Kingston had been
in desperate need of competitive Association Football for some time in
order to raise interest in the game within the area, and the formation
of the Kingston & District League finally provided for this in the
1896-1897 season. It was to be Kingston-On-Thames' most successful season
to date and, although their entry into the Kingston & District League
probably gave them an easier run of matches than friendlies would have
offered, there was nothing like success to increase awareness of the club.
The decision to enter the Surrey Junior Cup rather than the Senior Cup
also gave them a boost in profile with an extended run in the competition.
The season started
with a falling out between William Carn and much of the Kingston-on-Thames
committee. Carn, who had resigned his post on the committee the previous
season while remaining a member, had been expecting
to be chosen as the Kingston representative to the Surrey F.A. However
a General Meeting of the Kingston club, which he had not attended, had
overwhelming backed Allan Shaw, instrumental in setting up the Kingston
& District League, as their delegate. Carn was able to attend the
Surrey F.A. meeting as a delegate of Kingston Hill F.C. but felt he had
been thwarted in his attempts to increase the number of clubs affiliated
to the Surrey F.A. It seemed clear from the exchanges though that Carn
was largely at fault for the situation by his failure to lobby and attend
meetings, and in any event he had also missed deadlines for his motions
to the Surrey F.A.
None of this affected the success of Kingston on the field. Undoubtably
one of the reasons was the arrival of Stan Vincent into the forward line
at Inside Right and Jack Baker being moved to Centre Forward for much
of the season to back up the long serving wingers of Ocock and Kemp. Harry
Short made up a strong forward line. The forward line could have been
even better as Kingston had started their season with the very promising
McDavid at Centre Forward. He had scored 4 goals in two friendlies and
added a bit of aggression to the attack, being cautioned twice by the
referee in the pre season
friendly against East Molesey, a 4-3 defeat which turned out to be
one of the more competitive and exciting games of the season. Unfortunately
he was unable to play thereafter due to "illness in the family".
filled the gap well and became the regular goalscorer that Kingston had
long been lacking. The defence was less settled, although Fred Lanham
was now permanently back in goal with Arthur Peck and Arthur Short acting
as Full Backs. Jimmy Fagan claimed a place as the regular Centre Half
but the remaining Half Back places were constantly being changed around
until the permanent promotion of Jack Tully from the Reserves in the New
The Kingston season started well with their entry in the Surrey Junior
Cup, and a 2-1 win at Banstead was followed a couple of weeks later by
a 1-0 win at Surbiton Hill Reserves in the second round. They had also
won 3-0 in their first Kingston & District League match at Surbiton
Rangers, however this match was ordered to be replayed after Kingston
had fielded an ineligible player and they were also deducted 2 points.
Miserable weather and a late start by the Ham team left a shortened game
in Kingston's second Kingston & District League match at Ham with
Kingston losing 3-1. What seemed a likely Championship challenge had effectively
started with Kingston left on minus two points from the one game that
counted. Thereafter though Kingston were to go unbeaten in league matches
until the very end of the season. Given the standard of opposition and
the fact that they were playing in a local league of which they were supposed
to be the senior club, they had still made hard work of it.
League wins over Isleworth and Hampton Hill followed and there was also
a 'walk over' given against Hersham where Hersham failed to turn up having
wired the previous evening to say they were coming. The referee started
the game and Kingston put the ball in the net to claim the points. Hersham
were deducted 2 points for insufficient notice and Kingston had their
third consecutive win.
Kingston were also going great guns in the Surrey Junior Cup with further
wins over Wallington and Leatherhead, again both games were away from
home and in fact Kingston did not have an official home game throughout
the tournament. The Wallington win was accompanied by a post match "meat
Tea" for the players and supporters, numbering 28. On the return
a canvass screen on the "Front brake" displayed the message
"Kingston beat Wallington"
bringing forth cheers from passers by. Wallington made a protest that
Kingston had put out a 'Senior team', noting Peck and Hurliman in their
submissions, but this was ignored. It was a similar away day for the Leatherhead
match with a party now numbering 30 people celebrating with a "knife
& fork tea" after a Baker goal 8 seconds from time setted the
match with a 2-1 win. The message now read
"Kingston beat Leatherhead" and was again well received
and had put Kingston into the Semi Final.
