Corinthian Values (Volume 1)
Colin Payne looks at programmes from years gone by with a story to tell. Watford v Corinthian-Casuals. Sheriff of London Shield 3 October 1966 and 28 March 1983.
The most recent winners of the biggest trophy ever awarded in football are Watford Football Club. The Sheriff of London Shield is almost six feet high and over three feet wide, and was last played for on 28th March 1983, with Watford victorious. One hopes that no larger piece of footballing silverware will ever be created, as it would surely ruin a fine piece of Watford trivia.
The match that day between first division Watford and the amateurs of Corinthian-Casuals, the club formed following a merger between Corinthian FC and the Casuals FC in 1939, was arranged to mark the Centenary of the original Corinthian Football Club, probably the most famous amateur club in football history. It was a wonderful piece of Graham Taylor whimsy, featuring a full-strength Watford side decked out in a reproduction of the red, yellow and green hooped kit worn by the club between 1904 and 1909, and – with Watford six goals to the good – Mr. Taylor himself coming on for the final minutes to give away a penalty which was duly scored. The emphasis was on fun for the crowd of 3,686, with physio Billy Hails running on the pitch dressed in cloth cap and Victorian garb, to drench Pat Rice with a bucket of water.
In fact, Watford were already the honorary holders of the Shield, having beaten Corinthian-Casuals on the previous occasion it was contested 17 years earlier. On 3rd October 1966, again at Vicarage Road but in front of fewer than 1,000 spectators, Watford triumphed by 7-0. No contrived consolation goal for the amateurs that day.
The Sheriff of London Shield has a distinguished history. It was commissioned in 1898 by the then Sheriff of London, Sir Thomas Dewar, as the prize at stake in an annual match to be played between the best professional side and amateur side, with proceeds going to charity. Over the ten years between 1898 and 1907, Corinthian FC were involved in all but one tie, winning twice and drawing twice. The contest ended partly owing to the dominance of the professional sides, and also to a split within the Football Association between professional and amateur clubs. The FA introduced the Charity Shield in 1908 in its place, and the Corinthians took full ownership of the Sheriff of London Shield.
Over the following 75 years the match was played on seven occasions, to raise funds for the National Playing Fields Association. The professional side won comfortably each time – Arsenal four times, Tottenham once, then Watford in 1966 and again as the Shield’s last hurrah in 1983.
The Shield spent a short period on display at Watford Museum, but was sold at auction in 1995 to an anonymous American bidder for £26,000, rather unromantically to raise funds for an all-weather pitch for its owners. It hasn’t been seen in the UK since, despite requests from the FA for it to be loaned for display at exhibitions. So unless things change, or someone is audacious enough to commission a larger piece of fine silver, Watford will forever be the ultimate holders of the world’s biggest football trophy.
This article is from Volume 1 of The Watford Treasury, to purchase this publication in all its visual glory, please follow the link below: