After winning the
Kingston & District League and being finalists in the Surrey Junior
Cup in the previous season, Kingston-on-Thames F.C. had been hoping to
do even better in the current campaign, but were forced
into many changes before the start of 1897-1898 and the season was
to end in near farce as Kingston attempted to hang on to their KDL title.
Fred Lanham had more or less retired but was called back to fill the goalkeeper
position on several occasions as Kingston struggled to find a reliable
replacement. Harry Short had moved to Brighton and was playing for Old
Strollers. Jack Baker and Jimmy Fagan had also left to go and work and
play at Brookwood Asylum where they joined Humphreys, another former Kingston
player. Fagan and Baker were however to return later in the season, for
a while at least.
Bert Grant, who had played a handful of games in the forward line at the
end of the previous season and was considered "one of the best forwards
ever to play for Kingston" also left, joining Hounslow. Although
Grant had only played a few games for Kingston, he was a big loss for
the club as he had shown good form in the games he had played in. He also
had a great goalscoring record at his former clubs and been selected for
the Oxfordshire county side. Grant's decision was mainly due to Kingston
eventually deciding only to enter the Surrey Junior Cup. Originally they
had planned to enter both Senior & Junior competitions, with the First
Team competing in the Senior Cup and the 'A' Team competing in the Junior
Cup, but in the end it was only the First Team in the Junior Cup again.
These missing players meant that Kingston played with just 7 men in their
first friendly against Wandsworth
Reserves and losing by a respectable 3-0 under the circumstances.
Kingston were also missing Kemp for much of the season and both Kemp and
Ocock, reliables for so many years, were gradually heading towards the
end of their careers. They did however find good replacements in the forward
line with Cunliffe, Andrews, Foster and Vincent regularly on the scoresheet,
although Foster was not quite as prolific as he had been in his first
season when he scored over a goal a game. Kingston had also found a good
half back, Lambert, who was to be a key player at the club for a number
of years. However, aside from Lambert, there was never a regular back
or half back line with many comings and goings and players being temporarily
or permanently promoted from the 'A' Team.
Robert McDavid had also returned to the field and had been scoring for
fun in a few early season games, scoring 4 goals in the two competitive
games he did play, but dropped out early on just as he had done the previous
season. McDavid did appear to continue to be a Kingston member, even though
he had also signed on with Queens Park Rangers, and was to play three
times for the Surrey County team, scoring 5 times, during the latter part
of the season. He was credited as being a Kingston player but had not
turned out for Kingston at all during that period.
The forward line in particular had the makings of a very good team and
probably the best they had ever had, but generally the club was less settled
than it had been and this was not helped by the lack of competitive games
in the Kingston & District League. Only 6 teams remained in the First
Division after Ham & Petersham were removed from the League in February,
having only managed 3 games. This led to an increased number of friendly
matches and gaps in the fixture list. However, despite all the changes
and losing their first 3 games (all friendlies), Kingston started very
well once they were playing competitive games and they won all 8 of their
competitive matches played up to the middle of January.
They began their season proper with a fine 7-1
win over Banstead, played at the Kingston Rugby ground at Richmond
Road, in the Surrey Junior Cup. The use of the rugby ground meant that
Kingston were able to charge for admission, unlike their official home
ground at the Fairfield which was open to anyone without charge. They
also started their league campaign well with a 6-1 victory at Weybridge
against the Weybridge 'A' team.
The next round of the Surrey Junior Cup saw Kingston again borrowing a
ground. This time it was the East Surrey Regiment Depot on Kings Road
where they beat Ewell Reserves
4-0. They played at the same ground in the following round beating
Surbiton Rangers 2-0 after a league win against the same team at Surbiton
the previous week, this time by four goals to one.
Kingston were still going well in the league, winning their first 5 games,
when they were due to meet Sutton in the Surrey Junior Cup 4th Round (Quarter
Final) in early January, but this was put back pending allegations of
'professionalism' against the Sutton side. The match was replaced by a
friendly against Brentford Reserves who were Kingston's likely challengers
for the KDL title. Once again Kingston switched the game from the Fairfield,
which had only been used for first team games on two occasions in the
first half of the season. This time they played at Queen Elizabeth's SchooI
in Oil Mill Lane (later Villiers Road) and it was another good win for
Kingston by four goals to one.
Two weeks later Kingston suffered their first serious setback with an
inexplicably bad 5-1
defeat on the Fairfield to Walton St. Mary's. Kingston didn't quite
have their full team out but it was close enough not to expect any problems
against a team that lost more than they won during the season. The match
sparked great controversy with Walton deducted 2 points for fielding an
ineligible player, on a definiton that was disputed by Walton. However
the KDL committee refused Kingston's request for the game to be replayed.
The dispute ended up going to appeal with the Surrey F.A and taking a
total of nearly three months from when the game was played to conclude.
Eventually the Sutton Cup tie was given the go ahead and, played at the
Kingston Barracks, 500 fans
saw Kingston win 3-0 to put them into the Semi Final again. The match
was marred by Arthur Short breaking his leg and putting him out of football
indefinitely. Even if Short had not been a regular in the team up to that
point, it was a big blow to lose one of their top players in the run in
for cup and league honours, and a serious injury that kept him in hospital
for a month. A fund was set up
for Short to help his financial pressures.
