Poly History – FA Cup

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Quintin Hogg : Arthur Kinnaird

Polytechnic: Up for the Cup
Polytechnic first competed in the FA Cup in the 1879-80 season, when the club was still known as Hanover United. The inaugural Cup had been held in 1871-72. The legendary Arthur Kinnaird, who won five Cups – the most of any player in history – and appeared in nine of the first 11 finals, featured for Hanover throughout those years; however he never played for them in the FA Cup.
The club’s opponents in the first round were Grey Friars: losing the game by two goals to one, the second XI made complaints to the overall Polytechnic organisation’s executive committee regarding the selection policy for the competition.
Long-time rivals Civil Service were among the teams that took part in the first running of the world’s oldest cup competition, losing out 2-0 to Barnes. Hanover competed every season from 1879-80 until 1887-88, and progressed beyond the opening round on three occasions.
A 1-0 defeat to West End at Shepherd’s Bush in 1880-81 was watched by 600 fans while Hanover featured the founder of the Polytechnic organisation, Quintin Hogg – who later claimed to have played 50 years of ‘footer’ in his lifetime, most of it within the Poly – in their line-up.
The following season saw us as the beneficiaries of a bye into round two; however Upton Park (a separate entity to West Ham) won through 3-1 in the next round, played at The Limes, Barnes – the football club’s first regular home.
Success followed with a 1-0 first-round win over Mosquitos, the club’s first victory in the Cup, but more woe was to follow as Clapham Rovers tanked the Hanover XI 7-1 in the next game.
Things did not get much better in 1883-84 when Brentwood dished out a 6-1 thrashing at the club’s new headquarters of Merton Hall in Wimbledon. However they were later knocked out by the previous season’s runners-up, Old Etonians.
The furthest Polytechnic, still known as Hanover at this point, have ever been in the competition was the following season when first Reading Minster (1-0) then Old Foresters (2-1) were disposed of, both at home. The latter had beaten us in the semi-finals of the prestigious London Senior Cup earlier that season – making the triumph all the sweeter.
Chatham visited Merton for the third-round clash and left with a 2-0 win, destroying the hopes of the Polytechnic’s founder Hogg, although he would probably never admit it – he believed in the intrinsic and physical benefits of football and exercise, rather than the glory achieved through victory.
Hanover had been five matches from reaching the FA Cup final.
After a 1-1 draw at home, Romford disposed of Hanover with a 3-0 replay win in 1885-86. Sound first-round beatings at the hands of Old Wykehamists (3-0) and Old Carthusians (5-0) took us up to the age of the qualifying rounds, when the game – and competition – had become so popular that it was necessary for amateur clubs to go through elimination stages before joining the recently professional clubs in the first round proper.
The loss to Carthusians was no disgrace: they were at full-strength in front of 500 fans at the Kennington Oval, and had shortly before played against the famous Preston North End.
Idealists such as Hogg disliked the idea of professional competition, and this contributed to the decision to not register for the Cup for the next four years. When we returned, it was under the name of Polytechnic FC – and also to experience the club’s finest hour.
Having beaten Surbiton Hill (2-0 away) then Swifts (1-1 away, 4-2 at home), we were drawn against professional side Luton Town in qualifying round three; they were no match for the Poly, losing 4-2 in the shock of the day at the Merton ground.
Having disposed of Luton, we faced Casuals in the divisional final, which would decide who went through to the first round proper. In front of 3000 fans we went down 5-0, our reserves of FA Cup passion evidently spent.
However the Casuals line-up featured nine players from the famous Corinthians, so perhaps a 5-0 loss for a proud amateur club formed through philanthropy was not a bad return. For a second time we were five matches from reaching the Cup final.
Distinctly less impressive was the 5-0 hammering at the hands of Sherwood Foresters in the first qualifying round the following season – and that signalled the end of the Poly’s participation in the FA Cup for 19 years.
The reason for the withdrawal was the formation of the FA Amateur Cup the previous season. The first final, in 1893-94, was lost by the Casuals side that a year before had knocked us out of the ‘professional’ competition – by a score of two to one against Old Carthusians, our conquerors in 1887-88.
Polytechnic’s opening participation in the Amateur Cup ended with a 2-1 loss to Surbiton in the first round, who we’d beaten in the FA Cup two years previously on our way to face the Casuals.
