April 15, 2013 by Made In Brum
It is that time of year again when we all know who the finalists will be for the 2013 F.A. Cup Final. Suffice to say, I am pleased that an “underdog”, Wigan Athletic F.C., will be the neutral fans’ choice to win the Cup. But, who would have thought they would be there instead of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.
That brings me nicely to a chapter in Birmingham City’s history that was exactly the same scenario. The unfancied Blues were despised by London-based sports writers in the 1930s because they did not have an F.A. Cup history. However, they reached the 1931 F.A.Cup Final and during that campaign they had beaten the much fancied Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield, then Port Vale (2-0), Watford (3-0), Chelsea (3-0), after a replay, and in the semi-final they beat Sunderland (2-0) at the neutral ground of Elland Round. Yorkshire was invaded by the “Brummies” that day.
First Division Blues had earned the right to play local rivals West Bromwich Albion, who were then a Second Division club, in the showcase game at the old Wembley Stadium.
Blues had the legendary Harry Hibbs in goal and Joe Bradford in the forward line. The Blues team was almost built around them. A most remarkable statistic was that Joe Bradford, who is the club’s all time scorer, picked up quite a few injuries that season and so he only played 22 of the scheduled 42 League games. However, he scored 14 League goals. In the F.A. Cup he scored eight times in seven games including a goal in the Cup Final. No one since, not even Trevor Francis, who scored 119 League goals, has ever got close to Joe’s record total for the club of 249 goals.
I researched the old newspapers from the 1930-1931 season, while using my expertise as a detective – now retired from the Birmingham police. It was what you might call a “cold case.” There was a controversial incident in the match which is nearly 82 years ago. Birmingham’s inside forward, Bob Gregg, scored what appeared to be a good goal with a header but the match officials ruled him offside.
George Jobey, the manager of Derby County, was sitting up high in the stands at Wembley Stadium. He later wrote in a newspaper article that the match officials were wrong. As expected he was tactically aware, and, he saw Birmingham’s movement unfold leading to the goal. He said that Bob Gregg had run a dozen yards in order to connect with the ball and he had scored a perfect goal. But, the referee had his back to the player all the time and did not see his run and he had only responded to the linesman’s raised flag which was also a mistake.
It was a great pity because that goal would have changed the momentum of the F.A. Cup Final in Birmingham’s favour as they had a purple patch during the early stages of the match and it could have rewritten our club history. Instead the Baggies won 2-1. If the Blues had finished the game at 2-2 and then ironically, the replay of the Cup Final would have been played at ………….Villa Park on the following Wednesday.
I recall Joe Bradford was still talking about “the goal that got away” in the match day programme dated 10th August 1968. That day was my 13th birthday. I celebrated becoming a teenager at St Andrews, in the opening day of the season, when Blues played Norwich City. It was the start of my first full season as a supporter and so I began a long association with the club. From that day when I read Joe Bradford’s article I have been fascinated with Birmingham City’s history.
By Michael James Talbot (Birmingham City 1930/31)