission) that would mean an attendance of around 1,500. When considering the crowds generated at local football at this time it is interesting to put them in context with the relative population changes in the last 90 years. The 1921 census gives Chesham a population of just 8,584 compared to around 23,000 today. The change in Aylesbury is even more dramatic with an increase from 12,114 to around 60,000 today.

Chesham lined up in the 2, 3, 5 formation which was most common at the time. Their captain, Webb, was in goal with two defenders in front of him, Redding and Brandon. The halves, or midfield in today’s terms, were Sawyer on the right, Gomm in the centre and Stillman on the left, whilst the five attacking players were, from right to left, Wright, Carter, Keen, Barnes and Filby. Just as an aside, the ‘centre-half’ term we still often use today for a central defender is really a relic of a tactical change a few years later in English football when teams began to shift one of the halves from midfield to a more defensive position. In the Examiner there is reference to the fact that Filby replaced Vine in the Chesham forward line for this game, “owing to Vine being unable to play in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup – he hails from Hertfordshire.” So, the implication seems to be that only players who actually lived in Berks & Bucks could play in the County cup, very different from today.

Despite the anticipation of Chesham enjoying a straightforward victory, the first half was an even affair with both sides creating chances but failing to exploit them. Chesham came out strongly in the second half and a flurry of early pressure culminated in George Barnes hitting the cross bar. After twenty minutes, “during which the Aylesbury defence must have had a terrible gruelling, Chesham scored.” The home defender, “Hearn, went for Wright knees up when he was clean away, and stopped his run, but a free kick was given . . . Filby secured and put into goal, and Keen bustled the ball home.”

By now Chesham were well on top and after 75 minutes Todd in the Aylesbury goal could only fist clear a shot. The ball fell to Barnes “and he drove the ball hard onto the underneath of the bar and it bounced in.” Final score Aylesbury United 0 – 2 Chesham United. The reward for Chesham was to be an away tie at Wendover in the second round on 7th February 1920. The other Berks & Bucks Senior Cup ties would be Wolverton Town vs Slough, Newbury Town vs Reading and Windsor & Eton vs Maidenhead. 

Meanwhile, back in Chesham, the ‘A’ side were performing well in place of the first team in the Spartan League as they gained a creditable 4-4 draw with Newportonians in the snow. Chesham lined up as: Wilkins; Sear and Pearson; Mead, King and Moulder; Pipkin, Gomm, Dean, Vine and Ringsell.

 Dean scored for Chesham in the opening minute then added to a second to make it 2-0 before the visitors scored four goals to lead comfortably. Just before half time though, “Vine put the ball over to Pipkin, and the outside –right went right through and scored a lovely goal,” to make it 3-4. That score lasted until just a few minutes from full time when Gomm was fouled for a Chesham penalty and Vine placed the ball for the kick. “We have seen his pile-drivers before, and this was one of the best. Sluman was helpless, and the ball made the net rock . . . it secured Chesham a point. Bravo!”

The following week, Saturday 6th December 1919, the full cup team was back representing Chesham United at home for the first time since October. With no cup ties this weekend they took their place in a Spartan League match when St Albans City were the visitors and the people of Chesham came out in force to see them. “Chesham United’s cup team appeared before their home crowd on Saturday, and it was a crowd . . . people mustered as thickly in the enclosure and round the goal where they knew the work would be as I ever remember to have seen them.” Those who gathered behind the visiting keeper were soon rewarded as Chesham, “playing football that was a delight to watch,” went 3-0 up inside the opening fifteen minutes, all three scored by Keen. St Albans pulled a goal back before half time but in the second half Keen scored his fourth of the match whilst Carter and Vine both joined in to secure a 6-1 victory.

Having beaten Hampstead in the Divisional Final of the FA Amateur Cup, Chesham fans awaited the draw for what was in today’s terms the first round proper with a keen interest. Having had next to no luck with home draws in any of the cup competitions finally they would not have to travel for the next round on January 3rd 1920 – and there was the added spice that local rivals Aylesbury United came out of the hat to visit Chesham. Some other notable ties in the southern section of the draw were Tufnell Park vs Wycombe Wanderers, Dulwich Hamlet vs Wimbledon, Charlton vs Oxford City and Barnet vs Leavesden.

