Historical Football Kits


English FA Cup Finalists 1880 - 1889

old carthusians 1881The dominance of the southern public school, army and university teams came to an end as the game took root in the industrial midlands and north-west. The 1881 final between Old Carthusians (left) and Old Etonians was the lasted contested by public school teams. With the participation of the working class, both as players and spectators, the game ceased to be the exclusive pursuit of the genteel upper and middle classes and became a mass spectator sport. The new breed of clubs built enclosed grounds, charged admission and were run for profit. Intense competition led to players being poached by one club from another and financial inducements, forbidden by the FA's strict rules on amateurism, became commonplace. In 1885 the FA bowed to the inevitable and recognised professionalism and the balance of power shifted decisively north - no amateur side has appeared in the final since then. In 1888 the Football League was formed and members have enjoyed a monopoly of the FA Cup (with one notable exception) ever since.

1879 - 1880

Clapham Rovers

Oxford University

Clapham Rovers 1 Oxford University 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 10 April 1880

With 55 entrants, the competition was extended to six rounds (including the semi-finals) and the final moved back into April. Beaten finalists the previous year, Clapham Rovers won a narrow victory to add a new name to the FA Cup. Reginald Halsey Birkett, playing in goal for the Rovers, became the first player to be capped for England in both football and rugby union.


1880 - 1881

Old Carthusians

old etonians fc

Old Etonians

Old Carthusians 3 Old Etonians 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 9 April 1881

The former Charterhouse School club entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1880 and comfortably beat their Eton rivals in the final. This was the last final to be contested between the amateur sides from the south.


1881 - 1882

old etonians fc 1882 fa cup final kit

Old Etonians

Old Etonians 1 Blackburn Rovers 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 25 March 1882

For the first time a provincial club reached the final. Despite their formidable reputation, Rovers could not beat the well-prepared Etonians, playing in new "harlequin" tops and captained by Alfred Kinnaird (who played as usual in long trousers) in his eighth final. Because of a colour clash, Rovers had to buy a set of hooped shirts when they arrived in London. They would later blame this change from their usual outfit for their defeat. The Athletic News (29 March 1882) confirms that Rovers' jerseys were blue and white.

(Brian Webb)


1882 - 1883

backburn olympic 1883 fa cup final

Blackburn Olympic

old etonians fc 1882 fa cup final kit

Old Etonians

Blackburn Olympic 2 Old Etonians 0 (Extra Time played)

venue Kennington Oval
date 31 March 1883

The FA Cup went north for the first time but it was the unknown working men's team of Olympic rather than the former grammar school boys of Rovers that achieved the honour. With the game scoreless after 90 minutes, Olympic showed superior stamina (they were the first team to train specifically for their cup ties) and scored twice in extra time. Their success proved to be the seed of their downfall, however, as their best players were poached the following season by their rivals and in 1889, Olympic closed down. This was the last final in which any of the old former public school sides would appear.

(Brian Webb)


1883 - 1884

Blackburn Rovers 2 Queen's Park 1

venue Kennington Oval
date 29 March 1884

A record crowd of 12,000 watched an unprecedented international final, the climax of a competition that attracted 101 entries. The Glasgow side, virtually the Scottish international team, started out as favourites but were outplayed in the second half by the Rovers who had the crowd on their side.


1884 - 1885

Blackburn Rovers 2 Queen's Park 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 4 April 1885

In a remarkable turn of events, the 1885 final was a repeat of the previous year's. Once again. however, Queen's Park started the match as favourites but their long journey to London ended in failure for the second time. Blackburn dominated the game and ran out comfortable winners.


1885 - 1886

Blackburn Rovers 2 West Bromwich Albion 0 (Replay after 0-0 draw)

venue Kennington Oval: Replayed at The Racecourse Ground, Derby
date 3 & 10 April 1886

Rovers appeared in their third successive final and were nearly beaten by strong West Brom side. The replay took place in Derby, the first time that the final had been played outside London. Rovers led at half-time and could have had a third but the scorer, Sowerbutts, thinking that he was offside, did not appeal to the referee who, it later turned out would have awarded the goal. The FA awarded Blackburn a silver shield to commemorate their achievement in winning the competition for the third time in succession. An engraving on the cover of The Pictorial World (April 30 1886) suggests both teams wore their regular strips.

(Graham Brack)


1886 - 1887

Aston Villa 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 2 April 1887

West Brom made their second appearance in the first all-Midlands final but were unable to overcome a rugged Villa defence. In the second half the game swung in Villa's favour and they took the lead when the West Bromwich goalkeeper made no attempt to save a shot from Hodgetts, thinking he was offside. In the final minute another defensive error allowed the Birmingham side to score their second and a new name was engraved on the cup.


1887 - 1888

West Bromwich Albion 2 Preston North End 1

venue Kennington Oval
date 24 March 1888

Preston, with a side full of Scottish imports, demolished Hyde FC 26-0 on their way to their first final, still an English record. With 434 consecutive victories under their belt, Proud Preston were confident that they would easily beat Albion. Indeed, it is said that their captain asked for the team to be photographed with the cup before the match kicked off. In the event, it was West Brom who took the honours in their third successive final appearance. For the first time the Oval's gates were locked as 17,000 crammed into the ground.


1888 - 1889

Preston North End 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

venue Kennington Oval
date 30 March 1889

After Preston beat Hyde FC from Manchester 26-0 the previous season, the FA Cup was restructured into a qualifying competition and the competition proper. This arrangement, which ensures that only the stronger non-league teams progress to meet the top professional sides, exists to this day. Preston swept all before them, winning the first Football League championship undefeated and reaching the FA Cup final without conceding a goal. A record 23,000 spectators saw the Lancashire side beat Wolves, making their first appearance, by a comfortable margin.

The 1870s | FA Cup Finals | The 1890s