Hooligans, Drunken players and champions - 1921-22

Yeovil and Petters United 1921-22

Scandal had rocked the town of Yeovil during the summer of 1921. Elsie Hayward, an unmarried seventeen year old lass, had found herself 'with child'. The Father she claimed was one Albert Singleton, sixteen years old that she been 'stepping out' with, young Albert denied ever being 'close' with the girl. After days of witnesses and headlines and none stop gossip, Albert, the judge decided that he was the Father, he would pay 6 shillings a week until the child was sixteen and £2 for birthing cost at the hospital!

Meanwhile at the Town Hall, the Yeovil and Petters United FC, AGM was packed to hear that the club now had a turnover well exceeding  £2000, and had now turned into a major business. However with the travelling expenses the move to Huish, the paying of players expenses and signing on fees, a profit of £80 was announced. It was quite a remarkable achievement when considering 26 years earlier they had been a club playing on a field at West Hendford with nothing more than a rope around it and seen as the little brother of the Rugby club. 

Playing in the Western League One had given the football loving public of Yeovil the chance to see clubs they would never have imagined seeing before - well their reserve teams. Reflected in the crowds flocking to Huish in their thousands. However, a problem had arisen, the big guns such as Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Cardiff City and Exeter had decided to up sticks and take their reserve sides and plant them into the Southern League. Leaving the Western League threadbare with just mainly provencial clubs. An urgent telegram was sent to the Southern League with a request to make an application to join. A reply immediately came 'Application too late, better luck next time - Bradshaw'. It meant the 1920-21 season would be played with less games against lesser teams, something that would bound to hit the clubs finances. In an attempt to balance this, friendlies would be searched for against class opposition and the Bristol Charity league would be entered. 

One bit of news that pleased all was that the kit for the season would revert back to the traditional Green and White stripe and put a welcome end to reports labelling the team 'the Lilly Whites.'

Four trial matches were arranged in a two week spell in August, an excercise that didn't produce much, the final match being mostly a professional v amateurs match with the same players from a season earlier. The money raised from admission fees for the trial matches going to the General Distress fund, for people struggling from the affects of the Great War - £9 being raised. 

Huish was the starting place for the 1921-22 season for the professional XI being warmly welcomed on their new Green and White striped shirts. Cardiff Corninthians, or more affectionately known as The Corries, had finished rock bottom of the Western League the season before, a reasonably easy game for the Glovers was anticipated. In a hotly fought match Yeovil twice took the lead but were pinned back to 2-2 at the end. Percy Nutland and Ted England scoring the Yeovil goals. The opening side for the season being;

Gregory, May, Day, Abbott, England, Potter, P. Nutland, Pilkington, Hayward, R. Nutland, Stidson. 

Stidson, the old Petters United player making his one and only appearance of the season. The Nutland brothers, Percy and Reg, were an interesting duo. Two of nine children, their Father Tom being a general Labourer. As children they would be described in today's parlence as 'tearaways', uneducated and left to their own devices, resulting in being in and out of the courts. In July 1900 Percy was ordered to have three strokes of the birch for stealing 53 apples valued at 3d. Later he was then sent to the Bath industrial school, a home for abandoned children. It was here that it is believed to have leant and homed his footballing skills. When returning to Yeovil and before being called up for War he was playing and scoring regularly for Petters United reserves in the Perry Street League. 

Percy Nutland in 1921

On the same day as the professional arm of the club were facing the Corries, the amateurs were having a day to forget on their first game away to Blandford. The charabanc they motored in broke down meaning the players having to walk the last part to the ground, arriving an hour late. Over 1000 Blandfordians lined the ropes to witness their team won 2-0. 

Johnny Hayward was now 34 years old, if opposition teams thought they'd see the best of him they were mistaken, in September 1921, Hayward scored an incredible 13 goals in just four matches. 

The football team of HMS Gibraltar was mored off Portland itching for a game of football, they turned up at Huish and gave a decent account of themselves before going down 6-1, Hayward helping himself to four goals to add to his tally. 

