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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
This shirt badge first appeared on the Aston Villa kit in 1957 and kept its place for 12 years until 1969 when new club manager Tommy Docherty introduced a new-style shirt with claret body and sleeves and its badge simplified as a pale blue rampant lion, minus the shield and its motto.
I wonder if the above badge resembled the badge in this report that appeared on a local newspaper on October, 9, 1896?
“Tom Horton, one of the Old Villans – and a good one, too! – has brought out a new football badge. It is in the form of a shield and the one we saw represented Aston Villa. It is beautifully enamelled in colours on brass, is retailed at sixpence, and is sure to become extremely popular. The badge can be worn in coat or hat, and makes an extremely pretty ornament – much superior to the gimcrack arrangements we have been used to. All the League clubs are to be honoured in the same way.”
I’m guessing that this Aston Villa jersey was worn for the 1935-36 season. It has a lace-up collar and a single blue ring.
The jersey was manufactured by Umbro who didn’t debut their football kits until the 1934 FA Cup final when both Manchester City and Portsmouth wore kits designed and made by the Wilmslow based company.
The famous Umbro diamond is used as a surround for both the name of the innovative Tangeru fabric and the name of the company. The other label sewn into the collar belongs to the Birmingham “Athletic Outfitter” William Shillcock.
Umbro’s association with Villa’s kit came to prominence again for season1975-76 and for the next five seasons as the club’s official kit sponsor, when its diamond logo was featured on the front of the shirt.
From the Claret and Blue magazine, number 9, September 1994
Aston Villa historians, of whom there appears to be many about, will be interested in an extract sent in from an Aston Villa programme of 1908. A word portrait of ex-player Olly Whateley, who played for the club between 1881-86, quotes him as making an unusual claim.
In wishing everyone ‘interested in the claret-and-blue colours” good luck, he adds as an aside… “which, I may remind you were designed by my humble self.”
Whateley’s correspondence to the club in that October of 1908 came from his address in London, a house which he called “Aston Villa”, in Charlwood Road, Putney. Does that house and sign still exist, we wonder?
Whateley’s occupation outside of football was a commercial artist. There are two samples of his on display at Villa Park, illuminated tributes to W. B. Mason and John Devey.
The fallen leaves on the ground and the identity of the Aston VIlla players lined up in the photograph used as the masthead for this blog – and also shown below – indicate that it was probably taken sometime in the early autumn of 1891.
At the start of the 1888-89 season Villa switched from wearing striped jerseys to wearing quartered shirts, still in the club colours of claret and light blue. This style was kept until the start of the League Championship winning season of 1893-94 when the club opted to dispense with quartered tops and adopt an all-claret jersey with light blue sleeves.
There are two styles of jerseys worn by the players in this 1891/92 group. Some show a claret round neckline, while others have two-toned collars.
The line up is, left to right: Charlie Athersmith, George Campbell, Harry Devey, Walter Evans, John Devey, James Warner, Billy Dickson, James Cowan, Dennis Hodgetts. John Baird, Louis Campbell and John Graham.
This rare Aston Villa team photograph was taken at the end of the 1883-84 season and features some of the players who helped the club retain the Birmingham Senior Cup and also the Mayor of Birmingham Charity Cup.
There is evidence that Villa may have used three different kits during the season. Although it might be assumed that the shirts in the photograph represent the traditional claret and blue colours associated with the club, this is not so. They are two shades of green!
Villa had started the 1883-84 campaign wearing the blue and white hooped shirts that the club had switched to two seasons before. The team also used black jerseys for some games, possibly to avoid any clash with the colours worn by the opposition.
Villa first turned out in their two-tone green shirts for the match against Wednesbury Town, played at Perry Barr on Monday, March 24, 1884. This is confirmed by a note in the Aston Villa Minutes Book.
March 17, 1884 – Shirts: Mr McGregor seconded proposal of Mr Mason “That the trainer has charge of the new shirts and that they be used for Monday next”. Black Jerseys to be used for Saturday next.
The first newspaper reference to Vila’s new colours was recorded in the Daily Gazette on Monday, April 7, in the report for the Birmingham Charity Cup match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion played at the Lower Grounds on the previous Saturday. Villa were described as being “attired in a new and pretty costume”.
The question of new shirts and colours was raised at a Committe meeting on February 4, 1884. The Minutes Book records that “eventually Messrs McGregor, Archie Hunter and O. W. Whateley were appointed a Sub Committee to arrange and report at a future meeting”.
Two weeks later, on February 13, “Mr McGregor showed several sets of colours – in combinations of two – and eventually after inspection it was agreed upon proposition of Mr Jefferies, seconded by Mr Bowen, to have two Greens”.
• Excellent graphic examples of Aston Villa’s colours and kit styles through its history can be viewed at the Historical Football Kits website.