On December 13th, with no cup or Spartan League games, an experimental Chesham side mixing the cup and ‘A’ sides, travelled to Uxbridge for a Great Western League fixture. Goals by Wheeler in the first half and Barnes in the second secured a 2-0 win for Chesham. It’s good to see another appearance by the ground snob ninety years ago as ‘SEC’ in the Examiner noted that, “The worst ground I have struck this season is at Uxbridge . . . (it) is situated far out of town; it has no conveniences; the grass is tufty and long; and the playing surface is very rough indeed.”

`The following Saturday the ‘cup team’ once again played in the Spartan League as they travelled to Ealing to play Great Western Railway. Goals from Gomm and Wheeler gave Chesham a 2-0 lead before Dean was forced to leave the field through injury. The home side draw the score back to 2-2 at the interval and then went into a 3-2 lead after the re-start. United’s goalkeeper, Webb, then became the second Chesham player to retire injured leaving the side with just nine players in these pre-substitute times. Vine valiantly brought the scores level but with minutes remaining the home side scraped a winning goal to win 4-3. A poor Saturday was compounded as the ‘A’ team were beaten at home 2-4 by Marlow in the Great Western Suburban League and Chesham United Reserves were beaten 1-0 by Wendover in an Aylesbury League fixture.

Over Christmas 1919 Chesham United sides faced four fixtures with Wycombe Wanderers. Games were scheduled for both Boxing Day and December 27th.

On Boxing Day, “there was seldom, if ever, a larger crowd,” at Loakes Park when United visited for a Spartan League fixture. “The rain began before the match, and continued, but despite that the people flocked in: filled the large stand to overflowing, stood in the enclosure, massed behind the goals . . . and gathered thickly on the new (and sticky) terracing.” It all went wrong for Chesham on the pitch though as Wycombe cruised to a 6-0 victory. On the same day, at the Cricket Meadow, Chesham’s ‘A’ side hosted Wycombe in a Great Western League game. Despite the match at Wycombe, this home fixture generated a gate of £39 which would suggest a crowd of well over 1,000. They were well rewarded as United scored a comfortable 5-1 victory.

The very next day the fixtures were reversed and the teams did it all again. At Chesham the cup team quickly got their drubbing of the previous day out of their system with a much improved performance. Wycombe used exactly the same team, Chesham made one change with Gomm replacing Webb in goal. Carter put Chesham 1-0 up on 12 minutes but Wycombe levelled from a penalty to make it 1-1 at half time. Five minutes after the interval Carter scored to give Chesham a 2-1 lead that they extended when Gomm scored from a penalty. With seven minutes remaining Wycombe scored again to make the score 3-2 but Chesham hung on to secure the victory. The gate for this fixture was just over £59 which would suggest an attendance of at least 1,800. At Wycombe the ‘A’ team fought out a 4-4 draw to make it two wins and a draw from the four holiday fixtures with Wycombe.

With the crowds already flocking to see local football over the Christmas period, the next game for Chesham would be the Amateur Cup tie with Aylesbury on January 3rd when another huge crowd was expected at the Cricket Meadow.

Part Thirteen – January 1920 and the Aylesbury rivalry continues with a local derby in the Amateur Cup
Having knocked Aylesbury United out of the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup, and enjoyed a successful Christmas programme against Wycombe Wanderers, Chesham United moved into the year 1920 in good spirits. Their first encounter was to be another clash with the Ducks as Aylesbury visited the Cricket Meadow on 3rd January in the first round proper of the Amateur Cup.

On a damp, cold day the ground was slippery but, “Fortunately the rain did not last sufficiently long to spoil the crowd, and the people clustered thickly, and some Aylesbury enthusiasts were amongst the 1,200 that lined the ropes and filled the small stand.” In fact, club records show gate receipts of £50, 3 shillings and 8½ old pence which would suggest a crowd of over 1,500. The Examiner writes, without any further explanation, that the usual Chesham goalkeeper, “Webb, it is interesting to note, went off the club over the weekend . . . For the first round of the competition proper and for the first match of that fateful year, 1920, Chesham had a re-shuffled team and a deputy for Webb in the person of R F Beckley.” The full line up was: Beckley; Brandon and Pearson; Sawyer, Gomm and Moulder; Wright, Carter, Stillman, Barnes and Vine.

