The Scottish Lord who Became English Footballing Royalty
Alan Shearer, Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks, Geoff Hurst, Alf Ramsey, David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson, Gareth Bale, and George Best. When you think of the best and most iconic British footballers of all-time, its names like those that are envisaged. Then there’s the six British Ballon d’Or winners: alongside Best, there’s Sir Stanley Matthews, Denis Law, Sir Bobby Charlton, Kevin Keegan, and Michael Owen. While two of those were knighted, they weren’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth; not like the inherited wealth that was bequeathed upon Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird, 11th Lord Kinnaird, recipient of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.
(Picture credits to: http://www.uomonelpallone.it)
Born in Kensington, London to a Scottish father, who was a banker and MP, and a mother from Northampton, who would go on to found the Young Women’s Cristian Association (YWCA) and work with Florence Nightingale (all before Arthur Jr. was born) he would grow up to become one of British football’s first icons and set numerous records that still exist to this day. Before James Milner was reinventing himself in numerous positions throughout his career, Kinnaird was doing it; before Ashley Cole was appearing in FA Cup final after final for Arsenal and then Chelsea, Kinnaird was outdoing it; and before Neil Ruddock and Paul Ince were kicking players around the park for fun, he was setting the precedent for it.
Educated at the prestigious establishments of Cheam School, Eton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge, Kinnaird was among the elite from an early age - if his destiny of an inherited Lordship had not already ensured his status. Over the course of his varied and impressive professional life, he would serve as a director of two banks, the latter of which became the Barclays Bank we know today, the president of the YWCA and YMCA in England, a Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on three occasions, and an Honorary Colonel of a volunteer unit of the Royal Engineers.
If he wasn’t busy enough, he made time to fill his personal life with a myriad of sports, all of which he seemed to excel in. He twice won a blue at tennis while at Trinity College, he won an international canoe race in Paris in 1867, was a champions swimmer and fives player at Cambridge University, and won the 350 yards race (320 metres) at Eton College. Despite all this, his greatest achievements came in yet another field; the one we know and love at The Terrace: the green one that is 115 by 75 yards.
Debuting in association football early in 1866, Kinnaird was not yet 20, however he had already established himself as a leader on the field, first captaining his Cheam school side at the age of 12 in a match against Harrow and winning the House Cup at Eton two years later. It is thus no surprise that two years after first starting to play football in its most organised sense, he was already an FA committeeman at the young age of 21. Today described as a ‘key figure in the early development of football’ by the Scottish FA, it was his country of heritage rather than that of birth that he chose to represent.
In one of many firsts, Kinnaird made his international debut, his only appearance for Scotland, in the second ever international, played against England at The Oval, in 1873. Now known for its status as an international cricket ground that traditionally hosts the final Test match of the English season, the ground was once home to the biggest of British football’s sporting events, including the first two England internationals (both times against Scotland), and the FA Cup final between 1872 and 1892, with the exception of 1873. The venue would play host to many of Kinnaird’s record-setting football, a number of which still stand to this day.
Although his first FA Cup Final was in that one year it wasn’t at the Kennington ground, the Scottish Lord would go on to feature in eight finals there - a final appearance record to this day - winning five between 1873 and 1882. Only Ashley Cole has won more – seven – with Kinnaird collecting three winners’ medals at Wanderers Football Club and two at Old Etonians.
A remarkably versatile footballer, Kinnaird holds the truly unique and bizarre record of having played in every position on the field, including goalkeeper, in FA Cup finals. In an act that can only be pulled off by such a character, when he won his fifth FA Cup in 1882, a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in which he was playing in midfield, he celebrated by standing on his head in front of the crowd. It has been described as the last final to be won by a “gentleman amateur” side and in May 2013, a programme from the game sold for £35,250 at auction – a world record.
He wasn’t just competent on the pitch. In 1877, he became a treasurer for The FA, and in 1890, at the age of 43, he became The FA President. He would hold the role until his death in 1923, missing out on the opening of Wembley Stadium by months. In his time as president, he continued his love affair with the world’s oldest football cup competition, handing out winners’ medals, but also continued to achieve much more.
During his presidency, England would successfully join FIFA, despite 1904 attempts by Germany and Austria to lobby the organising body to enforce England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to compete as the United Kingdom and not as individual states. To this day, the United Kingdom remain as one of just nine countries that do not have FIFA-affiliation, along with the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, and the Vatican City.
His one other notable record – being the first to score an own goal in the FA Cup Final in 1877 – does not prevent his many stellar achievements and accolades from making this Scottish Lord part of England’s footballing royalty.
Written by our Head Wordsmith Jordan Florit - @TheFalseLibero