Preston North End's record breaking 26-0 win
Sunday October 15 marks the 130th anniversary of when the world’s oldest continuously used football stadium, Deepdale, played host to Preston North End’s 26-0 demolition of Hyde Football Club in an FA Cup tie.
The club had been a football-playing organisation for less than a decade, having previously being known for playing cricket, but that did not stop them from quickly becoming one of the best sides in the country.
This match saw North End set three English footballing records: scoring the most goals in a single game,; achieving the highest home winning margin and securing the highest aggregate score – all of which still stand today.
This remarkable feat may come as a surprise in modern standards, but this was a time when Preston stamped their dominance on Victorian football, under the guidance of club secretary William Sudell, finishing in the top two for the first five seasons of the Football League.
But their date with the record books came during the season before the Football League was founded.
North End had asked for the FA Cup first-round tie with Cheshire side Hyde to be rescheduled to midweek due to fixture congestion, but they declined, so the hosts fielded their strongest team to teach their pesky visitors a lesson or 26.
The Post’s match report from 1887 records: ‘The teams took the field punctually at half-past three, Sam Thomson, when noticed, having a cordial reception. The home team kicked off uphill, the start being a most determined one’.
North End romped to a 12-0 lead at the interval, the home side’s attacking players causing absolute chaos in what was described as an ‘incessant attack’ on Hyde’s goal.
Inside-right Jimmy Ross grabbed a first-half brace, as did George Drummond and Fred Dewhurst, along with wingers John Gordon and Thomson, with goals from Nick Ross and John Graham putting the home side in the most commanding of half-time leads.
The second ‘moiety’, as it was described in the match report, brought about 14 goals, including five more from Ross, giving him a total of seven for the match, an incredibly rare double hat-trick.
England international centre-forward John Goodall, who later went on to be the first player to score 20 goals in the Football League, got in on the act with a goal for himself. Jimmy Ross, quickly one of the most lethal strikers in the country, went on to score an impressive total of 19 goals in that season’s FA Cup, another record which remains intact and unlikely to ever be beaten.
This extract from the Post’s match report beautifully demonstrates the frantic nature of the game, and how the reporter had to fit 26 goals into a two-paragraph piece:
‘Jimmy Ross immediately afterwards made the North End score into 15. Thomson adding goal 16, Jimmy Ross the 17th and 18th, Gordon 19th, Russell 20th, Jimmy Ross 21st, and John Gordon both the 22nd and 23rd.’
There were hat-tricks on the day also for Drummond, Thomson, and Gordon (pictured inset) who bagged five; the only players not to score for Preston on the day were goalkeeper Fred Addison and defender Bob Howarth.
From ecstasy to agony, nobody had a worse day than Hyde winger, Jimmy Wood, who happened to be playing centre-forward in the tie; having the disheartening and character-building task of kicking off 27 times, an unprecedented achievement.
This match became a landmark of Preston’s remarkable rise to the top, with the encounter paving the way for a run all of the way to the final of the 1888 FA Cup.
Legend had it that William Sudell was that confident of his side’s chances of winning, that he insisted his team have their photograph taken with the trophy before kick-off while the players’ kits were still clean.
Despite being the overwhelming favourites, and seemingly having one hand on the trophy, the Lilywhites finished runners up to West Bromwich Albion, who were the 2-1 victors at the Kennington Oval in front of a crowd of 19,000.
This was not Sudell’s first dubious act as North End secretary, he was arrested and jailed for three years in the mid 1890s for embezzling money from his mill to pay his squad; one of the great visionaries of early English football never returned to the game.
Sudell and the rest of Preston’s committee had organised for their team to play 70 games that season due to club’s growing reputation and quality, something teams from across the country wanted to pit themselves against.
North End would atone for their cup final defeat the very next year, lifting the 1889 FA Cup trophy having gone unbeaten on the journey to their second successive final, scoring 56 goals and conceding none.
The Lilywhites were to become the very first and only one of two teams in English football history to record a full domestic league season without suffering a defeat, becoming known as the ‘Invincibles’.
Although a somewhat dismal moment in the club’s history, Hyde United, as they are now known, recognise it as one of their most significant; the club’s live match commentary channel is humorously called ‘26nil.com’.
The two teams met for a centenary replay in 1987 to pay homage to the astounding day 100 years prior, with North End again running out winners, however, not quite by the same margin.
It may be the English record for a margin of victory, but Preston’s hugely impressive triumph remains small beer compared to Arbroath’s 36-0 win over Bon Accord in the 1886 Scottish Cup, a British record.
Nevertheless, Preston’s momentous victory over Hyde was just the beginning of the club’s golden era, winning the first two seasons of the Football League.