Aylesbury’s captain, Horne, won the toss and, “set his side to work up the slope with the wind behind them.” In the opening period, Todd in the visitors’ goal, “did not have a great deal to do, mis-shots and good defence by the backs keeping him clear, but Beckley had even less to do . . . The home crowd became impatient for goals: they appreciated the dainty footwork, but they wanted blood.” It all sounds a bit of a familiar tale of a Meadow crowd watching Chesham sides over the years. After 24 minutes, “Stillman drew the defence and passed to the inch: Barnes showed skill in feinting and worked right into the goal, and with Todd anticipating a smasher the ball was hooked quietly into the net at Todd’s left.” This success then prompted “a miniature bombardment” from Chesham but at half-time the score remained Chesham 1-0 Aylesbury.

The second half began brightly for the home side and, “It was noticeable how futile the efforts of the Aylesbury forwards to break away were.” Carter hit the bar only for Wright to put the rebound wide, “with the best of chances,” before Chesham’s second goal finally came ten minutes from time. “Todd had just distinguished himself with a great save, when Vine dropped in a patent centre and Carter met the leather with his head and found the mark.” Final score Chesham United 2-0 Aylesbury United.

Summing up the first round match the Examiner noted that, “Chesham is the sole surviving representative of the brave county of Bucks in the Amateur Cup.” Wycombe Wanderers had travelled to Tufnell Park where a 6,000 strong crowd saw them beaten 6-2. The result of the round was probably Dulwich Hamlet beating Wimbledon 9-2 even though the Dons scored first. With the first team in cup action, Chesham’s Spartan League fixture with London Polytechnic in Chiswick was fulfilled by the ‘A’ side who came away with a narrow 4-3 defeat. Chesham’s scorers were Pipkin, Langley and Wheeler, the latter also striking the foot of the post from a penalty to miss out on a draw. In the Bucks Charity Cup Chesham United Reserves lost 2-1 at Wendover.

The following Monday the draw for the second round proper of the Amateur Cup was made at the FA offices and Chesham were drawn away to face Bromley at 2.30pm on January 17th. This was reported as, “Chesham’s ill-luck in cup-tie draws seems to pursue them to the bitter end. Bromley away with a Kent referee is rather warm.” Bromley had won through their own first round tie by beating Catford Southend 3-1 away from home.

On Saturday 10th January 1920 Chesham played two fixtures in the Great Western Suburban League. The first team travelled to face Reading United and it proved a contentious affair. The weather was dreadful causing the Examiner’s correspondent to write: “The footballer doesn’t expect a parlour game played by a cosy fire. But there are limits . . . that limit was reached on Saturday . . . A protest was made without avail, and twenty minutes before time some of the players abandoned the contest.” At the time Chesham were losing 6-0! Meanwhile, at the Cricket Meadow, the ‘A’ side were beating 1st Scots Guards by 2-1 – Filby scored after 12 minutes to give a half-time lead, Pearson’s penalty doubled the advantage before Guards got a late goal back. The gate receipts were £22 / 11 / 6½ suggesting a crowd of just under 700.

The following Saturday the cup side travelled to Bromley looking to continue their run. However, “after a series of games in the Amateur Cup Competition which they can look back on with pride, (they) bade ‘Good-bye’ to the competition.” The London Daily News gave credit to United; “Chesham United played fine, fast football against Bromley while their opponents were only a goal ahead, but from the time Metcalfe increased the lead, about a quarter of an hour after the change of ends, their play steadily deteriorated, and at the end they were well beaten . . . Nearly 2,000 people watched the game, the receipts amounting to £60.” The final score was Bromley 5-0 Chesham United and, after paying expenses, Chesham’s share of this gate was £22 / 11 / 9.

