(Leeds, early March 1914)
Controversy at Clapton Orient on 2nd March where Leeds City, standing fourth in Division Two, go down 3-1.
The Orient officials had booked a 4.30pm start for the Monday match in order to get as large a gate as possible, (reported the Leeds Weekly Citizen), but, with no floodlights that meant the game was going to end in darkness.
Twenty minutes into the second half Leeds are winning 1-0. Then Scottish international Jimmy Speirs wrenches his knee and has to be carried off.
“Had the light held out there is little doubt that they would not have succeeded; as it was the game had only twelve minutes to run when a free-kick close in by Hind, one of the Orient full-backs, drove the ball past Scott into the net.
“There is little doubt that Scott did not see the ball owing to the darkness, which had now made the whole match quite a farce; but this was not the worst, for a moment later Evans, the other full-back, was seen making an individual movement, and he succeeded in driving the ball into the net; while a moment later, from another free kick close in, Hind sent in another shot which was again unseen.”
Furious Leeds manager Herbert Chapman appealed to the Football League Management Committee. Orient were fined 25 guineas, but the result stood.
Speirs’ knee injury plagued him for the rest of the season, and Leeds narrowly missed promotion, ending the season in fourth spot behind Notts County, Bradford Park Avenue and Woolwich Arsenal.
Killed at Passchendaele
Three weeks after playing his last match – league football was suspended at the end of the 1914-15 season – Glaswegian Speirs went home and enlisted with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
He didn’t have to. As a married man with two young children, he would have been exempt from the call-up.
Posted overseas in May 1916, Speirs was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery at the Battle of Arras. He was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele in August 2017, at the age of 31, and is buried in a cemetery in Ypres.
There’s more about Jimmy Speirs’ time at Bradford City – for whom he scored the winning goal in the 1911 cup final – on this site.