I was having a browse through some old newspapers, as you do, and was drawn to two tales of officiousness and, to be brutally honest, silliness from the annals of Huddersfield Town’s history. For one, though I remember the incident, I do not recall the furore. For the other, I have no recollection beyond clutching my hand to my face, embarrassed, as I read. The two aren’t related in any way other than the shirts involved, but that’s more than enough to link anything in football.
Firstly, let’s go back to the 3rd April 1952, when the Terriers were languishing in the lower reaches of the First Division table, having been bottom since a 2-3 defeat to Arsenal in December. That was the start of a 15 game run that brought 10 defeats, and only two victories against Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion. Survival was looking unlikely, with Town marooned a point behind Fulham and a further three from safety – this in the days of two points for a win. A surprise 3-2 victory against top of the table Manchester United was something of a surprise, but with another couple of games to come in quick succession, hopes were high.
Town rocked up at White Hart Lane, then, on Wednesday 2nd April. Even with the Lilywhites having won the First Division the year before, Town had won in North London, so the trip should have carried no fear. Indeed, the strugglers gave a decent account of themselves, getting through the first half unscathed and looking likely to take home a point from what looked a challenging match.
That was, at least, until the last minute. Spurs were pressing for a last-gasp winner, and had earned a corner. Eddie Baily, their famous inside-left had gone across to take it. He swung the ball towards the box, whereupon it bounced off the back of the referee and straight back to Baily. Not wasting a second, he put the ball straight back into the penalty area, this time seeing it sail straight over the ailing referee and onto the head of striker Len Duquemin, who nodded into the goal to win the goal for Spurs amidst a flurry of protests from the Huddersfield players.
The regulations stipulate that, after a corner kick, no player should kick the ball a second time before it has been touched by another player. Clearly, this is what Baily did – though one can’t blame him; he was simply trying to win the game for his team. The referee on the day, a Mr WR Barnes of Birmingham, refused to be drawn on the incident after the match.
“I have nothing to say on the matter.” he said, helpfully.
Huddersfield Town lodged an official protest to the Football League – their case backed up, not just by Charles Hewitt, then the manager of Millwall and Mr W McCracken, formerly Aldershot manager, but also an anonymous referee who once officiated in an FA Cup Final. The consensus is that the goal should not have stood – the referee even going to the lengths of quoting Law 17, which indicates that if a corner kick strikes the post and rebounds to a player, he should not have a second touch of the ball. The referee, to all intents and purposes, is categorised the same as a goalpost in this aspect.
However, Law 5 is the key here. The referee’s “decision on points of fact connected with the play shall be final as far as the result of the game is concerned.”
Once they’d left the field and finished the game, the jig was up for the Terriers. The defeat, and the injustice, spurred them on, though. They won three of their last six games, drawing another, and earning seven points from them – enough to climb out of the drop zone at Stoke’s expense. A final day trip to Fulham wouldn’t see them safe (even with a win) as the Potters still had a game to make up, but a 1-0 defeat while Stoke were beating Manchester City ensured that Town finished in the drop zone and fell into Division Two.
Did Town have a case? Well, yes, they seem to have been right, but once the game was over they should have dropped it. 5/10
(Additional information from Glasgow Herald, 03/04/1952)