THE DEBENHAMS CUP

 


The Debenhams Cup was a minor English cup competition played for during the late seventies. It took place two seasons only in 1977 and 1978 and was contested by the two teams who progressed the furthest from the first round proper of the FA Cup. Therefore only third and fourth division clubs and non-league survivors of the earlier qualifying rounds were eligible.

 

How did the competition come about?

Debenhams, a large British retailer, were wanting to get involved with football through some sort of sponsorship deal and they put their idea of a sponsored competition for the smaller less glamorous clubs involved in the FA Cup to FA secretary Ted Croker. He liked the idea and the fact it only added two games to the fixture list and so added an item to a FA Council meeting agenda. This was approved pending agreement from the Football League which was promptly given and so the competition got the green light just prior to the FA Cup first round games of the 1976-77 season. This was the first time a sponsor had been associated with the FA Cup.

 

The winners received a handsome solid silver trophy made by the Sheffield silversmiths Atkin Brothers that stood 22 inches high and weighed in at nearly 100 ounces. They also got a cheque for £7,000 with the runners-up received £5,000.

 

The first season of the Debenhams Cup saw two division three sides make the final. Both Port Vale and Chester had fought their way to the fifth round before losing out to Aston Villa and Wolves respectively. The first leg played at Vale Park saw the home team rack up a 2-0 victory putting them in the driving seat to lift the trophy. However in what many Chester fans consider to be one of the best nights at Sealand Rd the home side scored a 4-1 victory to win 4-3 on aggregate and lift the trophy.

 

The FA Cup competition of 1977-78 was memorable for the cup run of non-league Blyth Spartans. They reached the fifth round where they finally sucumbed to Wrexham after a replay. Both Blyth and Wrexham were paired together in the Debenhams Cup Final of 1978 due to their respective cup exploits. In the first leg held at The Racecourse Ground the Spartans ground out a 2-1 victory and then held out in the second leg with a 1-1 draw to gain a measure of revenge for their FA Cup defeat to the Welshmen.

 

This was to be the last time the Debenhams Cup took place. No-one is sure why it stopped and during Blyth Spartans centenary year they tried to find out the whereabouts of the cup itself. No-one knows, not the holders Blyth Spartans themselves, the FA or Debenhams. It would seem it is lost.

For sure the idea behind the Debenhams Cup was a good one and it’s interesting to have a look at the clubs who would have played for the trophy had the competition started thirty years earlier. Here’s a list of the Debenham Cup Finals that never were. Amazingly Chester and Port Vale who contested the first Debenhams Cup would have been the first two finalists had it started in 1947:

 

1946-47Chester v Port Vale
1947-48Swindon Town v Queen's Park Rangers
1948-49Newport County v Hull City
1949-50Stockport County v Northampton Town
1950-51Bristol Rovers v Norwich City
1951-52Southend United v Swindon Town
1952-53Gateshead v Halifax Town
1953-54Port Vale v Leyton Orient
1954-55York City v Hartlepools United
1955-56Scunthorpe United v York City
1956-57Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic v Millwall
1957-58Darlington v Scunthorpe United
1958-59Norwich City v Accrington Stanley
1959-60Bradford City v Watford
1960-61Barnsley v Aldershot
1961-62Port Vale v Walsall
1962-63Coventry City v Gravesend
1963-64Oxford United v Carlisle United
1964-65Peterborough Uited v Shrewsbury Town
1965-66Hull City v Shrewsbury Town
1966-67Swindon Town v Brighton & Hove Albion
1967-68Tranmere Rovers v Walsall
1968-69Mansfield Town v Bristol Rovers
1969-70Swindon Town v Scunthorpe United
1970-71Colchester United v Brentford
1971-72Hereford United v Tranmere Rovers
1972-73Bolton Wanderers v Reading
1973-74Wrexham v Scunthorpe United
1974-75Walsall v Peterborough United
1975-76Crystal Palace v Bradford City
1978-79Shrewsbury Town v Aldershot
1979-80Chester v Bury
1980-81Exeter City v Barnsley
1981-82Oxford United v Blackpool
1982-83Swindon Town v Torquay United
1983-84Plymouth Argyle v Oxford United
1984-85Telford United v York City
1985-86York City v Peterborough United
1985-87Wigan Athletic v Walsall
1987-88Port Vale v Blackpool
1988-89Brentford v Grimsby Town
1989-90Cambridge United v Bristol City
1990-91Cambridge United v Shrewsbury Town
1991-92Bolton Wanderers v Wrexham
1992-93Bolton Wanders v Rotherham United
1993-94Kiddersminster Harriers v Cardiff City
1994-95Swansea City v Wrexham
1995-96Swindon Town v Grimsby Town
1996-97Chesterfield v Wrexham
1997-98Stevenage v Cardiff City
1998-99Bristol Rovers v Fulham
1999-2000Gillingham v Cardiff City
2000-01Wycombe Wanderers v Bristol City
2001-02Cheltenham Town v York City
2002-03Rochdale v Dagenham & Redbridge
2003-04Tranmere Rovers v Colchester United
2004-05Brentford v Hartlepool United
2005-06Brentford v Colchester United
2006-07Bristol City v Blackpool
2007-08Bristol Rovers v Huddersfield Town
2008-09Torquay United v Kettering Town
2009-10Notts County v Leeds United
2010-11Leyton Orient v Crawley Town
2011-12Stevenage v Crawley Town
2012-13Oldham Athletic v Luton Town
2013-14Sheffield United v Preston North End

Here's a full list of the Debenhams Cup winners:

 

ClubNo of winsSeasons in which competition won

Chester11976-77
Blyth Spartans11977-78

 

Details of the Debenhams Cup finals:

 

1976-77CHESTER 1st win4-3 on aggregate

1st leg

16 May 1977

1st finalPort Vale2-0Chester1st final

Vale Park, Burslem

19th in Division Three

v

12th in Division Three

Griffiths, Beamish 3,459

2nd leg

24 May 1977

Chester4-1Port Vale

Sealand Road, Chester

13th in Division Three

v

19th in Division Three

Mason (51), Burns (55),

Griffiths - og (71), Howat (84)

Beamish (58)3,939
1977-78BLYTH SPARTANS 1st win3-2 on aggregate

1st leg

13 May 1978

1st finalWrexham1-Blyth Spartans1st final
Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

Champions of Dvision Three

v

2nd in Northern League

Shinton Johnson (5), Varty2,300

2nd leg

18 May 1978

Blyth Spartans-1Wrexham

Croft Park, Blyth

Varty (20) Lyons (68)5,333