On the same day, in the Spartan League, Chesham once again faced Aylesbury United, this time fielding an ‘A’ side at the Cricket Meadow. The visitors took the lead ten minutes before the break but, “upon the stroke of half-time – the whistle blew directly the goal had been scored – Wheeler beat Todd with a nicely judged low shot which carried the ball just inside the post.” As the second half got underway, “Chesham went straight down the slope, Gomm touched the ball on to Wright’s toe; and Wright netted with a terrific drive – so hard and fast . . . it is doubtful Todd saw the ball.” With 15 minutes left a Wheeler shot seemed to have beaten the Aylesbury keeper when, “Wright made doubly sure by heading the ball past the goalie.” Final score Chesham United 3-1 Aylesbury United. With the first team playing a vital cup-tie on the same day it is remarkable that this game produced gate receipts of £44 / 0 / 9 equating to a crowd of around 1,300.

The matches against Aylesbury continued thick and fast and there was only a week to wait for the next one. On Saturday 23rd January Chesham travelled to face them for the fourth time in little over a month in another Spartan League encounter. This proved to be, “the poorest game of the series between Chesham and the County Towners . . . It was the smallest gate of the series, but £26 is not to be grumbled at, and it will help to swell the balance that Aylesbury have built up in a record financial half season.” The home side took the lead before Carter equalised to earn Chesham a 1-1 draw. Meanwhile, in another Spartan League fixture played on the same day, the ‘A’ side entertained 2nd Coldstream Guards and attracted just as large a crowd (receipts £26 / 3 / 2½ or around 800 people) as that at Aylesbury. Goals by Wright in the first half and Hayes in the second secured a comfortable 2-0 win

The final matches of January 1920 were played on Saturday 30th when a crowd of just over 1,000 paying £33 / 16 / 5 saw Sutton Court win 2-1 at the Cricket Meadow whilst in the Suburban League the ‘A’ side came back from Newbury with a 0-0 draw.

Headlined “One Quack” the Examiner editorial reflected on the series of games against Aylesbury: “Presumably we have met the Ducks for the last time (this season)  . . . The Aylesbury bird has only had one quack at our expense and that was on Saturday when she claimed a solitary Spartan point . . . Chesham ruffled her feathers a little, but the encounters were not ill-tempered ones, although Chesham administered two cup defeats and one league defeat. Here’s to the next merry meeting!”

Part Fourteen – into February 1920 and more Cup action with the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup and the Bucks Charity Cup
On Saturday 7th February 1920 Chesham United’s ‘cup’ team entertained Wendover in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup at the Cricket Meadow. The match ended up as a rout as “Chesham gave Wendover an exposition of science.” Carter opened the scoring for the home side and Dean added a second before the visitors pulled a goal back. Further goals from Dean, Barnes and Carter gave Chesham a 5-1 lead at the interval. Early in the second half Dean turned in a Pipkin cross for his hat-trick before finally adding his fourth goal of the afternoon to make the final score Chesham United 7-2 Wendover. With the gate announced as worth £34, 3 shillings and 10 pence this would suggest a crowd of around 1,030 for the match.

The Bucks Free Press reported that Chesham’s former player, Gomm, who had been playing for Wycombe Wanderers, would not, as had been speculated, be joining Aston Villa. Instead, should he choose to leave Wycombe it was likely his destination would be Reading. The Daily News also reported on another ex-Chesham player, their prolific centre-forward W. Keen. He had recently been playing for Millwall and it was now confirmed that he had signed professional forms with the London club.

The following Saturday, 14th February, it was back to Spartan League action as Great Western Railway travelled from their Ealing base to Bucks. The Examiner noted that, “Chesham’s attack was the liveliest since W. Keen threw in his lot with Millwall.” In front of another healthy crowd of around 940 (based on gate receipts of £31/.5/1½ at 8 pence entry) a one-sided first half saw Chesham leading through two more goals from Dean. In the second period, “with the slope in their favour Chesham had an even larger share of the attack.” Despite this dominance, and hitting the woodwork, “time was almost up before the trio of goals was completed” as Vine made the final score Chesham United 3-0 Great Western Railway.

