Forget Arsenal, meet London’s first globe-trotting football team
The remarkable story of the Islington Corinthians
In a professional football world where money is all too often the only motivation, one auction today will serve as a reminder that it was once the taking part that counted above all else.
The extraordinary story of the Islington Corinthians is one that could all too easily have been consigned to the history books, but now the tale of a group of the borough’s amateur footballers who became the first British team to tour the world is reborn at the Wessex Auction Rooms this week.
The Islington Corinthians were founded in 1932, made up of amateur players from across the capital, and played in the Metropolitan Midweek League, facing the might and glamour of London neighbours Arsenal and Chelsea.
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In 1936, the side were selected to play against the Chinese Olympic team in a friendly at Highbury, a match which became the catalyst for a world tour which became part of footballing folklore.
The Corinthians went on to play in 14 countries, including India, Burma, Japan, Hawaii, the USA and Vietnam, taking part in 95 games and winning 65 of them – not bad considering the amount of travelling the team faced between matches.
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The items on auction come from the private collection of one of the team’s key members, George Dance. Among the collection is Dance’s personal travelling trunk, a huge collection of medals and souvenir trophies presented to the team, autographs, posters, pennants, menus and travel itineraries.
Specialist sporting auctioneer Peter Weeks said “It is difficult to mention just one or two of the highlights as there are so many but one of our favourites is the travelling trunk which toured the world with Mr Dance.
“The tags and stickers on the case make for fascinating reading and give you a real sense of the importance of the Islington Corinthians and what they meant to English football.
“The beauty of the collection is that there is such a variety of items which is likely to suit the budgets of all football fans, with prices likely to realise anything from 10 pounds up to several thousand.”
Among the many articles written about the team during that tour are quotes from the then President of the English Football Association, a Mr W Pickford, who said the team had ‘carried Association Football around the world.’
The team received similar praise from members of the American press, who called the side ‘the greatest team in the world’ after witnessing another of the team’s many heavy victories over US representatives.
The outbreak of the Second World War signalled the end of the Islington Corinthians, but the items on auction now offer a unique opportunity for football fans to acquire rare items from this iconic football team – and maintaining the spirit of the true Corinthian.
Purchasers can bid live online during the sale via www.wessexauctionrooms.co.uk and a catalogue will be available one week prior to the sale.
n The Wessex Auctioneers are in Chippenham, Wiltshire, close to Junction 17 of the M4. For more information contact 01249 720 888.