Royal Engineers A.F.C.
|Full name||Royal Engineers Association Football Club|
|Website||Club home page|
The Royal Engineers Association Football Club is an association football team representing the Corps of Royal Engineers, the "Sappers", of the British Army. In the 1870s it was one of the strongest sides in English football, winning the FA Cup in 1875 and being Cup Finalists in four of the first eight seasons of the competition. The Engineers were pioneers of the "combination game", where team-mates passed the ball to each other rather than kicking ahead and charging after the ball.
The club was founded in 1863, under the leadership of Major Francis Marindin. Sir Frederick Wall, who was the secretary of The Football Association 1895–1934, stated in his memoirs that the "combination game" was first used by the Royal Engineers A.F.C. in the early 1870s. Wall states that the "Sappers moved in unison" and showed the "advantages of combination over the old style of individualism".
Contemporary match reports confirm that passing was a regular feature of the Engineers' style. An 1869 report says they "worked well together" and "had learned the secret of football success – backing up"; whereas their defeated opponents had "a painful want of cooperation". An 1870 report says "Lieut. Creswell, who having brought it up the side then kicked it into the middle to another of his side, who kicked it through the posts the minute before time was called". In February 1871 against Crystal Palace it is noted that "Lieut. Mitchell made a fine run down the left, passing the ball to Lieut. Rich, who had run up the centre, and who pinced another [goal]"  In March 1871 against Wanderers F.C. their victory was due to "irreproachable organisation" and in particular that both their attacks and their backing up were both "so well organised". Against the same opponents in November 1871, two goals came from passes: Betts to Currie, and Barker to Renny-Tailyour. In February 1872 against Westminster school, the Engineers "played beautifully together" and Westminster played an extra back to hold out in defence.
By early 1868 a contemporary match report states "For the R.E.s Lieuts Campbell, Johnon and chambers attracted especial attention by their clever play" As early as 1869 the Royal Engineers football club is documented in a contemporary match report as having "worked well together" and "had learned the secret of football success – backing up". In this match failure of the opposite team was attributed to "a painful want of cooperation" against the Engineers.
Another contemporary match report clearly shows that by 1870, ball passing was a feature of the Engineers style: "Lieut. Creswell, who having brought it up the side then kicked it into the middle to another of his side, who kicked it through the posts the minute before time was called"
Although brief, contemporary match reports confirm that passing was a regular feature of the Engineers' style. For example in a match of February 1871 against Crystal Palace it is noted that "Lieut Mitchell made a fine run down the left, passing the ball to Lieu. Rich, who had run up the centre, and who pinced another [goal]" The Engineers used their team playing style with effect against the Wanderers FC, a side considered as early as 1870 to be the MCC of football. In a match of March 1871 against Wanderers their victory was due to "irreproachable organisation" and in particular that both their attacks and their backing up were both "so well organised" In November 1871 similar passing tactics are described in a contemporary account of a game against the Wanderers in which two goals were scored through tactical passing: "Betts, however, soon seized his opportunity, and by a brilliant run down the left wing turned the ball judiciously to Currie, who as judiciously sent it flying through the strangers' goal in first rate style" Later in the match it is reported that "Lieut G Barker, turning the ball to Lieut Renny-Tailyour who planted it between the posts" "Turning" the ball clearly points to the short pass.
There is evidence that opponents sometimes adjusted their playing style to counteract the organisation and passing of the Engineers. For example in February 1872 against Westminster school a brief contemporary match report states that: "The school captain took the precaution of strengthening his backs, deputizing HDS Vidal to cooperate with Rawson and Jackson and so well did these three play in concert... they succeeded in defying the... RE forwards"  What is most notable about this report is that it confirms that the Royal Engineers "played beautifully together" That the engineers were the first side to break the trend of dribbling is shown in a contemporary account of their victory against Crystal Palace in early 1872. This said that: "very little dribbling was displayed" 
The Royal Engineers were the first football team to go on a tour, to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield in 1873. Wall's memoirs state that this tour introduced the combination game to Sheffield and Nottingham. In 1875 the Engineers won the FA Cup, considered their greatest triumph. In the final against Old Etonians, they drew 1–1 with a goal from Renny-Tailyour and went on to win the replay 2–0 with a goal each from Renny-Tailyour and Stafford.
The winning side was:
- Capt. W. Merriman; Lt. G.H. Sim; Lt. G.C. Onslow; Lt. R.M. Ruck; Lt. P.G. von Donop; Lt. C.K. Wood; Lt. H.E. Rawson; Lt. R.H. Stafford; Lt. H. W. Renny-Tailyour; Lt. A. Mein; and Lt. C. Wingfield-Stratford.
