Following Japan’s 8-0 win over Tajikistan, our look at the highest scoring matches in UFWC history culminates with this 15-goal Victorian classic.
England 13-2 Ireland
18 February 1899
British Home Championships
Roker Park, Sunderland
Scorers: Frank Forman, Fred Forman (2), Athersmith, Smith (4), Bloomer (2), Settle (3) (England); Campbell, McAllen (pen) (Ireland)
Another England versus Ireland UFWC match, another rout, and another brace of goals for the great Steve Bloomer. But Bloomer’s feat was surpassed on the day by the goalscoring achievements of two of his team-mates.
The venue for this defence of the title was Roker Park, with 14,000 spectators turning up. Sunderland full-back Philip Bach was drafted in to play in front of his home crowd for his first and only England international.
Those in attendance could have been forgiven for initially failing to realise how spectacular this match was going to be – a full quarter of an hour was played before the avalanche of goals began.
Frank Forman, then of Sheffield United, got England’s first, and his brother Fred, of Nottingham Forest, netted the second. It was Fred’s debut, and the pair became the first professional footballer brothers to play for England. (Amateurs Arthur and Edward Bambridge played together for England in 1883, and scored in the same England match in 1884). William Athersmith of Aston Villa hit the third goal, before captain Gilbert Smith and striker Bloomer both netted to make the score 5-0 at half-time.
Fred Forman grabbed his second goal of the game in the second half, as did Bloomer. Skipper Smith, the old-school Corinthians forward, ended up with four goals, including three in four mad second-half minutes. (Smith, one of the greatest amateur footballers ever to play for England, scored 11 goals in 20 games for his country, and was also a first class cricketer – a high-scoring right-hand batsman for Oxford University and Surrey.) Debutant James Settle of Bury also hit a second half hat-trick – he ended up scoring six goals in six games for England.
James Campbell and Joseph McAllen, of Cliftonville and Linfield respectively, scored consolation goals for the sorry Irish. The fact that Irish goalkeeper James Lewis only had eight full fingers (he lost two fingertips in an accident) may have had some bearing on the final result, although Lewis did manage to limit the rout by saving a James Crabtree penalty.
This was England’s second biggest victory ever (after a 13-0 non-UFWC triumph over Ireland in 1882) and, taking into account goals for, the biggest ever win in UFWC history. (It was the first of two UFWC games to be won by an 11-goal margin.) 15 goals represents the most ever scored in a UFWC match, and 13 goals is the most ever scored in a UFWC match by one team.
Unsurprisingly, England went on to win the 1899 British Home Championships, beating Wales 4-0 and Scotland 2-1 along the way. The English then took the UFWC title into the 20th century, before losing 4-1 to Scotland in April 1900.
This is an edited extract from the book Unofficial Football World Champions, which tells the full story of the UFWC via more than 100 classic matches.