Kingston continued their good form into January with wins over Hampton
Hill, played at Queen Elizabeth's school on Oil Mill Lane, and Kingston
Rovers, back on the Fairfield. There was a small charge for entrance for
the Hampton Hill game and a crowd of 300 attended. It was the first of
an increasingly regular move of playing home games away from the Fairfield.
The Fairfield was a public field so the club was unable to charge admission
and add any money to their finances from gate receipts.
There then followed two close matches with Surbiton Rangers which were
likely to decide the winners of the league. The first match at Kingston
ended in a 1-1 draw and the following week a scrambled
goal by Kingston in the second half produced another 1-1 draw. Kingston
were desperately unlucky not to win the second game as the whistle blew
for full time just before an "unstoppable" shot hit the Surbiton
net, although in fairness Surbiton had had to play much of the match with
10 men after an injury to one of their team. Kingston had also had the
ball in the net twice from free kicks but both were disallowed as the
rules in those days required any free kick to have touched another player
before counting as a goal.
League matters were becoming confusing as both Hersham and Isleworth were
briefly suspended until league orders were complied with, but they both
managed to comply and complete their seasons. This helped Kingston as
Hersham had managed a draw with Surbiton Rangers at the turn of the New
Year so if the Hersham record had been expunged it would have benefited
Surbiton Rangers and made the final positions even closer.
Kingston gained revenge over Ham & Petersham, the only team to beat
them in the league, in the return fixture with a 2-0 win, before turning
their attentions to the Semi Final of the Surrey Junior Cup. The first
match was at Streatham Hill and left the journalists very unimpressed
both with the standard of football and with the ground chosen for the
occasion. Kingston had the better of matters and took the lead in the
second half but Old Londonians
equalised 3 minutes from the end to earn a replay. A fortnight later
the replay was played at the Richmond Road rugby ground in front of 500
spectators and Kingston were comfortable winners by 4-1. The Mayor
of Kingston kicked off with a "huge" kick, adding to what was
already a virtual home game.
Around this time the forward line had been improved further with Bert
Grant, a big catch who had represented Oxfordshire, and Foster. The latter
scored 9 goals in the final 6 matches of the season and netted in every
game he played.
Kingston were in a final tie for the first time in their history and met
Chertsey at Weybridge with a crowd of over 1,500 in attendance with many
from Kingston sporting cards in their hats which read "Play up Kings,
Play Up". In a remarkable game Kingston were 3-0 down at half time
but turned things around in the second half. Foster got 2 of the goals
and set up the final equaliser in the dying minutes to earn
Kingston a 3-3 draw and a replay at Guildford. The Chertsey goalkeepeer,
Garnham, who had been at fault for the second goal, was abusive to the
referee at the final whitle and was reported to the Surrey F.A.
The replay saw only about 400 fans in attendance at Guildford on a dull
and cold day with around half wearing the blue and white of Kingston as
compared to the first game where they were significantly outnumbered.
Chertsey were again the better side in the replay, leading 2-1 and looking
comfortable, but late on Kingston were awarded a penalty. The normally
reliable Arthur Short unfortunately put the kick significantly wide of
the goal and Chertsey became
Junior Cup winners by 2-1. Over the two games though, Kingston had
done very well and worked hard to stay in contention against a team that
were clearly superior overall, and the Kingston players very much deserved
the first ever medals won by the club as runners up.
Kingston still had work to do in the Kingston & District League and
needed to beat mid table Kingston Rovers in the final match to take the
title over Surbiton Rangers. The match, officially a home game for Kingston
Rovers, was made part of the Kingston Charity Festival at Richmond Road
with the mayor again kicking the game off. It was a comfortable
3-0 win to give Kingston the championship by one point.
Kingston were also able to field an 'A' Team (Reserves) in the Kingston
& District League 2nd Division, finishing an acceptable position of
6 out of the 9 clubs who competed. They did have to scratch two matches,
but in general there was no repeat of the attendance problems that had
dogged the reserve teams in earlier seasons. However there was little
in the way of players who could step up to help the first team or would
do in future seasons, the one exception being Jack Tully.
The season concluded with a "Hats
and Bonnets" fancy dress charity match on the Fairfield, featuring
most of the Kingston team and attracting 5,000-6,000 people that put into
perspective the much smaller attendances of the club in competitive matches.
It had been a very encouraging season and the AGM
showed a healthy balance of funds noting the increased interest within
the town. After the fallout at the start of the season, William Carn was
unanimously elected as delegate to the Surrey F.A. once more.