Few records remain regarding our success in the early rounds of the Amateur Cup, which was even more popular than its more illustrious sister tournament and required as many if not more rounds to reach the final.
What is clear is that after rejoining the FA Cup in 1913-14, the Poly continued to compete in the Amateur Cup for many years once the Great War was over. Our last season in the Cup was 1950-51, while we stayed in the amateur equivalent until 1969-70 – four years before it was to become defunct.
As well as the now-customary qualifying rounds, the FA Cup had now added a preliminary round and occasional extra preliminary round which the clubs at the bottom of the non-league pyramid had to fight through before they even got to the qualifying stage.
While contemporaries such as Tottenham Hotspur – who we played in 1892 – had moved onwards and upwards through the system, the Polytechnic remained resolutely for the benefit of local players who wanted to reap the profits of regular exercise and an open social club.
The club had gone against its original ‘gentlemen’ convictions and joined an organised football system for the first time, the Southern Suburban League, as well as other local leagues for the expanding reserve teams. The next move for the first XI was into the Olympian League in 1908 before we joined the Spartan League in 1911, which was well thought-of.
Despite this, most teams within it never progressed as far as the first round proper of the Amateur Cup, which contained 64 teams; however around the time of our joining, a couple of the more successful ones such as the 2nd Coldstream Guards and Tufnell Park managed to make it as far as the semi-finals.
The club had moved to its present Chiswick base in 1906, as a tribute to Hogg who had died in 1903. The first match back in the FA Cup was lost 3-1 away to Maidenhead Norfolkians. It was a brief return as the shadow of war engulfed the country.
The Cup tried to continue and was last held in 1914-15, but the Poly had been badly hit by conscription – there was a dedicated army regiment named the Polytechnic Rangers, who had won the Territorial Army Cup in 1912, the club’s first trophy, in happier times – and allowed Uxbridge a walkover into the next stage in that season. There were 62 ties that were scratched in the preliminary round that year due to similar circumstances. The club was to close for the duration of the conflict, although strenuous attempts were made to maintain contact with members in the forces.
After the Great War, which claimed the lives of many Polytechnic members – including Major Vincent Hoare, who led the dedicated Poly company and captained the first XI in peacetime – the club reopened under the control of a much smaller committee.
The Poly did not enter the first post-war Cup competition and were still significantly under-strength by the time of the second, losing 8-0 to Hampstead Town.
There followed greater success in 1920-21 when a visit to Hertford Town ended 6-2 in our favour, although St Albans City were too strong in the first qualifying round at Chiswick , emerging 4-2 victors.
Sadly there was to be only one further victory for the club in the Cup, as the standard of competition had moved on as quickly as the number of teams in the country.
We lost at Edmonton (6-0) in 1922-23 then, after a year away, went down away to Yiewsley (3-0), at home to Old Lyonian (5-2), away to Slough (9-0), away to Carshalton Athletic (7-3) and at home to Mitcham Wanderers (10-1).
In our final appearance in the competition prior to a 17-year hiatus, Polytechnic – somewhat appropriately – suffered the heaviest defeat in the first team’s history to later Cup winners Wimbledon. The score was 15-2 away from home.
The club decided, given the generally one-sided nature of the defeats, that resources would be better directed towards the other competitions in which we were embroiled. That meant there were no FA Cup matches featuring the Poly until after the Second World War, which had seen the club run on a basic, more local level.
Once more we did not feature in the first post-war competition, but decided to return in 1946-47. We were drawn away to Finchley, who won the game – but the 2-0 scoreline was perceived positively back in Chiswick and the Cup fire returned briefly to the belly of the club.
In 1948-49 the Polytechnic enjoyed a last win in the FA Cup, triumphing 1-0 over Ware at the Chiswick Stadium, again in the extra preliminary round. In the preliminary round we travelled to St Albans City, our vanquishers in 1921-22 – coincidentally the same season in which we had last won a Cup game – and we lost by three goals to nil.
Only two more campaigns were briefly ignited. In the first Wood Green Town took a narrow 1-0 win at home, while the coincidences continued in the last Cup match contested in the Poly’s red and green colours: we lost 6-2 to Hertford Town in Chiswick, the same scoreline by which we had beaten them in that 1921-22 triumph.
With the generally improved facilities at professional and amateur grounds, it had become more and more difficult to satisfy the FA’s criteria for entry.
Without an enclosed ground, concrete walkways and floodlights, we dropped out of the competition for good.