A mystery Villa medal

There’s somewhat of a mystery about this ‘Aston Villa’ medal. It was awarded to W. Vale in 1893 as first prize for attendance. Close inspection reveals that the ‘Aston Villa’ may not be the football club (fc) but Aston Villa CC, possibly the Cricket Club. And yet the medal features the famous Villa lion. So who could this W. Vale be and did he have a connection with the football club?

Courtesy of the Evening Mail – Sports Argus

Here’s a colourful Aston Villa team group, courtesy of the Evening Mail – Sports Argus, a promotional giveaway for the start of the 1968-69 season:

The line-up is BACK: Chris Robbins, Trevor Bourne, Bobby Park, Fred Pedley (Physio), David Coates (Coach), Oscar Arce, Lionel Martin, David Rudge.
MIDDLE: Malcolm Musgrove (Assistant Manager), Charlie Aitken, John Chambers, Dick Edwards, Colin Withers, Lew Chatterley, John Dunn, John Woodward, Fred Turnbull, Brian Greenhalgh, Arthur Cox (Trainer).
SEATED: Mick Wright, Brian Godfrey, Willie Anderson, Tommy Mitchinson, Tommy Cummings (Manager), Mike Ferguson, Alan Deakin, Peter Broadbent, Keith Bradley.
FRONT: Brian Sheasby, David Reardon, John Griffiths, Terry Brown.

Of boots and balls and celebrated football goods…

IMPORTANT: In consequence of unprincipled Firms offering Worthless imitations of my CELEBRATED McGREGOR FOOTBALL GOODS I am compelled to warn my customers that none are genuine unless stamped with my Registered Trade Mark.

A letter from G. B. Ramsay to Arthur Loach, 15 September 1886

Dear Sir
I am very sorry you did not turn up for training, please try and do so tomorrow Thursday. Our Trainer is on the ground from 6 till 9 o’clock and besides I would like to see you. I hope you have your new boots. You have been selected to play for us on Saturday at Perry Barr v Druids. Kick-off 3.30 pm prompt. Please be early and oblige.
Yours sincerely
Geo B Ramsay

A letter from G. B. Ramsay to Fred Dawson, 17 September 1886

Dear Sir
A short time ago you told me you had a new ball belong to the Villa. Will you kindly send it down by Saturday. I will depend upon it and do try your very best to play on Monday.

Room for more

This leaflet to advertisers was produced sometime in the early 1900’s when Aston Villa began to harness the revenue stream available to the club from track and perimeter advertising. It lists companies already renting spaces on the ground and, as can be seen from the wide cycle-track perimeter, there was considerable extra space for more potential advertisers.

A decade in polyester

Villa fan and collector David Hitchman has kindly send me an unusual booklet: A Decade in Polyester – The good , the bad and the beautiful of Aston Villa shirts, 1990 to 1999.

David explains on his website that he used his ‘lockdown time’ to design and produce the 32 page publication which contains a look through Villa’s shirts in the 1990s.

The booklet is a brief story of those shirts and the stories behind them, told through photographs of his collection. It contains pictures of every outfield shirt worn in the 90s, and some we didn’t, as well as the pick of the goalkeeper shirts and all the rarities and oddities that cropped up throughout the decade.

The book, which can be orderd from David’s website, is £12 (includes p+p) with all profits going to St Giles Hospice in Staffordshire.

When Aston Villa played baseball

• From a Birmingham Mail report by Matt Kendrick, October 2012

‘What about the Villa? Forgotten figures from Britain’s pro baseball league of 1890’ is Joe Gray’s record of a unique achievement during the club’s late 19th century glory years.

For, just three years before the claret and blues became the “greatest football club in the world”, Villa were the only ever winners of a professional national baseball league in England.

After embarking on the exhaustive task of chronicling the historic title win Gray, a Villa fan at heart and statistician by trade, has unearthed a forgotten chapter of Villa history.

Villa were in danger of dropping out of the First Division when American entrepreneur Albert Spalding took Major League baseball players on a world tour which stopped off in Britain.
Spalding, a sports equipment manufacturer who wanted to globalise baseball, formed a committee with English sport’s main movers and shakers, including Villa legend William McGregor.

