The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 89

Corinthians 1-0 Blackburn Rovers

 First round {last 64}: Saturday 14th January 1924

Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London

Attendance: 20,000 

Scorers: Graham Doggart {15}

Buster Keaton was starring as a city slicker who falls for a woman whose family have vowed to kill him in 'The Outsider', The Savoy Orpheans brought jazz into thousands of homes thanks to BBC radio, Stanley Baldwin spent his final weekend in number 10 before his Conservative government was brought down by a vote of no confidence while forty three families faced their first weekend without a loved one after the loss of the L43 submarine. 

The period between the wars is probably the most iconic in terms of middle class Britain as the boys own magazines made heroes out of characters from middle class backgrounds for working class boys. These men were from Cambridge or Oxford University, had multiple blues across many sports, Could fly a plane, drive cars at breakneck speed, climb mountains, cross deserts of sand or snow, subdue the natives in a far off colony or lead a vastly outnumbered group of first world war soldiers to a great victory and although fictitious, there was a huge element of truth drawn by the writers from real life people and events. Such was the make up of the team known as Corinthians.

Formed in the 1880s by Pa Jackson, Corinthians were a club exclusively made up of Englishmen with the purpose of trying to build a national team capable of beating the dominant Scots of the era. For a quarter of a century they remained by far the strongest team in the land but a strict rule forbidding them from playing competitively as a club prevented them from joining the Southern League or playing in the FA cup, which was perhaps just as well as they would have dominated the competition, regularly taking on, and easily defeated the cup holders every year.

Despite their dominance, Corinthians found themselves in a football world which adopted professionalism, and became the preserve of the masses. By 1915 it was the working man who stood on the terraces every Saturday while the middle class folk, who had so embraced the game in the 1870s and 80s now turned away to watch Rugby during the winter months. After the war, with the public schools beginning to drop football from their sporting curriculum The Corinthians provided one last hurrah for those who harked back to the days of the gentleman amateur. In the 1920s they amended their rules to allow the team to play in the cup and suddenly the whole of middle class Britain, for whom only the annual varsity match mattered, fell back in love with the cup. 

The players themselves spanned the boundary between the amateur and professional game, most playing for recognised league clubs alongside the pros but with the agreement that when the cup came along it would be in the white of Corinthians that they would play. This caused the curious situation where a club that was essentially non league would take the field in the cup with a side that could often boast four or five England Internationals who perhaps the previous week had played a top flight league game, and would do so again the following week. Such was their status that they would not be required to enter the competition until the first round proper, an honour given only to the clubs of the first and second divisions. To the middle class readership of the Daily Express in particular this was much more than a team of southern amateurs going into a competition with professional teams. The undertone of middle class England, the old boy network, the management classes going into battle with the plebs was evident in their pages. The paper championed the team and railed against their rivals on the news stands that confidently predicted Blackburn's progression to the second round while also gleefully reminiscing back to the glory days of the seventies and eighties when the final was played at the Oval and the finalists always had an old boy or an officer in their team.

Romantic as the Daily Express belief in Corinthians was, it wasn't without a modicum of justification when the team was named in Saturday morning's paper and it would certainly have given Blackburn manager, Jack Carr some food for thought.Goalkeeper, Benjamin Howard-Baker had been in goal the previous weekend for Chelsea in the second division but was one of three current England Internationals named in the side along with Alfred Bower and Jackie Hagan. Bower, like Howard-Baker had played a couple of times for Chelsea in the top flight and was quite possibly the only member of the London stock exchange to play in an elite league fixture. Hegan by contrast was a professional soldier who had first turned out for the Corinthians five years earlier when opting to switch sides to make up the numbers in a game against the army. Centre forward Norman Creek had also been capped by England the previous year while John Morrison had made a solitary appearance for Sunderland in the top flight in 1919.

Blackburn, by contrast contained only two players under the age of twenty-five and were an unimpressive top flight outfit with only one international in their side, Ulsterman, Dave Rollo, although Jack Crisp had won a championship medal four years earlier with West Brom and Ronnie Sewell had kept a clean sheet for Burnley in the 1914 cup final. Despite being the professionals, when put up for scrutiny man for man, the amateur's credentials actually looked quite good. As a unit though the professionals should still win, especially on the wide open spaces of the Crystal Palace. The Sydenham Grounds where the cup final had been held from 1895-1914 was the preferred home venue for the Corinthians since it had been released by the army but since the opening of Wembley in 1923 any notion of returning the final to the ground had been dropped.

