The Royal Engineers have been hard in training and have conducted their final practice session before attempting to reverse the loss suffered in the first FA Cup Final 140 years ago.
Players were in a bullish mood at their Chatham training ground on Monday with high hopes of reversing the 1-0 loss suffered at the hands of the Wanderers in the inaugural FA Cup Final in 1872.
It’s been a long wait but the rematch will take place at 1900hrs tomorrow, Wednesday 7 November, at the Oval in Kennington; site of the original fixture and at the time a general sporting arena rather than a famous cricket ground. The idea for the rematch came from the staff at the Oval with the aim of raising money for the Royal British Legion, the Haig Housing Trust and local football charities.
Team coach, Warrant Officer Class 2 Simon Bell of the Army Training Regiment Winchester, said:
It’s going to be a massive experience. You can already feel the excitement building in training. All these guys, like any soldiers, are naturally competitive, so they’re certainly up for the challenge.
While the Engineers was originally a side made up of officers, the current team is drawn from across the ranks. The team’s youngest member is 18-year-old Sapper Rob Ridley, from Blyth in Northumberland:
It’s going to be the biggest occasion I’ve ever played,” he said. “It’s a chance to perform in front of a big crowd and something I feel privileged to do.
Team Captain Lance Corporal James Hubbard, 25, from Sheffield, echoed his sentiments. He said:
I’m really looking forward to it and I’m really, really proud to walk out as captain for the Corps, I feel very lucky.
The Wanderers were and remain an amateur gentleman’s side, and although they disbanded at one stage, they have reformed in recent years with the aim of raising money for charity.
The 1872 final was decided by a single goal, scored after fifteen minutes by Morton Betts of the Wanderers, who was playing under the pseudonym A H Chequer (a reference to his time with Harrow Chequers, a side affiliated with Harrow School).
Despite defeat, the Engineers were praised for their innovative use of passing, then referred to as the ‘combination game’, at a time when most teams relied almost solely on dribbling tactics, and will no doubt be hoping to inject some similar flair into their game this time around.
As well as the rematch that has been over a century in the making, the day will also feature some special FA Cup touches, ensuring all fans of the world’s greatest club competition will enjoy a day to remember.
One of the most exciting things for all football fans will be the presence of the first ever cup - by kind permission of its owner, West Ham United Chairman David Gold.
The cup - a replica of that presented in 1872 that was made after the original was stolen from a West End jeweller in the 1890s - will be displayed in the Long Room alongside the modern day trophy, loaned by The FA for the day. In return for a small charitable donation, fans will be able to have their picture taken with the historic silverware.
The build up to the game will feature a number of special ‘cup final’ touches, with a mezzo-soprano singing ‘Abide With Me’ before the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers plays the national anthem.
Tickets are £10 for adults and £1 for under 16s. All military personnel wearing uniform and who are able to show a valid MOD 90 ID card will be allowed in free of charge. Groups of ten people can attend for a combined price of £50.