Football, rugby, athletics and even lacrosse teams across the country were invited to join a professional league with the aim of keeping players fit during the summer months.
In the end a four-club competition was formed with Villa competing alongside Preston North End, Stoke City and Derby.

Back then Derby was the only baseball team not already affiliated to a football club – the soccer came later with Derby County FC also inheriting the purpose built Baseball Ground. Villa’s nine-man team was made up of three specialist baseball players, imported from America, a cricketer and three former Villa footballers, Fred Dawson, Joey Simmonds and Arthur Brown.
The other two members were James Cowan a Scottish defender just starting out with the football club, and forward John Devey, who would become a baseball star and Villa’s most successful football captain.

Aston Villa Baseball team 1890… Back row: Fred Dawson, William Barr, William McGregor, HE Simon, Frank Barr. Front row: Harry Widdowson, James Cowan, Arthur Brown, Joey Simmonds, John Devey.

“Devey’s first exposure as an Aston Villa player was actually on the baseball field, not on the football field, and this was a guy who went on to captain Aston Villa during the 1890s when they won five league titles and two FA Cups,’’ says Gray. “He was the captain when they won the double in 1897. He was one of the all-time Aston Villa greats, who actually played baseball for them first. It’s worth adding, on John Devey, he was a brilliant baseball player, who led the statistical categories at the end of the year, including being the league’s batting champion.”

Devey played a key part in helping Villa to the baseball title which they clinched in the penultimate match, but by then the end was already nigh for the one-season-wonder league.

The traditional British weather rained on the league’s parade with crowds at the Perry Barr ground shared with the football club fluctuating between 100 and 1,000 depending on the elements. League organisers, including McGregor, who is believed to have made a loss, were forced to halve the 6d admission because it was deemed unfair to charge as much for a new sport as for football.

Joe Gray’s book is available to download as a pdf from the Project Cobb website

Albert Hall, a consistent scorer

Aston Villa signed Albert Hall from Stourbridge in 1903 and he scored six goals in nine league outings during his first season at Villa Park. Noted as a hard-working, outside left who teamed up well with Joe Bache between 1904 and 1910, Hall was a consistent goalscorer – 61 goals in 214 league and cup appearances. He left Villa in 1913 to join Millwall and retired three years later. Hall won an FA Cup with Villa in 1905 and a First Division championship medal in 1910, the same year he won his only England cap in a game against Ireland.

• source: Wikipedia

Villa Park, built on a fishpond

This was the view from Aston Park in 1886, looking towards the houses on Witton Lane. The ornamental pool – once Dovehouse Pool – is now the site of the Villa Park pitch. Th scaffolding on the far side served as a mount for one of the Lower Ground’s giant tableaux.

source: Villa Park 100 Years by Simon Inglis

What’s new?

Not sure when this photograph was taken, or by who, but it sums up the current situation with the cancellation of fixtures because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wonder what caused the match postponement chalked up in this photograph? If anyone knows, please let me know.

For the delectation of readers

This reproduction copy is of the very first issue of the Aston Villa News and Record, published on Saturday, September 1, for the match against Blackburn Rovers. Up until then the club had availed of the services of Sport & Play to produce a match programme, as the Birmingham based agency did for other Midland clubs. The programme included an article explaining the reasons for the change to “in-house” publishing.

“For the first time in its history, the Aston Villa Football Club today has its own official journal. The idea has been in contemplation for some time, and in thus carrying it out the directors are falling in line with other important clubs. Into the fairness or unfairness of some of the criticisms tha have been directed towards the club in the past it is not proposed to enter. When succesful there has been no reason to complain of any niggardliness in the way of praise from the critics; and when defeat has fallen to the share of the players, they have bowed to the inevitable, we think, with as much equanimity as most would under similar circumstances.

