The Earl, falling crossbars and Fulham. 1891-92

Summer of 1891 had passed relatively  peacefully in Yeovil, the workers were getting used to cheap train travel and took advantage of cheap away days to the coast and to the more historically minded to Cheddar Caves. The new brown footballs bought last season had been thoroughly cleaned and stored away and the only mention of football in the local press being advertisements for Elliman's Universal embrication, soothing all aches and pains and endorsed by no other then Forfar Athletic football club - it gave them full satisfaction apparently.

Mr. Walker the club Secretary, duly posted the now accustomed advertisement announcing the AGM of Yeovil Football club to take place on the 31st October 1891, at Mr Maynard's ever growing restaurant of course, who by now had added sausage maker to his Curriculum Vitae. 

Officers soon elected, George Troyte-Bullock happily accepting the Presidency again. Then the appointing of the Vice-presidents. Which read like a Who's who of South Somerset  society.

Top amongst them was, Frederick Lambert, or to give him his full title, The Right Honourable Frederick Lambert, Lord Cavan the 9th Earl of Cavan, MP, MPC, DL, JP. He was also a member of Queen Victoria's Privy Council. One can only hope that his conversations with her Majesty touched upon Yeovil's Somerset Senior league prospects for the 1891-92 season.

The 9th Earl of Caven and Yeovil football club Vice-president 
With nobility amongst its increasing ranks, the Association side of Yeovil Football club would embark on it's first season in competitive football by entering the newly formed Somerset Senior league. Now, in these days of globalisation and easy travel (pre-Coronaviris), this was a very big step to take. Extra travel, more matches equalling extra expenditure. Taking them to far flung places such as Burnham-on-Sea and Clevedon, whilst also fitting in quite a few friendlies along the way, especially one special one at the end of the season. Alas, the club was up for the challenge ahead, again in all their all white shirts and knickers.

One other agreeable change was that the Cowfield pitch had gone after just one season. The club returned to its old pitch  , under new ownership of Mr Farley and leased by Mr Leach . For the first time the club had also installed changing rooms for the players, a welcome addition.

Burnham away was to be the opening fixture on the 10th October 1891. A match that saw Burnham, pre-player registration days, pull in a ringer, C. J Hook of Bridgewater, who duly delivered scoring five goals in Burnham's 6-1 victory. Palmer scoring Yeovil's consolation goal. Not the best of starts, although again Yeovil argued that the pitch was not desirable for football, a meadow that was far too small and grass far too long.

Yeovil's side for the opening match was

S.Gibbs, S.Sugg, F. Bond, A. Dennard, E. Palmer, G. Jones, W. Walker, H. Kynaston, Arnold, F. Fone, and A Dolbear

Sugg, surprisingly had been replaced in goal by Gibbs, surprising when one considers that he went five matches at the end of the previous season without conceding. Fone and Kynaston had played for the second XI, which had started the year before, but playing just a handful of games. Fred Bond, still only nineteen years old was now the captain.

Glastonbury were welcomed as the first match at home in the Somerset League list. Torrential rain affected the pitch badly and Mr Maynard, taking a break from sausage making and restauranting and the match referee, for the fees is my guess, decided that the pitch was unplayable. Both sides  then made the extraordinary decision to play on it  anyway in a friendly.

The Victorian football comedy capers continued two weeks later when Fosters School came to Hendford to play the reserve side . Twenty minutes in, and with Yeovil 2-0, the Fosters Umpire (Linesman) decided to use a whistle to blow-up when he gave an offside decision. Causing confusion with the referee, William Bond, now mostly retired from his Yeovil playing days, who questioned his actions in turn Fosters questioned Bond's legitimacy to referee and walked off, game over!

A footballing disaster, is the only way to describe the next couple of months, heavy defeats to Street at home with the players ankles deep in mud with sawdust thrown on it. Then those old foes Wells, a game that saw the Wells keeper go the whole match without touching the ball, in a 4-0 win for the Cathedral boys.

Mr. Hockey the groundsman had an even worse disaster, whilst putting up the goalpost before a game against Street, the crossbar fell down on top of him, breaking his arm. Dr Colmer was called for who duly set the broken bone on the spot!

In mid-November, Yeovil lobbied the Town Council for major repairs to be made to the well worn road leading to the pitch, arguing that spectators were turning away rather than face the experience of entering it. Councillor Leach had obtained financial commitment from all landowners connected to the road, all had agreed to assist payment. That is except the Great Western Railway who blankly refused, calls were made to stop traders using the GWR as a boycott, they paid immediately.

In more positive news, Yeovil had their first players selected for the Somerset County team, Mr Fox and Reid, which was considered a great honour for the club. Making their debuts in a 4-3 defeat to Wiltshire at Swindon.

A week before Christmas, 19th December 1891, the first ever Yeovil v Weymouth match took place in beautiful weather, perfect for football at West  Hendford. A fixture that in later years for fans of both teams was to be the match of the season. It didn't go well for Yeovil, even with arguably it's strongest side, Weymouth won 7-0! Years later, Weymouth were to face the ultimate humiliation by having its registration stripped by the FA, more about that another time though.

The disappointing season drifted on, defeat after defeat in both league and friendlies, four matches in a row without even registering a goal from the end of January to the beginning of March.

Meanwhile, two new sides had started up in the town. Two sides who although having very different outlooks on life, would affect the course of Yeovil Football club forever just three years later . Congregational Swifts FC, were from the popular Congregational Church in Princess Street. In stark contrast the other Yeovil Rovers FC, formed from the locals of the well frequented Pall Tavern in Silver Street.

The awful league campaign came to an end with a welcome 3-0 win at home over Clevedon, a win meaning Yeovil escaped being joint bottom with Burnham, Yeovil being the only side they'd recorded a victory over all season that on the opening day. Registering just two wins from ten games in the league, the over growing footballing public of the town needed something to cheer them up.

As end of season friendlies go, the well trodden one of Kingston school was a thing of the past, Fulham Football club, holders of the London Observer Cup had been invited to travel down on Easter Monday 1892. Which they happily accepted.

Despite heavy rain, which saw the large number of supporters seeking shelter in the welcoming Pavilion, despite Fulham arriving two men short, despite H Arnold the Yeovil forward failing to appear even though selected, a good match was enjoyed by all with Fulham running out winners 3-1.

Fulham FC 1891

The historic Swan Inn, today's Swan theatre in the town was chosen for the venue for the Annual club dinner. Interestingly noted were some of the attendees, one of which was Mr C. J Hook of Bridgwater, who'd scored five goals against the club at the beggining of the season for Burnham. Mr Walker, the much liked and admired club secretary informed those gathered that the club had now two-hundred paying members, including the Vicar of St John's Church, which was greeted by rapturous applause from all around the room . Also informing that the club, despite all the extra travelling had reported a profit of £8 3s 9d. In spite of the disastrous Somerset League campaign the club being in profit causing all to consider the season a complete success and the rugby and Association sides had never been closer, something that we will see in the future would not last for much longer.

The usual round of toast were made, including magnanimously "to the ladies" and with that another season in the history of Yeovil football club was put to bed, some behind the scenes were restless though!

Happy days!

* for more seasons and stories check the archive 


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