The Giant Killers

Subtitle

 

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 94 

 

West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Barnsley

 

First round: Saturday 10th January 1920

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Attendance: 32,000

Scorer: Brough Fletcher {21}

Thomas Meighan, Betty Compson and Lon Chaney were launched into stardom as members of a gang who try and con a New England town in 'The Miracle Man.', The Original Dixieland Jazz Band were introducing Jazz to the British public with their hit 'Oriental Jazz' and the Dorset coastguard began the grim task or recovering the bodies of thirty-five crewmen from the steamer 'Treveal', which had been wrecked in the storms of the early hours of Saturday morning.

For five long years during the war Barnsley fans had ben teased with speculation that changes to the make up of the Football League, when it resumed, could involve them being promoted into the top tier for the first time in their history. The 1915 side had missed out on the runners up spot by three points and stood next in line for promotion should the league chose that the bottom top flight team should be relegated. The war finally drew to a close in November 1918, three months too late to switch from war time regional football but it gave the league nine months to consider Barnsley's promotion case. The Tykes themselves were not confident as previous expansions had always resulted in two teams being promoted with none relegated but when news reached Oakwell that bottom club Tottenham would indeed be going down the excitement hit fever pitch. It didn't last long though as soon afterward it became clear that fifth placed Arsenal and not Barnsley would be taking Spur's place in a move that left everyone at Tottenham, Barnsley, and indeed Wolves that had also finished above Arsenal bemused. The League themselves were never asked nor offered to explain this odd decision, the like of which had never happened before or since, though to this day all at Tottenham and Barnsley believe that Arsenal's place was gained through dark means. Tottenham quickly put the matter right from their point of view by gaining promotion at the first attempt but it was decades before Barnsley made it to the top tier while Arsenal have never lost the place they hadn't earned, breaking the record for the longest unbroken top flight spell in the process.

Some suggested that Barnsley lost out as a result of their robust pre war style. The team were indeed a side of hard men, some said too hard, most notably Everton and Swindon. These two sides had been on the wrong end of Barnsley's two victorious cup semi finals before the war, the former having ended their bruising encounter in 1910 with nine men while the clash with Swindon in 1912 became the stuff of legend for its venom. West Bromwich Albion fans too had good reason to remember that Barnsley side for it was they who had lost the 1912 cup final replay to the Tykes with the last kick of extra time in a replay of a final which could also, at best have been described as bruising.

The immediate post war team, like most in the second division had been hastily assembled during the summer of 1919 and lacked the same physical strength or the experience of the pre war side. Only Joe Halliwell had kicked a ball in anger in the top flight, and even then on just four occasions for Preston but the club could still call on the experience of captain Dickie Downs and keeper Arthur Cooper, the only survivors of the 1912 cup winning side.

The draw for the first round of the cup offered the Tykes fans the first chance in five years to see if the old cup fighting spirit was still there but they couldn't have been given a tougher draw, away to first division leaders West Bromwich Albion. 

The Baggies had never won the league title and the excitement was building at The Hawthorns that this really could be their year with a team that could boast greater pre war continuity than most of their top flight rivals. Four of the side had faced Barnsley eight years earlier and now keeper Hubert Pearson, England international Jesse Pennington, ex England man Bobby McNeal and Arthur Cook had been given the chance of revenge. Albion prepared for the cup tie with three consecutive home wins in which they scored ten goals and Pearson kept three clean sheets. Barnsley by contrast had lost their last two division two road trips to an aggregate of zero to seven. For a nation which, in the mists of the war and the terrible flu epidemic which had followed, had forgotten how great a leveller the cup can be, this tie was a formality for the home side.

The weather on cup Saturday was terrible with much of the country being battered by storms that led to four ties being called off and a fifth being abandoned. At The Hawthorns the rain and wind had gone by kick off, allowing for one of the few crowds over thirty thousand to turn up, including many from special trains from Barnsley eager for a repeat of the final eight years earlier. Both sides emerged as advertised in the programme, Albion in their dark blue and white stripes, Barnsley in their red shirts and white shorts, both to great cheers from their respective camps but the early exchanges offered little hope to the visitors as Albion, as expected were first to every ball and a real danger in attack.

Arthur Cooper was by far the busier of the two keepers though the two best chances, which fell to Crisp and Bentley, both remained nothing more than half chances which The Tyke's keeper was easily equal to. Barnsley had been restricted to a single break which resulted in a corner, which Donkin did well to get in a shot, albeit well wide of Pearson's goal in the first twenty minutes but they were less wasteful with their second chance, the ball falling to Brough Fletcher after twenty-one minutes who fired past a flat footed Pearson.

