Shepherd’s Bush - rather than Wembley - awaited the lads of West Hartlepool after they won through to the finals of the prestigious FA Amateur Cup in 1905.
The road to London had been littered with tough clashes and hostile crowds, but Pools were determined to bring some sporting glory back to the North East.
“Formed in 1881/82 by enthusiastic amateurs, the players quickly established themselves in the region and won the Durham Amateur Challenge Cup,” said sports writer Neil Watson.
“Now, at the start of a new century, West Hartlepool set their sights on national glory. Only one team stood in their way - Clapton; one of the best amateur teams of the time.”
A huge crowd gathered at West Hartlepool Station on Friday, April 7, 1905, to wave off the team. Parlour games, sing-songs and tasty snacks all help pass the long journey for the players.
Some 24 hours later, the day of the match dawned chilly but fair. An inspection found the Loftus Road pitch to be “hard and fast” - and now all that was needed was a Pools win.
Now, at the start of a new century, West Hartlepool set their sights on national glory. Only one team stood in their way - Clapton; one of the best amateur teams of the time.Neil Watson, sports writer.
“Clapton, after winning the toss, had both sun and wind behind them. Play ruled even, but rather scrambling, both sides missing chances,” said Neil.
“Interestingly, Clapton was by far the bigger side. Only Otto Trechmann for West was over 5ft 9ins - and the Pools keeper, Bainbridge, measured only 5ft 4ins.”
The size and strength of the opposition, however, appeared no problem for Pools - with Trechmann scoring after 30 minutes, and Dick Heggarty adding a another just minutes later.
The second half brought a change of ends, and more goals. But, although Clapton pressed forward, they were “weak in front of goal at first” according to press reports at the time.
“Eight minutes from the resumption, Trechmann scored the Northerner’s third point with a grand shot from a pass by Black,” reported the Yorkshire Post.
“Subsequently, Clapton struggled desperately, until Purrell ran through and scored a fine goal. The Northerners then defended admirably, but Purnell scored again for Clapton just on time.”
Pools fans were left biting their nails until the final whistle sounded, alternately celebrating success - then mourning the possibility of a draw, or even contemplating defeat.
Victory, however, was to be theirs. Pools stood firm, defended well and became the proud winners of the FA Amateur Cup - the eighth time a North East team had lifted the trophy.
“The cup again is to be brought north,” reported the Post. “It was a well deserved victory.”
A “sumptuous banquet” awaited the players after the match, and they were swamped by messages of congratulations from several football teams - including rivals Bishop Auckland.
Thousands of football fans turned out to welcome the team back to Hartlepool three days later, greeting the players with a “herald of foghorns” as well as whistles, cheers and shouts.
“There was a rapid growth of interest in football after the victory, which eventually led to calls to form a professional club,” said Neil.
“It was decided the team would encompass both old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool and so, in 1908, Hartlepools United was born.”