The Khaki Cup Final -1915

For many it would be a joyous final 90 minutes watching the game they loved before heading for trenches and, in some cases, certain death.  Others, already wearing the scars of gruesome battle, flocked to Old Trafford for the FA Cup Final in their military uniforms and bandages.  The presence of so many soldiers on the steep terraces led the 1915 showpiece to be christened the Khaki Cup Final.

It will be over 100 years since 50,000 gathered at the home of Manchester United for the last football match to be played in England for four, long years.

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Many soldiers already wounded from war or in uniform for training earned the match its Khaki Cup Final tag

The anniversary is being marked in Manchester by the National Football Museum whose exhibition The Greater Game: Football & The First World War tells the story of a controversial match played on the same day thousands of Allied troops were killed in a deadly German chlorine gas attack near Ypres, Belgium.

Some claimed the final, won by Sheffield United following a 3-0 victory over Chelsea, should not have taken place at all following the outbreak of war the previous year.

And following the final whistle the watching Earl of Derby implored all of those present who had not enlisted to do so, and play 'a sterner game for England'.

Far from an open-top bus parade and joyous celebration, the Blades carried their silverware across the Pennines under darkness.

Crowds who had gathered in Sheffield to greet their heroes were dispersed by police.

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Sheffield United, FA Cup winners 1915

No parade was held for the victorious Blades, who carried their trophy across the Pennines under darkness.

Head of Creative Programmes at the museum, Andy Pearce, explained that the authorities, desperate for reinforcements for the bloodthirsty battles on the muddy fields of Europe, were not impressed.

'Football fans and players had been targeted for recruitment to the military since the start of the season,' he said.

By the time of the cup final there was a sense that the game really was up.

The crowd was largely from the Manchester area, with many already in military uniform, who were either on leave or in training. Many had signed up as part of ‘Pals’ battalions.’

The game was played at Old Trafford as the regular FA Cup final venue at the Crystal Palace had already been requisitioned for military training, and travel restrictions in the capital made an alternative London venue impractical.

Collections Officer Dr. Alexander Jackson added: 'Anti-football feeling in many sections of the press had reached its peak before the game. Within months many of the crowd, and the players, would be in the trenches.'

On Saturday 25 April 2015, members of the Manchester 1914-18 Living History Regiment gathered at the National Football Museum to commemorate the final.

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