Football in Walkern 100 years ago
Football in Walkern 100 years ago
An article by Lloyd Briscoe in the March 2009 issue of the Walkern Journal
It’s a little known fact that over 100 years ago, Walkern had a very good football team. It was much better than any Stevenage team at the time. Known as Walkern Victoria, the club plied its trade against most of the local teams in the area. An example being on Saturday December 9th 1899, when the club are recorded as holding Stevenage United to a 1-1 draw.
Just a few weeks later, on Saturday January 13th, “Victoria” beat Buntingford 2-0 in the village. The team on that day were: F Savage (GK), Turner, Brown, Hart, Kitchener, Adams, Hammond, Poulter, W Savage, S Savage, and Allison.
A year later (January 1st 1901), the Herts FA announce that they had granted permission for Walkern Victoria to change its name to Walkern and Bennington United, – on account of the two clubs merging.
Just a week later, Queen Victoria died, and there was no football played anywhere in the country for three weeks, as a mark of respect.
On November 23rd 1902, Walkern FC (as it was now known) played Buntingford at home, beating them comfortably by five goals to one. A newspaper article of the day records that the match was played on the club’s ‘new’ ground. Walkern, having won the toss, elected to defend the Church (end) goal. Scoring for Walkern in this occasion was Walter Savage (2), Gordon Holland, and Simon Savage.
Football at this time was a sport in the ascendancy, and from the passion this evoked came fierce local rivalry.
Saturday October 1st 1903, Walkern played Stevenage Town, and beat them 3-0. Clearly Stevenage were not best pleased with this result. A correspondent who witnessed the game wrote
“the result of the game upset some of the Stevenage players, who lost their tempers and made use of regrettable language, one of them doing all he could to annoy and assault the referee”
It was at this time that a club called the ‘Walkern Wednesday’ were also playing. Mostly formed of young men who work in shops with a half-day closing on Wednesday, they often played friendly fixtures against such teams as “Stevenage Wednesday” or “Hitchin Early Closing”
The 1903-04 season proved to be one of Walkern’s most successful. On Saturday April 30th 1904, the club met Watford Victoria in the final of the Herts Junior Cup. The match was played at the neutral venue of Welwyn FC, whose ground was located just behind a pub called “The Steamer”.
Over 700 supporters witnessed Walkern beat the Watford club by two goals to one in a hard fought game. Simon Savage was the club captain, and it was he who collected the trophy from Colonel Prideaux-Brune of the Herts FA.
Top row, left to right:
J Warner, Treasurer
E Holland, Trainer
Fred Savage, Goalkeeper
R Savage, Linesman
Middle row, left to right:
EH Dodgeson, Secretary
bottom row, left to right:
W Savage, Captain
The team made Walkern the proudest village in the county on that day.
The 1903-04 season’s record demonstrated the strength of the Walkern club at this time:
Sadly, this was to be the last time that Walkern were to experience footballing success for several years. The backbone of the club had been the Savage brothers. There were four of them, and anyone of them may have been represented in the team at any given time. However, the following season, two of them elected to register with Stevenage Town. This quickly saw a demise in Walkern’s fortunes, when on February 4th 1905 they were thrashed at home 0-13 by Baldock.
The Hertfordshire Express takes up the story:
“… the visitors had hoped to test their strength against the holders of the Junior Cup, having to meet Welwyn in that competition… They were much disappointed to find only two of that (cup winning) team were playing. Walkem started with only eight men, and another one came on afterwards. Their goalkeeper was a man close on 60 years old, and only about five feet high …”
Later that year (1905) Samuel Savage left Walkern to become a policeman in East London. Eight years later though, he was to marry Daisy Roadnight of Canning Town, and rejoin the Walkern club.
Success returned to Walkern Football Club in 1912, when they won the Greg Cup competition. The opposition on this occasion was Hitchin St Saviour’s FC, and the match was played on the ground of the Stevenage Unionists club. Many spectators witnessed the final, Walkern’s supporters being most prominent sporting rosettes in their club’s colours – red and green.
Walkern won the game 4-1.
Mr C A Day of the North Herts FA presented the cup. Walter Savage, accepting the trophy on behalf of Walkern, remarked that it was “a great honour for a village team to win the cup”, and he thought that “Walkern had deserved their victory”
The victorious team on this day (April 2nd 1912) included no less than four Savage brothers: Fred Savage (GK), Smith, Vye, Goodchild, Monk, Walter Savage, Poulter, Reed, Simon Savage, Sam Savage, and Kitchener.
A week later, the Walkern club hosted a friendly game at home. This time the opponents were the Hitchin Grammar School Old Boys. This was in aid of the RMS Titanic Disaster Fund.
On conclusion of the match, the Greg Cup was again presented to Walter Savage, – this time by Mr J W L Wind ridge.
The Captain then took his team, and the trophy, for a squad photograph to be taken…