The Corinthian Legacy
A Brief History of the Corinthian Football Club
Of the teams Andrew Watson played for, Queen's Park and Corinthians stand apart. No other clubs can claim such unique footballing legacies in the history of the world’s most popular game. That Watson played for and captained both of these teams underlines, not only his ability as a player and a leader but his importance to the history of the game.
Founded in 1882, the Corinthians were seen as a solution to England’s footballing woes. Since 1876, England had only won one game against Scotland, and the two most recent results had been humiliating defeats.
The English F.A. were desperate to change the national team’s fortunes and looked around for solutions. Recognising that the Scottish team’s backbone had always been players from the Queen’s Park Football Club, they identified this as key to Scotland’s success. A club with players who were familiar with each other’s style of play and abilities would give any team an advantage, whereas the current English team comprised of players from all over the country and numerous different clubs.
(c) Corinthian-Casuals Football Club
The F.A. were convinced that if England had a club like Queen’s Park, this could provide strength to the National team and the necessary solidity to equal or even beat Scotland.
The theory was generally accepted, and a new ‘Wednesday’ team was agreed upon. It would play games mid-week, allowing players to continue to turn out for their Saturday teams. The team used the working title, “The Wednesday Club”. This was soon changed to The Corinthian Football Club.
The first two seasons were uninspiring. Halfway through the second season, the manager, A.J. Secretan, left, and Nicholas Lane Jackson agreed to take over the reins. This change was a crucial moment in the emergence of a club that would leave an indelible impression on football globally.
Jackson, for all his faults, and there were many, came from a working-class background and was an incorrigible social climber. However, he was also highly talented as a football club administrator. Under his guidance, the following seasons would see Corinthian become a household name, attract thousands of spectators, and achieve unimaginable victories over some of the biggest and best teams of the day.
The Corinthians would represent English amateur football’s interests at a time when professionalism was beginning to take hold in the North of England. Football was becoming a business, and many believed introducing money as a motivating factor, would strip the game of its honesty and integrity.
There can be no doubt that elements within the ranks of the amateurs disliked professionalism and actively tried to discredit it. Jackson’s solution was to organise fixtures against the best professional teams and visit the North regularly on Christmas and Easter tours.
Jackson’s first Corinthian Tour in March 1884 was the only tour the Corinthians would make before the legalisation of professionalism. It would record one of the many remarkable results in Corinthians history. The 8-1 defeat of F.A. Cup winners Blackburn Rovers, (including Fergus Suter!), would announce the arrival of the Corinthian Football Club.
In the team that day, playing his eighth game for the club was Andrew Watson. His friend and fellow Scot, Dr John Smith, scored, as did Tinsley Lindley (2), the Reverend F.W. Pawson (2), Nevill Cobbold, Cecil Holden-White and one own goal had humbled the finest and most famous team in the land.
Corinth would also meet Preston North End on the same tour, but probably due to having played five games in five days, they lost 3-1. However, in the following month, Jackson would arrange a return fixture at the Oval against the Invincibles and beat them 3-2. This would be Watson’s last game for the club, but he would continue to play in the South for Swifts and Surrey County before returning to Glasgow.
Having been created by the English F.A., Corinthian would chart their own course over the following decades, eventually falling out with the F.A. in 1907 and leaving the Association in favour of the Amateur Football Association. This move meant Corinth were banished from the F.A. and could not arrange fixtures with the professional teams they had built their reputation on. Only able to play games against other A.F.A. members, they looked overseas for fresh challenges.
Having twice toured South Africa and made several tours in Europe, they were familiar with the demands of a touring schedule. In 1907 they visited Austria and Hungary before touring South Africa again. In 1910 they visited Brazil, a visit that inspired the foundation of Sporting Club Corinthian Paulista, who would become two-time World Club Cup Champions. The club made visits to Canada and Bohemia, plus two more to Brazil before the First World War interrupted all footballing activity.
After the War, with the rift between the F.A. and the A.F.A healed, the club continued to tour overseas, visiting Europe on many occasions and North America twice. Whilst travelling, they would play local clubs and challenge the national teams. Corinthian scored victories over the national teams from Brazil, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these nations would embrace football and develop into world champions, dominant in world football.
The Corinthian Football Club remained resolutely amateur and would not only become known for raising money for charities but would continue arranging fixtures against the best professional teams in the land. They scored victories over League Champions and F.A. Cup winners and began to enter the F.A. Cup. Their games would attract huge crowds that seem unimaginable for an amateur team in today’s professional world.
The Corinthian Spirit
They would also remain devout followers of the amateur code. Unlike their professional cousins, they chose not to accept payments, holding the ethos of fair play and sporting integrity as their motivation. This belief became known as the ‘Corinthian Spirit’. An essence of this remains a part of a British athlete’s D.N.A., wherever in the world they may compete. Although not ingrained in sporting education as it once was, it is still considered very important as part of an athlete’s education and can be found in the F.A.’s Respect campaign of recent years.
It is open to debate if the players Corinthian provided to the English National team made any difference in the results against Scotland. Admittedly, the results became more even after the foundation of the club. The English would only lose by a single goal or draw, but it was not until six years later when in 1888, the English finally inflicted a 5-0 loss on the Scots at Hampden Park. In the Scottish team, that day were four Queen's Park players, three of whom, Arnott, Hamilton and Lambie, had played for Corinthian. The English team contained no less than five Corinthians.
In the team was Cecil Henry Holden-White, the Corinthian's first captain, who led them to a 2-1 win in their opening game in 1882.
The Corinthians hold the honour of fielding a full squad of players for two International matches, both against Wales.(c) Corinthian-Casuals Football Club (CCFC)
Born in Notting Hill to an Australian wine merchant, Holden-White was not in the typical Corinthian mould. He was not a public schoolboy, had not attended Oxford or Cambridge Universities and was modest, shy and kept a low profile. He first played football with Clapham Rovers and would win the London Cup and London Charity Cup twice. He was a founding member of the Middlesex FA and the first Honorary Secretary. He played over thirty times for London and Middlesex and made six appearances for The South vs. The North. His two international appearances were two high-scoring wins over Wales and Scotland.
Rarely photographed, this picture of the Corinthians in 1885 appears to be the only image he allowed to be taken. He played for Corinthian for nine years, appearing 69 times, his only goal for the club coming in the 8-1 dismantling of the Blackburn Rovers team 1884. An injury against Queen's Park at the Oval in 1891, ended his Corinthian career.
Holden-White is an often overlooked Corinthian who deserves far more recognition.
The Corinthian-Casuals Football Club
Decimated by the loss of players in the First War, Corinthian regrouped and tried to carry on, occasionally scoring famous victories, but the interest in amateur football was declining. The universities and public schools were turning to rugby and the pool of high calibre players was reducing. In 1939, much to the disgust of several prominent members of the Club, and to save the club from folding completely, a merger with The Casuals Football Club was agreed.
The Corinthian-Casuals Football Club is still in existence in the seventh level of the English Football League and continues to adhere to the amateur code and coach the Corinthian Spirit in their Youth Section.