The great Barnsley tradition before the war had been to 'mix it up' with their more illustrious opposition when put into such positions and while their eleven lacked top flight experience they were all seasoned pros with lower tier experience and new, perhaps even better than their famous pre war counterparts how to go about roughing it with Albion. The Champions elect were sucked into a hard physical game that suited the visitors and threw the home team off their usual cultured game that had been so successful in the league. The remainder of the first half went Barnsley's way as the referee was forced to step in on several occasions to issue words to the heated players and Albion manager Fred Everiss must have been glad to get his players in at half time to get their minds back on the tie.

Everiss wouldn't have given any sort of team talk and a tactical discussion was still an alien concept but as the players sucked on their oranges and indeed some got the much desired cigarette during the interval it gave them time to cool their jets and wind back down from the physical first half. 

The break worked in Albion's favour and the players emerged much more focussed in the second half, playing above Barnsley's physical style and forcing the visitors to defend in depth with Dickie Downs and the only Barnsley born player in the side, Jack Tindall now having to organise the rest of the team for an all out assault. Wave after wave of Albion attacks poured in on Arthur Cooper's goal and he was called into a string of good stops to keep out the Baggies entire forward line.

Most of Albion's attacks ended up in a series of increasingly desperate goal mouth scrambles with boots flailing in from both sides in the mud but on every occasion no West Bromwich boot was able to find the telling final touch to steer the ball into the Barnsley net with Hubert Pearson, up at the other end becoming an increasingly forlorn figure as Pennington and Cook pushed further forward with the minutes ticking down.

It was amid increasing noise and fading light that Albion pressed forward one last time and shoulder sagged as Downs, yet again, launched the ball as far back into the home side's half as he could before pointing and organizing his exhausted troops for another attack until finally the next attack didn't come, being stopped short by the referee's whistle and the celebrations of the hundreds who had made the journey from Barnsley with Albion fans now certain that the Oakwell team had some sort of indian sign over their heroes.

Albion brushed themselves off and cruised to the League title, a feat the club had never before achieved and never has since while Barnsley's prepared for the even longer journey to Plymouth Argyle for the second round. The Pilgrims were to establish themselves as the best third division side in the land in the twenties, finishing runners up eight times in days when only the third division champions were promoted and barnsley found themselves outclassed by their juniors at Home Park, sinking to a dismal 1-4 reverse.

It fell in with a disappointing second division campaign in which the team had been unable to recapture the pre war promotion chasing days, finishing in comfortable mid table. It was a campaign which ended without Dickie Downs as the last of the cup final heroes found himself offered an unlikely chance to play in the top flight at the age of thirty-three. Downs had turned many offers down from good top flight sides in his heyday in the hope of helping the Tykes to the top flight but when Everton came knocking the week after the Plymouth tie it was a chance Downs knew would never come again. It proved a wise move for Dickie as his performances in his first season at Goodison Park earned him his one and only England cap the next year. Arthur Cooper also eventually took the call when a struggling Oldham side sought the keeper to help them in their ultimately failed relegation battle in 1922. Goal scorer Brough Fletcher would remain linked with Barnsley as player and manager for the next seventeen years, save a brief and unsuccessful spell at Sheffield Wednesday. In 1930 he became manager at Oakwell but hopes of being a top flight club were long gone by then and his tenure saw the side move between the second and third tiers. Fletcher left Oakwell in 1937 for Bristol Rovers where his twelve year spell was equally undistinguished, as was a brief period in charge of Walsall in 1953 before he retired from management, going on to become the last survivor of the Tykes who beat the Champions elect when he passed away in 1972.  

West Bromwich Albion: 1:Hubert Pearson, 2:Jesse Pennington, 3:Arthur Cook, 4:Sammy Richardson, 5:Sid Bowser, 6:Bobby McNeal, 7:Jack Crisp, 8:Tommy Magee, 9:Alf Bentley, 10:Fred Morris, 11:Joe Smith

Barnsley: 1:Arthur Cooper, 2:Dickie Downs, 3:Jack Tindall, 4:William Lakin, 5:Jack Gittins, 6:John Williams, 7:George Donkin, 8:Brough Fletcher, 9:Joe Halliwell, 10:Harold Bell, 11:George Dobson

1920

West Bromwich Albion

Barnsley

Thanks to www.historicalkits.co.uk for background image

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