Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: What do former footballers George Robledo, Mark Jones and Alan Sunderland all have in common?
If you’d have said all playing top-flight football at one point in their careers, then you’d have been right. But did you know that all three also once competed as South Yorkshire schoolboys in the Don and Dearne’s long-running Totty Cup?
Before Chilean-born striker Robledo joined Newcastle and became the first international top goal scorer; before Jones became a first-rate midfielder for Manchester United and tragically one of the Busby Babes; and long before Sunderland’s 89th minute goal clinched the 1979 FA Cup Final for Arsenal – the young players all grew up in areas around the Dearne Valley and each played for their respective schools’ football team.
But these three are just a handful of players from hundreds who have laced up their boots in the well-respected grass-roots tournament over its 96-year history. Some of you readers may even have played in it, too.
And now, the tournament’s organisers are hoping to complete their very own ‘Panini sticker album’ style photo collection of Totty Cup winners before its centenary in 2023.
Back in 1923, Goldthorpe cinema owner, Russell Totty, pitched the idea of a knockout football competition for Dearne Valley senior schools, donating a trophy for the winning team. The competition kicked off with a Wath derby in its inaugural year, with Wath Victoria bringing home the silverware after beating Wath Park Road.
This victory opened the playing field for other schools to get involved, with the Totty Cup becoming a popular competition for both players and spectators – at their tenth tournament in 1933, there were 2,000 people watching from the sidelines.
In 1947, the competition transitioned from secondary pupils to primary schools when two neighbouring school football associations merged together to form the Don and Dearne SFA. The D&D also had an esteemed representative team who stormed both local and national school leagues at junior and senior levels and produced many would-be professional players.
In 1974, two of these former D&D veterans, Sheffield United players Frank Barlow and Geoff Salmons donated a consolation trophy played for by those knocked out in the first round. Both from Mexborough, Barlow and Salmons were spotted by Blades talent scouts while playing for the Don and Dearne schoolboys in the late 60s and so wanted to give something back to the team which kick-started it all.
All these years later and the Totty Cup is still going strong with schools from across Rawmarsh, Swinton, Wath, Mexborough, Goldthorpe, Thurnscoe and Bolton-upon-Dearne taking part. This year, the cup was won by Bolton Lacewood who beat first-time finalists Rawmarsh Thorogate 3-2.
The Totty legacy lives on with the 100th anniversary now just a few years away. But whatever happened to the name behind the notion?
Current organiser, Chris Brook, along with volunteers, has managed to piece together a history of the cup, thanks in part to Barnsley man Bryn Jones who answered a public appeal for information about the Totty family.
After some delving, Bryn discovered Russell Totty and his family moved from Goldthorpe down to Minehead, Somerset in 1928 with wife Florrie and daughter Freda, five years after the competition started.
Russell ran the Queen’s Theatre down there before moving to Cornwall where he became a publican and went on to have a son, Gordon Russell ‘Rusty’ Totty.
Totty passed away in 1948 aged 62 and is buried here in his birthplace of Hoyland. Florrie died in 1984.
However, after 90 years the Totty Cup was finally reunited with the family behind it when, last year, after Chris was able to get in touch with their daughter Freda who was still living in Minehead aged 93. The pair spoke about how the competition was still thriving decades later, with Freda telling Chris about her father’s lifelong love of football and how proud he’d have been.
She sadly passed away last October, but the Totty name lives on in Rusty who lives in Paignton, Devon with his family.
Now, Chris is hoping our readers can help to solve the missing pieces of the photograph puzzle and complete the long list of post-war winners.
There are still six years unaccounted for and Chris would like to find these final photos before they reach their 100-year milestone.
- 1958 – Brampton Ellis
- 1962 – Darfield
- 1967 – Carrfield
- 1974 – Wath Central
- 1992 – Mexborough St Johns
- 2000 – Thurnscoe Hill
If you or a family member remember playing in any of these tournaments and may be able to help trace the photos; or if you work at one of these schools and can dig around in the archives, please get in touch with Chris via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the Totty Cup history, visit www.tottycup.wordpress.com