History of Kingstonian F.C.
1897-1898 SEASON

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 their title.

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 problems.

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 for admission.

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.


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