In the Berks & Bucks Junior Cup on the same day, Amersham beat a strong Chesham United Reserves team by 3-0 in a match seemingly more notable to the reporter because, “my colleague seems to have got amongst the ‘boys’ . . . Amersham have a little knot of supporters who they could well do without, I imagine, their language is not choice.”

A week later it was back to cup action as Slough came to the Cricket Meadow in the semi-final of the Bucks Charity Cup. The previous weekend Wycombe Wanderers had beaten Aylesbury United in front of a £70 gate (roughly 2,100 people) to reach the final and Slough arrived in Chesham as Great Western Suburban League leaders. They brought a full strength first team for the game whilst Chesham were missing only Stillman from their strongest side and lined up as: Webb; Brandon and Redding; Sawyer, Gomm and Moulder; Vine, Carter, Dean, Barnes and Wheeler.

With gate receipts of £42/13/6 suggesting a crowd of around 1,300, the Examiner reported that, “Chesham tried all through to preserve their scientific game . . . There were times when it seemed Chesham must score and only grand work by the bustling backs saved the Slough situation.” However, as the game reached the ninetieth minute it was still goal-less and “odds-on a draw. The Bandsmen were packing up; some of the crowd were moving off; the shouting and tumult had died, and Slough supporters were thinking with pleasant thoughts what Slough would do on the Dolphin ground.” With 91½ minutes on the clock, “when all had given up a goal as hopeless, Carter and Vine shook themselves clear of the ruck . . . Vine kept steady . . . he got in his shot and the ball trundled slowly into an empty goal with the back in the net a second later.” Final score Chesham United 1-0 Slough. As a charity cup competition just over £16 from the gate went into the charity fund and it was all set for a Chesham vs Wycombe final to be held at Aylesbury on 20th March 1920.

The Spartan League fixture schedule meant that just a week would pass before Chesham faced Slough again as they travelled to the Dolphin on 28th February. This was another of those weekends where there were two Spartan games on the same day. The club committee chose to send the cup side to face Slough, partly in anticipation of their upcoming county Senior Cup fixture with Maidenhead on the same ground, whilst the ‘A’ side entertained Windsor & Eton at the Cricket Meadow.

Even with two matches on the same day the crowds were quite remarkable compared to today. As previously mentioned in these articles, Chesham had a population of around 8,000 at the time and what was in effect their second string attracted around 1,000 people (£33/17/4½ receipts) as they beat Windsor 2-1. At Slough the cup side could not repeat the previous week’s victory and came back with 3-1 defeat. However, it was reported that this league game attracted a gate of £50 (around 1,500 people) and that, “the statement was made in the Dolphin, and backed by money, that £200 will be taken” for the Maidenhead vs Chesham cup semi-final.

As we moved into March, the following week saw another Spartan League double header and two victories. At the Cricket Meadow Tufnell Spartans were beaten 4-2 with gate receipts of £29/6/1 whilst in Chelsea the 2nd Coldstream Guards were trounced by 7-1.

It was also reported that applications for next year’s Spartan League were expected from Letchworth Town as well as from Hitchin Town who, like Chesham the previous year, were themselves being revived in preparation for the 1920/21 season.

Part Fifteen – the last cup ties and the end of Chesham United’s first season
Having easily overcome Wendover by 7-2 in the quarter final, Chesham headed for Slough’s Dolphin Ground on Saturday 13th March 1920 for an eagerly anticipated Berks & Bucks Senior Cup semi final with Maidenhead. It was widely felt amongst the United support at the time that they were travelling more in hope than in expectation – “Had Chesham been in their pre-Christmas form, and with W. Keen (who had recently turned professional with Millwall) in the centre place, there would have been no shadow of a doubt as to the result, barring accidents, but Chesham have not played very convincing football in the second half; and they had to do without Vine and Wheeler; and neither club nor supporters were over hopeful.”

In fact, first team regulars, Vine and Wheeler, both played on the same day for the Chesham ‘A’ side in a home Spartan League fixture against Sutton Court – presumably another example of the ruling at the time that only players living in Berks and Bucks could take part in the county cup competition.

