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News > OP updates > Which PGS teacher played in an FA Cup final?

Which PGS teacher played in an FA Cup final?

13 May 2022
Written by John Sadden
OP updates
The FA Cup at PGS in 2008, following Pompey's win. Pupils could look but not touch.
The FA Cup at PGS in 2008, following Pompey's win. Pupils could look but not touch.

You are standing in the crowd at an FA Cup final having been one of the lucky ones to have got your hands on a precious ticket. The atmosphere is electric, the anticipation palpable. But then, disaster! It’s realised that your team is a man down. A key player is missing, and there are no reserves. Kick-off is due at any minute…

Fellow supporters around you are getting restless. Eager anticipation is replaced by dread uncertainty. Hopes for your team to triumph drain away. The seconds tick by. The cup is surely lost!    

But then the coach runs from your team’s bench and stops in front of you, breathless and desperate. He looks you in the eye and pleads, “Will you help us out?”

An unlikely scenario, the sort of wish-fulfilment fantasy that had been a staple of boys’ literature during the late 19th and well into the 20th century. But according to the reported memories of a former teacher at PGS, it happened to him when he was a young man in the crowd at the eighth FA Cup final in 1879.

Two years later, Norman Pares joined the staff as assistant Classics master. As a boy he had loved sport and had played for his old school, Eton College and then for Trinity College, Cambridge. While teaching at PGS, Norman was ordained deacon in 1885 and became a priest the following year. He was put in charge of a school boarding house and also found time to serve as a curate at St Jude’s in Southsea and then at St Thomas’s (now the Cathedral).

Rev Pares was a popular teacher both academically and on the sports field, even after he had been promoted to Second Master. This disciplinary role traditionally acted as a lightning rod for the Head who could remain, if not affable, at least slightly detached from the nasty business of dealing with errant boys. Norman played for the school 1st XI cricket and soccer teams at a time when it was customary to include two or three adult players in inter-school matches.

The Reverend taught at the school for 16 years, leaving to devote himself full-time to the church. Colleagues clubbed together and presented him with an oak library table and chair and pupils gave up their pocket money to buy him a silver lamp. He took up the post of Rector of Horsell near Woking, served as Rural Dean for Woking from 1913 to 1928 and a Canon at Winchester and then Guildford in the 1920s up until his death.

The FA Cup final of 1879 was contested on a cold and windy March day at the Oval. This was where the first ever FA Cup final and the first international football match (England versus Scotland in 1870) was held, well before any stadium was constructed specifically for the new sport. The crowd that day numbered around 5000, supporting either Clapham Rovers or the Old Etonians. (This was twenty years before Portsmouth FC was established at no 12 High Street, next door but one to the current Senior School).

Norman had come to cheer on his school’s alumni team, “the Light Blues”, and could never have imagined that he would be plucked from the crowd. He did not hesitate. He quickly found some kit and joined the squad, playing inside-left.

Although Clapham dominated the early stages of the match, the first half was goalless. In the second- half the Old Etonians rallied in the 59th minute when “Goodhart getting the ball under his control, ran it right down on the left, finishing up with a capital centre. A sharp scrimmage close in goal was brought to an end by Clerke whose shot planted the ball safely between the Rovers’ posts and gained the only goal scored during the match.” The match report in The Times does not mention Norman Pares except in the team listings where his name appears as Pears.

The Old Etonians thus claimed the cup for the first time in what was considered, in one report, to be a be “a splendidly contested game” and by another to be "the poorest FA Cup Final to date".

Norman was modest about his role. “We won the match and the Cup and I got a medal from the Football Association which I had made into a brooch for my wife”.

Norman Pares also made his mark on PGS sporting history. It was largely down to him that soccer replaced rugby as the winter game, something which lasted for fifty years until after the Second World, when rugby was reinstated. 

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