FA Cup draws had always seemed to send Yeovil to away matches in the Preliminary round, this season was to be the exception. Huish being the venue to take on Welton Rovers. Rovers had had the audacity to beat the Glovers 3-1 at Huish in their last match there. It was a match that was eagerly looked forward to by the  army of fans who packed the white grandstand. On the day, Yeovil were unplayable right from the off, Reg Nutland scoring twice and Hayward with another  hatrick. The 5-0 scoreline not remotely mirroring the superiority of the Glovers. 

When Branksome Gas, arrived at their small ground in Bournemouth for a standard Dorset League game against the Yeovil amateur team, one can only summise they were in shock to see the full Yeovil professional team turn up - Hayward and all! The match started with Branksome missing a few easy chances, 'Johnny' decided to give them a lesson in the art of goalscoring, he finished with five goals in a 7-2 win. 

Clutton Wanderers,from a small village near Bath were the next opponents in the FA Cup. Again at Huish. The Wanderers turned up with two unusual things, firstly three siblings playing for them, the Magg brothers and secondly a basket of pidgeons to let off to half and full time to let the villagers know the score. Yeovil soon found out that small village or not, Clutton were a strong well organised side, which reflected with them laying top of the Somerset Senior League. However by half time, Webb and Hayward (His 13th goal of the month) had scored and that's how it stayed until the end, one can only joke the pidgeons got home safely with the score. The local media has a novel illustrated approach in reporting the match. 

A very successful month for Johnny, unfortunately was not a good one for another fans favourite, Stan Abbott, whilst working, in one of the numerous Glove factories in the town, he had caught his hand in moving machinery and  'received a very bad and painful injury'

October highlighted the reality of playing in a weakend Western League when not a single Western League match was played, of course resulting in less revenue. 

Portland United visiting for a routine Dorset League match shouldn't have been out of the ordinary. Riding high in the league, The Islanders arrived with a large group of fans, not uncommon in those days in the Dorset and Somerset leagues. As matches go, it was a hotly contested one, end to end, exciting,  a match that had you in the edge of your seat, Portland twice taking the lead, with Yeovil each time pegging then back. Near the end, bad refereeing sparked off extraordinary scenes. Reg Nutland picked the ball up from the half way line and in a macey dribble scored at the 'Town End', much to the delight of the Glovers's fans. Referee, Mr Wheaden of Chard decided a foul had been committed on Nutland in the run for goal and amazingly disallowed the goal and gave a free kick to Yeovil. The decision caused outrage with fans coming onto the field of play to confront Mr Wheaden, he ordered them back with a 'Don't tell me about the game'. Finally order was restored. Swetmen took the free kick for Yeovil and in disgust deliberately shot miles over and wide. The match finish 2-2. All was not over though,some Yeovil fans were after blood and chose to target the Portland fans. Arthur Shortland, a Glovers supporter, attacked a Portland fan after the match outside of the Mermaid Hotel. Whilst the two men violently fought, a PC Myers appeared and in attempting to separate them was punched by Shortland, knocking his helmet off and giving him a black eye. For the offence, Shortland was sentenced to one months imprisonment with hard labour. 

Hanham Athletic in Bristol was visited in the next round of the FA Cup, so far the best FA Cup run the Glovers had experienced for ten years. When Yeovil and their fans arrived they were astonished to discover the pitch was little more than a field, not even roped off and uneven from one goal to the other. A brace by Johnny Hayward not being enough as the Glovers went down 3-2, with at times the Linesman being unable to make decisions as the fans were in front of him!

As leagues go, the Bristol Charity league could be classed as one of the pointless in history. A league with just three teams, Yeovil, Welton Rovers and Horfield United. Yeovil, of course entering in desperation to fill out the fixture list. Horfield United  were the first visitors to Huish. Intelligently, Yeovil used the opportunity to play a couple of trials, K. Lay from Bourton near Gillingham and the fast skillfully winger George Bruzas, previously with Bath City and Welton Rovers. Both players impressed. In Mr. Graydon, the Horsfield team possessed the fattest player ever to be seen on a Yeovil football field, although apparently very agile. Although the Horsfield players were vilified for their play acting and diving to gain free kicks - years ahead of their time. Alas, to no avail as another Hayward hattrick seeing the Glovers run out 4-2 winners. Lay and Bruzas were signed on after the match. 