Summary of the Royal Engineers early playing style
The evidence above contains detailed descriptions of passing that are lacking in reports of the 1872 Glasgow international. For example, in a lengthy account the Scotsman newspaper makes no mention of passing or combination by the Scottish team and specifically describes the Scottish attacks in terms of dribbling: "The Scotch now came away with a great rush, Leckie and others dribbling the ball so smartly that the English lines were closely besieged and the ball was soon behind" and "Weir now had a splendid run for Scotland into the heart of his opponents' territory". Although the Scottish team are acknowledged to have worked better together during the first half, this contemporary account acknowledges that in the second half England played similarly: "During the first half of the game the English team did not work so well together, but in the second half they left nothing to be desired in this respect." The Scotsman concludes that the difference in styles in the first half is the advantage the Queens' Park players had "through knowing each others' play" as all came from the same club. Unlike the 1872 Glasgow international, the contemporary evidence above shows that the Engineers' team playing style benefited their team play by winning games. Similarly, the 5 March 1872 match between Wanderers and Queens park contains no evidence of ball passing.
The early accounts all confirm that the Engineers were the first club to play a passing game of cooperation and organisation with both their forwards and their defence. Although they could also play rough—as would be expected for an army team—The Engineers are the first side to be considered to play the football "beautifully". All of these developments occurred before and independent of the 1872 match between England and Scotland.
Professionalism arrived in Northern England in the 1880s, with the Football League starting in 1888. In the early years, the Engineers was one of several amateur teams who could defeat the professionals in challenge matches.
On 7 November 2012, the Royal Engineers played against the Wanderers in a remake of the 1872 FA Cup Final at The Oval. Unlike the actual final, the Engineers won, and by a large margin, 7–1 being the final score.
Various regiments and battalions within the RE Corps have won the Army FA Cup:
- Service Bn
- Won 1903; Runners-up 1904, 1905
- Depot Bn
- Won 1907
- Training Bn
- Won 1937
- Barton Stacey
- Won 1947
- 4th Training Bn
- Won 1950, 1957, 1958
- 4th Divisional Engineers
- Won 1969
- 32nd Engineer Regiment
- Won 1970; Runner-up 1971
- Training Regiments
- Won 1980; Runner-up 1991, 1993
- 28 [Amphibious] Engineer Regiment
- Won 1981, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002; Runner-up 1983, 1988
- 40 Army Engineer Support Group
- Runner-up 1985
- FA Amateur Cup
- Winners (1): 1908
The following six players played for England whilst on the books of Royal Engineers A.F.C. (with the number of caps received whilst registered with Royal Engineers A.F.C.):
- Horace Barnet (1 cap)
- Alfred Goodwyn (1 cap)
- Herbert Rawson (1 cap)
- Bruce Russell (1 cap)
- Pelham von Donop (2 caps)
- Cecil Wingfield-Stratford (1 cap)
Several former engineers went on to represent their country.
- Wall, Sir Frederick (2005). 50 Years of Football, 1884-1934. Soccer Books Limited. ISBN 1-86223-116-8.
- Cox, Richard (2002) The Encyclopaedia of British Football, Routledge, United Kingdom
- History of Football
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 18 December 1869
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 5 November 1870
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 25 February 1871, issue 2643
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 18 March 1871, issue 2646
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 18 November 1871, issue 2681
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 17 February 1872, issue 2694
- Bells Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 21 March 1868, Issue 2396
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 5 November 1870,issue 2
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 25 February 1871, issue 2, 643
- The Sporting Gazette of Saturday 12 March 1870, see account of international match of 5 March 1870
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 18 March 1871, issue 2, 646
- FOOTBALL. Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (London, England), 16 March 1872; pg. 8; Issue 2698. New Readerships.
- Royal Engineers A.F.C. at the Football Club History Database
- Royal Engineers – Football – History
- When the Sappers won the FA Cup 1875 Royal Engineers Museum[dead link]
- The Scotsman - 2 December 1872, page 6
- Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (London, England), 9 March 1872; Issue 2697
- History Section - Welfare and Sports
- Cunningham, Sam (7 November 2012). "Wanderers and Royal Engineers set for FA Cup final remake... 140 years after original showdown". Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Al-Samarrai, Riath (7 November 2012). "Engineers steamroll Wanderers 7-1 in repeat of first ever FA Cup final at The Oval... 140 years after the original". Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Army FA Cup Finals Army FA
- Club Affiliations – Royal Engineers
- Scotland players – Royal Engineers