Retro: Barnsley’s barnstorming FA Cup run

Barnsley lifting the cup
Barnsley lifting the cup
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This year’s FA Cup final teams have cost millions of pounds in transfer fees and the players demand six-figure sums in weekly wages.

But 100 years ago earnings were capped at £5 a week and teams could sell players for no more than £450. Even then, this was only relevant to the richer clubs.

Barnsley for the Cup

Barnsley for the Cup

Barnsley Football Club could not be labelled as such during the early 1900s, being a relatively young team establishing a foothold in Division Two, then the bottom league.

Therefore, the team’s FA Cup exploits of 1912 appear as a more impressive achievement, especially as the side was made up of young, local players and a few from other areas of Britain.

Barnsley entered the Football League in 1898. The team’s manager for the majority of this period was Barnsley-born Arthur Fairclough, who was also involved in day-to-day business matters at the club.

Barnsley’s finances for the first decade of the 20th century were quite precarious and Fairclough was largely responsible for keeping the side afloat.

While their league position rarely strayed from the mid to bottom half of the table, Barnsley had a good home record and increasingly became a strong cup side.

The team reached the quarter-finals in 1906 but were defeated by Woolwich Arsenal. Then, in 1910 Barnsley went all the way to the final, beating Blackpool, Bristol Rovers, West Bromwich Albion, Queen’s Park Rangers and Everton.

First Division champions Newcastle United awaited Barnsley at the Crystal Palace Grounds on April 23, 1910. Barnsley broke the deadlock on 37 minutes with a goal from Harry Tufnell but Newcastle equalised before the final whistle, taking the game to a replay.

However, the Tykes were undone by two goals in 10 minutes just after the start of the second half.

The following season, 1910-1911, was a disaster as the club had to apply for re-election to the Football League. The Cup Final team had been retained but injuries and poor performances saw the Barnsley side slip down the table.

The squad was strengthened during the close season and the first half of the 1911-1912 campaign saw the team do well in the league, leading to expectations of good progress in the FA Cup.

Birmingham City, Leicester Fosse and Bolton Wanderers were dispatched to set up a quarter-final with holders Bradford City. A marathon of matches ensued as the initial game, then two replays took place without any goals being scored.

In the third replay the score was 2-2 at the end of normal time and the completion of extra time was approaching when George Lillycrop smuggled the ball into the goal.

After beating Swindon Town in the semi-final, through another replay, Barnsley met Division One’s West Bromwich Albion at the Crystal Palace Grounds on April 20, 1912.

WBA team: Hubert Pearson, Arthur Cook, Frederick Buck, George Baddeley, Jesse Pennington, Alan Jephcott, Robert McNeal, Harry Wright, Robert Pailor, Sidney Bowser, Benjamin Shearman.

Barnsley: John Cooper, Philip Bratley, Archibald Taylor, John Downs, Robert Glendenning, George Utley, Charles Bartrop, Harry Tufnell, George Travers, George Lillycrop, James Moore.

There was a frenetic opening to proceedings. WBA had the best of the first 20 minutes as Barnsley’s defence struggled to cope with the Baggies forwards.

The Tykes managed to fashion a couple of attacks, with Lillycrop having a header from close range saved by Pearson, while Bartrop had a long-range effort stopped comfortably.

After the break Pearson was again equal to attempts from forwards Lillycrop and Moore. Tufnell hit the post and Lillycrop followed up but his shot struck the outstretched legs of Pearson and the ball fell to a defender who cleared the danger.

This pressure gave WBA an opportunity to counter attack but Shearman’s cross did not meet any of his teammates, who struggled to keep pace with him.

As time ran out both teams had chances to win the tie by a solitary goal.

Bartrop delivered inviting crosses for Barnsley’s forwards and Jephcott sent the ball into the side netting for WBA. But the final whistle sounded and a replay was set up at Bramall Lane on April 24, 1912.

The same teams were selected for the replay, which was Barnsley’s 12th game in the competition and twice the number they should have played at this stage.

Moore had the best chance for Barnsley in the first half, his shot demanding an excellent save from Pearson. Both Baddeley and Cook had attempts cleared off the goal line by WBA defenders.

A penalty was claimed against Barnsley for the use of a hand but the referee was not interested.

In the second half few shots were registered but WBA were able to come the closest to glory. Pailor’s rasping drive was blocked by Cooper and the ball had to be cleared by Glendenning.

Cooper was again the hero for Barnsley before normal time was concluded as he stopped a shot from Jephcott after the winger had made a dazzling run. He also stretched his fingertips to divert an attempt from Bowser.

In extra time WBA continued to press for the goal and a glorious Shearman cross was missed by three players supporting in the penalty area.

Barnsley came close at the other end as two successive strikes were blocked by defenders with Pearson out of his goal.

Only two minutes of the match were left when Tufnell made a direct run at goal from midfield. Beating defenders Pennington and Cook, he ran 50 yards and placed his effort into the far corner of the goal as Pearson came rushing out. There was no chance of coming back for WBA and the cup remained in Yorkshire for the second year running.

The trophy was presented to the team’s captain Archie Taylor by chairman of the FA Mr J C Clegg in front of the 38,555 spectators.

Taylor said upon receiving the cup: “I am sure that you will agree with me that Barnsley deserve what they have got today. We played very hard, so have West Bromwich.

“I thank you on behalf of this gift [laughter] - which we have won on behalf of the town of Barnsley.”

WBA captain Pennington said: “I congratulate Barnsley on their victory. I am very disappointed, as I know they are waiting fro the cup at West Bromwich.

“There is one thing I should like to compliment Barnsley upon… that is the spirit they have shown in the match, which is a great example to footballers, and also to the spectators who followed it.”

For an in-depth look at Barnsley FC in those days, readers are advised to look up Lifting the Cup: The Story of Battling Barnsley, 1910-1912 by Mark Metcalf and David Wood