“At the same time, it has been frequently recognised that the aims, the objects, and the intentions of the club have not always been placed before the public in the most beneficial way, and, averse to embarking upon newspaper controversies, the directors have perforce allowed judgment in many cases to to go by default. We do not complain, we do not expostulate. With the club detached as it was from the various public prints – whose help and encouragement Aston Villa willingly and heartily recognise – it could scarcely have been otherwise. Add to the simple details the fact that many club journals and programmes produce a considerable source of revenue, and we think enough has been said to justify the presnt enterprise to shareholders and supporters alike. […]

“During the coming season it will be our endeavour to provide our shareholders and our patrons with impartial criticisms of the games in which our players are engaged, based, as far as possible, upon personal observation. We hope to extenuate nothing, and it will be wuite certain that naught will be set down in malice. It is the desire of the Aston Villa directorate now, as it has ever been, the quality of the play, and the lasting well-being of its exponents. […]

“To these few opening lines it is only necessar to add, perhaps, that while the general policy and management of the journal will be under the direct supervision of the club directorate, the Editor of this journal will be given practically a free hand in dealing with actual facts and circumstances. No one could wish more. With all the imperfections on its head, therefore, we venture to submit the Villa News and Record to the kindly consideration of our own particular patrons and supporters, and therefore likewise to our friends the enemy.”

There was also a ‘contribution’ from the club’s Directorate introducing the new programme editor.

“The Directorate have succeeded in engaging the seervices of Mr E. W. Cox, a journalist well known in the athletic world, as Editor of this journal. In the hands of this gentleman the Directorate feel the “matter” submitted for the delectation of our readers will be entertaining, and, in addition, have the merit of being dealt with by one who is unbiased in his views, essentially practical in his work, and unrestricted in the expression of his convictions.”

Classic line-up but only one winner

Another memorable team group from 1957 when three Midland clubs reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The comined teams of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion was photographed on the bowling green at Villa Park.

After a 2-2 draw with Albion at Molineux and then a 1-0 win in the replay at St Andrews, Villa qualified for a Final place against Manchester United who beat Birmingham City 2-0 at Hillsborough in the other semi-final.

The lineup (courtesy of Boing) is:
Back row: left to right: Dick Graham (WBA trainer), Jim Sanders (WBA), Derek Pace (AV), Jimmy Dugdale (AV), Bill Moore (AV trainer), Pat Saward (AV), Gil Merrick (BC), Ray Shaw (BC trainer).
Second row: Frank Griffin (WBA), Don Howe (WBA), Billy Myerscough (AV), Jackie Sewell (AV) Trevor Birch (AV), Peter McParland (AV), Ken Roberts (AV), Brian Orritt (BC), Johnny Newman (BC), Gordan Clarke (WBA Assistant Manager)
Third row: Arthur Turner (BC Manager), Joe Kennedy (WBA), Len Millard (WBA), Jimmy Dudley (WBA), Peter Aldis (AV), Stan Lynn (AV) Nigel Sims (AV), Gordon Astall (BC), Johnny Watts (BC), Peter Murphy (BC), Vic Buckingham (WBA Manager)
Seated: Eric Houghton (AV Manager), Roy Horobin (WBA), Maurice Setters (WBA), Ronnie Allen (WBA), Billy Baxter (AV), Stan Crowther (AV), Les Smith (AV), Noel Kinsey (BC), Trevor Smith (BC), Ken Green (BC)
Ground: Bobby Robson (WBA), Brian Whitehouse (WBA), Derek Kevan (WBA), Ray Barlow (WBA Captain), Johnny Dixon (AV Captain), Roy Warhurst (BC Captain), Eddy Brown (BC), Jeff Hall (BC), Alex Govan (BC)

Pounds, shillings and pence

Here’s an insight into the salary levels of the Aston Villa players for season 1893-94. Top earners were Willie Groves on £5 per week and Bob Chatt on £4 per week. That equates to around £600 and £500 per week in today’s reckoning. They were also paid an appearance bonus of ten shillings.

Willie Groves only lasted a season playing for Villa. He joined the club from West Bromwich Albion in 1893, the first £100 plus transfer in football. After assisting the Baggies to an FA Cup Final victory against Villa the previous season he then went on to help his new club to its first League Championship in 1894. Groves left Villa in November that year, when he was unable to agree new terms with the club and returned to Hibernian, the team he started out with in Scotland. He later moved to Celtic but soon retired from the game after contracting TB. Groves died in 1909, age 39.

Bob Chatt and Willie Groves, top earners with Aston Villa in season 1893-94.

