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Centenary of Historic Celtic Match

PUBLISHED

09:45 21st May 2014

The dust has just about settled on a momentous period in Burnley FC history, promotion back to the top flight and the centenary celebrations of the Clarets’ famous FA Cup victory in 1914.

We now reflect on another centenary, that of a Burnley match played in the spring of 1914, just weeks before the continent of Europe was to be engulfed in a conflict that would change the course of history.

One hundred years ago today, 21 May 1914, Burnley were lining up for a prestigious friendly encounter with Glasgow Celtic at the Ulloi Uti Stadion in Budapest, the home of Ferencvaros. The game was to be the second match of Burnley FC’s first-ever foreign tour, undertaken to Germany and what was then the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

The Burnley players arrived in Budapest by overnight train from Berlin, having won the first tour match 2-1 against Berlin Viktoria, thanks to goals from Richard Lindley and Bert Freeman. It had been Burnley Football Club’s first-ever match on foreign soil.

1914 Postcard Burnley v Berlin FC 17 May carousel
The Burnley and Berlin Viktoria players line up together before the first match of the tour. Burnley won 2-1 in what was the club's first-ever match on foreign soil

When the Burnley and Celtic players and officials arrived at the Ferencvaros ground they discovered that, far from their encounter being billed as a friendly, it had been turned into a Cup final, a battle between the English and Scottish Cup winners (Celtic were actually Scottish double winners). The local newspaper, the Hungarian News, had offered an impressive trophy, the Budapest Cup, for the winners. The Cup was almost two feet high and shaped like a lighthouse and it was studded with gems. 
In addition all 22 players were to be presented with medals.

1914 Budapest Cup medal carousel
One of the medals awarded to all 22 players after the Budapest Cup match against Celtic. Bert Freeman's medal is currently on show in the 1914 exhibition at Towneley Hall, courtesy of Mr Derek Jenkins

The Burnley players were asked if they would turn out in blue and white striped shirts, while Celtic played in green shirts, although not their normal hoops but solid green with white trim. The shirts were all part of the plan by the hosts to make the game more competitive and to fully involve the crowd. Celtic wore the green of the Ferencvaros club while Burnley wore the blue of their deadly rivals MTK Budapest, who had actually succeeded the hosts as Hungarian Champions. As it happened there were plenty of MTK supporters in the crowd which engendered the required atmosphere.

The evening was cool after the hottest day of the year and the breeze from the Danube turned into a strong gusty wind. It was very comforting to the lightly-dressed spectators, but a source of annoyance to the players, who found a light ball, a baked, uneven pitch devoid of grass and an unpredictable wind all against good football.

Teams: 
Burnley: Dawson, Bamford, Taylor, Halley, Boyle, Watson, Nesbitt, Lindley, Freeman, Hodgson Grice.
Celtic: Shaw, McGregor, Dodds, Youngs, Johnstone, McMaster, McAtee, Gallagher, McColl, McMenemy, Browning.

Celtic had made one change from their Cup-winning side, with right back McNair being replaced by McGregor. Burnley’s team showed two changes from their Cup-winning side, goalkeeper Jerry Dawson was back, replacing Ronnie Sewell who had stepped into the breach when Dawson was unable to take part in the final because of injury. In addition, at outside left was Reuben Grice, the Clarets’ new signing from Midland League Champions Rotherham County. Grice had been added to the touring party when regular outside left Eddie Mosscrop, a schoolmaster, was refused permission to take part in the tour by his employers.

Celtic won the toss and in the first half played with the sun and the strong wind behind them and had the better of the opening exchanges. They used the ball better and found their men more accurately, although both teams earned appreciative applause from the Hungarian crowd. 
After 20 minutes McMenemy was upended by David Taylor in the penalty area, the spot kick was taken by McMenemy himself and he drove the ball past Jerry Dawson into the Burnley net.

