The record books show that on Christmas Day 1902, Southport had a home fixture against Wigan United in a Lancashire League match. In fact this was a hastily arranged game as Southport should have been playing a much more glamorous match against a team usually referred to in the press simply as “The Dutch Team”.
But who were “The Dutch Team”? The Dutch FA didn’t know as surprisingly their records don’t go back as far as 1902 but they did put me in touch with a Dutch historian and he provided some of the answers by sending me links to Dutch sports papers of the time. To get the full story you need to go back to Easter 1902 when two English teams, Croydon Wanderers and Old Xaverians of Liverpool toured Holland at around the same time, playing games against some of the leading Dutch clubs. Not much information is available for the tour by Croydon, the only result I came across was a 5-0 defeat by The Hague but the Old Xaverians tour was reported by many newspapers. Their tour started off with a 7-2 victory over Amsterdam A.F.C., followed by a 3-0 loss to “International Champions” Handt Braef Standt A.F.C., a 3-1 loss to “A Picked Eleven of All Holland” and finally a 3-3 draw against “An Eleven of Eastern Holland”. This final match made headlines for all the wrong reasons when it was reported that as the tourists were leaving the ground their carriages were stoned by a group of 500 youths and children!
Following on from these tours, Handt Braef Standt announced they would return the favour and tour England over Christmas. The Athletic News reported that “under the supervision of, and thanks to the efforts of, the Old Xaverians, a team of Dutchmen will come to tour England during the Christmas holiday”. and the following fixtures were arranged, including a game against Southport:
23/12/1902 v West Hampstead (holders of The Middlesex Cup)
24/12/1902 v Leytonstone
25/12/1902 v Southport Central
26/12/1902 v Old Xaverians (Liverpool) at The Tower Ground, New Brighton
29/12/ 1902 v Liverpool FC
The final game of the tour, against Liverpool at Anfield, shows how highly anticipated the tour was. Handt Braef Standt had earned the title of “International Champions” by beating Racing of Belgium in the Coupe Ponthoz Final, a competition now considered a predecessor to UEFA sanctioned European competitions. Winning this trophy showed just how big a club they were but on the 11th of December, less than two weeks before the first game was due to be played, The Hague Newspaper reported that the tour would not take place owing to “insufficient participation”. Handt Braef Stand couldn’t get enough players to travel! But with the tour in doubt a Mr Dijxhoorn stepped forward and announced that he would take a team consisting of Dutch players, including internationals, under the name Dijxhoorn’s XI to England to play the games. As well as Handt Braef Stand, players were to come from other leading sides HVV Den Haag, HFC Haarlem and Rapitas Rotterdam.
Charles W. Alcock, FA Secretary of 25 years, former England captain, former international referee, author and creator of The FA Cup, was to take the tourists under his wing when they arrived in London and show them the sights of London during their stay. On arrival in Liverpool, the Old Xaverians had arranged an elaborate programme of festivities for the tourists including a trip to Goodison Park on Saturday the 27th of December to take in a game and in the evening there was to be a reception held at the Exchange Station Hotel, Liverpool, with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress present. The evening would include a special Ladies Bohemian Concert with many of the leading theatrical and musical artistes appearing.
But despite all this planning the tour never happened. Incredibly nobody had told the Dutch players that they would be expected to pay their way on the tour and when they found out they refused to travel. The tour was abandoned and on the 23rd December the Dutch press reported that:
“The tour of the Dijxhoorn team, which was supposed to visit England at Christmas, will not take place. At the decisive moment it turned out that the various players (amateurs etc.) had counted on visiting the land of our overseas neighbours for free and when they heard that this was not the case, most withdrew, a course of action that makes us look rather crazy and can have serious consequences for the relationship between English and Dutch footballers”.
The Liverpool Daily Post ran with the headline “The Dutch Team Fiasco” and stated that “cordial praise must be given them (the Old Xaverians) for their sportsmanship in endeavouring to widen the sphere of football playing by bringing to Liverpool the novelty of a Continental football team” whilst The Bolton Evening News on the 19th December had the item below:
And so, instead of hosting The Dutch Team at their Scarisbrick New Road ground, Southport entertained Wigan United in a hastily rearranged Lancashire League fixture. Goals from Frank Cooper, Jack Sinclair, Arthur “Patsy” Kelly, Jack Hulligan and Joey Shadbolt gave Southport a 5-1 victory and the team went on to win the League that year with an impressive 36 points from 22 games (just 2 points for a win in those days)
Joey Shadbolt, scorer of Southport’s fifth goal in the 5-1 win over Wigan United