Sunday, 16 January 2011

I know VERY little/nothing about soccer/football -- but being up here in Bishop Auckland and West Auckland, I came across this nugget of information:  

ASK most people who won the first World Cup and they will tell you Uruguay. However, ask people in County Durham and they will tell you something different entirely.

The fact that most of the rest of the world has never heard of West Auckland FC does not stop its fans claiming the team are the real winners of the first World Cup.

The basis of their claim is a delightful story about a small north-eastern club made up of miners and traders who were invited to take part in a prestige international tournament in Italy, and ended up thrashing Italian giants Juventus.

On this day in 1909 West Auckland became the first winners of the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy.

Sir Thomas Lipton (of Lipton tea), a millionaire with business interests in Britain and Italy, decided to stage a tournament in Turin between teams from Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Great Britain.

Torino XI (Italy), Stuttgarter Sportfreunde (Germany), FC Winterthur (Switzerland) all turned up to play in the competition but the English FA decided in their wisdom not to send a team. Sir Thomas wasn’t having any of this and wanted a British representative, although quite why he chose West Auckland remains a mystery.

One theory that he was actually trying to invite Woolwich Arsenal but his secretary misunderstood a note to call “W.A.” is considered unlikely to be true given that the Gunners were hardly pulling up trees at the time and were not the high profile team they are now.

It is more likely that one of Lipton’s employees had a personal connection to the club but whatever the reason the players travelled to Turin in 1909 to take part in the tournament – many of them at their own expense.

At the two-day event ‘West’ beat Stuttgarter Sportfreunde 2-0 in the first game, and then beat FC Winterthur by the same scoreline to win the trophy.

In 1911 they were invited back to defend their title which they did in style. In their first game they beat FC Zurich 2-0 before thrashing Juventus 6-1 in the final. Having won it twice the team were allowed to keep the trophy for good, and the competition was never staged again.

It seems to us that these are hardly grounds for claiming to be the first winners of the World Cup but it is a great story nonetheless.

The club held on to the trophy until financial problems forced them to pawn it to the landlady of a local pub and it was not until 1960 that a village appeal raised the funds necessary to return the cup to the football club.

In 1994, like the FA Cup and the World Cup before it, the cup was stolen and, despite the offer of a £2,000 reward, the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy has not been rediscovered. A replica is on display in the West Auckland Working Men’s Club.

Just a year after their famous victory debts caused the club to fold and withdraw from the Northern League but were reformed in 1914 under the name West Auckland Town FC in 1914 although they have never hit the heights that they did during the early twentieth century.

nearby Raby Castle
a family ACTUALLY lives there (the Barnards ...)
Castle Barnard ... ye olde towne
Barnard Castle
an old ruin (also owned by the family who live in Raby)
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