After Chard Town had put paid to any success the amateurs had in their minds in the Somerset Charity Cup by winning 2-1. Another friendly was arranged at Huish against a young Bristol University side, who were congratulated on their manners, sportsmanship and ability. Yeovil winning 5-1.

After Johnny Hayward had completed his 5th hat trick of the season over Dorchester in early November in a 4-3 win at Huish, Western League football returned, when Welton Rovers came to Huish, looking for revenge for their FA cup defeat, they didn't get it, Hayward and Webb scoring in a 2-0 win. 

Plymouth Argyle were spending their first season as a Football league club making them one, if not the biggest team in the South West. Their reserves drew the second biggest crowd seen so far at Huish, the biggest had been a match in the summer when Bath City ladies played Plymouth Argyle Ladies, in an exhibition match that saw over 5000, pack Huish.  The reserve side of the Pilgrims were playing in the Southern League, the league Yeovil wished to enter, so a good test was had. On the day, Yeovil held on until two late goals from Jack and Deacon won the match for Argyle, the Committee were probably happier with the £80 gate reciepts .

Amazingly, even after playing only four matches in the Western League by the begginging of December, The Glovers were in second place after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Trowbridge Town, a trip to Welton Rovers at West Cleeve, potentially could see a  Yeovil win send them top. A disappointing 1-0 defeat put paid to that. Revenge was had a week later when the two sides met in the ever ridiculous Bristol Charity league, with its three teams competing. Even the football loving Yeovil public could see the futility of it, a small attendance saw Yeovil 3-0 winners. 

In comparison to the season before and the exceptional quality of games never before seen in the town, this season could not have contrasted more. Matches lacking in quality resulted in lower attendances with those attending bemoaning the players who at time looking like they didn't care or just going through the motions. 

The new year came and 1922 The Glovers travelled to Trowbridge, both going for the Western League Div 1 title, on a slippery wet pitch, Yeovil succumbed 3-1 and what looked like it their chance of league success. It was to be the only Western League match of the month, the rest of the month made up of Dorset and Somerset league matches  friendlies and the Bristol Charity Cup - hardly inspirational for the fans. 

Whilst the amateurs travelled to Taunton to take on Newton's and Taunton, the professionals were looking forward to an exciting friendly with a Bristol & District XI.However, turning up with just five players, with the other six players missing the train connection the match was abandoned. The Reserve side, who played at Westlands were quickly sent for to change the location of their match to Huish against Milborne Port. Not many bothered to hang around and watch! 

The season finally came alive in February, mainly through the return of Western League matches. First up came Weymouth, Yeovil giving a debut to new goalkeeper Treasure. Despite being one nil down at halftime, the consensus was the match was the Glovers for the taking, which the duly did with goals from Abbott and Hayward. A week later, Horsfield's ropeless pitch was visited once more. Hayward performed a masterclass scoring all four goals, as the Glovers went in 4-nil. The second half it was a defensive masterclass as despite continuous pressure the Glovers travelled home with another two points under their belt. Plainmoor, Torquay was next up, to face the Devonians reserves, again a hotly fought game, saw Percy Nutland score a simple tap in to take two more points back to Huish. However, to prove Hayward was indeed human he missed a penalty!

The amateur wing of the club had a problem against Clutton Wanderers at home in the Somerset senior league. With five players injured, five fringe players, from the reserve side were called up to play. In short, Yeovil were playing Yeovil District league players against top of the Somerset league. It showed, Clutton toyed with them before finishing 5-0 to the Wanderers. Unsportsmanlike behavior of sections of the Glovers fans towards their own players, rankled the Yeovil Committee, who took to the look press to show their disgust:

With crowds down on the previous season, fans it seemed were bemoaning the pricing structure for matches, wondering if the club was being run for sport or for profit. 

