Museum 125

Guernsey FA - The History Part 6

World War 2 & The Recovery 1945 – 1960

The first impact of World War 2 on local football came on September 12th, 1939, when the GFA Council met and the Minutes record that:

“the Football Association had decided to suspend all competitive matches on account of war having been declared, and that an advertisement be in the local papers suspending all competitive matches for the present.”

In February 1940, the GFA Council responded to a request from the Jersey FA to suspend all matches under the Inter Insular Committee’s jurisdiction until the War had concluded, with the GFA preferring to suspend only for the 1939/40 season before reviewing. The next GFA Council meeting on June 18th, 1940 would prove to be the last before the Occupation and at the meeting it was agreed that all trophies would be returned to the Secretary for storage at the Westminster Bank, only for the Bank to refuse to accept them. It was also agreed that affiliated clubs and leagues were at liberty to organise football matches and competitions despite football being suspended.

Only one meeting of the GFA Council was held during the Occupation, this being on October 15th 1940, when an affiliation request from the Sarnian League was approved, which allowed it to continue throughout the Occupation.

The first Council meeting after the island had been liberated, took place on 3rd July 1945, and was a sombre affair, as it was reported that during the Occupation the President, Mr. H. H. Randell, and Secretary, Mr. W. S. Frecker had both passed away. The Minutes from that meeting record that one of the first actions the Council took was:

“To confirm the action of the Executive available at that time, in sharing the cost of the funeral expenses of the late Secretary with the Rangers FC.”

The meeting also discussed correspondence from the Sarnian League and it was agreed to meet with the Sarnian FA Council, whilst also deciding that there would be no return of competitive football owing to the grounds being unavailable, with the matter to be reviewed after Christmas.

The next meeting was held in February 1946 and considered a proposal from the Jersey FA to re-introduce inter-island matches on a home and away competition basis and, to engage the public interest, to offer the Victory Cup for the winners. Owing to the Victory Cup being in England it was agreed to put forward the Peace Cup as an alternative, and to make enquiries with Elizabeth College about playing the match at the College Field due to the Track being unusable. Former GFA Secretary, and the then Secretary of the Amalgamated Committee, Mr. J. J Eveson, confirmed the Peace Cup would be made available.

The Council also discussed the prospect of competitive local matches being re-introduced but were concerned about there being less players and teams than before the Occupation, whilst the Sarnian League also sought to meet with the GFA Council to discuss the future. This meeting took place on June 26th, 1946 at the Rangers Social Club on Lefebvre Street, with the Sarnian League delegation including Mr. W. Corbet. The meeting discussed the merits of Sarnian League teams joining the Jackson league and the introduction of promotion/relation between the Priaulx and Jackson leagues. Subsequently, Vale Recreation, Rovers AC and Centrals AC were granted acceptance into the Railway League and H.E. Mauger Cup but the three clubs chose not to enter in the 1946/47 season.

The Association’s first annual general meeting in seven years was held on July 30th 1946, with the appointment of new President Mr. C. H. J. Rawlinson confirmed ahead of the return of competitive football for the 1946/47 season. That first season saw Belgrave Wanderers claim the Priaulx trophy and Vauxbelets Old Boys claim the Jackson league, which qualified the team for entrance into the Priaulx league after only one season in the Jackson league. Unfortunately Guernsey lost the first post-War Muratti to Jersey.

The 1947/48 season saw the revival of Sylvans, along with the return of Tottenham Hotspurs to the island for a match on Liberation Day, although the new Treasurer, Mr. G. A Lowe lamented that the club took 50% of the gross receipts when reporting at the annual general meeting that:

“Personally, I was very disappointed that, after Guernsey soccer had given them a player (Len Duquemin) who must be worth a few thousand pounds in the transfer market, the Spurs could not see their way to allow more lenient terms.”

