In the season 1953/1954, Wigan Athletic retained the championship of the Lancashire Combination (for the third time in four years), won the Lancashire Junior Cup, and finished off a treble with the Lancashire Combination Cup. Impressive enough in the non-league circles of the time, but hardly enough to warrant a page on this site.
True enough. But 1953/1954 was also a season when Wigan Athletic dreamed of winning the FA Cup. Having seen off Burscough 2-1 in the 4th Qualifying Round, they hammered Scarborough 4-0 at Springfield Park in front of 12,692 spectators in the 1st Round proper of their FA Cup run.
The second-round draw brought one of the South’s top non-League teams, Hereford United, to Wigan. On 12 December 1953, in front of a crowd of 27,562 – a crowd that remains as a record between two non-League teams outside Wembley – Latics hit another four goals to beat the Bulls 4-1.
Third Round Draw
The Wigan Athletic FA Cup run progressed and the reward for this victory was an away tie with Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Wigan Athletic were the second non-League team to visit St James’ Park – the previous being Crystal Palace from the Southern League in 1906/1907. A hopeful omen for Wigan was that the non-League visitors had won on that day.
Newcastle United, at the time, was at the height of its glory years and had won the FA Cup in 1951 and 1952. Their team contained six internationals, including such household names as Jimmy Scoular, Ivor Broadis, and, most famous of all, Jackie Milburn.
Milburn, a center-forward of the Old School, is still a legend on Tyneside, and his career from 1945 to 1956 included 353 appearances for Newcastle with 177 goals. He also played 13 times for England, when England international games were rarer than they are now.
After the game, Wigan Athletic fans had the chance, according to an advert in the program, to dine at The Eldon Grill or at The Pineapple Grill, where they could enjoy the “After the Match” menu: cream of tomato soup, fried bacon, and egg, tomato, and chips, cheese, and biscuits with tea, bread, and butter, all for 4/6 – 43p in current money!!
Wigan Athletic FA Cup Run Team
On Saturday, 9 January 1954, the Wigan Athletic FA Cup run team was Lomas; Lindsay, Parkinson; Lynn, Mycock, Banks; Butler, Livesey, Lomax, Lyon, and Hindle. They wore their standard kit: blue shirts with white sleeves and white shorts.
The Magpies team was Simpson; Batty, McMichael; Scoular, Brennan, Stokoe; Walker, Broadis, Monkhouse, Milburn, and Mitchell. They, of course, had their traditional black and white striped shirts with black shorts.
The referee was Mr. J T Williams from Woodthorpe in Nottinghamshire. The crowd of 52,222 remained the highest to watch Latics until the Autowindscreens Shield Final against Millwall at Wembley in 1999 (55,349).
For 27 minutes, Wigan Athletic had held on against an organized Newcastle United attack when an off-balance Dave Mycock tapped the ball to the feet of Ivor Broadis, who whacked the ball home. Then, Newcastle upped the pressure, and Latics hung on to go in at the interval just a goal down.
Latics seemed a changed side in the second half, and as their confidence grew, they took on the superstars.
Seven minutes into the second half, a long run from Lindsay was followed by a pass to Livesey, who saw a gap between Scoular and Stokoe (later to find fame as Sunderland manager) and played the ball through to Lomax.
He put the ball wide of Brennan, and Jackie Lyon put the ball in the net. Lindsay to Livesey to Lomax to Lyon. And Latics. One ‘ell of a goal.
The Wigan Athletic FA Cup run dream continued in the 75th minute when Scoular was caught well out of position, and Lomax cut the ball wide left to Hindle. He beat Batty and pushed the ball past Simpson for Livesey to score.
Perhaps unable to believe what was happening, Latics lost concentration, and Newcastle almost immediately equalized from a solo run by Jackie Milburn.
