Match Details: Royal Engineers 7 – Wanderers 1 (Friendly – Rematch of 1872 FA Cup Final)
On Wednesday 7th November 2012, I journeyed down to London Village to watch a re-match of the first ever FA Cup Final. Aside from the novelty aspect of the game, it was also a rare chance to see competative football (of a sort) played at Kennington Oval – apparently the first game there since the early 1970s.
I’ve never really been much of a cricket enthusiast beyond playing it at school age, and watching it on the telly back in the days when you still had to play in daylight in white kit. So this was my first visit to the KIA Oval. With the game kicking off at 7pm, I arrived around 5-ish with time for a look round and occasional viewing of the ladies and schoolkids matches that were taking place as a preamble to the main event. I was quite surprised to find that most of the empty members rooms in the pavilion were unlocked and available to look round, many with the walls adorned by various items of historical importance and interest.
Whereas most English football grounds tend to either be in either the ‘proper old fashioned’ or ‘proper spoilt newfangled’ category, the KIA Oval has quite a nice mix of the modern interior, and old fashioned surrounds – still retaining its heritage while following modern trends for spectators and players.
On display in the parlour were the original FA Cup trophy used from 1896-1910, and it’s current bigger brother (the pre-1896 one having been stolen from a shop window and never recovered). The current owner of the older one is David Gold, who had kindly loaned the trophy for the day and allowed it to be presented to the winners of this evening’s main event. When last auctioned in 2005, the trophy fetched £420,000, and nowadays Mr.Gold insists that no-one touches his cup without wearing white gloves – a bit like our lass with her best china set. For a small charitable donation, tonight’s match goers could have their photo taken standing alongside the two trophies.
Whilst Wanderers are a ‘reformed’ version (ie new club adopting the name) of the old club, Royal Engineers are more of a continuation, being a long-standing football wing of the army corps bearing that name (and commonly known as The Sappers). And with Wanderers currently operating at something like Step 13 of non-league, it also meant that Royal Engineers were more of a tidy footballing outfit. On the night, Wanderers were ‘managed’ by Bobby Gould, but he was unable to exert any magic influence over their play. As a contest, it wasn’t one of the best games and by 20 minutes in with the Sappers already a few goals to the good, my mind started to wander to looking at other things than watching the game intently.
By half-time, the score was Royal Engineers 6 Wanderers 0, so already over as a contest. The second period then saw each side use up a team-full of substitutions in order to give everyone in their squad some time on the pitch. Wanderers managed to draw the second-half 1-1, giving a final score of RE 7 Wanderers 1. Then, in a scene resembling snooker, the Sappers skipper (Lance Corporal James Hubbard) was given a pair of spotless white gloves to wear, and was presented with the old FA Cup trophy by a combination of David Gold and some officials, all similarly kitted out in white gloves. I was just waiting for someone to go all butter fingers and dop the trophy into the mud, but it never happened and the cup left the scene with its spotlessness intact. All-in-all, an interesting evening then, if not really one including a proper football match,