Despite these misgivings the town of Chesham travelled in force. As the Examiner rather quaintly explained, “everybody had made up their mind to go to Slough and be in it at the death. And everybody (and his wife or his best girl) did go to Slough, and many who could not claim a wife, husband, or sweetheart went as well. Motor lorries were requisitioned from Chesham and Amersham; motors were requisitioned from anywhere they could get them; and motor bikes and push bikes all served, and there was a constant stream upon the Chesham – Slough road.”

Chesham’s shuffled team lined up as: Webb; Redding and Brandon; Sawyer, Gomm and Moulder; Wright, Carter, Dean, Barnes and Stillman. At the Dolphin the weather was bleak but, “Despite the stormy outlook and the cold wind, the crowd lined the ropes three to four deep, sporting favours and ‘wielding’ various offensive instruments such as rattles, horns and megaphones.”

Maidenhead “started off in a slashing fashion just as if they meant to sweep Chesham off their feet and off the earth,” but the United defence withstood the pressure, otherwise “the tale might have been a very sorry one.” In fact Chesham managed only a couple of attacks in the first half and “the interval was a welcome ‘breather’, and the fact that there were no goals was a relief to Chesham.” For quarter of an hour of the second half United came back into the game and began “to justify the good old chorus, ‘Chesham on the ball’.” However, after 73 minutes Moulder conceded a free kick for handball and although, “the shot was a good one, and difficult to handle, ordinarily Webb would have coped with it with ease.” Unfortunately, as the ball curved it appeared to fly off the Chesham keeper’s hands to creep just under the bar. Three minutes later the result was sealed as Maidenhead scored again for a 2-0 victory.

Back at the Cricket Meadow goals from Howell, Spratley and Wheeler gave Chesham a 3-0 lead against Sutton Court until the visitors pulled one back before half time. In the second half Spratley’s second made it 4-1 before another for Wheeler and one for Vine took United’s lead to 6-1. Two late goals for Sutton made the scoreline a slightly more respectable Chesham United 6-3 Sutton Court. Despite the attraction of the game at Slough the gates receipts of just over £25 would suggest a crowd of around 750 for this league match.

The following Saturday, 20th March, another huge crowd gathered at Aylesbury United’s Printing Works Ground as Chesham met Wycombe Wanderers in the final of the Bucks Charity Cup. The Examiner reports gate receipts of £240 and a crowd of 5,000 packed into the ground – “at the ropes, penetrating underneath and sometimes trespassing near the playing pitch; standing upon trolleys and requisitioned barrows; lining the canal bank, packed into the little stand . . . and even precariously perched up the trees.” Such scenes were to be expected for the county Senior cup at the time but were unprecedented in the Charity cup competition. The Cup had first been contested in the 1905-1906 season after being donated by Mr H E Bull. Aylesbury United had won in three times (1906, 1908, 1909), Wolverton twice (1907, 1912) and Wycombe Trinity once in 1913. It had last been contested in the 1913-14 pre-war season when Chesham Generals won the second of their two victories having also been successful in 1911. So, United went into the final as holders of the trophy following the merger of Chesham Town and Chesham Generals. Wycombe Wanderers had yet to win the Charity Cup.

Wycombe went into the game as Spartan League leaders having lost just once in 18 games – the 3-2 defeat that Chesham had inflicted in the second of the Christmas derby matches. United lined up as: Webb; Redding and Brandon; Sawyer, Gomm and Stillman; Vine, Wright, Howell, Carter and Wheeler. Cyril Webb won the toss for Chesham and, “set his men with their backs to the sun and he occupied the bandstand goal.” The first half was evenly matched with Wycombe frustrated in their attempts to take advantage as they, “were to experience a taste of that defensive quality of Chesham that so many tasted and respected before Christmas.” Just before half time Webb saved twice to keep the scoreline blank at the interval. As soon as the second half got underway though, the local press reporter describes how Chesham got their break. “A long, clear pass by Stillman to Wheeler enabled Wheeler to show Adams a clean pair of heels. Wheeler ran the ball well up, and Carter and Stillman made a bee line for goal. Wheeler turned the ball in beautifully . . . Ball dashed out and missed it – and Stillman rushed forward, headed the ball into an empty net, and then tumbled after it. I don’t know whether they heard the shout at Wendover, but it was a shout. A goal for Chesham while the second half was breathing its first breath – and Chesham all smiles.”

For the next half hour “Wycombe strove like mad things to retrieve disaster” whilst gradually tempers began to rise both on and off the pitch. The Wycombe contingent of fans had travelled expecting a straightforward victory and as their team became more desperate in their efforts to salvage something from the game, “Twice the crowd encroached on to the ground on the left, by the dressing room, and ground officials, referee and police had to intervene.”

When the game got underway again the tension was still high “and the conviction grew that we had seen the best of the game and that it would be a lucky thing if it finished without some trouble.” With just ten minutes left that was to prove true. Wycombe’s central half, Gomm (not to be confused with the Chesham player of the same name), was right in front of the referee when he “attempted a filthy foul upon Wright . . . an attempt to use elbow and knee: and a deliberate leaving of the ball to catch Wright.” Gomm was ordered straight off but, as he argued about the decision and refused to leave the field, “that menacing little bunch at the left-hand corner broke all restraints and rushed onto the ground.” Finally the referee emerged from the crowd accompanied by two police officers and was escorted to the dressing room at which point, “Mr T Kyle jumped upon a chair and announced that the game was abandoned.” It was unsure at the time whether the trophy would actually be awarded. However, it was later reported that: “Mr W A Hutchins, the hon. Secretary of the competition, wrote under the date April 29th:- ‘The Council of the Buckinghamshire Charity Cup Competition held a meeting at Maidenhead (Mr T Kyle in the chair) on Wednesday night last, when it was decided, in view of the incident at the final tie at Aylesbury on the 20th March, to award the Senior Charity Cup to Chesham United.”

Whilst the 5,000 strong crowd was gathered at Aylesbury, there were still another 600 plus in a £20 and 16 shilling gate who remained in Chesham to see the ‘A’ team’s Great Western League match against Slough. The visitors went into a 2-0 half time lead before goals from Lacey and Tanner earned Chesham a 2-2 draw. The following Saturday Tufnell Sports were the visitors in the Spartan League with Chesham claiming a 2-0 win thanks to Lacey and Filby whilst in the Great Western competition United suffered a 6-0 defeat at league leaders Botwell Mission.

Over the Easter period in 1920 Chesham played two Great Western league games losing 1-2 at home to Yiewsley and drawing 3-3 at Marlow. On Easter Monday the Spartan League side entertained London Polytechnic and 3-2 with two goals from Howell and another from Vine. Also over Easter the Cricket Meadow, or Chesham Sports Ground as it was also becoming known, hosted the Bucks Junior Charity Cup final where Amersham defeated Wendover 2-1 in front of a then record crowd of 2,500 on Good Friday. The following Tuesday Amersham also won the Chesham Charity Cup with a 4-2 win over Rickmansworth in front of another 2,000 spectators. Meanwhile, at Loakes Park in Wycombe, over 8,000 gathered to watch Slough beat Maidenhead 3-2 in the final of the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup.

As the cricket season began Chesham United had to move to their second meadow in Berkhampstead Road, also known as the Pig Trough or The Basin, to complete their home fixtures. The final Spartan League game of the season was a visit to St Albans on 10th April resulting in a disappointing 4-1 defeat that saw Chesham finish the season in 5th place. In the Great Western League a home game against Uxbridge saw goals from Spratley, Tanner and Ringsell secure a 3-1 win. The final four games produced just one win as the season came to a close. On 17th April Maidenhead came to Chesham and won 3-0 on their way to winning the Great Western Suburban League whilst on the same day Chesham’s ‘A’ team gained a 4-0 win at 1st Scots Guards thanks to Pearson, Tanner, Nash and Lacey. On the final Saturday of the inaugural season the ‘Cup’ side travelled to Windsor & Eton only to be beaten 3-0 whilst the ‘A’ side went down 2-1 at home to Reading.

First season full results and scorers

First season league tables

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