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The First FA Cup Final: 1872 Wanderers vs Royal Engineers

On 16 March 1872, fewer than 2,000 people attended the first FA Cup final at the Oval. The Wanderers won 1-0. In 2022, the Football Association will celebrate the 150-year history of the first-ever FA Cup final.

Although it will not be the 150th final (due to years lost from the war), this year’s final and celebration was held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 14 May 2022.

first ever fa cup final

The First FA Cup

In the early days of the Football Association, when there were only 30 clubs as members, the Secretary and captain of Wanderers, Charles Alcock, suggested starting a knockout competition. At the time, soccer was not a popular sport and was more of a pastime for a select group of public schoolboys.

At a meeting on July 20th, 1871, Alcock proposed that “A Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete.”

As the Football Association had only existed for eight years, the membership was still small, having grown from the initial 11 teams to 50. However, Alcock believed that this new competition, named “The Cup,” would help to increase interest and participation in the sport.

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He was inspired by playing in an inter-house knockout tournament at Harrow School and believed that this format could be successful on a larger scale. The proposal was met with positive reception, and the rules for the new tournament were decided upon three months later.

Fifteen teams were selected to participate in the first round, with the following matches: Wanderers vs. Harrow Chequers, Clapham Rovers vs. Upton Park, Crystal Palace vs. Hitchin, Maidenhead vs. Marlow, Royal Engineers vs. Reigate Priory, Barnes vs. Civil Service and Queens Park (Glasgow) vs. Donington School (Spalding). Hampstead Heathens received a bye.

The first matches of the FA Cup were held on November 11th, 1871. The results were: Upton Park 0 Clapham Rovers 3, Crystal Palace 0 Hitchin 0, Maidenhead 2 Marlow 0, and Barnes 2 Civil Service 0. [1] The first goal in the tournament was scored by Clapham’s Jarvis Kenrick.

1872 wanderers football team

1872 FA Cup Final Teams

The Royal Engineers were a more defensive side going into the first-ever Football Association Challenge Cup competition final with three backs instead of two like the Wanderers. Captain Francis Marindin led the team. Leading up to the first final of the FA Cup, they were considered favorites.


Wanderers Team

Alexander Bonsor, Charles Wollaston, Reginald Courtenay Welch, Walpole Vidal, Edgar Lubbock, Thomas Hooman, Albert Thompson, William Crake, Charles Alcock (winning captain), Morton Betts, Ireland Edward Bowen.

Royal Engineers Team

Lieut. Edmund Creswell, Lieut. Adam Bogle, Capt. William Merriman, Lieut. Edmond Cotter, Capt. Francis Marindin, Lieut. Herbert Muirhead, Lieut. George Addison, Lieut. Henry Rich, Lieut. Alfred Goodwyn, Scotland Lieut. Henry Renny-Tailyour, Lieut. Hugh Mitchell [7]

1877 fa cup trophy

Two Powerful Teams

The Wanderers and the Royal Engineers were the clubs left to contend for the 1872 FA Cup trophy. There was no doubt that these were the two most powerful football teams playing Association Rules. As a result, many football fans and partisans of both sides expected an intense buzz to the match.

In a few minutes after three o’clock, the ball was set in motion by the Engineers. There were many fashionable people in attendance. However, there were fewer spectators than expected, perhaps because admission was so expensive.

The toss of the coin for the first FA Cup final was won by the captain of the Wanderers, who decided which direction to kick. With the assistance of the wind and the mighty sun at their backs, the Wanderers gained an early advantage.

morton betts wanderers

Early Pressure In First FA Cup Final

The Wanderers got to work immediately, showing extraordinary determination. They played forward with more cooperation than usual, and their backup support was better than anything they had shown this season.

During the first quarter-hour, they besieged the Sappers closely thanks to faultless kicking. The crowd was in awe of this. Consistently, they kept attacking. A well-aimed shot by Morton Betts forced the Engineers’ goalkeeper to make a diving save early in the match.

Lieutenant Cresswell sustained a broken collarbone after 10 minutes of play. The injured player was unable to continue playing. Following a good move by Walpole Vidal, Morton Betts scored from an acute angle after 15 minutes of pressure. [5]

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Despite conceding the first goal, the Royal Engineers didn’t give up before halftime.

Due to the goal, the teams switched ends. However, any expectations that the situation would change were unfulfilled. Even as the Wanderers were besieged by the sun and wind, they continued their attack on the Engineers.

The final score was 1-0 to the Wanderers. It was very much a one-sided affair in the first FA Cup final.

Did you know that the first Women’s FA Cup Final was held in 1971?

Facts Of The First FA Cup Final

The First FA Cup Final was played at Kennington Oval on Saturday, 16 March 1872. [2]

Kick-Off Time: 3 pm

Match Venue: Kennington Oval, London

Attendance: 2000 [8]

Match Referee: Alfred Stair

Goalscorer: Morton Betts

first fa cup final

1872 FA Cup Rules: Normal time is 90 minutes. If scores are level, 30 minutes extra time may be added at the captains’ discretion. A replay will be held if scores are still level. There will be no substitutions.

  • The Wanderers went on to win 5 FA Cups in their history. (1872, 1873, 1876, 1877 and 1878).  Royal Engineers lost again in 1874 and won a replay in 1875 to clinch the FA Cup for the first and only time.
  • Alfred Stair was an English civil servant who refereed the first three FA Cup Finals in 1872, 1873, and 1874.
  • As well as presenting each Wanderers player with a silk badge commemorating the victory, the Football Association also gave each player an inscribed gold medal. [6] At an auction in London in 2010, the only known medal from the first-ever final was offered for sale. [3]
  • As FA Cup holders, the Wanderers were guaranteed a place in the 1873 final.
  • There was only one goal in the final, scored after fifteen minutes. The goalscorer, Morton Betts, usually played football as a full-back. In the summer, he played first-class cricket for Middlesex and Kent.
  • The Football Association Challenge Cup is the oldest football competition in the world.
    After drawing with Scottish club Queen’s Park in the semi-finals, they advanced to the final when the Scottish team withdrew due to their inability to afford to return to London for a semi-final replay. [4]
  • The first FA Cup Challenge Cup was designed and made in silver by Martin, Hall, and Company for 20 British pounds.  The trophy was 18 inches tall and was used for 24 finals until it was stolen.

royal engineers 1872

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[1]: http://jimmysirrelslovechild.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Alvechurch.pdf
[2], [3], and [4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1872_FA_Cup_final
[5] and [6]: https://centralbylines.co.uk/1872-the-birth-of-the-fa-cup/
[7]: https://fr-academic.com/dic.nsf/frwiki/609423
[8]: https://www.fa-cupfinals.co.uk/1872.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combination_Game (main image)
Popperfoto / Getty Images

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