The Middlesex Schools’ FA was founded in 1932 and exists to manage and develop football within education establishments in the boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow.
However, prior to the formation of a standalone body for schools’ football within the County, the Middlesex County FA (MCFA) had established a Schools’ Committee in 1908. This committee ran a Schools Championship Cup, which was (to quote the MCFA Handbooks of the time) “competed for annually by two schools from each Schools’ League or Association affiliated to this association”.
The list of known winners of this competition is as follows:
1909-10 Harvist Road School
1910-11 Hayes Council School
1911-12 Featherstone Road School
1912-13 City Police Orphanage School
1913-14 Teddington Council School
1914-15 St Mary’s (North Hyde) School
1915-19 The War
1919-20 Featherstone Road School
1920-21 St Mary’s, North Hyde School
1921-22 Latymer Foundation School
1922-23 George Spicer Central School
1923-24 Featherstone Road School
1924-25 Yiewsley School
1925-26 City Police Orphanage
1926-27 City Police Orphanage
1927-28 Sunbury Council School
1928-29 Chiswick Central School
The 1929-30 winners, Northfields, are pictured above. Their trainer, S E Tye, would serve as the General Secretary of the English Schools’ Football Association between 1958-1965. His legacy is commemorated today, in the form of the S E Tye Cup, which has been contested annually since the 1966-67 season.
In addition to the Schools Championship Cup, a Schools’ Shield was set up by MCFA, which was competed for by Representative Teams from each area of the County, although the records of this competition are scant. Having said that, we do know the Shield was a knockout competition. The cutting below, from the West Middlesex Gazette published on 9th October 1909, sets out the draw for the opening rounds of the 1909-10 competition.
During the 24 year period in which the County FA administered both club and schools’ football, it organised Representative Matches against teams from around the south-east of England. The cutting below, from the Daily Mirror of 26th February 1930, sets out the selections for a match between Kent and Middlesex. Kent won the match 3-1, but the Middlesex team shows how different the Association’s modern catchment area is to the traditional definition of Middlesex. Of the eleven players picked for Middlesex for this fixture, five would be deemed ineligible today because of decisions made by ESFA in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mirroring developments elsewhere in the country, the schools of Middlesex elected to organise their own footballing affairs from the 1932-33 season onwards. This was noted with displeasure by the County FA at their 1933 Annual General Meeting, the Hendon & Finchley Times recording that:
The Council regrets the breaking away of the Elementary Schools to form an Association of their own after 24 years’ careful nurturing by the Schools’ Committee under the able Hon. Secretary Mr G A Smith, who spared neither labour or time to bring the Schools up to the high standard they achieved.
However, the new Middlesex Schools’ Football Association had an equally formidable Secretary of their own. A E Temple-Cole held the role for the first 30 years of the Association’s life, only relinquishing it when elected to the Chair of the English Schools’ FA for the 1962-63 season.
Initially, there were just three competitions organised by the Association – the Blaxland Cup for schools and two Cups for Representative Teams; the Star Shield for ‘senior’ (U15) boys and the Bower Cup for ‘junior’ boys, which today is an U14 competition.
After the Second World War, the activities of the Middlesex Schools’ FA began to expand, with new competitions added regularly. The first was a third Representative Competition – the Batchelor Cup. This was a primary competition, named after the Association’s first Chairman, O R F Batchelor and inaugurated upon his retirement from the Chair in 1948. The first winners were Hammersmith.
An Under-13 Representative competition was added in 1951. The Compton Cup was donated by the Compton brothers, Denis and Leslie who, in addition to stellar sporting careers as professionals, had represented Middlesex as schoolboys. Indeed, Denis had been the Captain of the 1931-32 Hendon and Middlesex teams and had missed a County match against Sussex in order to play for England on the same day. The Watkin Cup, for U12 Representative Teams, was added ahead of the 1963-64 season.
These competitions were changed forever by the abolition of the Middlesex County Council in 1965 and the creation of 32 London boroughs, eight of which remain part of the MSFA’s catchment area today. The sweeping away of the old District councils dramatically reduced the number of teams taking part in each tournament. For example, Willesden and Hendon had both won Representative trophies in the Association’s early years but players from these localities would now join together to represent the London Borough of Brent and in the north of the County, Wood Green and Tottenham – again, both successful Districts in their own right – became part of Haringey.
Short-lived competitions for Representative Teams were organised for U16 and U18 teams during the 1970s and 1980s, but failed to endure in the same way that the older competitions have, although these tournaments have struggled in recent seasons.
Additional County Cups for schools were launched at regular intervals from 1960 onwards. The Association responded to a change in school leaving age by introducing an Under-16 Cup (the Moncaster Cup). The Brigg Cup (which was originally for Grammar Schools) was launched in 1966, followed a year later by the SE Tye Cup for Senior non-Grammar schools. The Alf Gant Cup, for primary schools, followed in 1970 while the 1973-74 season saw a major expansion. The Kay Cup at U12, the President’s Cup at U13 and the J S Lyle Cup at U14 meant that there were now Inter-School Cups for boys teams at all age groups from U11 through to post-16.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the Association added competitions for girls’ teams to its offer, initially at U13 (Jan Harding Memorial Trophy), U14 (Stanley Lyle Bowl) and U16 (Janet Palmer Bowl). However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, MSFA launched the Rachel Yankey Cup for U15 Girls teams in 2021 and the Katherine Mertens Trophy (post-16) in 2022. A first-ever tournament for Girls Representative Teams – the Barbara Quirke Trophy – was also launched in 2022, at the U13 age group.
Changes to the format of football brought in by the Football Association were reflected in MSFA’s competitions. Following a move away from season-long competition at U11 and below, the Alf Gant Cup was discontinued in 2016 while the Kay Cup was classified as a ‘mixed’ competition at U12.
As the MCFA Schools’ Committee had before it, the Middlesex Schools’ FA fielded Representative Teams to showcase young talent from around the County. However, the pool of talent from which selectors could draw shrank significantly due to ESFA using political, rather than geographical maps to determine which counties schools fell into. The most extreme example of this is in south-west Middlesex, where the borough of Spelthorne (which is entirely within Middlesex both geographically and in respect of club football), plus the areas around Twickenham, Teddington and Hampton are deemed by the National Governing Body to be within Surrey. As a result, some 15% of Middlesex (which was already the second smallest county in England by area) is deemed to be part of its much larger neighbour for the purposes of Representative Football. The Representative Teams are placed under additional pressure by the club-based Academy and Regional Talent Club systems, the increasing cost of facility hire and a lack of volunteers to coach and administer them. These pressures also impact upon the Association’s Inter-District competitions.
That isn’t to say that the County’s teams haven’t enjoyed success over the years. The Senior Boys squad were national champions in 1984-85 and 1993-94 and regional champions on six occasions. The U14 Girls squad were national champions in 2019-20 and 2020-21 (pictured, above) and the U16 Girls were national Cup Finalists in 2008-09 and 2020-21. Across the various age groups, Middlesex squads have won some 40 South-East Regional titles, competing against much larger Counties including Surrey, Kent and Essex. You can read the full Honours List by clicking here.
Any enmity which existed between those managing schools’ football in Middlesex and the governing body looking after other branches of the games has long been laid to rest. Middlesex Schools’ FA now enjoys an excellent working relationship with the County FA, with the latter body providing assistance with referee appointments, the staging of the County Cup Finals and MSFA’s financial administration. Without this partnership, it would be difficult for the volunteers running the Association to sustain the extensive set of competitions now offered to schools around Middlesex.