London Combination Victory Cup final - 26 April 1919
From summer 1915 and for the duration of the war, professional football was broken down into regions. Clubs in the capital and south-east, no longer under Football League jurisdiction, formed the London Combination, and in December 1918 its committee created the Victory Cup.
By the spring the finalists were decided: west London neighbours Fulham and Chelsea, who would play at the recently reopened Highbury on Saturday 26 April 1919.
Despite heavy rain a crowd of 36,000 came to celebrate peace, normality and Chelsea’s second cup final in five years. It had been the nature of Great War football that guest players might appear in team line-ups and this was no exception. Chelsea’s key man on the day was borrowed from Arsenal’s books: Jock Rutherford.
Behind him the ‘Great Dane’, midfielder Nils Middelboe, was magisterial, with his intelligence and raking stride, and inside-right Ben Whitehouse had a hand in all three of the Pensioners’ goals.
Two were scored by Gunner Rutherford, the other by regular royal blue Harry Wilding, and all came in the last 20 minutes of an engaging contest. The trophy, presented by Arsenal chairman Henry Norris’s wife Edith, was never contested again, although the London Combination morphed into a competition for reserve teams.
The Cup marked the end of Great War restrictions. Chelsea rejoined Football League Division One a few months later and would set a new record average home attendance in the English game of 42,860 in 1919/20. Football was back – thankfully without the bangs.