St THOMAS' HOSPITAL vs. CORINTHIAN FC
26th October 1882: perhaps a date not often celebrated by football historians, let alone fans, but a historic one nonetheless - the date of the first ever Corinthian FC match!
In the grounds of Lambeth Palace (a palace, of course!) the team met on the South Bank of the Thames to play the staff of St Thomas' Hospital, which is situated just across from the palace gardens.
Having only formed a month earlier - in a small box room on Paternoster Row, in the shadow of St Pauls Cathedral - Corinthian FC immediately set about changing the way the game was played. The standard formation used at the time was 1-1-8; Corinthian opted for the radical (and considered far more conservative...) 2-2-6!
And their style was unique from the start, adopting a passing tactic that no other English team played at the time. Keen to take on the Scots, the then dominant force in international football, they obviously reasoned that imitating the short passing game that had been developed north of the border, was the best form of offence. English football would never be the same again.
The auspicious surroundings of Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury's London home, seem both extraordinary and fitting for the Corinthians first fixture. The pitch (top right, the above picture) was located on an area that later became known as Archbishop Park, and it has been open to the public since 1901.
The new 3G pitch at Archbishop Park as it is today.
The game ended 2-1 to Corinthian and it was reported that St Thomas's Hospital would have equalised had it not been for the marvellous defensive work of the club's first captain, Cecil Holden-White.
A wine merchant by trade, Corinthians' first captain was an England International born to a Swiss mother and an Australian father. A fine left half, his last International was also the turning point for English football - when nine Corinthians contributed to a 5-0 away win against the Scots at Hampden Park in 1888. It was the first time England had beaten Scotland in competitive football and was the culmination of all of N.L. Jackson's pioneering work with the club, which he had founded to improve the English national team. As a captain throughout the clubs formative years, Cecil Holden-White played a pivotal role in achieving that ambition.
Cecil Holden-White with the England side that beat Scotland 5-0 at Hamden Park in 1888.
In 1882, the game was a very different sport to what it is today. Crossbars on goals weren't introduced for another year and throw-in's looked very different to how they do these days. Taken one handed with a sling type action, players such as Norman Bailey - England's first permanent captain - could throw the ball in to the goal mouth from anywhere in the opponents half. The game was not for the faint-hearted, with tactics involving heavy charging and prearranged hustling of the goalkeeper by two or three forwards. And yet it was the genesis of the Beautiful Game we love.
With this first victory, the club were born. Few that day could have imagined the legacy the club would leave...!
Team: E.B. Denton, F.B. Spencer, R.B. Johnson, R.H.B. Redford, W. Leete, E.H.S. Barnes, H.B. Clarkson, A.B. Coutts, R.W. Burrows, S.S. Sprigge, C. Holden-White