Football enthusiasts worldwide know that the F.A. Cup is the oldest football tournament in the world, but did you know that its very first final wasn’t held at the iconic Wembley Stadium? Instead, it took place at the Kennington Oval in London, home of Surrey Cricket Club!

At the time, the sport of Rugby was the nation’s favourite game, and the Football Association was looking for an event to bring new supporters to the sport. The F.A. Cup was the answer, and its first tournament began in 1872.

First F.A. Cup Final

The final was contested between Royal Engineers AFC and Wanderers F.C. on 16 March 1872. The team of Royal Engineers, an amateur military club, faced off against the Wanderers, a side comprising mainly former pupils of the leading English public schools.

The Wanderers managed to make it all the way to the final round despite winning just one game in their preceding four matches. During the semi-finals, they tied with Queen’s Park of Scotland; yet due to the Scots’ lack of financial means for a replay in London, they withdrew, and Wanderers progressed to the final.

A crowd of 2,000 watched Morton Betts from Wanderers score the only goal of the game, winning his side the F.A. Cup and making them the first winners of a football tournament that’s still running today.

140 Years Later

Incredibly, it was 140 years later before Royal Engineers AFC got their revenge! In 2012, they faced off against Wanderers once more in a special heritage match to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the F.A. Cup. The venue was once again the Kennington Oval, and despite Wanderers’ previous win in 1872, it was Royal Engineers who emerged victorious this time.

The action was fast and frantic, but it was clear from the start that Royal Engineers had the upper hand. They played a blinder, engineering a stunning 7-1 victory, finally savouring the vengeance that had been long overdue.

The players were presented with the original F.A. Cup trophy, which had been won by the Wanderers back in 1872. A fitting reward for a team that waited 140 years to get their revenge!

Looking back, it’s incredible to think that football was once just a series of inter-house competitions played in public schools. With the inception of the F.A. Cup, the world began to change.

Football matches became a place for men from all parts of an otherwise rigid society to meet and share a common love of the sport. The F.A. Cup during the Victorian era was an unprecedented social leveller, bringing blokes from the local factory together with peers of the realm.

The rest, as they say, is history. Football had come of age and was about to become the national and world game that we know and love today.

Royal Engineers Football Honours

The Royal Engineers Association Football Club represents the Corps of Royal Engineers, the ‘Sappers’, of the British Army, this side quickly rose to become one of the strongest teams in English football during the 1870s.

The Engineers achieved their biggest success in 1875 when they won the FA Cup. In the final match against Old Etonians, Renny-Tailyour lead his team’s victory with two goals during a replay that secured them the trophy.

In that decade, they won the FA Cup in 1875 and were finalists in three of the first four seasons. The Engineers were trailblazers of the passing game, which at the time was seen as revolutionary.

Not only was the Royal Engineers a driving force in shaping association football in England, but they also left their mark on Ireland.

While stationed in Ireland, they participated in various local competitions – earning them several accolades, such as winning The Munster Senior Cup.

Eight players from the Engineers achieved international honours, and The Royal Engineers will always be remembered fondly for their part in shaping the game of football, and this team’s feat of revenge, 140 years later, is one that will go down in history.


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