The Moseley Trophy 
 
 

The MOSELEY TROPHY - by the late Peter Woodroofe, in 2006........

Early Cup rivalry.

 

Coventry F.C. was founded in 1874, a year after Moseley. Fixtures between the two clubs began as long ago as 1876. From the very beginning, the intensity of the rivalry between the two clubs increased more and more and this was fuelled by the arrival of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup Competition instituted in 1881/82. The two clubs met in the final in 1884, before scoring by points was introduced, with Moseley winning by one goal to three tries.

Bad for the game.

The competition was discontinued in 1926 because of the general feeling that cup ties, in addition to disrupting club fixtures in March and April, created acrimony and did no good for the game. One pundit wrote: 'The ambition of the bigger clubs and the inability of certain teams to behave like gentlemen killed the old cup.' By then, the clubs had met in seven finals, Coventry winning four and Moseley two, with the 1914 final declared null and void after Coventry had beaten Moseley 13-0, because Coventry had included two players not on their list of men for cup ties and Moseley had been late with their list!

Playing for pride.

As there were no club competitions in the Midlands after 1926 before the county cups were introduced in the 1970s, motivation was provided by the pride of playing for and supporting your club so local derbies and games against the Welsh clubs provided additional spice to the fixtures.

The Moseley Coventry fixture has a long tradition and has provided its share of controversy over the years at all playing and official levels. But a supreme moment was at the time of both clubs Golden Age when, in 1972, 16 international players, past, present and future, graced The Reddings in a match played before a crowd of 4,000.

National Cups.

In the R.F.U. National Cup competition, which commenced in 1971/72, Coventry have won all three games between the clubs, two at The Reddings (1972/73 and 1984/85) and one at Coundon Road (1982/83). They have won the cup twice, in 1972/73 and 1973/74 and on their way to winning the cup in 1972/73, they defeated Moseley 13-9, one of their away victories.

The two clubs met in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup, in November 1997, Moseley winning 36-29 at Coundon Road.

League parity.

From when league rugby began in 1987/88, to the start of 2006/07 there have been 21 matches between the two clubs, Moseley having won nine and Coventry twelve. [The complete league record from 1987/88 to 2009/10 including two relegation play-off matches in 2009/10 is Moseley 15 wins, Coventry 16].

September 2006.

In September 2006 the resumption of the  Moseley-Coventry local derby, after three seasons, proved a splendid occasion for the 'alickadoos'of both clubs, It was like a reunion with plenty of eating, drinking and reminiscing. The Moseley 'old 'uns' were looked after throughout by, amongst others, Brian 'Spike' O'Donnell, a Coventry, Warwickshire and Midland Counties second-row (1953-59), who had a trial for Ireland.
It was also a pleasure to see 91-year-old Harry Walker sat in his 'special chair' at the corner of the bar. Arguably the oldest, but definitely one of the oldest surviving England internationals, Harry won nine caps when he was an England ever-present in 1947 and 1948. He was part of the Wheatley, Wyman, Walker renowned Coventry pack. Harry was kind enough to say he thought Moseley were the better team on the day.

Moseley Trophy.

When Coventry moved from Coundon Road to their fine new Butts Park Arena, they unearthed from their memorabilia a silver cup on a thick black plinth called the 'Moseley Trophy.' It appears it had come into existence when Moseley first played Coventry on Boxing Day-well before the Second World War-and commemorated the occasion.

It has certainly not been played for since the War and Harry Walker does not remember it. But thankfully the trophy has been resurrected and will be played for whenever the two clubs meet henceforth.

The future on Boxing Day may be no more, the lack of public transport being a problem, but while the clubs are in the same division, it will be played for twice a season. Who instigated it is unclear and is a question to be researched. [It has now been established that the Moseley Trophy was presented by Moseley as a prize for the winners of the Midlands/West 2nd XV competition of the 1980s/1990s. Coventry were the last winners of this competition hence the trophy's presence at Coundon Road].

After Coventry won the tense game by a single point, Coventry president David Hardy handed the trophy to Moseley president Derek Nutt, who presented it back to Coventry, vowing to win it back when the two clubs meet again at Billesley Common on 16th December-close to Boxing Day!

Note: 2009 sees the return of this fixture as the place to be on Boxing Day at Billesley Common!

Harry Knox adds............

Following last week's preview on the Coventry match, we received some further information on the history of the clash from Harry Knox who played for both sides in the 50s and 60s-in fact he played for both sides twice!

'Back in the 50s and 60s, Moseley and Coventry were among the strongest club sides in the country. This, and their close proximity, made matches between the two assume an extra level of ferocity. And when you include the make-up of the respective teams-Moseley a predominately university/professional side and Coventry a local lad/local workplace side the games had even more bite.

I was lucky to have a foot in both camps. In 1958, after leaving Cambridge University, I went to live and work in Coventry. John Herbert, my captain at Cambridge, suggested playing for Moseley as Peter Robbins was captain there.

It was in the days before I could afford a car and so I trained at Coventry midweek and took the train to Birmingham on Saturdays. If we had an away fixture which meant getting back to Birmingham after midnight, I usually ended up sleeping on someone's sofa. I remember John Little being particularly kind, and it was sad to hear of his death earlier this year.

After two years, I think I ran out of sofas and so moved to play for Coventry. Another factor which may have influenced the move was getting married! In those days, ladies were banished from The Reddings bar at 6p.m. and after each game my wife had to sit in the tea room waiting for my drinking to end.

A move between the two clubs was unprecedented, and yet over the next few years, I was followed by Peter Robbins, Brian Wightman and the Pargetter brothers, Tom and Pancho. Then in 1962, still having lots of friends at Moseley, I rejoined the club for my last season before returning to the North of England.

The links with the North were quite strong, particularly at Coventry . . In 1959/60 Cov had three members in the Durham county side-George Grace, John Moffat and myself, as well as supplying most of the Warwickshire side. At Moseley, the Smallwoods, Charles and Enid, had many links with Durham and were gracious hosts to my wife and me on many occasions.

Anyone who has read Michael Blair's excellent biography of Peter Robbins-"Life At One Hundred Miles An Hour" will realise that life at Moseley was never dull and never serious (off the field). I am grateful for my share and still bore my friends with my happy memories-Harry Knox.

The thoughts and memories of former players are always welcome-if you have any memories of your playing days please send them to info@moseleyrugby.co.uk.