EARLIER this spring, April 28 to be precise, marked the centenary of the first and most remarkable FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley, writes Stephen Wainwright.

The match between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham is known as the "White Horse Final" due to the distinctive grey police horse that gently pushed back a huge overflow of spectators from the pitch.

The new ground had a capacity of just over 126,000.

However, the police estimated that almost 300,000 supporters had managed to squeeze inside the stadium, with some fans travelling from St Helens to London to cheer on their local lad.

Alexander Finney's rise to playing in an FA Cup Final was also remarkable – and meteoric.

Born in Manor Street in Peasley Cross on March 13 1901, when the 1921 census was taken twenty years later Alex is listed as an unemployed Bold Colliery mineworker.

Times were then hard and none of Alex's family was in work. His father Henry had lost his job at the Cannington Shaw bottleworks and his two older brothers had been laid off from Sutton Manor Colliery.

Football must have been a welcome diversion for the young man and he initially played in local leagues for Sutton Juniors and Peasley Cross FC and then for New Brighton in the Lancashire Combination.

In March 1922 New Brighton beat Chorley in the final of the Lancashire Junior Cup.

The game was played at Bolton's Burnden Park ground and Finney made such an impression at left back that at the end of the season the Wanderers snapped him up.

Alex's first season at his new club culminated in the FA Cup Final win over West Ham. In its preview of the event at the new Wembley ground, the Athletic News wrote: "Finney is a young player with distinct promise of a great future.

He is not exactly a stylist in tackling. He is a little unorthodox in his methods, but he is wonderfully effective, and courageous to a degree….and already regarded by Bolton people as without a superior in his position."

St Helens Star: Alex FinneyAlex Finney (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

The Daily Mirror in its match preview commented how Finney from St Helens was the "Wanderers' find of the season". And under the headline "Finney's Cup Medal – Peasley Cross Boy's Rise To Fame", one St Helens newspaper said after the Wembley win: "Finney's most priceless possessions are a cool head and heaps of courage, coupled, of course, with a masterly knowledge of the game. According to the reports, he played as coolly in his great ordeal as if he had been punting a ball about on the waste land of Peasley Cross-lane, where he is said to have learnt the game."

Alex Finney went on to play 530 games for Bolton before retiring in 1937. In announcing his departure from Burnden Park, one newspaper described him as the "fullback hero of many a Wanderers' Cup triumph".

During Alex's professional career a maximum weekly wage of £8 for a 37-week playing season and £6 for the close season had been in place. However, the meagre earnings of footballers by today's standards were boosted by benefits, as long as the player remained with the same club for a long period.

Alex received three benefits during his fifteen years with Bolton, with his last resulting in a cheque for £650. That's about £50,000 in today's money but he still needed to earn a living after retiring from football. So Alex found a job in the Parks Department in Wallasey and he passed away in 1982 at the age of 81.

Stephen Wainwright's latest book 'The Hidden History Of St Helens Vol 2' is available from the St Helens Book Stop and the World of Glass and online from eBay and Amazon (free delivery). Volume 1 of 'Hidden History' is also still available.