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DoDTS

The PL League Boss⭐
Joined
Apr 28, 2006
Messages
8,899
Location
PL Headquarters Hullbridge
Love them or hate them it's another one of my yarns from years gone by. All the facts are true, many did travel to Wembley for the first Cup -Final. Only the names have been changed etc,

WEMBLEY – AN UGLY SITATION

There was no television in 1923, and therefore there was not an abundance of football matches to watch each weekend. Neither was there radio, no being glued to Radio Essex for Southend matches, and no football results at 5.00. In 1923 if you watched to see a game you had to go and watch a match live, and see the other results in Saturday night’s classified papers. Hence when there was a national event close by the reaction then was different to what you would expect now.

Saturday 14th April 1923
Southend United played out a goal-less draw against Brighton at the Kursaal, and while the match was hardly enthralling the point gained was enough to mean that the threat of relegation was now very remote if not mathematically certain. The conversion was varied.

Percy Marshall stated “I have it from a reliable source that Southend United Reserves will join the London Combination from next season instead of the Southern League”. “that’s great news” added Lee Smithers “the visits of the reserve sides of Spurs, Chelsea, West Ham, the Arsenal etc should prove big attractions” “So it will be us with the other eleven London clubs playing each other four times” added Pablo Yeoman. “This is quite an achievement for the club” added Pablo Fitz.

However Tinkabel Smyth was not so impressed “I have inside information that Burnley the Lancashire First Division Club have had eyes on Jimmy Evans for some time and they are regularly watching him”. “He is such a popular player, a Welsh international and our leading goalscorer last year despite being a defender” added Kristabel Fogg.
“The club will have to sell him” replied Tinkabel “The directors require money to face the heavy outlay of the close season and with a loss of about £5,000 last season they must reduce the heavy overdraft at the bank. This fact and this alone will induce the club to part with Evans”.
Anabel Moyet added “its sad but I’m all cried out over it”

Young curly haired Arthur Barratt joined in “I have more bad news, I am so incensed at the decision of the Football Association to exempt Southend only to the fourth qualifying round of the English Cup next season”.
“I am afraid we are not and never have been in the football League’s favourite circle” added Michael “From the beginning of the club we have been penalised, for instance when despite winning the second division of the Southern League Bradford Park Avenue were elected instead of us”.
“This still hurts” added Ferdinand Eastwood.

The big question of the day was what match to watch the following Saturday. The first team were at Brighton but with just three games to go and nothing to play for this didn’t seem too attractive. “The reserves are at home next week” chirped in Macbeth Ricee, but as he said this the board went round the ground with the final score of Brighton Reserves 8 Southend Reserves 2. That didn’t seem very attractive either.
“Its the Cup final next Saturday” added Albert Crickson “the new Wembley ground is going to be opened for the first time”.
“An Essex side is playing as well, West Ham” added Frank McNasty.
“Also David Jack who was brought up in Southend, and son of our first manager will be playing for Bolton” added Albert. Many thought this match the best choice for the next Saturdays entertainment. The relationship between Southend and West Ham were good thanks to goodwill of waived transfers, memories of old Southern League derbies but mostly as West Ham were considered another Essex side

Saturday 28th April 1923
The morning newspapers on the day of the match reported that around 5,000 fans were travelling from Bolton and that they were expected to be joined by "at least 115,000 enthusiasts from London and other parts of the country”. The easy accessibility of the stadium by public transport and the fine weather were also factors which contributed to the enormous crowd. Tickets could be bought in advance but also you could pay for admission on the day.

Anabel, Tinkerbel and Kristabel had bought tickets and were quite pleased with themselves as they would have good seats and not have to leave so early. Albert Crickson, Frank McNasty, Lee Smithers and Samuel Peters were going after they had finished work in the City at lunchtime, Macbeth Ricee and his chum Stan Collyless wanted to be as early as possible while Percy Marshall, Michael, Ferdinand Eastwood and the curly haired Arthur Barratt were travelling from Southend mid-morning.

The gates were opened at 11:30am as advertised, three and a half hours before the match was due to begin, and Macbeth and Stanley joined the orderly flow into the stadium and were amongst the first ones in and picked their spots for an ideal view of the pitch.

At 1.00 pm Percy, Michael, Ferdinand and Arthur arrived in Olympic Way, however, a vast number of people were pouring towards the stadium, the nearer you got to the stadium the worse it got but when they reached the turnstiles they paid their money and were admitted to the ground. The scene inside was chaotic London battalions occupied all the unoccupied seats. They were an ugly determined lot, made up of some of the boys from Canning Town, Custom House, Tidal Basin etc and any remonstrance against them was met by abuse and vile threats. The situation looked extremely ugly at this point and many of our heroes were wishing they were back at the Kursaal. Organisation within the stadium was poor, and the stewarding useless, officials in and around the stadium seemed to know nothing. Spectaors were not directed to any specific area, and the tiers in the lower half of the stadium filled up much faster than those higher up. As the numbers built up spectators in the lower tiers had to climb the fences to escape the crush and overflowed onto the pitch itself. As the crowds outside the stadium continued to grow, local police stations were mobilized, but by the time officers arrived the crowd was too large for them to take any effective form of action. The decision was made to close the gates at 1:45pm. Although the information was relayed to various railway stations, thousands of people continued to arrive and mass outside the gates.

It was shortly after this time that Albert, Frank, Lee and Samuel arrived, the gates were shut but unattended and there was a continual stream of people climbing over the wall and gaining admission for free. Our quartet had little time to think they were forced forward by the weight of the crowd and found themselves being pulled over the wall. Inside the ground again they were carried forward by the flow of the crowd and it was an ugly situation with mob law and much cowardly ruffianism.
“It doesn’t look good” said Albert “people could be seriously hurt here today”.
“I know” said Frank but we couldn’t get out if we tried. To try and fight your way against the crowd would be suicide”. They had little choice but go with the crowd onto the pitch.

Anabel, Kristabel and Tinkerbel arrived at Wembley about 2.30 but were advised at the station to go home, and a quick look outside confirmed that this was the only sensible course to take, “perhaps we can get the second half of the reserve match at the Kursaal?” said Kristabel. “Only you” said Anabel “ would suggest that”, but they reluctantly returned home. The roads around the stadium were blocked and in fact the Bolton players were forced to abandon their coach a mile from the stadium and make their way through the crowds.

To put it mildly, the whole thing was a bloody shambles The crowd was officially reported as 126,047, but estimates of the actual number of fans in attendance range from 150,000 to over 300,000. At one point it seemed impossible that the match would ever be able to start, but that when King George V arrived, the mood of the crowd changed. After enthusiastically singing “God Save the King” the crowd began to assist the authorities in clearing the playing area.

The white (actually grey) horse clearing the pitch and the match are well recorded elsewhere, with ex-Southend schoolboy scored for Bolton after two minutes. Hundreds were treated for injuries, ninety taken to hospital, but in all honesty it’s surprising it wasn’t a lot worse, it could have been a massive disaster. The accusations made against the crowd only try and hide the fact that an event had been put on which totally under estimated the attendance and were unable to control those who were there.

On smaller scales virtually every ground in the country had similar problems, despite claiming the Kursaal could hold 23,000 what would have happened if 23,000 or more did turn up? The one lasting consequence of this day was that every Cup final after this has been all ticket.

At Brighton, Southend lost by an only goal, an own goal at that, while at the Kursaal the reserves won 2-1.

Footnote:
Good news for Anabel, Kristabel and Tinkerbel, the FA refunded 10% of the total gate money to fans who had pre-purchased tickets but were unable to reach their assigned seats.
 
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