Against the odds

This is one of my favourite images – and not a Villa player in sight. It shows subsititute goalkeeper Jackie Blanchflower and Dudley-born Duncan Edwards in action for Manchester United during the 1957 FA Cup Final against Aston Villa.

Blanchflower put on the green jersey after goalkeeper Ray Wood left the field with a broken cheekbone following a collision with Villa’s Peter McParland in the sixth minute. No substitutes in those days! Wood eventually returned to the field with just seven minutes left to play, taking up an outfield position as a virtual passenger.

Villa won the game against the odds (see prices on offer by a Birmngham bookmaker at the time). McParland went on to score both goals in Villa’s 2-1 victory.

Albert Wilkes, photographic artist

Here’s a brief bio (courtesy of cartoonist Wayne) on Albert Wilkes the Aston Villa half-back who also enjoyed a fine reputation off the park as a sports photographer. His photo library is now archived with Colorsport Images in London.

An interesting character, Albert Wilkes was much respected in and out of football. Educated at Walsall Road School, he played his early football with Oldbury Town and Walsall before joining Aston Villa in1898. Albert was a fine singer who appeared around Midland music halls in the 1920’s. He became a Villa director in 1934 and was a Grand Master in the Freemasons. Albert kept a photographic studio in West Bromwich where he continued to be a snappy operator! Known for his competittive streak and sheer hard work, Albert went south to join Fulham in 1907-08, then Chesteerfield where he wound up a great career. He made 150 senior appearances and scored eight goals for Aston Villa and was capped by England five times. Albert received the Royal HUmane Society Award for saving a young fan from drowning. A West Bromwich-born Villa hero!

The price of art…

Earlier this year I posted an item here on the former Villa player Oliver Whateley who claimed he designed Villa’s original claret-and-blue colours. Whateley’s house in Charlwood Road, London, was named Aston Villa. Did the house still exist, we wondered?

Today, Brian Halls came up with the answer. It does – a four-bedroomed terraced house that sold for £1,400,000 two years ago!

• The illustration above shows detail from an illuminated address presented to John Devey. It was produced by Oliver Whateley, a commericial artist, so the colours are probably as close to Villa’s original claret-and-blue. What price would the illuminated address fetch in the sports memorablia market these days?

The Perry Barr Grand Stand

The most imposing structure ever built at Aston Villa’s Perry Barr ground was the Grand Stand, erected in mid-1887, shortly after Villa’s first ever FA Cup Final triumph, a 2-0 win over West Bromwich at the Oval in 1887.

In order to raise the cash Villa set up a Pavillion Fund. This more than paid for the £383 costs of the construction, and guaranteed each individual subscriber a seat.

The stand itself measured some 30 yards long and was designed by Daniel Arkell, a local architect who had, that same year, finished a much grander edifice, the Victoria Hall on Victoria Road (now an Islamic study centre). Arkell advised the Villa for several years while they were at Perry Barr, and was later disappointed when the club chose another architect for the club’s new home at the Lower Grounds. But in 1887 his neatly embellished Grand Stand was quite the most handsome stand in the Midlands.

Its proud opening took place before a representative match, Birmingham & District v Lancashire, on October 22, 1887, watched by 11,000. Deemed by the Birmingham Daily Gazette to be ‘in every respect admirable,’ the new stand had nine rows of seats, accommodating 700-800 spectators (who had to peer past no fewer than 14 slender columns), with a ‘reserve promenande of ashes’ along the front. The flat area, together with two sets of old wooden terraces placed on either side of the stand, held up to 1,500 spectators.

As surviving etchings show, the stand was chiefly characterised by a central pedimented roof gable, on the front of which was a clock donated by a Mr Wray of New Street. Above the gable flew a large pennant-style flag with the intials AVFC. The ridge of the roof was lined by decorative ironwork.

• source: Simon Inglis, Villa Park, 100 Years

That Birmingham badge…

This casual line-up of Villa players was taken in November 1886 when Villa switched from wearing what was described by the club captain Archie Hunter as a piebald uniform to chocolate and light blue, striped shirts.

Goalkeeper James Warner, wearing his
Birmingham and District FA badge.

