West Auckland Town AFC: Winners of the first World Cup

Many people believe that Uruguay were the first winners of the World Cup in 1930. However, there was an earlier attempt to establish a football league World Cup in 1909 with the Sir Thomas Lipton trophy (the World Cup) that West Auckland Town ended up winning.

Credit: Lauren Taylor

The English Football Association were asked to create a football team to compete in the competition with countries from across the world but declined the invitation. Sir Thomas Lipton, an enthusiastic sports fan, offered West Auckland’s Northern League team to compete in the competition instead.

The team was made up of local coal miners who sold their furniture and belongings to raise money to fund their trip to the competition.

Credit: West Auckland Town AFC

The competition was held in Turin in Italy and involved Stuttgart from Germany, Winterthur from Switzerland, Tornio XI from Italy and West Auckland from Great Britain.

The first round saw West Auckland beat Germany 2-0 and Switzerland beat Italy 2-1. Progressing to the next round, Italy beat Germany 2-1 and the final saw West Auckland beat Switzerland 2-0 to claim the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy.

Clifford Alderson, West Auckland Town AFC Committee member, spoke about the club’s achievements saying: “Winning the world cup for a little village like West Auckland is a great achievement so it is an honour to work for the team.”

Two years later in 1911, West Auckland were again invited back to the competition again and managed to reach the final for a second time. West Auckland beat Italian team Juventus 6-1 in the final and took the trophy home for a second time. After winning the competition twice, West Auckland were allowed to keep the trophy and went down in history as the winners of the first ever World Cup.

Sadly, the official Sir Thomas Lipton trophy was stolen after being displayed in West Auckland Workingmen’s Club and was never found. Speaking about the incident, Clifford Alderson commented: “It was stolen in 1994 from the workingmen’s club and there were pleas that went out on television, on Crime Watch but nothing at all has ever been heard of.” A replica of the trophy replaced the original missing trophy.

Credit: West Auckland Town AFC

Lifelong West Auckland Town AFC fan and Son of previous West Auckland club owners, Harry Tupling, commented: “I was totally devastated as it is such a beautiful and unique trophy which sat around West Auckland Club which my parents had run until a couple of years before it was stolen – a very sad day for the community.”

A documentary was released called ‘The World Cup: A Captain’s Tale’ which included famous actor Tim Healy, telling the true story about West Auckland winning the first World Cup.

Harry Tupling commented: “I’ve watched the documentary, it was a few years ago when it was made, quite dated now but a great advert for our region and little old West Auckland and showed just how much they achieved whilst coming from a poor mining community and how the whole village was on board, a lovely quirky storyline which made it a very watchable documentary and like I say made me so proud that I came from the same town them boys made famous!”

A statue of a footballer and a miner is placed on the village green in the middle of West Auckland to celebrate and represent the great achievements of West Auckland Town AFC. The statue was also created using materials by local company Dunhouse. The statue was unveiled by famous actor Tim Healy, former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall and ex England player and grandson of West Auckland 1909 captain Sir Thomas Lipton, David Ticer Thomas.

Credit: Islandstock / Alamy Stock Photo

Recently, West Auckland’s football ground, The Wanted Stadium, has undergone a renovation in which boards displaying the World Cup achievements have been placed around the stadium and inside of the clubhouse.

Harry Tupling commented: “Over the last 15 years, it’s been getting better and better with a couple of Wembley appearances, a couple of trophy wins, a lot more people are watching the team now which wasn’t always the case before that. We have been a lot more successful over the last few years bringing in a few more fans, creating a really good atmosphere making the community get some pride back with a new clubhouse, now the club is going forward may it continue!”

Each matchday programme features a write up about West Auckland winning the World Cup so that fans and visitors to The Wanted Stadium can read up and educate themselves about it. Clifford Alderson commented: “I’m here most days and the number of people that come around, they come around, go in the clubhouse, take photos, they just can’t believe the story!”

Credit: Lauren Taylor

Another achievement recognised by the club is former 1909 West Auckland World Cup player Jack Greenwell who has recently been listed in the English Football Hall of Fame, being recognised for his great achievements, including his World Cup win and being FC Barcelona’s longest serving and most decorated managers of all time.