Home made kits, political spies, Aston Villa and lost 15-0 Season 1901-02
A revelation appeared at the AGM of 1901, the first team, even though a kit was issued had a tendency to wear their own home made shirts! Maybe to save the shilling that the committee had ordered the players to pay towards the cost the previous year. It had to stop they were told forcibly! Mr Newton the chairman of the meeting offered to pay half a Guinea for new shirts which was happily accepted. The shirts to be green body with white collars and white cuffs.
Mr. Arthur Newton
Despite the awful disappointing season, the club had managed to increase profit announcing that £54 now lay in the bank, news greeted with applause all around!
Through none fulfillment of fixtures and Casuals officials not attending meetings, the Dorset Football league had decided to not accept the clubs application for the season. Something the club saw as disgraceful. They would look further and despite being invited to play in the strong Bristol league, the club opted to apply for the Wiltshire version. Also playing in a comical Somerset Senior league with just four teams in it, Bridgwater, Street, Glastonbury and the Casuals.
Major James Kelly had decided to step down as President with the reason he now lived too far away in Langport. His request for resignation was declined!
An awful season-opening friendly match against Weymouth at Pen Mill, was witnessed by few. Just as well as the they saw the Casuals slump to a 6-1 defeat. Although it was around this time questions were beginning to be asked of Weymouth's behind the scenes financial activities.
Chippenham, the previous seasons runners-up was the venue for the Casuals opening league fixture, their first in the Wiltshire league. A good performance didn't reap the just rewards going down 3-1. Leonard Vassall, top goalscorer the season before, scoring for the Glovers. The opening line up being :
Palmer, Bond, Jourdain, Mytius, Vincent, Stone, Allen, Cook, L. Vassell, Clark, Gard
The continental sounding Mr. Jourdain became quite a mystery in Yeovil. He had moved to the town from London a year earlier. Quickly enrolling into all the sporting clubs in the town. It quickly transpired that he was sent from The Conservative Party to run the local candidates future election campaign. Once, being caught incognito spying at a Labour party meeting in the town! It was later discovered he wasn't from London at all but from the North of England. A couple of years later he upped and left the town in the middle of the night and was never heard of again!
Herbert Cook, playing upfront for Yeovil when his natural position was as a goalkeeper. Thst would soon change though. Herb Cook, who had started with the 'B' team, the third string of the Casuals, would go on for many seasons as the keeper, ending up with County appearances.
More disappointment came the Casuals way when Warminster deservedly beat them 2-0 at Pen Mill in front of a large crowd. The over-excitable Warminster press treating the victory by hyperbolically declaring "our boys beat one of the best amateur teams in the country on their own field"
Mid-October saw the club start their FA Cup campaign, or as it was labelled then, The English Cup. Trowbridge away had been drawn out of the hat at the FA offices in London. That wasn't to the Casuals liking though. A quick telegraph was despatched to the Flower show ground, Trowbridge FC's headquarters. Yeovil offering them £5 and the bait of higher gate revenue. It worked!
It worked out at a pound per goal for Yeovil as they sent the Wiltshire club back home on the back of a 5-0 defeat. Big Bob Wyatt, centre forward farmer from Maiden Newton helping himself to four goals, in his first appearance of the season. It was a new slimmed down version of Big Bob, he'd been on some fitness regime. He was now only seventeen stone!
The victory over Trowbridge gave Yeovil a first in their short history. Being drawn away to Southern League Swindon Town, it would be their first professional opposition in a competitive match.
The Casuals visited the County Ground, Swindon on November 2nd 1901. Accompanied by a few hundred fans, who took advantage of cheap rail tickets to the match. 2000 attended, the Swindon media arrogantly blaming the low gate on "the low quality of the opposition on show "
Swindon were good though, Yeovil never came close as Swindon romped easily home 4-0. The Swindon crowd, with more humility than the local media, applauded Herb Cook the Yeovil keeper off the field at the end. His heroics had kept the score down to single figures.
Out of the English cup, a week later it was the turn of the the FA Amateur Cup. During the summer Wells City and some ex members of the Glastonbury team had got together chucked their dwindling finances into the pot and decided to form a new side, Avalon Rovers. Avalon Rovers finding themselves run ragged at Pen Mill returning back on a 7-0 defeat, Ewens replacing Big Bob, scoring a hat-trick. Incidently, it was the first time in the media reports that the club were referred to as The Glovers.
Casuals didn't have long to wait until the next round, as a week after Chippenham Town, arrived at Pen Mill. Also giving Yeovil the chance of an early revenge for their defeat in their opening league match. At 2-0 down at half time, revenge was certainly not on the table. After 'lemons were sucked' Yeovil quickly scored in the second half. Only for Chippenham to restore their two goal order fifteen minutes from time. All looked lost. Young Ewens a product of the A team, gave the faithful fans hope, scoring a spectacular shot. Two minutes later it was all square, Leonard Vassall anticipated a backpass and rounded the keeper. The large crowd being sent into raptures. It was now end to end stuff, Chippenham coming close several times but kept out by the ever improving Herb Cook. With just two minutes on the clock another youth product Busfield, sent the Hotel End net bulging with a screamer of a shot, which caused " scenes of joy never seen on a football field in the town"
Chippenham Town weren't happy though, they'd obtained a reputation for looking for reasons to protest whenever they lost. True to form, they complained that firstly the pitch was two yards too short and that the referee Mr Stacey from Street was incompetent. Their appeal was thrown out immediately, the rules stated the time for pitch length complaints were before the match. As for the referee, Mr Stacey was one of Somerset's finest with many years experience. Yeovil would be at home to Whiteheads of Weymouth in the next round.
Confidence was high before the Whiteheads game. Two wins on the bounce. Firstly over Bath City at home in the Wiltshire league, 4-2 with Beare bagging all four in a game that ended in darkness due to the late arrival of the Bath City team. Secondly over a very strong Street side 2-1, an own goal near the end continuing The Casuals one hundred per cent record in the Somerset league.
Whiteheads of Weymouth were a different proposition though, a team that even though a factory side, had progressed well in the Amateur Cup the year before. Also being considered one of the best sides in Dorset. However like Weymouth questions were starting to arise about their off-field financial activities and how it was gained .
The biggest crowd of the season piled through the iron Pen Mill entrance gates to witness another Casuals victory. Regrettably it wasn't to be. The Torpedo factory players scored after thirty minutes at the Camborne End. Yeovil, attacked relentlessly in the second half but the Weymouth side held form and returned back down South with a solitary goal victory. It had been the clubs best run so far though in the cup.
The following week saw the Casuals away to Devizes in what can only be considered one of the most bizarre games in their history!
Eleven men set off from Pen Mill for the trip North all looking forward to the battle ahead. They reached Trowbridge, and with time to spare went for a cup of tea and dare I say a bite to eat before catching the connecting train to Devizes. What or how it happened is not documented, however the team were split up, and five made it onto the train to Devizes - six didn't, in some confusion they were on the Bath train, heading in the wrong direction.
Less than an hour later, five red faced Yeovil players turned up at the Quakers Walk ground. Explaining their predicament, they asked to have six men from Devizes, from the well attended crowd, and play a friendly. Devizes refused. The next plan was for Captain Fred Bond to give the points to Devizes, Devizes explained that no rule in the Wiltshire FA handbook allowed this. They would have to play 5 v 11! Also a few hundred had paid their admission fee and wanted to see a match.
So, it came to pass five Yeovil men, entered the field to take on eleven of Devizes. The five being Bond, Jourdain, L. Vassell, Busfield and Bradford. No keeper, one defender and four attackers!
What happened for the next ninety minutes is pretty well imaginable. The lads tried their hardest, but at nine-nil down at half-time, the match which had started in mild curiosity had turned into a fiasco. The second half became no better, it became such a farce that some of the Devizes defenders wore long coats to keep warm, even the Devizes goalkeeper scored - twice! The relief when Mr Major, the referee blew his final whistle must have been immense! By that time most spectators had left out of total disinterest. One hopes that when they reached Trowbridge on the return journey home, their team mates were waiting for them!
The traditional Boxing day match saw the Glovers away to Calne Town, a match that they obviously didn't fancy as they turned up at Calnes's Recreational Ground with seven reserves and four fringe players. A Christmas present was duly given, a 4-1 for Calne being their only win all season!
1902, started with both sad and happy news. The sad part being that Harris Yeoman an Ex-Casual player who had just two months before had emigrated to South Africa to work for their police force had died from scarlet fever. He was twenty-two! In contrast, Gilbert Vassell the crowds hero, became married. A large crowd gathering outside the Vincent Street church to wish the happy couple well. The club presenting them with a silver rose bowl.
More news being that the Yeovil Thursday team, affiliated with the club, had organised a smoking concert without the clubs permission. It made a loss which the parent club had to cover. A war of words broke out in the local press. The upshot being that the Thursday club was disbanded with the secretary dramatically proclaiming " Sir, we will take our £2 from Yeovil Casuals that we invested and buy hockey stocks with it and take up that pastime" and they did!
On the football front though, the year started finely with three wins on the bounce, once over Bridgwater and twice over a Bath City. The second Bath match a 4-0 win away in the Somerset Challenge Cup. A match that saw Sheridon the former Wells player and County captain turning out for the Glovers.
Chippenham Town, returned to Pen Mill still smarting after their FA Amateur Cup exit by the Glovers earlier in the season. 'The Signallers' as the press called them, were also top of the league with Warminster breathing down their neck. Glovers fans not forgetting the Chippenham tactics of trying to appeal against the Cup defeat, let their team know it as soon as they turned up at Pen Mill. Verbally abusing all the Wiltshire men from the station to the hotel.
The match was heated, full blooded with Chippenham taking a first half lead, which they held onto until the final whistle. Beare of Yeovil and Smith of Chippenham sparked "unpleasant scenes that we wish not to be repeated". Going to challenge the ball together, Smith punch Yeovil's Beare clean on the jaw, in front of the packed Pen Mill stand. The referee declaring he never saw the incident. Glovers's fans, decided to administer their own justice and en-masse rushed the field attacking Smith. Forcing the other Chippenham players to run for the hotel and the Yeovil players calling for calm whilst trying to protect the now bloodied Smith from a more severe beating.
Mr Major and Chippenham reported the incident to the Wiltshire FA, who in grand 'Pass the buck' style, kicked it to the Somerset FA, as Yeovil were technically a Somerset side. The Somerset FA, called for posters to be displayed in the ground warning of Spectators behavior and the consequences of further violence.
The second round of the Challenge Cup was next away to Peasedown St John on the 29th February. Causing slight logistical problems as the club was also scheduled to play at Warminster on the same day. Duly the reserves were waved off at Pen Mill station whilst the first team, seeing silverware in their eyes headed to Bath to play the miners of Peasedown.
A 4-1 defeat for the reserve side at now top of the table Warminster was not unexpected. The 3-0 win at Peasedown, sending the Casuals into the semi-final was seen as vindication for the decision. Warminster and Peasedown both sent in protest! Warminster for the fact a second string turned up to play them. Peasedown's objection slightly more comical . The Glovers had played in shirts not of all the same colour! Both complaints were dealt with another caution to the club.
Clevedon, the Glovers opponents in the Somerset Challenge cup semi-final, were a fine side. Considered the best team in Somerset, although playing in the Bristol District league and flying high. A strong Yeovil line up started the match with the wind against them and the strong sun in their eyes, Clevedon taking full advantage of the conditions. After twenty minutes the 'Seasiders' had found the net three times with no response. Yeovil pressed hard though and after 60 minutes had crawled it back to 3-2. Clevedon mostly on the defensive, broke away for 4-2, with Tommy Stone scoring near the end. The cup run was over amongst massive disappointment to all connected with the club.
The Somerset FA in it's wisdom handed Pen Mill their prize fixture of the season. Somerset County v Aston Villa, one of the best known and strongest teams in the country. To add extra crowd draw and revenue the Somerset FA included no less than five Casuals players in the team.
The largest crowd ever seen at Pen Mill turned up on Easter Monday 1902. Estimated to be 3000 or more. Villa, included in their ranks, England's goalkeeper Billy George, who just two weeks previously had kept goal for England in the Ibrox disaster match. A match that saw a stand collapse with the deaths of twenty-five Scottish fans. A collection was held at the game rasing a generous amount.
Of course, Villa filled with international and talent were too good and romped home six-nil. At the end the Somerset lads were said to be out on their feet and the Villians hardly sweating. The Somerset FA more than happy with the £50 taken at the gate.
Aston Villa in 1902, the year they played at Pen Mill
Any chance of honours in the Wiltshire league were exintinquished by defeats against Bradford-on-Avon and Chippenham United. Though the Somerset League title was just one win away, as Bridgwater arrived at Pen Mill without a win all season.
As they had been beaten 10-0 at Pen Mill the previous season they were looking to do better this time. The fully accomplished their aim, they lost only 10-1 this time. Big Bob Wyatt helping himself to four, Beard a hat-trick, Leonard Vassall, Tommy Stone and White up from the Reserves scoring.
The large crowd gathered in front of the main stand to celebrate Captain Bond collect the Somerset Cup. Presented by the President of the club Major Kelly. Obviously with such a small league the Somerset FA not bothering sending officials. It was a hollow championship win with just four teams taking part. Silverware was silverware though and again pronounced Yeovil Casuals as the champions of the county. The team were pulled by horse and cart through the town, to only moderate crowds compared to other victorious years. With that the cup was placed in a High Street Jewellers for passers-by to admire.
With the Somerset league safely in the jewellers window, Yeovil completed its Wiltshire league commitments. Impressively winning 4-0 and 3-0 against Calne and and then Melksham.
Just one game remained!
Devizes turned up at Pen Mill, still with a good chance of being crowned Wiltshire league champions. They needed a win at Yeovil to do it, and be champions on goal difference. Of course, the 15-0 won against the five man Glovers back in December being the difference! Yeovil wanted revenge and what better revenge than killing of Devizes championship hopes. Both sides putting out their strongest elevens.
A crowd of over 1500, watched an exciting, clean and well contested match. However, two goals in the second half by Gilbert Vassall and young White did it for the Glovers. Both goals being met with deafening applause. Revenge was definitely a dish best served cold, the title went to Warminster.
With that the season was over, a season that could be said was one of the most exciting at Pen Mill. Especially compared to the awful dullness and displays of the season before. The nets were taken down, the goal post were removed and the club ended the season with a touch of romance. They organised a midnight dance on the pitch lit by candles all around and music from the local Petters brass band. It poured down! Conjuring up images of penquin suited footballers and long gowned women, dancing the tango on the eighteen yard box in the torrential rain!