C. W. Alcock

C. W. Alcock
Charles Alcock
Ranji 1897 page 364-2 Charles W. Alcock.jpg
Personal information
Full name Charles William Alcock
Date of birth 2 December 1842(1842-12-02)
Place of birth Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, England
Date of death 26 February 1907(1907-02-26) (aged 64)
Place of death West Norwood, South London, England
Playing position Centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1862–1876 Wanderers
Harrow Pilgrims
National team
1870–1872 England 5 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Charles William Alcock (2 December 1842 – 26 February 1907)[1] was an influential English sportsman and administrator. He was a major instigator in the development of both international football and cricket, as well as being the creator of the FA Cup.


Early life and career

Born in Sunderland, his family moved to Chingford, then part of Essex, at an early age. Educated at Harrow School, Alcock was a keen schoolboy footballer, and formed the Forest club with his elder brother, John, in Chingford in 1859. He was then a prime mover in the 1863 foundation of Forest's more famous successor, Wanderers F.C., who were initially a predominantly Old Harrovian side. For their influence on the game of football the Wanderers were considered as early as 1870 to be the MCC of football.[2] As a player, Alcock was renowned as a hard-working centre-forward with an accurate shot. On 6 March 1875, he captained England against Scotland, scoring a goal in a 2-2 draw.


First international match

See also England v Scotland (1870)

Alcock was one of those responsible for the first ever international soccer match (and subsequent early international games) with Scotland. The first two of these took place in 1870, with later matches in 1871 and 1872. After the 1870 games there was resentment in Scotland that their team did not contain more home grown players and some of this fire was aimed at Alcock. Alcock himself was categorical about the international standing of the 1870 games and where he felt responsibility lay for the inclusion of so many England-based players in the Scotland team, writing in the Scotsman newspaper:

"I must join issue with your correspondent in some instances. First, I assert that of whatever the Scotch eleven may have been composed the right to play was open to every Scotchman [Alcock's italics] whether his lines were cast North or South of the Tweed and that if in the face of the invitations publicly given through the columns of leading journals of Scotland the representative eleven consisted chiefly of Anglo-Scotians ... the fault lies on the heads of the players of the north, not on the management who sought the services of all alike impartially. To call the team London Scotchmen contributes nothing. The match was, as announced, to all intents and purposes between England and Scotland".[3]

Alcock then proceeded to offer further challenges with a Scottish team drawn from Scotland and proposed the north of England as a compromise venue to take into account travelling distances. Although not currently recognised by FIFA as official, the Scotsman newspaper described the 1870 and 1871 games as "international" and in italics. One reason for the absence of a response to Alcock's early challenges may have been different football codes being followed in Scotland at the time. A written reply to Alcock's letter above states: "Mr Alcock's challenge to meet a Scotch eleven on the borders sounds very well and is doubtless well meant. But it may not be generally well known that Mr Alcock is a very leading supporter of what is called the "association game"... devotees of the "association" rules will find no foemen worthy of their steel in Scotland.".[4] Alcock appeared to be particularly concerned about the number of players in Scottish football teams at the time, adding: "More than eleven we do not care to play as it is with greater numbers it is our opinion the game becomes less scientific and more a trial of charging and brute force... Charles W Alcock, Hon Sec of Football Association and Captain of English Eleven".[3]

In 1872 Alcock's was behind the statement that 'In order to further the interests of the Association in Scotland, it was decided that during the current season, a team should be sent to Glasgow to play a match v Scotland' in the FA's minutes of 3 October 1872. The 1872 international match took place between England and Scotland on 30 November, with Alcock ruled out of the England side which drew 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick through injury sustained two weeks earlier, playing for Old Harrovians against Old Etonians. Instead he represented his country as umpire, with the England captaincy awarded to Cuthbert Ottaway.

FA Cup

On 20 July 1871, Alcock, in his position as FA Secretary, proposed 'That it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete'. Thus, the FA Cup - the world's first national football tournament, based on Alcock's experience of inter-house 'sudden death' competition at Harrow - was born. Fifteen teams took part in the first competition in 1872, with Alcock captaining the winning Wanderers side. It was only fitting that the final should be played at The Oval, since Alcock had become Secretary of Surrey CCC the previous month.

After joining the FA committee in 1866, Alcock served as FA Secretary from 1870 to 1895, before serving as Vice President. Alcock also refereed the 1875 and 1879 FA Cup Finals, and was the journalist responsible for compiling the first "Football Annual" in 1868.

Early football styles

Alcock was notable not only as an organiser and a player, but also as a key proponent and pioneer of modern football playing styles that employed teamwork and passing. In 31 March 1866 Alcock was the first soccer player ever to be ruled offside, confirming that players generally - and Alcock specifically - were probing ways of exploiting the new offside rule right from the start.[5][6] As early as 1870 Alcock was the first to recognise the benefit of playing football in a "scientific" way.[3] Alcock himself was one of the earliest soccer players to be described in contemporary reports as showing teamwork between players, for example in the 1871 England versus Scotland international:

"indeed it seemed as if the [Scottish] defence would prove more than equal to the attack until a well executed run down by C W Alcock WC Butler and RSF Walker, acting in concert, enabled the last named of the trio to equalise the score by the accomplishment of a well merited goal"[7]

In 1874 Alcock was the first to advocate the predecessor of the modern passing style known as the "Combination game": "Nothing succeeds better than what I may call a 'combination game'" He attributed to Sheffield FC the beginning of the modern passing game. In a discussion on the history of a "definite scheme of attack" and "elaborate combination" in football playing style, Alcock noted (in 1891): "The perfection of the system which is in vogue at the present time however is in a very great measure the creation of the last few years. The Cambridge University eleven of 1883 were the first to illustrate the full possibilities of a systematic combination giving full scope to the defence as well as the attack"[8]


In cricket, Alcock captained Middlesex in the first county match in 1867, before playing for Essex. He played only one first-class fixture, for MCC, in 1862 (Essex was not yet a first-class county).[9]

Between 1872 and 1907, Alcock served as secretary of Surrey. Repeating his interest in sporting internationals, he arranged the first cricket Test Match to be played in England, England against Australia at the Kennington Oval in 1880. He also edited the Cricket newspaper for almost a quarter of a century, and edited James Lillywhite's Cricketers' Annual from 1872 to 1900.

Charles Alcock is buried in West Norwood Cemetery in south London, England.[10]


  1. ^ http://www.englandfootballonline.com/TeamPlyrsBios/PlayersA/BioAlcockCW.html
  2. ^ "The Sporting Gazette" of Saturday 12 March 1870, see account of international match of 5 March 1870
  3. ^ a b c Charles W Alcock, The Scotsman newspaper, 28 November 1870, page 7
  4. ^ H>M. The Scotsman newspaper, 1 December 1870, page 12
  5. ^ http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/corshamref/sub/offhist.htm
  6. ^ Bell's Life in London, 7 April 1866, report of match of 31 March against Sheffield
  7. ^ The Scotsman Newspaper Monday 27 February 1871 page 7
  8. ^ Association Football, chapter by CW Alcock, The English Illustrated Magazine 1891, page 287
  9. ^ Statistics at CricketArchive.co.uk website.
  10. ^ Burial confirmation: Friends of West Norwood Cemetery website.
  • Alcock, Charles. Football: our winter game. 1874. ISBN
  • Booth, Keith. The Father of Modern Sport: The Life and Times of Charles W. Alcock, Parrs Wood Press. 2002. ISBN 1-903158-34-6

External links

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