Channel: Before The 'D'...Association Football around the world, 1863-1937.
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Unlikely Semi Finalists?


FA Cup semi-final weekend.
It will for many be the high point of the season, but ultimately the unsuccessful semi finalists will largely be forgotten.
If we accept a certain standard of knowledge of the antiquity of football and a familiarity with the list of FA Cup Winners of the 19th century, I think you'll agree that a look at the semi finalists of that era still throws up some unexpected names.
Incidentally there was only one semi final in the 1872-73 season, when the competition was played as a 'challenge cup' for the only time. There were also a further 5 seasons in which teams received a bye at the semi- final stage.

1874, 1876, 1886:  Swifts
The origins of this Slough based  club are somewhat obscure, but they seem to have been active as early as 1868.
8 Swifts players represented England, including the 3 Bambridge brothers.
 The club were absorbed in a merger in 1890.

1875: Shropshire Wanderers
An example of the way in which the model of the aristocratic gentleman's club was transferred into a more provincial setting. Wanderers feature significantly in the history of Welsh football- their semi final team featured founder of the Football Association of Wales Llewelyn Kenrick and Wales/England international John Hawley-Edwards.  

1881: Darwen
Before being eclipsed by Blackburn Rovers Darwen were the pre-eminent side in Lancashire. In 1879 they had been in the headlines for their epic 3 game quarter final struggle with Old Etonians .
In 1881 they went one better, marching to the semis with 33 goals in 4 matches. However, Old Carthusians swept them away with a second half comeback.

1882: Marlow
In the season in which the names of  familiar professional teams began to appear with greater regularity (The  Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers contesting one semi final), Old Etonians' opponents were Marlow, who had played in the very first FA Cup.

1886: Small Heath Alliance
In 1886 the club that evolved into Birmingham City joined Swifts in the semis, but they lost out to West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn Rovers.

1887: Glasgow Rangers 
 Every schoolboy knows that Queen's Park of Glasgow reached 2 consecutive FA Cup Finals. Rangers sought to emulate them in the 1886-87 season, when as one of 7 Scottish clubs to enter they reached the semis before losing to Aston Villa at Crewe.

1888: Crewe Alexandra,  Derby Junction
What a final that would have been. The public had to settle for West Bromwich Albion versus Preston North End. 
Crewe would win the Welsh Cup in 1936 and 1937 but they've not yet had another sniff of FA Cup glory.
Derby Junction were a club formed by the alumni of Junction Street School. They folded in 1895.

1900: Milwall Athletic
Milwall had been Southern League champions in both 1895 and 1896. Their semi final appearance ended in a defeat at the hands of Southampton, also of the Southern League.

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