Close inspection of the players in this group show that five of them have the Birmingham coat of arms and its “forward” motto attached to their tops. They are, left to right: Frank Coulton, Albert Brown, James Warner, Jack Burton, Dennis Hodgetts and Joey Simmonds.

There is a reason for this. The badges were ‘awarded’ for representing the Birmingham and District FA in its match against the Sheffield Association played at Bramall Lane a few weeks earlier on Otober 23, 1886. The “Brums” won convincingly, 7-1. One other Villa player who took part in the game, but minus his “badge” in this photograph, was Archie Hunter.

The Birmingham representative side was chosen by ballot at a general meeting of the Association’s members held at the Grand Hotel in Colmore Row on Wedenesday, October 6, 1886. Harry Yates was selected as a reserve, but not called upon.

True colours

During its formative years Aston Villa Football Club took the field in various colours and styles. Seemingly the norm was to use the team strip for a couple of seasons and then change to new colours and another style.

The transition to claret and blue began in season 1885-86 when the club colours were described by secretary George Ramsay as Coral and Mauve jerseys. In the Alcock Annual for the same season Villa’s colours are listed as Coral and Maroon. As to the style, club captain Archie Hunter, referred to it as “the piebald uniform which was inartistic and never popular.”

In November 1886, the team switched to wearing a vertical-striped jersey, described in the club minutes as Chocolate and Light Blue, although one newspaper report noted the Chocolate colour as Cardinal [Red]. The team continued wearng these striped jerseys and colours until the end of 1887-88, as confirmed by team photographs and the mention of Chocolate and Blue in the Alcock Annual of 1887 as Villa’s colours for that season.

Aston Villa team group taken in November 1886 (notice the leaves on the ground) to unveil the club’s new shirts. (Standing) Joe Gorman, Frank Coulton, James Warner, Fred Dawson, Albert Allen, Joey Simmonds. (Seated) Richmond Davis, Albert Brown, Archie Hunter, Howard Vaughton, Dennis Hodgetts. (Ground) Harry Yates, Jack Burton.
Aston Villa in striped shirts with their trophies on display to complete the 1887-88 season. (Standing) Tom Vaughton, Philip Clamp, Albert Brown, Isaac Whitehouse, Harry Devey, William McGregor, Joshua Margoschis, James Warner, Alfred Albut, Albert Allen, William Cooke, George Ramsay, Dennis Hodgetts, J. Vickerstaffe, Joe Gorman. (Seated) Dr Vincent Jones, Frank Coulton, Fred Dawson, Archie Hunter, Harry Yates, Jack Burton, Gershom Cox, Henry Jefferies.

It was at a General Meeting of Aston Villa on June 2, 1888, when members voted and defined the official club colours. Rule 3 stated: The Club Colours shall be CLARET and LIGHT BLUE.

An item in the Club Minutes, August 17, 1888, made mention of an order for new jerseys: Resolved we have 1 dozen new jerseys, Club Colours but in quarters. Quotations from Gr[?] and Mr McGregor.

Ten days later another mention of new jerseys appeared in the minute book: Quotations not having been received, it was decided that they are not now obtained. Resolved instead of Jerseys we have Shirts, the Club Colours in quarters and same be had of Mr McGregor.

Aston Villa 1888-89

This historic team photograph, the first ever depicting the official club colours of Claret and Blue, was taken on June 22, 1889. The two trophies are the Mayor of Birmingham’s Charity Cup and the Birmingham Senior Cup. The lineup is: (Back row) Frank Coulton, Harry Devey, James Warner, Harry Yates, Gershom Cox, Fred Burton, Joe Gorman. (Front row) Arthur Brown, Albert Allen, Archie Hunter, Dennis Hodgetts, Bartholomew Garvey.

Special thanks to Vic Garvey, grandson of ‘Bat’ Garvey, for the use of this picture.

Reporters beware!

From a Birmingham newspaper report, January 8, 1897

There was a rumour current in local football circles last week that Aston Villa were endeavouring to secure Divers, the Celtic forward who was recently suspended indefinitely because he refused to play unless certain reporters were excluded from the ground. How Messrs Jones, Doe, and Clucas must have trembled in their shoes when they heard that that player might leave his home in Glasgow to take up his quarters in Birmingham! Doubtless they wondered how the Villa committee would act if they were placed in the same predicament as the Celts recently were. However, their alarm was needless, for Divers is not coming to the Villa, and the local football scribes can continue to say whatever they please – in their usual fair manner of course – until some of the adversely criticised players happen to meet them one dark night, and then – but it’s too awful to contemplate.

