Prior to the 1881/82 season, there was no provision in the Laws of The Game for a player to ordered off the pitch presumably because the original clubs and players were strictly amateur and no one would consider the use of violence against an opposing player, writes Gary Parle.
The addition of a rule to allow a player to be ordered of for violent conduct was proposed by Mr Cofield of the Birmingham and District Football Association in early 1881 and was added to the Laws at the Football Association meeting held on February 25th 1881.
Lincoln City, of course, weren’t formed until 1884 and it took until 1889 before George Shaw became the first known City player to be ordered off, for striking an opponent in a 5-0 Combination victory against Long Eaton Rangers, in April of that year.
On today’s date 125 years ago the first known instance of a City player suffering the same fate in a Football League match occurred and given the fierce rivalry that existed at the time (and still does), it came against Grimsby Town.
Town had already beaten City twice having won 3-0 at John O’Gaunt’s in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in October and followed that victory up a week later by triumphing 5-1 in the Football League but despite those results “a large number of excursionists journeyed from Lincoln” with the team boosting the crowd to around 3000.
Grimsby won the toss and made City defend in the first half looking into a blinding sun and with a strong wind blowing towards them both of which badly hampered the players. Only five minutes had been played before the Fishermen took the lead with Charles Osborne, on his Football League debut, heading into his own net with Jimmy Fairbairn, on his Grimsby debut, increasing the lead ironically after Lincoln had started to put pressure on the home side. A bizarre third goal followed five minutes before half time when Walter Frost (or William Eccleston depending on which report you read) shot weakly towards goal, Quentin Neill failed to clear and goalkeeper Evan Roberts made no attempt to stop the ball believing the Grimsby player to have been offside but the goal was allowed to stand.
The sun had gone down when the second half started and City did improve, missing a chance to get back into the game as Don Lees saw Jimmy Whitehouse pull off what was described as miraculous save from his penalty kick (another possible first as it is City’s first known penalty miss in the Football League), before the game became rather rough culminating in City’s John Irving and Town’s Tom Frith colliding in the 86th minute. The collision floored Frith who kicked out at Irving who retaliated likewise with Frith then getting to his feet and hitting Irving just under the right eye causing a nasty cut resulting in referee Mr Hallam promptly ordering them both off the field.
Initially, it was reported that Irving was to receive a three-month ban and Frith two months but it would appear both players served much shorter bans as Frith returned to the Grimsby team in early January with Irving appearing for City reserves in mid-December although he didn’t appear in the Football League again during the season.
Since Irving’s dismissal a further 113 City players have been sent off in the Football League, although some were later rescinded, with 28 of those players being dismissed more than once (Paul Morgan with four is the most) whilst Cian Bolger’s dismissal against Shrewsbury Town last month was the 150th known dismissal of a City player in a Football League match.