IN part four of his series looking at the early days of soccer in and around Bridgwater, Kerry Miller tells of another brief sortie into cup football.

By September 1904 there had been no forward momentum by any of the soccer clubs in the town, with just the single cup victory in the first season.

Rugby continued to rule the roost in the town, and those wishing to play the dribbling code were forced to pick up a game where they could.

Bridgwater Albion FC had decided on a second season, playing at the rugby ground when not at Westonzoyland Road, which was close to the railway station but rarely anything other than a boggy morass and entirely unsuitable for soccer.

The owners of the field, situated roughly where the medical centre is now, were keen to generate the maximum finance and occasionally junior rugby clubs would use it, exacerbating the problem, and it was also used for cricket from April, and so was rarely in any kind of shape and quickly became deeply unloved.

The Albion AFC and what was left of Bridgwater AFC spluttered into life again, though their fixture list consisted of around 20 friendlies and an entry into the Somerset Junior Cup.

There were a few wins, against Glastonbury Avalon, Weston College and Walliscote Road, before a young Backwell side were thrashed 5-0, with Bert Jones and Philip Headford among the scorers.

Jones was a prominent rugby player who would switch to soccer when it was favourable, and he scored twice against Wellington on New Year’s Eve, before a Junior Cup tie against Yeovil Casuals Reserves which was lost after a nine-goal thriller in the replay.

There was little of interest in soccer for the editor of the Mercury at that time, with rugby dominant, but the Albion had again entered the Taunton Thursday League, and to start with they had 27 men to choose from.

It being early closing, there was a different set of men who wished to play or watch, which included some well-established sportsmen including the Poyntz brothers, Sid Hook, Ray Buffett and CE (Collie) Brown.

Colin Edwin Brown was a 26-year-old all-rounder who was born across the moor in Stoke St Gregory and he played cricket for Bridgwater.

County cricket called briefly in 1902 but he was nearly 29 when given a few more games, scoring 53 against Lancashire in 1905.

Brown married in 1907 and moved to Whitby, in Yorkshire, but he hit the headlines when his marriage broke up and his wife was humiliated in the national press.

Brown married again soon after his divorce and died aged 57, in Whitby.

The Saturday side’s diet of friendlies carried on to late April and bizarrely there were some reserve and even 3rd XI matches, while the league games for Albion often kicked off late with the timing entirely bound by the 2.07 train, which took them to Taunton and often to Jarvis Field, home of Taunton United.

The season ended with a touch of the exotic, when the Thursday side travelled again to Taunton to play a final friendly against Queen’s College on their Batts Park sports ground.

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In the college side was a 20-year-old of Zulu extraction by the name of Richard Msimang, who was the son of a Methodist minister in South Africa and had come over to study law at Queens.

‘Oomsi’ was possibly the only black person many had ever seen in the early 1900s and he was a gifted rugby player, turning out for Taunton RFC, where he was adored for his whole-hearted performances at scrum-half.

The young man also played soccer and cricket, before returning to his homeland in 1910, opening a legal practice in Johannesburg and becoming a founder member of what became the African National Congress.

Bridgwater AFC entered the Clevedon & District League during the summer of 1905.

That league only boasted five teams and thus eight games, and even one of those remained unplayed at the end, with Christchurch OB winning and Bridgwater finishing third.

It was cup football which proved a selling point for Bridgwater AFC, as they enjoyed a relatively strong pool of men who often were connected socially and through business, or simply by class.

Bill Tily was a local-born forward who formed a good strike force with Bert Jones and Massey Poyntz.

At the back they had Brown, and yet another county cricketing footballer by the name of Gilbert Curgenven on the wing.

Gil was the 25-year-old son of Dr William Curgenven, a founder member of Derbyshire CCC, and he played 96 First-Class matches in a remarkable career which lasted until 1922.

On the football pitch he soon made his mark, scoring a superb solo goal in the Somerset Junior Cup win over Petters United, and after helping his side to thrash Yeovil Casuals Reserves in the next round, hopes of a second cup final for the town improved when a 4-4 draw at Glastonbury meant a replay at Westonzoyland Road.

Poyntz, Jones and Tily netted nine of the 10 goals in the replay, which brought a trip to Bristol to take on the formidable Keynsham Town - one of the best amateur sides in the West Country at that time.

Tily put Bridgwater ahead before half-time but a disputed goal in the second half led to the side completely losing heart, and they were beaten 7-1.

However, the season was not lost, for the side had a Tily double to thank for a semi-final win at Portishead in the Ashcott Cup and a place in the final against Christchurch OB at Clevedon’s Teignmouth Road ground.

More than 500 attended, many travelling from Bridgwater, but a tight match was spoiled by a bad injury to Oswald Major in the second half, before Christchurch won it with a late goal.

What would prove to be the only Clevedon League season gave way to a tilt at the Weston & District version a few months later, with virtually a whole new set of faces at Redgate.