On May 18th2019, you’d be forgiven for thinking history was being made. As Manchester City continued their relentless attacking in the final ten minutes of the game, it seemed inevitable. Raheem Sterling, who could’ve had a hat-trick had he knocked Gabriel Jesus’s strike in a centimetre earlier, scored City’s 5thgoal of the game in the 81stminute and only Heurelho Gomes, who may have been playing his final game before retiring to become a pastor, kept City out for the next six minutes. Sterling doubled his tally with three minutes left of the 90, and then put it on a plate for John Stones to break the record and make it 7-0, just for Gomes to save.
Had Stones placed it either side of the Brazilian ‘keeper, City would have set the record for the biggest FA Cup Final win, competing the first domestic treble while they were at it. Instead, they’ll have to make do with sharing the existing record – 6-0 - that has stood for 116 years.
In 1903, three years after beating Southern League side Southampton 4-0 in the FA Cup Final, they were back to attempt to win it again, this time against favoured Derby County. Their first FA Cup triumph was remarkable in its own right. Drawn away in every single round, Bury were victorious over Burnley, Notts County, defending champions Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest. Yet they were fortunate to make the final, having found themselves 2-0 down against Forest in the semi-final replay, before the aptly named Jasper McLuckie equalised with just five minutes left, after Charlie Sagar had halved the deficit ten minutes into the second half.
The 1900 final was held at the old Crystal Palace ground in front of 68,945 fans and refereed by Arthur Kingscott. One hundred years before the likes of Mark Clattenburg and Graham Poll were turning the status of referee into a personality, Kingscott was a master of the art. A year later, the Derbyshire-born official awarded a goal in the Cup Final that became the centre of controversy and the first to be debated with video footage. He gave a goal where there seemingly wasn’t one and if there was, he was too far away to give it, such were the margins. Despite this, he was the referee for the replay the next week.
Kingscott continued to referee for another five seasons, becoming the first officiate two FA Cup Finals, taking his career to 14 years. His son of the same name, Arthur H Kingscott, had his own 16-year career as a referee, and he too officiated an FA Cup Final, taking charge of West Brom’s 2-1 victory over Birmingham at Wembley in 1931. Two years later, Kingscott senior resigned from his position of FA treasurer, after accusing the officials for the FA Cup Final 1933 of taking a bung over the selection of footballs for use.
Bury’s first FA Cup win saw McLuckie continue his scoring form by netting a brace, while Willie Wood and John Plant grabbed the other goals. It was a one-sided affair and Southampton would have to wait 76 years before they won the FA Cup, finishing runners-up again in 1902.
For the 1903 final, Mr. J Adams officiated - a much more anonymous referee with no recorded history of note, and how it should be, many believe. A 63,102 attendance packed the stadium and witnessed record-breaking football. Bury’s line-up contained six of the 1900 winners: wing back George Ross (now captain), Billy Richards, Willie Wood, Charlie Sagar, Joe Leeming, and John Plant. Sagar and Plant were of particularly outstanding calibre, both playing for England. The former, despite his early death at just 41-years old, managed to break some other records in his career, including becoming the first Manchester United player to score a hat-trick on his debut, when he put three past Bristol City on the opening day of the 1905/06 season. That was another long-held record, not being matched until Wayne Rooney did the same 99 years later against Fenerbache.
Lining up in an unusual kit of Cambridge blue shirts and navy shorts, Bury’s opponents Derby were in red shirts and black shorts. Before the age of away kits - let alone third kits - the two teams had to compromise, given their clashing wihte strip. Fast forward to the 2019 FA Cup Final and the only dilemma was City and Watford’s matching socks.
Despite missing their future record goal-scorer, Steve Bloomer – a man our friend Arthur Kingscott allegedly unearthed, according to Caxton’s Association Football (1960) – due to injury, Derby were still favourites. However, they were undone by a player who was also injured, but played nonetheless – goalkeeper Jack Fryer, who was described as “a giant in physique and reputation.”
Fryer played in Derby’s first three FA Cup Finals, all of which ended in defeat, but they could have perhaps won the third one if he and the club accepted he was not fully fit. Instead, sentimentality took over, and Fryer went off injured just three minutes into the second half, aggravating his underlying injury attempting to stop Bury’s second goal.
Sixty-two years before substitutions were introduced, Fryer’s injury took Derby down to ten men and left them in further jeopardy given an outfielder had to take his place in goal. In fact, both full-backs – Jimmy Methven and Charlie Morris – had stints in between the sticks, as they went on to concede a further four goals, becoming the only team to use three goalkeepers in an FA Cup Final.
The forced change and one-man deficit signalled disaster and within 11 minutes, Bury scored a further three goals, with Leeming (56thminute), Wood (57th) and Plant (59th) adding to Ross’s and Sagar’s strikes. Fryer kept returning to the pitch in an attempt to continue, conceding the fourth and fifth goal, but then left the field for good, leaving Morris to concede Bury’s sixth and final goal.
"Briefly and candidly the cup final was a fiasco. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Bury defeated Derby County by six goals to none, and it might have been twenty. That it was not is testimony to the mercy exercised by the victors rather than to the defence of the losers," stated the Daily Chronicle’s post-match write-up.
Lord Arthur Kinnaird had the duty of handing out the winners’ medals to Bury and he had a decorated FA Cup history of his own. A principal of the Football Association, Kinnaird was a remarkable footballer. He played in nine FA Cup Finals – a record that still stands to this day – winning five, only bettered by Ashley Cole’s seven. He was also the unfortunate scorer of the first FA Cup Final own goal, but luckily, it did not cost his side the game. Wanderers went on to beat Oxford University 2-1 in extra time, in front of 3000 spectators at Kennington Oval. Furthermore, Kinnaird holds the unique record of having played in every position from goalkeeper to striker in FA Cup Finals.
It was an incredible two weeks for all involved at Bury Football Club. After collecting their medals, Bury celebrated at the famous Trocadero restaurant on Coventry Street in London, before spending two nights at the Tavistock Hotel. Winning the FA Cup Final on April 18th, they went on to win the Lancashire Senior Cup Final on April 27thand draw - and thus share - the Manchester Senior Cup Final with none other than Manchester City two days later. It was a famous treble of their own 116 years before City’s record-breaking Premier League, League Cup, and FA Cup triumphs.
Bury’s 1903 FA Cup Final win was the pinnacle of a fantastic season and over the course of the competition they did not concede a single goal. While Manchester City rightly collect their plaudits over the coming days, less than twelve miles away is Bury’s Gigg Lane and a history book laden with records of its own.