When Horfield turned up at Huish, Yeovil were laying third on the league with Trowbridge and Cardiff Corries above them, the advantage was Yeovil had games in hand on both of them. After the recent good run of form a fine crowd turned out to watch Yeovil and Horfield do battle battle for the fourth time that season, Yeovil winning all the three previous encounters. One thing for sure they must have hated the sight of Johnny Hayward, he'd scored eight goals against them in those three games. By the end of this match they hated him even, he'd scored another three, in a 4-2 victory. News filtered through that Trowbridge had also beaten Corrie, so the Glovers moved upto second. It was against Corrie that the Glovers travelled to next. 

Maybe the local press were being slightly hyperbolic 'Yeovil's greatest victory' was how the 2-0 result was greated back in South Somerset. A trip to Wales was never easy, to get a result even more so, however to get a victory in Wales in a top of the table clash maybe one could see why the victory was treated with so much joy. Haywards two goals sprung Yeovil to the top of the league, with still games in hand. 

A trophy was guaranteed after another trip to Welton Rovers saw Reg Nutland score in a 1-1 draw, resulting in the Glovers now winning the Bristol Charity Cup, a competition that was so futile that Welton and Horfield, the only two other teams in the 'league' gave up and didn't bother playing their last game. Not much celebration was done in the streets of Yeovil either. 

April arrived, as always a backlog of fixtures would see the club play thirteen games in a month, starting with back to back fixtures against Peasedown, three points out of four virtually guaranteeing Western League glory. 

'A carnival of Football' was advertised for the Easter period with three home friendlies over four days, cultimating in a six a aide tournament at Huish. All of which hoping raise funds. One of of the best amateur clubs in the country Dulwich Hamlet first arrived and gave the Glovers a footballing lesson by winning 5-0. 

Dulwich Hamlet 1921-22

After Hayward had knocked on a couple more in a 2-1 win against Exeter City Reserves, it was the turn of Great Eastern Railway FC to come down the tracks. Described, again like Dulwich as one of the best amateur teams in England with players from the Essex County team. Playing their third game in four days, the Glovers won 2-1  in front of 2500.

Another 2500, turned up against Torquay United reserves, all coming to witness Yeovil becoming Western League champions, they were not disappointed. A fierce hotly contested match that saw the referee warn several players saw the Hayward and Lay, clinch the title. Depleted it may have been for the season, however still it was a prestigious title, a far cry from the days where the Somerset Junior Cup was seen as success. Over 400 went by train and 100's other by motor to see the last Western League fixture away to Weymouth. Another brace for Hayward saw score his 60th goal of the campaign in a 2-0 defeat of the Terras, an extraordinary feat.

To end the season a friendly, advertised as a benefit match was organised against Runners-up, Trowbridge Town, the match which the Wiltshire Boys won 1-0 was secondary, the 1700 turning up to see Captain Hayward receive the two trophies the club had fought hard for during the season. Hayward accepting three trophy and sent up full back and another local lad, Bill Day to pick up the Bristol Charity Cup. Speaking to the crowd, Hayward said how proud he was and congratulated Trowbridge on being second. With the sounds of 'Auld Lang Syne' sang by all, it was all over. 

Johnny Hayward and Bill Day accept the trophies 

It would seem that plenty of cider was supped in the evening, resulting in embarrassment being brought to the cup. At the Cow Inn, Ilchester, a policeman heard strong language coming from the rear of the pub. On investigation he found five extremely drunken men, amongst them Yeovil players, Reg and Percy Nutland. The five attacked the officer whilst in the line of his duty, at one time all five on top of him raining down punches. After assistance from the public, Reg and Percy were arrested and found themselves before the bench the next day. Both being fined £5 or six weeks in prison. They took the fine! 

Happy days!


Popular Posts