In 1913/14 old rivals Moseley and Coventry both reached the final of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup. Earlier in the season Moseley had defeated their hosts at the Charterhouse Ground, by ten points, but Coventry had gained revenge later in the season, at The Reddings, by ten points to eight. The final, on 18th April 1914, at Welford Road, Leicester, was therefore greatly anticipated although Coventry were thought to be the slight favourites due to their recent good form. Such was the interest surrounding the match that the railways laid on special trains.
This was Moseley’s nineteenth appearance in the cup final while Coventry had reached this stage on fourteen occasions. Moseley had held the cup on eight previous occasions including six wins in the first eight years of the competition. Coventry had been victorious in seven of their final appearances including four consecutive wins in 1891-94, a run which was ended by Moseley in the 1895 final.
Being senior clubs neither finalist entered the competition until the fourth round stage and therefore only had to play two matches in order to reach the final! Moseley firstly defeated Aston Old Edwardians (17-3) before beating the previous season’s runners up Belgrave Premier Works from Leicester, by ten points to nil. In order to reach the final Coventry had seen off Rugby (9-4) and Leicester (8-0).
Two days prior to the final, the Moseley honorary secretary, J.N. Stafford, contacted the Midland Counties Football Union seeking clarification as to whether or not two players, T.E. Maddocks and L.F. Judge, were on Coventry’s list of players and asking for confirmation that these two men were duly qualified to take part in the competition. The secretary of the union replied, on the following day, that Maddocks’s name was not on the list and that he had been aware of this for three days! Having checked with Coventry he had ascertained that this had been an accidental omission on their part and he also confirmed that Judge’s qualification was on the grounds of residence. Having received this reply, on the day of the final, Stafford sent a telegram to the union lodging a formal objection to these two players’ participation in the final.
In the final itself the first half was a fierce struggle amongst the forwards and by half time there had been no score. Coventry had the majority of the play during the second period and came out on top by a score of 13 points (two goals and one try) to nil. Many, including the correspondent of The Times and other newspaper reporters, mistakenly thought that having been defeated Moseley then lodged a protest against the eligibility of the two Coventry players.
Thinking, mistakenly, that Moseley’s protest against two of their players was a case of sour grapes for their defeat in the final the Coventry club took the moral high ground and at a committee meeting on the Monday following the final declared that Moseley’s action was ‘unsportsmanlike’ because their query was only a technical one. They did, however, admit that Maddocks’s name had not been on the list of players sent to the Midland Counties Football Union prior to their entry into the challenge cup competition but asserted that it was an ‘accidental omission’. They also stated that Judge was fully qualified for Coventry, because he had lived in the city for at least 10 years. Then in a fit of pique the Coventry committee resolved that they had no particular desire, in the face of the unsportsmanlike objection, to retain the cup and they instructed their honorary secretary to return it to the union with a request that it be awarded to one of the clubs defeated by Coventry in the cup ties. The secretary did as he was bidden and the trophy was duly returned.
Towards the end of the week following the cup final, rumours surfaced in the Birmingham press that Moseley might also have been ineligible to contest the final due to some technical infringement on their part. On the Friday after the match it was Moseley’s turn to take the moral high ground when secretary Stafford wrote to his counterpart at the union. Stafford pointed out that Moseley did not feel any ill will towards Coventry and would only wish to win the cup on the field. He also pointed out that the secretary of the union was aware of the query regarding the two Coventry men before Moseley and therefore should have taken some action. He confirmed that Moseley had themselves committed an offence in submitting their list of players after the deadline of the first Monday in February but pointed out that the union had, nevertheless, accepted the list and even answered a query from the club over the eligibility of one of the players on the list.
The whole matter was considered by the executive committee of the Midland Counties Football Union at a meeting held at the Grand Hotel, Birmingham on 25th April. The executive resolved that both of the Coventry players queried by Moseley were ineligible and also that Moseley had indeed submitted their list of players late and therefore that the Midland Counties Challenge Cup for 1913/14 should be declared null and void and that the cup should not be awarded to any club.
Three days after this decision J.N. Stafford was still in high dudgeon and wrote to the secretary of the union telling him that the club had not received any notification of the executive committee’s deliberations. He continued that if the competition had indeed been declared null and void it was on the basis of information that was known to the union prior to the match and therefore why had two ineligible teams been allowed to contest the final. Not surprisingly the union do not seem to have responded to this question!
Following this many thought there would be some ill will between the two clubs but thanks to the efforts of the Coventry president, S.R. Masser and his opposite number, J.F. Byrne, goodwill soon prevailed between the old rivals. Little did they know that before summer was out the nation would be plunged into war and that the Midland Counties Challenge Cup would not be contested again until 1920.
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