With Notts County having spent the majority of the season struggling to avoid relegation to the non-league, it’s easy to forget that things haven’t always been doom and gloom for the Meadow Lane club. In fact, this month marks 125 years since the world’s oldest professional football club won the FA Cup. Despite being one of the greatest moments in the Magpie’s history, it’s a story that ended in tragedy for Jimmy Logan, the striker who scored a hat trick that day…
The game took place at Goodison Park on Saturday 31 March 1894. It was the newly opened home of Everton Football Club and, having undergone some significant upgrades over the years, is still where the Toffees play to this day. Wembley Stadium, which was to become the official home for the FA Cup Final, was still three decades away from opening.
The Route to the Final
A total of 32 teams entered the FA Cup that year (compared to 736 this season), meaning that teams only had to win four games to reach the final. The 1893-94 season saw Notts County in the old Second Division, where they finished a very respectable third; with the concept of play-offs almost a century away, they were just one place short of achieving promotion. Their cup run began with something of a giant killing: a 1-0 home win over First Division Burnley, which they followed up with a 2-1 victory over non-league Burton Wanderers. The third round saw them locked in a cagey battle with local rivals Nottingham Forest, following up a 1-1 away draw with a 4-1 win at home in the replay.
The semi-final draw saw the Magpies face the mighty Blackburn Rovers at Bramall Lane, the ground at which Sheffield United still play their home games. Having already won the FA Cup five times since its inception in 1872 – including a final against County three years previously – revenge was both sweet and thoroughly unexpected for the Magpies.
The team spent the week leading up the final in digs at nearby West Kirby, where players dedicated their time to some light running in the mornings, followed by gentle walks in the afternoon. Self-discipline was seen as the key to success, ensuring that players were limited to just one glass of beer with their dinner, and one bottle of stout each evening.
The Big Day
A crowd of 37,000 turned out to watch Notts County and Bolton Wanderers battle in out it the final, which is not far off the current capacity for Goodison Park. It’s important to consider that there is just shy of 40,000 relatively comfortable seats in the stadium now, as opposed to the 37,000 people standing, mashed-together in a swirl of noise and excitement, desperately trying to elbow their way to a better view of the action. It would be another 33 years before people around the country were able to listen to live commentary on the radio, and another decade after that until the FA Cup Final was broadcast live on television. Until the newspapers printed the results either later that day, or even the following morning, those lucky 37,000 would be the only ones to know the outcome.
Striker Daniel Bruce had several chances to break the deadlock for County, but his efforts were denied by both the woodwork and an inspired performance from Bolton keeper John Sutcliffe. But on 18 minutes, midfielder Arthur Watson opened the scoring, latching on to Jimmy Logan’s inch perfect through ball. Logan then went from provider to scorer, finding himself unmarked 11 minutes later to double the lead, ensuring that Notts County went into half-time two goals to the good.
The second half didn’t see Bolton’s fortunes improve, as Logan added a second goal on 67 minutes. Just three minutes later, the striker completed his hat trick, smashing a volley past Sutcliffe to give County an unassailable 4-0 lead. With three goals and an assist, there was no doubt that Logan would be adding the match ball to his FA Cup winners medal.
With only pride left to play for, Bolton grabbed a consolation goal three minutes before the final whistle, with Jamie Cassidy pouncing on an error from County keeper George Toone to give the travelling Wanderers fans something to cheer on an otherwise thankless afternoon.
Journalists at the time ran out of superlatives to describe County’s cup final hero Jimmy Logan. He wasn’t the first man to score a hat trick in an FA Cup Final (William Townley did it for Blackburn Rovers in 1890), but he’s still one of an exclusive group of just three (completed by Stan Mortensen, who achieved the feat for Blackpool in the 1953 final). The likes of Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Didier Drogba have all tried, but it’s been 66 years since anyone else has joined the elite club.
Starting his career at Ayr United, Logan scored on his international debut for Scotland in a 4-3 win over Wales in 1891. His performances soon grabbed the attention of Sunderland, who were quick to bring him south of the border for their 1891-92 league-winning season. After returning to Ayr, Logan was snapped up by Aston Villa for the princely sum of £30, going on to score seven goals in ten games for them during the 1892-93 season. That was enough for Notts County to come calling, and just a year later he was scoring his FA Cup final hat trick, doubtlessly the highlight of his short career.
Something of a footballing nomad, within a year he’d move on to Dundee, Newcastle United and then nearby Loughborough, who at that point were in the Second Division. It was there that, following a game against Newton Heath, Logan’s story came to its tragic conclusion. After discovering that their kit had been lost, Loughborough’s players were forced to play in their ordinary clothes. Rainfall was relentless, ensuring that Logan and his teammates spent 90 minutes soaked to the bone, before travelling home still wearing their wet garments. Logan caught a cold, which eventually developed into chronic, fatal pneumonia. Within two years of his heroic FA Cup final exploits, Jimmy Logan was dead, buried in an unmarked grave at the age of just 25.
But in 2016, Notts County super-fans Andy Black and Jimmy Willan launched a crowdfund campaign to finally honour Logan with a headstone at Loughborough Cemetery, as well as a new ‘James Logan Way’ sign near Loughborough FC’s stadium. A well-deserved, long overdue tribute to the man responsible for the greatest moment in the long history of Notts County Football Club.
Notts County 4-1 Bolton Wanderers
Watson 18’ Cassidy 87’
Logan 29’, 67’, 70’
Notts County Bolton Wanderers
Toone, Harper, Hendry, Bramley, Calderhead (C), Sutcliife, Somerville, Jones (C), Gardener, Paton,
Shelton, Watson, Donnelly, Logan, Bruce, Daft Hughes, Tannahill, Wilson, Cassidy, Bentley, Dickenson
Saturday 31 March 1894 Attendance: 37,000