For the benefit of Mr Law

OLD VILLANS’ CLUB
President: J. E. Margoschis
Honorary Treasurer: H.Devey
Honorary Secretary: C. S. Johnstone

Dear Sir,
As you may have seen from the Press and from the Villa News, “Sammy” Law, the famous centre-back of bygone days, is unable to follow his employment of engraver owing to failing eyesight.

We earnestly appeal to you as a lover of the game to lend a helping hand to one who has always been associated with our club from its earliest days, and who assisted it in no little measure to attain the prominent position it has now reached.

He not only did yeoman service to his club as an amateur, but represented his city in the old Inter-association Matches v. London, Sheffield and Glasgow.

In better times no one was more willing to make sacrfices for his club, or to assist a fellow Villan who might be in difficulties.

Knowing our members as we do, we feel that this appeal will not be made in vain, but will meet with a prompt and substantial response in the usual Villa way.

Contributions may be sent to Mr F.B. Ramsay, Mr J.E. Margoschis, or myself.

Thanking you in anticipation,
I remain,
Faithfully yours
C. S JOHNSTONE
33, Turville Road, Handsworth

The fundraiser for Sammy Law in 1913 raised £65, equivalent to about £7,500 in 2020. Sports journalist Jack Urry had this to say about Law in a tribute he wrote for the Villa News and Record:

If you had enquired for Mr Samuel Law when he played for Aston Villa, they would not have known whom you meant, for Sammy was an immense favourite with the crowd, not only because he was an excellent half-back, but also because he was, perhaps, the most agile player ever seen at Perry Barr – which is saying a good lot. No merrier man ever went on to a football field, and I think his opponents had almost as great an admiration for him as his friends, though when it came to strenuous work in the game, Sammy Law was generally there or thereabouts – but always scrupulously fair. The only thing that used to rile one of the finest sportsmen I have ever met was a deliberate succession of dirty tricks by friend or foe.
As they say in rural places, “he couldn’t abide it” and used to express his feelings both on and off the field. The fact was, he played the game first as a game, and did not allow his conduct to spoil victory or exasperate defeat; and it was principally his sporting proclivities which endeared him to the first supporters of Aston Villa.

Sammy Law had a somewhat uncommon appearance on the field. Rather on the small size, but sturdily built, he was as nimble as a cat, and the way he could dance around an opponent, and especially the manner in which he could recover lost ground, were features which made him so useful and skilful a half-back. He used to wear mutton chop whiskers of a sunset hue – a la Lord Dundreary – and as they were always beautifully brushed and glowing it may be guessed that his figure was a rather conspicuous one, and he was, so to speak, the cynosure of all eyes wherever he went; not that Sammy was in any way egotistical; on the contrary, he was one of the most modest footballers I have ever met, though nobody sang the praises of his comrades louder that he did.

Kiss and tell

From the Villa News and Record, September 25, 1920

“It should be an instruction to football professionals not to kiss the man who scores the goal. It happened at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.”

This was at Chelsea’s home match against Manchester United. The visitors won 2-1. Aston Villa were also playing in London that day and beat Tottenham Hotspur by the same score. Villa’s goals came from Arthur Dorrell and Billy Kirton.

Men of late forties

Aston Villa 1948-49

Back row: George Edwards, Eddie Lowe, Johnny Dixon, Keith Jones, Frank Moss, Con Martin, Vic Potts. Middle row: Hubert Bourne (Trainer), Dickie Dorsett, George Cummings, Alex Massie (Manager), Bob Iverson, Albert Brown, Phil Hunt (Assistant Trainer). Front row: Billy Goffin, Trevor Ford, Harry Parkes, Leslie Smith.

Another striking cover

Here’s another striking programme cover from the past. It’s from the 1947-48 season and was produced for Villa’s home match against the eventual League champions, Arsenal. The Gunners had beaten Villa 1-0 earlier in the season but Alex Massie’s men took revenge at Villa Park notching up a 4-2 victory with goals from Johnny Dixon, Trevor Ford (2) and Leslie Smith. Joe Mercer, who later became manager of Aston Villa, turned out for the visitors. The attendance was 65,690. Villa finished sixth in the League, on level points (47) with Wolves in fifth place who had a better goal difference after beating Villa twice (1-0 and 4-1) in two matches played over the Christmas period.

Where are the prophets now?

Fred Wheldon, beside the pavilion at Villa’s Perry Barr ground.

From a local newspaper report, April 4, 1897

Much doubt was expressed among a certain section of Aston Villa supporters before the present season commenced as to whether the committee had acted wisely in paying such a heavy sum as £300 to the Small Heath club for the transfer of their crack left-winger, George Frederick Wheldon, and a large number of “wiseheads” did not refrain from maing public their opinion that Wheldon had seen his best days, and would be of no use to Villa. Where are those “prophets” now?

As it has proved, the investment was one of the best the Villa have made in recent years, for the ex-Heathen has been the most consistent of as brilliant a quintette of forwards as ever stepped on a field, and is well worth every penny the League Champions paid for him.

He had the honour of playing for England against Ireland at Nottingham a few weeks ago, and scored three of the goals obtained by his side. In the opinion of many competent judges he is the best inside-left forward in the country, and England would have no cause to regret it had he been chosen to play against Scotland at the Crystal Palace tomorrow.

Wheldon has scored more goals for the Villa in League matches this season than any other player, the number to his credit being sixteen, Jack Devey being responsible for fifteen, In addition to being a champion footballeer, Wheldon is a smart cricketer, and played for Worcestershire on several occasions last summer. He is 26 years of age, being born on November 1st,1879, so should be of much use to te Villa club for many years to come.

Arthur Brown remembered

From the Midland Daily Telegraph… Association Notes by Dribbler

On Saturday, Arthur Brown, one of the best forwards who has ever put a toe to a ball, played for the first time in his native city. The people of Coventry have taken, and still take, more interest in the doing of Aston Villa than any other leading club. That interest was, in the first instance, created by the fact that Coventry claimed the two Browns as her sons, a claim that has often been disputed; but any doubt that may have entertained was removed on Saturday.

Arthur Brown says that he was born in the Spon End district, but he cannot name the exact spot. Albert was also born there; but when he was four and Arthur nine years of age, the family removed to Birmingham. They have relations in Coventry – in fact, a cousin of the two brothers occupied a position on Singer’s committee.

Arthur served his football apprenticeship with a club called the Florence, who used to play on Aston Park. In the same team was Howard Vaughton, who has since become celebrated as a cyclist, boxer, skater, Staffordshire county cricketer and international footballer; also Eli David, the king of the left screw kickers. Olly Whateley, too, the patentee of the “daisy cutter” shot, sometimes gave the Florence a lift.

From that club Brown passed into the ranks of Aston Unity, and in the season of 1878-79 played in a memorable cup-tie against Aston Villa at the Lower Grounds, the game ending in a one to none victory for the Perry Barr men. The winning point was scored by George Ramsay, now the paid manager of the Villa club, in the last minute of play.

The next season found Arthur playing for the Villa. Again the club was pitted against the Unity in the Birmingham cup competition, but this time the latter went down by 16 (ten scored by Brown) to none. On this occasion Ted Brown, another member of the Coventry family, was among the defeated ones.

In the season 1881-82 Arthur Brown represented England aganst Sotland, Ireland and Wales, in playing in company with Howard Vaughton, and that great right-winger George Holden. In the Ireland match Brown placed four goals to his credit, and against Scotland got the only goal that fell to the Englishmen. By the way, he wore his international white as an under jersey in last Saturday’s game.

To enumerate his many grand performances with Aston Villa is impossible, to say nothing of the many occasions upon which he has distinguished himself for the Birmingham and Staffordshire Associations. He was, in his day, a very good shot, and a prettier dribbler or a more tricky forward has never been seen.

He was reinstated as an amateur as recently as a month since. At the time when he was such a prominent figure in the football field, first class players were unable to reap the rich harvest that now falls to their share; and Brown’s unselfish devotion to the game is fully shown by the fact that he is at present playing for a club who cannot well afford to pay the travelling expenses of its players.

His brother Albert was elected to play for England a couple or three seasons ago, but as the Villa had a big match on, he was prevailed upon to forego the honour, and he will probably never get another chance, although he hopes to again appear with the Villa after Christmas.

source: Lionel Bird

From the Villa News and Record, September 1, 1906

“For his size, Arthur Brown was probably the most brilliant and successful player produced in the Midlands. Sturdy, though small, he could dribble through opponents with astonishing ease and grace. In his day he had no local rival, and was scarcely overshadowed by his great captain, Archie Hunter. As a pair, they were simply formidable in many games as centre-forwards. Full of grit, good-tempered, and a magnificent worker, he shone in any company. Made a big mark in international games and was not exactly overburdened with honours.”

Seeing red…

From The Athletic News, Tuesday, January 10, 1888

“Red Stockings” by the French painter
James Tissot (1836-1902)

“The lady who scampered across the Perry Barr ground amid yells and jeers from some 20,000 throats did the 80 yards in little more than evens. We saw more of her red stockings than we had paid for, and this incident was about the funniest of the whole afternoon.”

And from anothe section of the same journal… “The crowd kept breaking out in various parts, causing the special constables and Mr McGregor and Mr Ramsay to sprint about in very uncomfortable fashion. One female, thirsting to be among the classes, started from the popular side and raced across to the stand, to the no small amusement of the crowd. She wore red stockings.”

The match was Villa’s infamous FA Cup tie with Preston North End on January 7, 1888. Because of the chaotic scenes and field encroachments caused by overcrowding, an agreement was reached between the two captains and match officials to treat the fixture as a ‘friendly’ and replay the match at a later date. But the change in status wasn’t relayed to the crowd and arguments about the outcome continued for days until a week after the match the FA announced that the 3-1 victory by Preston would stand, and Villa were disqualified from the competition for failing to keep order at their ground.

Blackburn’s bold move for ‘Baldy’

Blackburn-born Jack Reynolds joined Villa
from West Bromwich Albion in 1893.

Blackburn Rovers are badly in want of new players, and are making strenuous efforts to strengthen their team. An emissary from Rovers was in Birmingham last week to persuade, if possible, the Villa to transfer Jack Reynolds to them, but the League Champions do not intend to part with the “veteran” yet awhile: he will be very useful should one of the regular halves get injured or go “off colour”. Though his appearance betokens his age, Reynolds is by no means the oldest player belonging to the Villa club, and he has plenty of good football in him yet.

Source: a local newspaper report, December 11, 1896

Villa in hoops

Aston Villa 1881-82

This Aston Villa lineup shows the team wearing blue and white hooped jerseys as the club’s first choice kit for season 1881-82. The two trophies are the Birmingham Senior Cup and the larger Birmingham Charity Cup.

A notice from the Midland Athlete inviting design entries for the Mayor of Birmingham Charity Cup.

Villa beat Walsall Swifts 4-1 to lift the Mayor of Birmibgham’s Charity Cup in its inaugral season. The Final was played at Aston Lower Grounds on May 6, 1882.

Villa won the Senior Cup for the second time defeating Wednesbury Old Athletic in the Final, also at the Lower Grounds, on April 1st.

The lineup is, (Standing) Oliver Whateley, David Anderson?, Edmund Lee, Archie Hunter, Eli Davis, George Copley?. (Seated) Howard Vaughton, Arthur Brown, Andy Hunter, Sammy Law, Joey Simmonds.

Noted accomplishments

If you are a collector of ephemera then this item may interest you – an Aston Villa Football Club letterhead produced for use in the first decade of the 20th century.

It’s printed in three colours, predominately blue, but a second shade of blue is used for the club crest and also what now appears to be a discoloured gold ink.

Shown right is a better example of the crest’s colours from a version of the club’s letterhead used 50 years later: light blue, embossed in a gold colour.

Notice the telegraph address – Villa, Birmingham – used by the club for communication. No email in those days! No mention of Villa Park, either. The registered office is Aston Villa Grounds.