First round weekend saw cup fever hit the streets of London with a quarter of all the thirty-two first round ties taking place in the metropolis and a fleet of football specials on hand to bring visiting fans to the city. The first of those brought Blackburn fans south at 9.45 on Friday evening with two more trains full of supporters following them on Saturday morning and by 2 o'clock the scene at Crystal Palace would have taken those who were old enough to remember it, back forty years to when Blackburn had first challenged the amateurs in the cup finals of the early eighties.

Even the entry of the two teams displayed the differences between the classes as Corinthians entered first in the white shirts and black shorts, most walking onto the field, hands in pockets as if about to play a friendly game of cricket. Rovers followed in highly professional, almost regimental fashion, looking every bit the highly trained outfit they were.

Perhaps the lack of nerves served the amateurs well as they started the better side and in the first fifteen minutes, their speed in particular caught the professionals by surprise. After thirteen minutes Jackie Hegan forced a good save out of Sewell but within a minute the Rovers keeper was beaten when Blaxland's cross was teed up by Hegan to Graham Doggart who fainted past Healless before firing Corinthians into the lead.

Corinthians line up for the game. Back L-R, Alan Phillips, John Moulsdale, Benjamin Howard-Baker, L Blaxland, Jackie Hegan. Front L-R, F Nicholas, Claude Ashton, John Morrison, Alfred Bower, Graham Doggart, Norman Creek

With a strong breeze at their backs, Corinthians grew in confidence and Jackie Hegan should have added a second goal when firing weakly wide when well placed while Phillips also snatched at a good chance, which he was unable to keep on target.

The first fifteen minutes of the second period saw a complete change in the pattern of the game as Rovers poured forward, forcing five corners but rarely troubling Howard-Baker, the only meaningful effort on target being a Healless drive that the keeper reacted well to palm away. Corinthians defended manfully and as the game passed the hour mark they once again began to pose a threat of their own with Norman Creek firing over the bar with only Sewell to beat and when Jackie Hegan found himself in a similar position ten minutes later the fans held their breath expecting the match to be settled only for the army Lieutenant to do exactly what his team mate had done earlier. Amazingly, with the minutes ticking down, Sewell found himself faced with a third one on one situation as this time Alan Phillips found himself with the chance to finish Rovers off. A groan came from the banks around the field as yet again the ball flew over the bar. For their part Rovers remained unable to conjure up a single clear cut opening of their own and at the final whistle the cheers from the crowd were well deserved for a Corinthians side who should perhaps have won more comfortably.

The writer for the Daily Express was the most delighted of any in the press box but all of the national press heaped praise on the amateurs, as well as applauding the Football Association's decision to grant them a place in the first round of the cup.

Corinthians were rewarded with a trip to struggling top flight West Bromwich Albion in the second round but despite genuine high hopes that the amateurs would progress into the last sixteen they were outclassed by a team who rose well above their league form to dispatch the gentlemen 5-0.

Claude Ashton became the fifth member of the side to be capped by England in 1925 but as the twenties roared on into the thirties the gulf between amateur and professional grew ever wider, to the point that Corinthains, having merged with Casuals in 1939 withdrew from competing in the FA cup after the war. Their Crystal Palace home had also been closed in 1936 and by the 1960s the public attitude to the amateur ideal changed from admiration to a outdated elitism.

As for the men who could have leant their stories to any boys own paper. Goal hero Graham Doggart went on to become chairman of the Football Association itself in 1963 before dying at the annual agm in 1966. Norman Creek played cricket for Wiltshire before writing on the game for the Daily Telegraph. He also coached the Great Britain Olympic football team in the 50s and 60s and received an MBE for his various services. Claude Ashton was also a cricketer with Essex as well as a pilot who lost his life in a second world war training exercise while Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Hegan received an OBE during the second world war before retiring from the army in 1949. The remainder of the team were all Oxbridge blues, including goalkeeper Benjamin Howard-Baker who outlived his team mates to rightly claim the title the last of the old Corinthians. As well as keeping goal for Chelsea, the Liverpudlian born custodian kept goal without payment for both Merseyside clubs as well as cricket for Liverpool.

Corinthians: 1:Benjamin Howard Baker, 2:Alfred Bower, 3:John Morrison, 4:J Moulsdale, 5:L Blaxland, 6:Claude Ashton 7:Jackie Hagan, 8:Graham Doggart, 9:Norman Creek 10:Alan Phillips 11:F W H Nicholas

Blackburn Rovers: 1:Ronnie Sewell, 2:Dave Rollo, 3:Tom Wylie, 4:Jack Roskamp, 5:Harry Healless, 6:Jimmy McKinnell, 7:Jack Crisp, 8:Johnny McIntyre, 9:Ted Harper, 10:Jock McKay, 11:Jack Byers {Manager:Jack Carr}


Blackburn Rovers