Boston Hospital Cup


The purpose of the Boston Hospital Cup was to raise money for the Boston General Hospital. Initially, every year teams from the Boston area would be invited to play a match for the Cup and the gate receipts would be given to Boston General Hospital. The competition was inaugurated in 1904 when a sum of £15 was raised by a subscription list amongst local tradesmen and sportsmen to purchase the impressive silver cup which weighed 47oz.

The first match took place in 1904 when Lincoln Adelaide beat Boston Town 2-1. Teams contesting the early finals included Grimsby Rovers, Lincoln South End, Boston Swifts, Spalding United and Skirbeck St. Nicholas. When Boston FC folded in 1933 the newly formed Boston United took on the mantle - losing 5-6 to Grimsby Town Reserves at Shodfriars Lane. The matches continued every year apart from the war years up until 1947 when the National Health Service was formed and took over the administration of the General Hospital.

After the Second World War opponents for the Cup were sought from further a field and this led to the most famous Boston Hospital Cup game – between Boston United and Aston Villa in May 1946. The Aston Villa team had been brought over to Boston by their outside left Eric Houghton. Eric was born in the village of Billingborough - a few miles outside Boston. In 1927 he was invited to go to Birmingham for a trial with Aston Villa. Villa signed him up and it wasn't long before he progressed from their reserve side into the first eleven. By the time he was twenty-one he had won the first of his seven England caps. Facing Eric in the Boston side was a familiar face; his cousin - Roy Houghton - had signed up for Boston a few months earlier. Boston had an international player of their own in their line-up. Winger Tommy Mitcham failed to turn up on time, so Fred Tunstall their 48 year old manager, formerly of Sheffield United and England, took to the field in his place. Villa used a very stylish pattern of play, with superb interchanging of positions. Boston didn't try to match their rivals; they just stuck with their usual forceful and incisive methods. Fred Tunstall didn't have his pace of old, but he could still produce deft touches and his trademark pile driver shots. One such effort hit the bottom corner of the goalpost with such force that it ricocheted 25 yards back into the field of play.
Villa soon went into a two goal lead. On fifteen minutes Frank Broome put the visitors in front, then six minutes later Eric Houghton extended the lead. Villa now eased off, which proved to be a fatal mistake, as two goals from Jack Stone and one from Harry Sharp gave Boston the lead at the interval. Jack Stone was "guesting" for Boston from Sheffield United. Boston had already made a bid to sign up Stone permanently but it had been turned down. Boston eventually agreed a transfer fee of £250 with the Sheffield side. This was the first time that Boston United had paid a transfer fee to a League club for a player. Twenty minutes into the second half Stone got his hat-trick - from a corner taken by Roy Houghton. Five minutes later Broome reduced the deficit, but a superb display by the Boston defence prevented any further goals being scored, so Boston had won the match 4-3. After the game the Hospital Cup was presented to Freddy Tunstall by the Mayor of Boston (Councillor W.E. Anderson). The gate of 6,963 raised a grand sum of £280 for the hospital.

Jack Stone

Jack Stone

The last game for the Boston Hospital Cup was in May 1947 against Ipswich Town. Ipswich scored first through Parker. Boston equalised just before half time when the referee awarded them a dubious penalty and George Darwin scored from the spot. Clarke scored the winning goal for Ipswich fifteen minutes from the end following a goal mouth melee after a corner. Alderman A.C. Rysdale, chairman of the Hospital Management Committee presented the cup to the Ipswich captain. Gate receipts were £215 15s and the attendance was 4315.

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