EVERYONE loves a winner and, across sport today, fans love to unite to see the underdog creating the dream and achieving the impossible.

Who can forget the euphoric scenes across the city in May 1976 when the FA cup was brought home to Southampton for the very first time?

Southampton Football Club achieved this as underdogs and very much against the odds.

Saints are not the only football team from this city to have taken part in the FA Cup, for if we look back to the 1919-1920 season we see an entry for Thornycrofts (Woolston) FC in the competition.

Thorneycrofts was an English amateur football club and had been formed by employees of John I Thornycroft & Company who were a Woolston based shipbuilding company at that time.

They were a works team and they played their home fixtures at the Veracity Ground in nearby Spring Road in Sholing. This ground was originally part of Sholing Common and owned by the Chamberlayne family of Weston Grove House.

The ground was also home to Bitterne Guild, the area’s best amateur team, who played there in front of thousands of supporters. At that time the Veracity Ground even boasted a grandstand.

The 1919-1920 season was when football resumed after the First World War and in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup that season Thornycrofts were drawn against Dulwich Hamlet, a game they won 3-1.

Following this they were drawn against Sheppey United. Once again they were successful running out 4-0 winners.

However, the draw for the next round of the FA cup was not so kind.

For the next round they found themselves drawn at home against the mighty Burnley FC, who had impressive league and cup credentials. That season Burnley finished runners up for the old First Division title to West Bromwich Albion.

Thorneycrofts played all their home games in a roped off part of the Veracity Ground and this was not the type of pitch on which a league club of Burnley’s standing was accustomed to play.

Mr Bracewell, a director of Burnley FC, travelled to Southampton and on seeing the Veracity Ground attempted to get the game moved to Turf Moor without success. Needless to say Burnley officials were unhappy about playing on what they considered to be a local recreation ground and complained to the Football Association.

In those days communication was by telegram and was paid for by word. The Football Association were quite satisfied with the Veracity Ground and very unhappy with Burnley’s reluctance to play the fixture and responded to them with a one word telegram: Play!

Following negotiations between the clubs it was agreed the game would be played at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park.

Southampton Football club were unable to offer a venue on this occasion as they had also been drawn at home on the same day to play against West Ham United.

The game took place on Saturday January 10, 1920, in front of 10,000 spectators and by all accounts Thorneycrofts played very well but only achieved a 0-0 draw.

The Daily Echo report on Monday January 12, read:

Thornycroft’s provided the surprise of the day by holding their own against Burnley, who are this season one of the best teams in the First League. Not one person in a thousand would have given the Woolston team to draw.

And don’t forget, they very nearly scored the goal that would have made the football world gasp. Just on time Youtman sprinted for goal, and worked an easy opening, but instead of shooting himself with every chance of scoring, he passed to Small, and before the latter could shoot, the whistle sounded time.

The local team’s defence was superb, especially in the second half. Thompson covered himself with glory and was splendidly supported by his backs and half-backs, Ottaway and Jewett deserving special praise.

Thornycroft’s left Southampton West Station last night for Burnley, and were given an enthusiastic send-off by a considerable number of their supporters. There will be no change in the team.

The replay was set for January 13, 1920, with Thorneycrofts arriving in Burnley the day before the match.

In front of a crowd of 15,000, Burnley scored within two minutes through Nesbitt and went on to be easy winners by five goals to nil.

Southampton fared no better that year for they too drew 0-0 in their home cup tie with West Ham United and lost the replay 3-1.

In April 1920 the final was contested between Aston Vila and Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge in London before a crowd of 50,018 with Aston Villa lifting the cup by winning 1-0.

Also in 1920 the Southern League was completely reorganised which saw most of the professional teams leaving to form the new Football League Third Division.

Thorneycrofts joined the new English section of the league but after only winning four games and finishing bottom of the league they returned to the Hampshire League the following season.

The club was dissolved in 1926.

By Maurice Keys, tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk.