Bianconeri Brilliance: 1905 - The First Scudetto

Juventus’ love affair with the Scudetto has endured for well over a century, but the club’s first Italian title was won under very different conditions back in 1905.
Embroidered Scudetto Patch
Embroidered Scudetto Patch / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Juve had been founded eight years prior to their first title win, on the 1st of November 1897, by thirteen pupils from the Massimo d'Azeglio Lyceum school in Turin, namely Gioacchino and Alfredo Armano, Francesco Dapra, Domenico Donna, Carlo Ferrero, Luigi Forlano, Luigi Gibezzi, Umberto Malvano, Enrico Piero Molinatti, Umberto Savoia and Vittorio Varetti in addition to the club’s first-ever president Eugenio Canfari and his brother Enrico.

The Latin name Juventus was suggested after the founders were supposedly forced to sell books by Latin poets Ovid and Horace to raise the funds needed for equipment. Their first uniform was an all-white shirt and knickerbockers, with the first games played in the Parco del Valentino and Parco Cittadella.

The club was originally named Sport-Club Juventus until 1899 when it was renamed Foot-Ball Club Juventus. That year, the club moved to the Piazza d'Armi Stadium and adopted a new kit, a pink shirt with a bow tie, white collar, tie and black cap. With every penny a prisoner, the Canfari brothers had asked their mother to fashion the kits out of a pink and white percale. The club joined the 1900 Italian Football Championship, playing their first “league” match on 11 March 1900 in a 1–0 defeat against Torinese.

By 1901, the colours on their home made kit had become so faded from repeated washing that the club decided to replace them. The club asked one of their team members if he had knew of anybody who could supply new shirts in a colour that could withstand the elements better. That team member was Tom Gordon Savage, a Nottingham businessman in the lace trade, living and working in Turin. The diaries of Domenico Donna detailed Savage’s role at the club beyond the pitch, stating “Savage is also responsible for Juve’s business arrangement with a Nottingham company that for some time has taken charge of supplying our footballs.”

Savage wrote to his ball supplier “Send us at once an elegant trousseau by team; let it be something lively, something eye-catching. We are tired of our muffled old-fashioned upholstery.” It just so happened that the person in charge of sending the kit was a Notts County supporter, shipping out the black and white striped shirts to Turin.

In his diaries, Donna described the moment when the shirts arrived a month later; “We were shocked when the first shirts came out of the box, one after the other, there were a funeral, sad, black and white striped jerseys.” The Italians were outraged, with one player commenting “We will look like Zebras!”, but Juventus retained the kits and soon learned to love them.

Silvio Piola
Portrait of Juventus Turin's forward Silvio Piola / STAFF/GettyImages

The change in kit coincided with a change in attitude towards the club and rapid growth. One of the founders Umberto Malvano had introduced the club to three brothers from the Ajmone-Marsan family, Riccardo, Alessandro and Annibale. Their father Marco owned a highly successful company, specialising in fine shirts and handkerchiefs. The three brothers convinced their father to finance a move from Piazza D’Armi to the more appropriate Velodrome Umberto I, with Marco paying the rent as well as offering other financial assistance.

1903 saw the Bianconeri reach their first Italian Championship Final. Back then, the Scudetto was wildly different from the league format it is today, with regional qualifiers feeding into a knockout tournament to decide a national champion. While other teams benefited from byes due to a lack of teams in their region, Juventus ran the gauntlet. 5-0 and 2-1 wins over Torinese and Bold Turin respectively saw Juventus advance from the Piemontese group, before a 7-1 demolition of Andrea Doria (the precursor to Sampdoria) saw them through to the semis. They would face Milan in the semi final, prevailing 2-0 thanks to goals from Foriano and Malvano.

This would set up a final against Genoa. Founded by (amongst others) James Richardson Spensley in 1897, Genoa had been imperious since day one. With Spensley as player-manager, the side had won four of the five Italian titles contested up to the 1903 final, and were the undisputed leading power in Italian football at the time. With Juventus’ recent modernisations, the Turin side represented the first real threat to Genoa’s supremacy. Genoa would prevail in the 1903 final 3-0 thanks to goals from Dapples, Agar and Armano. Juve’s time had yet to come.

1904 would produce the same final, as Juventus played Genoa for a second year in a row. A 3-2 win over Torinese in the regional round led to yet another semi against Milan. A 1-1 draw away facilitated a replay, again in Milan, which Juventus were able to win 3-0. The final was to bring heartbreak yet again for Juve though.

With many thinking that Genoa’s death grip on the Scudetto was starting to loosen, they defied the critics thanks to a goal from the Swiss full-back Étienne Bugnion. In blustery conditions at Genoa’s home ground, the Campo Sportivo Di Ponte Carrega, Bugnion caught Juventus goalkeeper Domenico Durante off his line and surprised him with a wind-assisted long range effort from inside the Genoa half for the only goal of the game.

The Old Lady would come back stronger in 1905, with Alfred Dick being appointed President of the club. Born in Switzerland before moving to Turin at a very young age, Dick was the manager of a leather and footwear company as well as a businessman with modern ideas but was a moody, temperamental man.

Dick was responsible for providing the Club with a consistent and solid organisational structure, giving the first membership cards to foreign players and for enabling the 'Bianconeri' players to train on a proper football field in the proximity of the Velodrome Umberto I, as opposed to the one in Piazza d'Armi which they still used for training.

At the heart of this new improved side was two Scottish imports by the name of John Bowman Diment and James Macgregor Squair. Born in Plymouth in 1888, Diment was the son of a sergeant in the Gordon Highlanders regiment stationed down south. Diment, known as Jack, would return to Durris in Aberdeenshire at a very young age, where he would be schooled. Diment would move to Newcastle in 1904 where he would meet Squair, who was originally from Edinburgh but moved to the city after the death of his mother and his father’s subsequent remarriage.

They had both decided to begin a career in shipping, with Newcastle being an important city in the shipping trade. The duo would be employed by a company by the name of Navigazione Alta Italia, who controlled shipping in the Creole Line at the time. The company’s owner, Walter F Becker, was a keen football enthusiast, having previously helped found a club in Messina. Becker soon took a shine to the pair, with both Diment and Squair proving themselves to be hard and enthusiastic workers. 

With Becker’s contacts, he was able to fast track the two of them into the Juventus first team. In a piece written by respected Scottish football historian Andy Mitchell, he described the impact the pair had on the Bianconeri as such; “Shortly after their arrival, the two young men were pitched straight into the Juventus team. They made their debuts on 13 November 1904 in a 1-0 defeat to Genoa, a contest for the Palla Dapples – the silver ball donated by Henri Dapples for a series of challenge matches which saw the winner retain the elegant trophy. 

They soon became an integral part of the team. Diment at right half was known as 'Il Mulo' – the mule – for his tenacity and no-nonsense approach, while fair-haired Squair at inside left was quick and creative, pitching in with the occasional goal.”

The improvements would yield significant results in the 1905 season, with Juve eager to finally usurp Genoa and claim their position at the top of Italian football. After two years of slogging through multiple qualifying rounds, Juventus finally got a bye after FC Torinese withdrew from the tournament, with Torinese folding soon after as Juventus inherited 3-0 forfeit wins home and away.

In the Lombardy qualifying round, Milan drew the first match with Unione Sportiva Milanese 3-3, before losing a crazy second leg 7-6. In the Ligurian qualifier, Genoa needed the full 180 minutes to defeat Andrea Doria, winning the second leg 1-0 after a goalless draw in the first leg.

The 1905 edition of the Prima Categoria (as Serie A was known at the time) saw a tweak to the format, with Juventus, Genoa and U.S. Milanese facing off home and away in a round robin to determine the Italian Champions. Juventus’ first match of the round robin took place at home to U.S. Milanese on the 5th of March 1905. Despite playing the second half with ten men, Juventus came out 3-0 victors, with defender Carlo Vittorio Varetti getting on the scoresheet as well as a brace for Domenico Donna.

Juventus would return to the scene of the last two finals, the Campo Sportivo Di Ponte Carrega, to face Genoa yet again. Taking place on the 12th of March 1905, Genoa would go into half time 1-0 up courtesy of striker Luigi Pollak, who would score four goals this campaign. Juventus would equalise in the second half thanks to Juve founder Luigi Forlano. The week after, Genoa defeated U.S. Milanese to keep the pressure on, triumphing 3-2 with goals from Pollak, Foffani and Salvadè.

Juventus would best U.S Milanese on the 26th of March, defeating them 4-1 at the Campo Di Via Comasina in Milan. Goals from Donna, Varetti and Forlano had the Bianconeri firmly in control. A consolation goal from Milanese player Varisco did nothing to dampen Juve’s spirits with Squair adding icing to the cake late on with a fourth.

Juve knew destiny was in their own hands when Genoa travelled to the Velodrome Umberto I on Sunday the 2nd of April 1905. A win for Juve would see them mathematically crowned champions. The Juventus XI that day was as follows: Durante; Armano, Mazzia; Walty, Goccione, Diment; Barberis, Varetti, Forlano, Squair, Donna. Juve were in dreamland early on when Forlano put them 1-0 up after ten minutes, before Mayer  levelled for Genoa on the twenty minute mark.

Despite Genoa’s best efforts, they were unable to find a winner, all but sealing Juventus’ first title win. It would be confirmed the following Sunday, when Genoa faced U.S. Milanese in the final round robin game. Meazza gave Milanese a lead going into half time, before Pollak grabbed a double in the second half to restore Genoa’s hopes. A late equaliser for Milanese would ice the cake for Juventus, with Genoa finishing behind the eventual champions by a solitary point.

The predicted power shift from Juventus’ title win never materialised. The next year, Alfred Dick resigned from the presidency, outraged by the suggestion of moving Juve out of Turin. Dick would take several prominent players with him to form local rivals Torino, spawning the Derby Della Mole in the process. Amongst the exiles were Squair, Diment and goalkeeper James McQueen, also with Scottish roots but raised in London, who had been signed in the 1906/07 season.

Genoa would fall away too, with Milan winning the next two Scudetto before the start of Pro Vercelli’s legendary hold on the title. Juventus spent much of this period steadily rebuilding after the split, surviving the First World War as Pro Vercelli and Casale emerged as the dominant powers in Piedmont.

It would take them 21 years to win their next official title.  By the time they did, the club had been radically transformed under the presidency of FIAT vice-president Eduardo Agnelli. As such, Juventus’ 1905 Scudetto triumph is a reminder of the club’s humble roots and simpler times in Italian football.