Half-time Burnley 0-1 Celtic

1914 tour booklet cover

After the restart it was Burnley’s turn to play with the wind, and they began at a furious pace, apparently determined to get back on level terms as quickly as possible.
Midway through the second half Burnley were still a goal behind but then they were awarded a penalty for handball. Tommy Boyle stepped up and smashed the ball into the net, giving goalkeeper Shaw no chance whatever.
The Burnley players now knew they were on top and went all out for the winner. Skipper Tommy Boyle’s voice could be heard all over the ground as he exhorted his men to more effort, but the Celtic team were just as equally determined to hold out.

The closing stages became more and more fiercely competitive and the crowd yelled and cheered wildly as the ball swung from end to end. Tackles became more and more reckless, players went in hard and not always fairly, and visits from the trainers became more and more frequent.  Remarkably however there was complete silence from the crowd whenever the game was stopped for injured players to be treated.

Tempers continued to flare and as the Burnley Express reported:
“It is impossible to give a description of the last 15 minutes of this remarkable game where some of the players mistook each other for the ball and two came to blows.
It was a thrilling finish and no mistake. There stood both teams on the field arguing and shouting at each other, the cool heads on each side calling for peace and a replay some other time, the hotheads wanting the match settled there and then, and not too particular how the thing was done.” 

Eventually things cooled down and, although Burnley wanted to play extra time, Celtic refused. The club officials put their heads together and agreed to arrange a replay, although the venue was yet to be decided. They also agreed to toss a coin for the right to keep the cup until the replay took place and Tommy Boyle called correctly. However this turned out to be rather academic as the newspaper proprietor who had provided the trophy refused to allow it to leave Hungary until the outcome of the “Battle of the Cup winners” had been decided. All the 22 players were then awarded medals for their participation in this historic fixture.

A replay was eventually arranged to decide once and for all the winners of the Budapest Cup. It took place three months after the “battle of Budapest” at Turf Moor on the first day of September 1914. By then of course war had been declared and football was not necessarily the top of everyone’s list of priorities.

For the record Celtic deservedly won the match 2-1 in front of a Turf Moor crowd of 10,000, at last earning the right to hold aloft the Budapest Cup. The trouble was, there was no Cup, it had been raffled off at the outbreak of war to raise much-needed funds for the Hungarian Red Cross.

However, eventually there was a relatively happy ending to the Budapest Cup saga, at least for Celtic Football Club. In 1988, the year of Celtic’s centenary, Ferencvaros sent a delegation to Glasgow to attend Celtic’s Scottish Championship-winning match. After the game the Hungarian visitors presented Celtic with the “Ferencvaros Vase” an ornate porcelain vase produced to replace the trophy that Celtic had missed out on 74 years earlier.

Who said there was no sentiment in football?

Footnotes: 

After the Celtic match both clubs continued their tours with Burnley playing two more matches in Budapest, beginning with a 1-3 defeat by Ferencvaros. Burnley’s goal was scored by Richard Lindley, who had the misfortune to break his arm later in the game. Three days later Burnley beat a representative Hungarian amateur team 2-0, with goals from Bert Freeman and Billy Nesbitt. 

The tourists then travelled to Vienna and played two games in two days at Rapid Vienna’s stadium, with Rapid themselves beaten 3-1 thanks to goals from Freeman, Nesbitt and Bob Kelly. The final match of the tour was on the first day of June and a tiring Burnley team were beaten 3-0 by an Austrian Select Xl, made up of players from Rapid and two other clubs in Vienna.

Ferencvaros still play at the same venue, although the stadium has now been completely rebuilt and renamed the Florian Albert Stadion. 

Florian Albert was one of Ferencvaros’ most famous players, who appeared in more than 350 games for the club, scoring over 250 goals, between 1958 and 1974. He won 75 international caps for Hungary, scoring 31 goals, and was European Footballer of the Year in 1967.

By Ray Simpson, Club Historian

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