Because of the delay in playing the Sutton game it was immediately followed
the following Saturday by the Semi Final against Camberley St. Michael's
at Guildford. The match was played in front of 500 fans, although disappointingly
only 100 Kingston fans had taken advantage of a special train put on from
Surbiton for the game. Play was very even and the score
of 1-1 at half time was unchanged, even with 30 minutes of extra time
where the players were 'exhausted' from their earlier efforts. The replay
the following week, also at Guildford with a smaller attendance of around
300, saw two quick goals by Camberley early in the second half putting
paid to Kingston's hopes of winning the cup and they
ended up beaten by 2-0.
This left Kingston to concentrate on retaining their KDL title and they
faced two games against their nearest challengers Brentford 'A'. All looked
good after a 3-1 win at home towards the end of February, although Brentford
had complained about some of their moves breaking down because of encroachment
from supporters on the touchline, and had wanted the match treated as
a friendly. There was a three week gap in league action before the two
teams met at Brentford where the result was reversed and Brentford 'A'
won 3-1 giving Brentford 'A' the advantage in the run in for the title.
Kingston got revenge on Walton St. Mary's winning 8-4 in the away game,
but it looked like they had lost their chance to win the title after Brentford
'A' won their final game against Hampton Hill, leaving Brentford 'A' provisionally
top of the league. In the meantime Kingston were pinning their hopes on
their appeal to the Surrey F.A. over the KDL's decision not to replay
the earlier Walton St. Mary's match. There were some doubts whether Walton
would even be able to fulfill a decision to replay the game, but the Surrey
F.A. ruled in Kingston's favour
and the match was to be replayed giving Kingston a second chance of retaining
There were certainly justified grumbles in the Walton camp about the decision.
The issue was dependent on whether the KDL was regarded as a Junior or
Senior league and it had not been defined prior to either the game in
question or in advance of the hearing. The player in question had played
Senior football but Walton had not seen this as an issue. The KDL had
already ruled against Walton on this point, although Walton were still
disputing it, and it was cited that in an inter league match the KDL had
selected Senior players in their team. However the issue for Kingston
was that this decision did not lead to a replayed game and just a points
deduction for Walton. The KDL contended that ordering a replayed game
would "lead to abuses" but the Surrey F.A. decided otherwise
and granted Kingston's appeal.
In the meantime Kingston had completed all their other fixtures with a
narrow 3-2 win against
Surbiton Rangers and a last gasp winner on the Kingston Rugby ground
after coming back from 2-0 down well into the second half. They had made
hard work of a game where Surbiton Rangers had lost their goalkeeper in
the first half due to a bad injury to his hand.
This meant the replayed Walton St. Mary's game would be a title decider
with Kingston needing to win to take the title away from Brentford 'A'.
The game was played 4 weeks after Kingston's last match of any description
in "a field near the Barracks" around Latchmere Lane and considered
totally unsuitable for football, but the only one available as grounds
were now into the Summer Sports season. Kingston also struggled to put
their best team out and both Lambert and Andrews were missing with Jack
Baker filling in in goal. They had led 3-1 but ended up losing
4-3 and with it the KDL title. With a league consisting of just 10
games for each team it was unfortunate that just one poor performance
or controversial decision would settle things, but, in view of the outcome,
Kingston must have very much regretted the decision to appeal on the dubious
issue of whether the league was a Senior or Junior one.
A smoking concert was held
to present cups and medals for the KDL, although the 'Hunt Cup' (for the
KDL Division One winners) was not at the meeting due to Mr Hunt, of the
Cricketers pub, being unwilling to hand it over to William Carn for reasons
unknown, but perhaps indicating a lingering bitterness in the dispute
with the KDL.
The Kingston 'A' Team had a fairly miserable season, finishing bottom
of the KDL Second Division and only winning two competitive games all
season with results in friendly matches no better. Given the historical
issue of getting enough players for a reserve team, and often petering
out mid season, they did at least complete their season without too many
Although Kingston had lost their title and fallen at the Semi Final hurdle
in the Surrey Junior Cup, producing a less successful season than the
previous one, they were still in good
spirits at the AGM. Home games in all rounds of the Surrey Junior
Cup up to the Semi Final, together with the use of private facilities
at the Rugby club and the Barracks ground, had helped with gate receipts
and the club was in a strong financial position. They were however desperate
to rent their own secured ground to provide a regular home under their
own control as well as the financial benefits of being able to charge
Earlier in February it had been announced that they intended to enter
the West Surrey League
providing they could secure their own ground. The West Surrey League would
offer a much higher standard of football and they would be up against
some of the best teams in the Surrey area. For a club claiming to represent
the whole town who were only actually competing in a league that covered
the local district, this was to be an important step forward. There had
also been grumbles at the AGM about the attitude of the KDL and hints
of a complete withdrawal from the league which made this move even more
necessary. Entry into the East and West Surrey League, as it was to be
renamed, became a reality in the 1898-1899 season while the 'A' Team were
to continue to compete in the Kingston & District League despite any
complaints they might have had.