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A Look Back At The First Ever Football World Cup!

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When was the First World Cup played?  1930?  No, 1909.

Who were the first winners of the World Cup?

Uruguay?  No.  Brazil? No.  Italy? No.  Not even the Germans could claim to have won that title.

The first winners of World Cup were a team of part-time players representing England. West Auckland F.C.

The idea for the tournament was dreamt up by a chap named Sir Thomas Lipton creator of the Lipton tea brand.  Born in Glasgow, Lipton was a keen yachtsman and regularly competed in the America’s Cup.  In 1905 he donated a trophy for the Copa Lipton, a competition between Uruguay and Argentina, on the condition both teams were made up of only native players.  The tournament was contested annually between 1905 and 1929 and has been played infrequently since, with the last meeting in 1992.

In 1909 Lipton was awarded the Grand Order of the Crown of Italy and responded by presenting a trophy for an international football tournament.  Back then football was an emerging sport and it was decided the countries to take part would be Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain with Italy hosting the tournament. The FA refused to be associated with it and declined the offer to send a team.  Lipton was desperate for Britain to be represented and sought about finding a replacement.

There are many theories as to how an amateur colliery team from Durham were chosen but the most credible seems to be that an employee of Lipton’s happened to be a referee in the Northern League and is thought to have been instrumental in asking West Auckland to take part.  Many of the players pawned their possessions to raise enough money to get the team to Italy.

One of the more amusing stories surrounding their inclusion was that Lipton wanted to send Woolwich Arsenal to Italy and sent an instruction to his secretary to “contact W.A.”.  However, at the time Woolwich Arsenal were not the famous club they later became, having only just been promoted from the Second Division and so this story would seem to be purely apocryphal.

The four teams to compete in the inaugural tournament were

ITALY: Torino XI (made up of players from Juventus and Torino)
GERMANY:  Stuttgarter Sportfreunde
GREAT BRITAIN: West Auckland.

The competition kicked off on 11th April 1909 and West Auckland shocked the Germans by beating Stuttgart, 2-0.  Then the hosts were knocked out as Winterthur beat Torino XI, 2-1.  To avoid the disappointment of travelling all that way just for one match, a match for Third Place was arranged.  Torino XI beat Stuttgart, 2-1.

So to the Final, played on 12th April 1909 between West Auckland and FC Winterthur.  The Swiss side had won the League twice in the previous three seasons and were expected to win comfortably.  But West Auckland was awarded a penalty after just 6 minutes and their captain, Bob Jones coolly converted it.  Barely two minutes later Jock Jones made it 2-0 and the miners were able to control the game to make that the final score.

West Auckland: Jimmy Dickinson, Rob Gill, Jack Greenwell, Bob Jones, Tom Gill, Charlie “Dirty” Hogg, Ben Whittingham, Douglas Crawford, Bob Guthrie, Alf “Tot” Gubbins, Jock Jones, David “Ticer” Thomas, Tucker Gill

West Auckland, an amateur team from Durham, had become the unlikely winners of ‘the first World Cup’.

They were invited to defend the trophy two years later which again was held in Italy.  Germany didn’t send a team this time so Italy was represented by both Juventus and Torino with FC Zurich representing Switzerland.  West Auckland was up against the Swiss side in their first match and they won 2-0.  Juventus beat Torino in the other game so the Final would be between West Auckland and Juventus.  Torino beat Zurich to claim third place.

Held on 17th April 1911 in Turin, the Final was a particularly one-sided affair.  West Auckland contained only three players who had won the trophy two years previously, and they went onto to help the club lift the trophy again.  Unbelievably, they trounced Juventus, 6-1.  Goals from Bob Moor (2), Fred Dun (2), Andy Appleby and Joe Rewcastle gave them a famous victory.

West Auckland: J. Robinson, Tom Wilson, Charlie Cassidy, Andy “Chips” Appleby, Michael Alderson, Bob “Drol” Moore, Fred Dunn, Joe Rewcastle, Bob Jones, Bob Guthrie, Charlie “Dirty” Hogg, T Riley, John Warick

Sir Thomas Lipton had stipulated if a winning team won the trophy in consecutive tournaments they would be entitled to keep it,  and so West Auckland FC had etched their name in the football history books as the first outright winners of the ‘World Cup’, and duly kept the trophy.

Unfortunately, for an amateur club the whole escapade cost them and their celebrations were cut short by the desperate need to raise some money.  Westaucklandtownfc.co.uk explains what happened next;

As their only asset was the trophy, an arrangement was made with Mrs. Lancaster, the Landlady of the “Wheatsheaf Hotel” which served as headquarters for the club. The arrangement involved a loan of £40 by Mrs. Lancaster to the club, with the trophy as security which she could retain until the money was repaid. It remained in her possession for almost 50 years when, in 1960, Officials of the club managed to track down Mrs. Lancaster, who was alive and living in Liverpool. She obviously had all her faculties as she drove a hard bargain before handing over the trophy in return for £100. Upon it’s return the trophy was put on display in the “Eden Arms” public house, which was the home of Club Secretary, Mr. Syd Douthwaite. It remained on show, and it was only when the Jules Rimmet Trophy was stolen in 1966 that Mr. Douthwaite began to lock it away.

The trophy then moved to West Auckland Workingmen’s Club whereupon it was stolen in January 1994.  It has never been recovered but a perfectly acceptable replica was made and sponsored by Unilever, who own the Liptons name, and is back in pride of place in the Workingmen’s Club.

In 1982, Tyne Tees Television made a film about the story called ‘The World Cup: A Captain’s Tale’ with Dennis Waterman playing the part of Bob Jones.  It also starred Nigel Hawthorne, Richard Griffiths, Ken Hutchison and Tim Healy.

Article taken from Football speak, Originally written by Pete Spencer. Edited and Published with Permission