However, in the remaining 13 minutes, Lomax saved a Milburn volley, and Tommy Hindle had a “goal” for Latics disallowed for offside. So the final whistle went at 2-2, and the team returned to Wigan Wallgate station that evening to a crowd of 3-4,000 waiting to greet them as though they had won the Cup.
Other scores in the Cup that day included Bolton beating Liverpool 1-0, Man United going down 3-5 at Burnley, and in a storming match, Grimsby and Fulham, not teams generally connected with the concept of “storming match,” drew 5-5.
Other non-League teams also did well on the day. Headington (later Oxford United) held Stockport to a goalless draw, and Hastings shared six goals with Norwich. Both teams were in the old regionalized Third Division at the time. Newcastle United were the crème; de la crème.
Wigan Athletic FA Cup Run Dream Continues
The Wigan Athletic FA Cup run third round replay was four days later, on 13 January 1954. It got off to an unsporting start as Newcastle’s chairman, Stan Seymour, refused to let his star studded team change in Latics’ makeshift changing rooms and insisted they used the Corporation Baths instead.
He described the facilities at Springfield Park as “crude.” This was a very insensitive attitude as the Main Stand had been destroyed by fire a year earlier, and the supporters and directors had worked hard to gain the money to rebuild – work that was still going on.
The attitude of the “big clubs” to the rest of the footballing world and their vision of self-importance hasn’t improved, unfortunately.
Wigan Athletic fielded the same team that had done so well in Newcastle on Saturday, but the Magpies made several changes. Their team consisted of Simpson, Cowley, McMichael; Scoular, Brennan, Casey; White, Broadis, Keeble, Milburn, and Mitchell.
Massive Support For Non League Team
Springfield Park was packed with 26,000, with many more standing outside or hanging out of windows overlooking the ground, unable to get in.
The game started fast and furiously, but after 13 minutes, in a flashback to the first tie, a Dave Mycock clearance found a black and white shirt, and Keeble’s head met the cross ball into the box, and the visitors went a goal up.
After 34 minutes, the visitors extended their lead in a goalmouth scramble. White finally put the ball in the net with two shots already blocked.
Two goals up, and the visiting fans thought that the game was all over, but Livesey rounded a couple of defenders before passing to Lomax, who hit a left-foot shot past Simpson. Two-one down at half-time gave Latics the hope that an upset could still be on the cards.
Within minutes of the second half, controversy flared. Jackie Lyon lobbed the ball high into the area, and Newcastle keeper Ronnie Simpson caught the ball, but its momentum carried him at least a foot over the goal-line.
It’s Over The Goal Line
Seen by everyone except, of course, the referee, Mr. Williams, who waved “play on.” Who has ever come across the situation of a referee ruling in favor of a big team against the minnows? Unheard of, isn’t it?
The decision unsettled the Blues, and after 71 minutes, Jackie Milburn crossed for Ivor Broadis to head in Newcastle’s third.
Wigan Athletic scored another nine minutes from time when Lomax scored. Still, with chances at both ends in the dying minutes, the game ended with the First Division team winners against the Lancashire Combination upstarts.
But the men from Wigan Athletic had undoubtedly frightened the Magpies. As one paper said, “Fighting Wigan Nearly Make It.” The 1953-54 Wigan Athletic FA Cup run was over for another season. It would be until 2006 before the Latics would make its first FA Cup final.
Despite this glorious escapade, the Football League again closed ranks at the end of the season AGM, and Latics only polled two more votes than they had received the previous year. League football was to remain a dream for nearly a quarter century.
Newcastle United FA Cup Run
As for Newcastle United, they beat Burnley after a replay in the following Round and went out to eventual winners West Brom in the Quarter Final.
But the following season, they were back at Wembley. They beat Manchester City to lift the FA Cup for the sixth and last time in their history with a team that included ten players who had appeared against Wigan Athletic Third Round tie in January 1954.
At least the Latics can say they have one over their Tyneside rivals after winning its first FA Cup final in 2013.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!