100 years on, the man so great he was given the Cup to keep

By Phil Shaw
Sunday 20 February 2011 01:00

Fine dining and bling are easily affordable to millionaire footballers such as Ashley Cole. Yet while the Chelsea and England full-back broke Lord Arthur Kinnaird's record of five FA Cup winners' medals last May, it is highly unlikely that he, or any player involved in this weekend's ties, will ever take the silverware home as his own property after a banquet in his honour.

A hundred years ago this month, Kinnaird's remarkable service to the Football Association and serial success in their blue-riband competition were celebrated at a dinner in London. The great football pioneer and philanthropist was actually given the trophy, which soon graced his mantelpiece in St James's Square.

The heavily bearded Kinnaird, who proudly represented Scotland despite being born in England, died in 1923. But his legend lives on, thanks to the diligence of Andy Mitchell, a Uefa media officer. His biography of the Baron, the so-far unpublished First Lord Of Football, is a feast of anecdotes to match the one held at the Holborn Hotel in 1911.

It was an opulent gastronomic affair, befitting Kinnaird's record of appearing in nine of the first 12 finals with the two clubs he captained, Wanderers and Old Etonians, and his work as FA treasurer and president from 1890. Dishes included boiled turbot, chicken sauté Windsor, fillets of beef pique Richelieu, roast pheasant and mayonnaise of lobster.

Since he was then 64, Kinnaird probably did not stand on his head, as he reputedly had after raising the Cup at the Kennington Oval in 1882 when Battersea-based Wanderers beat Blackburn Rovers in the first final not contested by two southern "amateur gentlemen" teams.

However, since the drinks started with a Montilla dry sherry, followed by wine and 1898 Carte d'Or champagne and finished with a 35-year-old brandy, anything was possible. "Three of his sons, Douglas, Kenneth and Arthur, were among the 71 all-male guests," explains Mitchell. "Douglas kept the menu, which was extravagant, made of gilt-tooled leather."

The decision to award him the sport's first knock-out trophy had its roots in the theft of the Cup in 1895 from a shop window in Birmingham. The FA had replaced it with a new one, which was presented until 1910, when it was discovered that it had been copied for commercial gain.

A new Cup – the iconic design we know today – was commissioned from Bradford jewellers Fattorini & Sons at a cost of £57/13s/0d. The old one, 18 inches tall and made of silver, was now Kinnaird's. "It stayed in the family after he died aged 75," says Mitchell. "Then it went into a bank vault and they eventually decided there was not any point in keeping it there. They put it up for auction at Christie's and in 2005 it was bought by [West Ham chairman] David Gold for getting on for £500,000. He loaned it to the National Football Museum in Preston.

"The tragic part of the story is the way the title died out. Only Arthur's grandson had a son, who died aged five, and four daughters. They're all alive and one lives in his stately pile near Dundee, which is still a working estate. I've been to see her.

"As well as the finals he played in, he presented the trophy three times and was linesman once. In those days, the event wasn't the same without him. He'd probably have played in the first final, in 1872, but he was in India working for his mother's charitable mission. He excelled at football and played in goal and as a forward, though his best position was half-back. But it was a hobby; he was an amateur. His full-time job was as a director of a bank which became part of Barclays.

"He also ran what was called a 'ragged school' for street urchins, which took up five or six nights a week. He was involved in 70 different bodies, including the YMCA and the Church of Scotland, yet still found time to be an international footballer."

Cole's pursuit of a seventh winners' medal led him to Goodison Park, which was opened by Kinnaird, before yesterday's replay at Stamford Bridge. Unlike Everton's home, the Holborn Hotel has not survived to see his lordship's centenary. "It was demolished long ago," laments Mitchell. "Otherwise I'd be there, raising a glass to Arthur."

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments