Last week we took a look at a former Newcastle United and West Ham star by the name of Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, and this week we remember another man who turned out for both the Magpies and the Hammers, but more than half a century earlier. Unlike Robson, Matt Kingsley was capped by England, and in doing so, he became the first man to win a cap for the English national team whilst playing for Newcastle United.
Born in Bolton in September 1874, he began playing football as an amateur with his local side Edgworth, but soon joined his more illustrious hometown team of Turton. Having been a very decent side in the two decades following their founding in 1871, Turton suffered a fall from grace after the FA yielded and allowed for professionalism within football. They remained amateur, and as such, lost many of their best players.
They would lose one of their star turns once more in 1896, when their promising young goalkeeper Matt Kingsley headed for Darwen. The professionalism that had been so damaging to Turton had been pioneered by Darwen. The Lancashire side are believed to have had the first two professional footballers on their books in 1879, which was the cause of much controversy since they reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup that year. They had been relegated in 1894, two years before Kingsley joined the club, but remained in the Second Division.
It was in 1898 that he left Darwen to join newly-promoted First Division outfit Newcastle United. He would spent the next six years in the north east with Newcastle, establish himself as one of the finest goalkeepers in the First Division. In that time, he amassed 180 appearances for the Magpies, as they went from First Division debutants and hopefuls, to being a real force within the English game.
The 1901-02 season was a particular highlight for both Kingsley and the club, as they recorded their highest ever league finish of 3rd in the First Division, as well as reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Kingsley conceded only 34 goals in 34 league games that season, making his goal the most impenetrable in the division. Had ‘Golden Glove’ awards existed back then, the short and heavy-set shot stopper would surely have been in contention.
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It was in the season prior to that one that Kingsley had become Newcastle’s first ever England international, at the age of 26. Southampton shot stopper Jack Robinson was widely regarded as being England’s first choice between the sticks at that time, but in March 1901, the England selectors gave Kingsley the nod. The match in question was England’s second in the 1901 British Home Championship, against a Wales side that commanded respect.
The game would take place in a familiar setting for Kingsley, at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park. The Welsh travelled up to Tyneside off the back of a creditable draw against Scotland, but they found an England team in inspired form, led by their talisman Steve Bloomer. A magnificent footballer and a prolific goal scorer, Bloomer was the First Division’s top scorer, and he put on a masterclass at St. James’ Park, scoring four goals in a 6-0 win for the Three Lions.
Kingsley would never receive another cap for England, so his international career started and ended with a record of one cap, one win and one clean sheet kept in a 6-0 win. He left Newcastle to join West Ham in 1904, where he spent a single season. The Hammers didn’t become members of the Football League until after the First World War in 1919, so Kingsley’s single campaign there came in in Division One of the Southern League, where they finished 13th.
His West Ham career ended in ignominy, as he was involved in a violent incident during a match against Brighton & Hove Albion. The one-time international had got himself involved in a clash with Brighton’s Herbert Lyon, who had been a West Ham player the previous season. Kingsley ‘ran at Lyon and kicked him to the ground’, according to The Stratford Express, and he was given his marching orders by the referee. A pitch invasion followed, and Kinglsey had to be escorted from the playing field by police.
That was the last game he played for West Ham, and he was handed an FA ban shortly after. Kingsley went on to have brief spells with Queens Park Rangers, Barrow and Rochdale, as he edged closer to a move back home. Shortly after his retirement from the game, he began working as a nightwatchman for the Manchester textile firm Calico Printers’ Association. Kingsley was enlisted as a quarryman during the war, and later joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper in 1917. According to the 1939 census, his job title is listed as ‘general labourer’. Kingsley died in Leigh in 1960, aged 85.