This article appeared in the Cambridge Independent's edition of 6-12 December 2017.
You can imagine the engraver, burin in hand, squinting at the scrap of paper in front of him and trying to decipher the handwritten scrawl.
‘That must be C Alsop and he’s first, so he must be the goalkeeper,’ he mutters to himself. ‘That one looks like F Tuff … funny name; and that one must be … no, it can’t be … yes, it’s R Twirmore. Must be a foreign chap.’
Our craftsman was doing his best to inscribe the names of the Abbey United team that had just won the Cambridgeshire Challenge Cup for 1924/25. To be fair to him, he got most of the names right, although not necessarily in the right order.
But the C Alsop he inscribed should have read G Alsop, and he was a centre half, not a goalie. ‘F Tuff’ was actually wing half Frank Luff, and as for R Twirmore … how he arrived at that interpretation of Joe Livermore’s name is anybody’s guess.
To put the record straight, the Abbey team that beat Girton United 6-1 at Cambridge Town’s Milton Road ground lined up: R ‘Percy’ Wilson; Joe Livermore, Bill Walker; Jim Self, George Alsop, Bill ‘Pim’ Stearn; Fred Stevens, Frank Luff, Harvey Cornwell, Tom Langford, William ‘Fanny’ Freeman.
United club historian Andrew Bennett, in Newmarket Road Roughs, the first volume of his Celery & Coconuts history of Abbey/ Cambridge United, tells how Walker converted an early Abbey penalty.
Girton equalised on the half-hour but Cornwell put his side in front again before half-time. Bennett continues: ‘Inspired by a penalty save by goalkeeper R “Percy” Wilson early in the second half, Cornwell went on to complete his hat-trick, which included a superb score after sprinting half the length of the pitch.
‘Further goals from Langford and Freeman sealed a resounding 6-1 win and a third trophy for skipper Alsop to hold aloft in the space of eight days.’
A third trophy? It was indeed, and Abbey would add another before the season was out.
The Wasps set out on the trophy trail by playing the first of three cup finals in eight days on April 11.
In the Chatteris Engineering Works Cup, Cottenham United had no reply to three early second-half goals and Abbey won 5-0, with Cornwell claiming four.
Two days later, in the Cottenham Nursing Cup final, Watson put Girton ahead early on, but then Stevens crossed for Wilson to score and Alsop struck a majestic 30-yard winner on the half-hour.
Two weeks after the Cambs Challenge Cup win, it was on to the Creake Charity Shield final, against United Cantabs at Milton Road.
A goalless draw was followed by a 1-1 stalemate in the replay, with Alsop notching the Abbey goal. The clubs, understandably not wanting to play a second replay in September, agreed to share the trophy for a year.
United’s remarkable cup performances had established them as a force in Cambridgeshire football.
In celebratory mood, players and officials, along with guests from the town council and Cambs FA, made their way to the Livingstone Hotel in Petty Cury. During the evening, the three cups Abbey had won outright were filled and passed round, and doubtless many a toast was proposed.
It must have been a jolly evening. Exactly how jolly, and what the trophies were filled with, we may never know. The Livingstone was a temperance hotel.
The name of George Alsop, the man who picked up the four 1924/25 cups on behalf of Abbey United, was seldom absent from match reports of the time.
The Barnwell-born lad had made an impression in 1921/22, and had spent the following two years at Chelsea.
He never made it out of the Pensioners’ reserves, and returned to his local club for its record-breaking season.
A centre half who could switch to centre forward to great effect, Alsop was a mainstay of the United side until the early 1930s. By the time his Wasps career finished, he had scored 62 goals in 160 appearances.
Two of those goals came in his first reappearance in amber and black, a 2-0 away win over St Ives on 13 September 1924.
‘He was then a good shot, but he has not only benefited by his sojourn with the professionals in that direction, but in all-round football ability.’
Alsop’s career was punctuated by periods when he concentrated on Thursday league football, and there were times when he seemed to be on the verge of signing for Cambridge Town.
But he occupies a prominent place in the list of the most influential players United have ever had.