THE name Charles William Alcock may not be as famous as Pelé, Moore, Charlton, Cruyff and Maradona.
But his forgotten legacy to English and international football is as significant as that of any guardian of the beautiful game.
Now Sunderland, the city of Alcock’s birth in 1842, is preparing to honour one of its most influential sons and raise public awareness of his life and achievements.
A founding father of modern football, he pioneered the first ever international match, England v Scotland in 1870, and established the FA Cup.
He was also a top player in his day and England’s first international captain.
In recognition of his great work, Sunderland will unveil a blue plaque tomorrow to the sporting pioneer at his birthplace at 10 Norfolk Street.
The ceremony will take place with a host of dignitaries in attendance.
And by a fitting coincidence, the plaque’s unveiling falls just days ahead of the 168th anniversary of Alcock’s birthday on December 2 – when FIFA will decide if England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup has been successful.
On 20 July 1871, Alcock, in his position as FA Secretary, proposed: “It is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete”.
Thus, the FA Cup was born – the world’s first national football tournament – based on Alcock’s experience of inter-house “sudden death” competition at his public school, Harrow.
And he played a major part in the competition he invented, captaining the Wanderers side that won the cup, beating Royal Engineers 1-0.
Among those who have already lent their support to the campaign to honour Alcock are Sunderland AFC and Sunderland City Council.
Paul Watson, the council’s leader, said: “Charles Alcock was a great man and son of Sunderland whose legacy has left an enduring mark on our sporting and indeed social history. It is right and fitting that he is remembered and commemorated for his pioneering contribution to sport domestically and internationally.
“His instigation of international football and the world’s first club knockout competition in the FA Cup are particularly relevant at this time, with just days to go before FIFA announces the destination of the 2018 World Cup and whether or not the tournament will come to England, Sunderland and the Stadium of Light.”
Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn added: “Football owes so much to Charles Alcock for his essential contribution to the development of the sport.
“As a player he lived every young footballer’s dream, captaining his country and winning the FA Cup, which he conceived.
“Along with his role as an administrator he was also a referee and was a true servant of football, playing an integral role in its development and growth as the global game. Alcock richly deserves to be remembered by generations to come and I have no doubt that if he was here today, he would be doing everything possible to help England bring World Cup football to the city of his birth.
“I hope that in the coming days before FIFA makes its final decision, as many people as possible will be inspired by the example of Charles Alcock and continue to show their support for England’s 2018 bid.”
The civic ceremony and plaque unveiling for Alcock will be held from 2.45pm tomorrow at 10 Norfolk Street, Sunderland.