The 1948/49 season finally saw Vale Recreation, Rovers AC and Centrals AC join the GFA competitions when entering the Jackson league, which necessitated more grounds and this led to the first use of a pitch at Saumarez Park. It was this season, which also saw the introduction of the Junior Division 2, which was won by Sylvans in a play-off match after finishing level on points with Rangers whilst the Rangers first team was entering a period when the club would dominate the Priaulx league, winning the famous trophy in nine of the next eleven seasons.

The recovery of local football and increase in teams and competitions led to a fixture programme totalling over 450 matches in the 1949/50 season, with the issue of ground availability being eased with the introduction of new pitches at Vauxbelets, Vale Recreation, Blanc Bois and Delancey Park.  The season is marked as the only time when the Jackson league trophy was shared, with Vale Recreation and Centrals finishing tied on points, and then unable to determine a winner after two extra play-off matches. This season was also the first time that Guernsey lifted the Muratti trophy since the end of World War 2, winning 2-1 at Springfield. At the annual general meeting, the GFA Secretary reflected on the win and attributed much of the success to a new coaching appointment when commenting:

“There is a feature that contributed very largely to this success. I refer to the engagement of Vic Buckingham. Through the good offices of Mr. Ted Zabiela, Tottenham Hotspurs offered the Association the services of Vic for coaching purposes for a period of six weeks or so. Vic has a very breezy personality, which made the players, shall I say, take to him at once. They responded to his coaching methods and went on the field in Jersey with the determination to win the Muratti.”

The season also saw the resignation of the GFA Vice-President, Mr. F. W. Mourant after 43 years of service, during which it is recorded he never missed a Council or annual general meeting.

The 1950-51 season is memorable for several reasons, the first of which, was the impact that the weather had on local fixtures, with 55 games left un-played at the end of the season. After sharing the Jackson league trophy the previous season, Vale Recreation won it outright and thus were promoted to the Priaulx league for the first time, whilst Northerners won the Wheway trophy for the first time. Guernsey retained the Muratti in front of a new record crowd of 13,273, which was memorable in its own right, but as reported by the GFA Secretary; “a number, incalculable, ‘saw’ the game through the splendid running commentary broadcast by John Arlott over the BBC.”

The 1952/53 season finally saw the introduction of the Junior ‘Upton’ competition, with teams competing for the Portsmouth Trophy, whilst in the 1954/55 season, the GFA introduced the Jubilee Cup competition, which would prove to be relatively short lived addition to the local game. The trophy itself had been donated by Athletics, and today is recognised as the Guernsey FA Cup trophy, ensuring it has retained its importance in local football. In its first year, the Jubillee Cup was won by Centrals, with the club also winning the Stranger Cup for the first time. Unfortunately Guernsey did not fare well in inter insular competitions with the GFA Secretary lamenting the situation:

“On the season’s results, the future does not look too hopeful. It is against the old enemy – Jersey – that we must put in the extra effort. It has been suggested that this might be done by the right kind of training. All players and clubs should benefit by the little extra coaching and training.”

Unfortunately, the situation did not improve much for the remainder of the 1950’s, with Guernsey only winning one Final between 1955 – 1965, which was the 6-4 victory in 1957 Final, which remains the highest scoring final to date. A similar theme existed in the Upton Cup and Jeremie Cup with Jersey based clubs claiming the majority of victories. Locally, Rangers were the team to beat in the Priaulx league for the remainder of the 1950’s, whilst Northerners were likewise the dominant team in the two youth divisions. Perhaps in response to the dominance of Rangers in the Priaulx league, Northerners proposed radical changes to the competition structure, when suggesting that the eight teams be split into two groups of four teams with promotion and relegation between the two groups. The proposal was rejected at the annual general meeting, but it ignited an interest in changing the format, to the extent that in November 1958 an emergency general meeting was called to consider various proposals to change the senior competition structure. The outcome of that meeting was to put forward to the next annual general meeting a proposal by Mr. W. Corbet. This proposal was eventually adopted and included teams being split into two groups of four, playing matches on a round robin basis, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the super league and playing for the Priaulx trophy and the bottom two to the minor league and playing for the Jubilee Cup, although this format appears to have been relatively short lived.