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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

Billy the Boot Boy makes good

Despite suffering the unenvious reputation as the man who lost the FA Cup, the resulting publicity didn’t do William Shillcock’s business as a football boot manufacturer and outfitter any harm whatsoever.

When William Shillcock died in 1940 – just two days before the death of the great John Devey – he left behind a considerable sum of money in his will, over £99,000 which by today’s values would be worth around £5.57 million!

Mr Shillcock, a business associate of William McGregor, founder of the Football League, was 83 when he died at his home in Trinity Road, Aston. He was survived by two sons and four daughters.

He once wrote about losing the Cup: “I pictured myself a ruined man. I seemed to see myself a hated individual – to see my business boycotted… I was the man who lost the English Cup… I believed the incident was destined to ruin my connection with football, but happily such has not been the case.”

Advertising on the back of an envelope for “Shillcock’s Patent Football Boot”.

Source: Claret & Blue magazine, number11, January 1995

The Cup that was lost forever

There’s a mischievous old taunt which says that Aston Villa have lost the FA Cup more often than neighbours Birmingham City have won it. The claim is true. But the joke merely covers a historical blemish on the club’s conscience. Aston Villa DID lose the Cup. And they never got it back.

More than a century ago, in season 1894-95, Villa won the English Cup by beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at Crystal Palace, but on the night of September 11, 1895 it was stolen from a window of football outfitter W. Shillcock in Newtown Row, Birmingham. The Cup was never recovered, no culprits were apprehended, and a replacement trophy was produced.

Before agreeing to loan the trophy to Shillcock’s, the Villa directors had given the Football Association a guarantee of £200 against theft. To cover this they had taken out a movable policy for the same amount so that it was covered while on public display. Shillcock had also insured the Cup against theft for the same amount.

Villa were subsequently fined £25 by the FA for losing their English Cup, the same amount it cost the FA to have a new one made by Vaughton’s of Birmingham (the family firm of Howard Vaughton, the former Villa and England player). The original Cup had been manufactured by Martin Hall & Co for around £20.

At one time, because of the high value of insurance, it was proposed having the replacement made in gold. This would suggest that certainly Villa and the FA went ‘past go’ and collected their £200 insurance claim when the original Cup was stolen.

source: Claret & Blue magazine, Number 11, January 1995.

Special assignment

Here’s an order sent to Edwin Cox from the Sportsman Offices in Fleet Street, London, to provide a match report on an upcoming FA Cup replay between Aston Villa and Sunderland played on February 21, 1894. The first game at Sunderland ended in a 2-2 draw. Villa won the replay at Perry Barr, 3-1, but failed to get past Sheffield Wednesday in the next round. It was the season Villa won its first League title.

Mr Cox 14/2/1894
Dear Sir, Aston Villa v Sunderland – Feb
Please send a report of this event as under.

During the first half of game send ten messages of 150 words each and private message containing score (at half time).
Send ten messages of 150 words each during 2nd half of game and at finish wire result in private form.
If extra time is played send one or 2 extra msgs.
All above to be sent to Evening Chronicle, Newcastle on Tyne.
If you cannot carry out these instructions please let us know.

Drunken disorder… a safe bet

From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 20, 1892

Villa President James Hinks

The annual meeting of the members of the Aston Villa Football Club was held on Friday, Mr James Hinks (president) in the chair.

The Chairman moved the adoption of the report and statement of accounts. Mr Macgregor seconded the resolution, remarking that how to keep the players steady and sober was the coming question, and whoever could devise a plan whereby professional footballers could be kept at work and out of the public-house would render the football world a great service. The resolution was carried unanimously.

A motion, proposed by Mr Butler, and seconded by Mr Johnson, senior, that any official known to bet either on or against the Villa should be called upon to resign, was carried almost unanimously.

The officers and committee were then re-elected, and the meeting resolved itself into a special committee to consider the question of increasing the subscription from 7s 6d to 10s 6d. A motion to this effect was moved, but the meeting became so disorderly that it was impossible to count the voters on either side, although several attempts were made. Eventually the Chairman adjourned the meeting until Friday next.

source: “Play Up, Liverpool”

Aston Villa, the chief attraction

William Frederick Cody, legendary American soldier and showman.

Buffalo Bill’s legendary Wild West Show arrived in Birminham on November 3, 1887 and played for four weeks on the Meadow at the Aston Lower Grounds, where Villa Park is now located.

William F. Cody, alias ‘Buffalo Bill’, gave a description of Birmingham’s manufacturing reputation in his book published in 1888, titled The Wild West in England. He wrote:

“A brief but successful occupancy of the Aston Lower Grounds, Birmingham, followed almost immediately upon our London triumphs. Birmingham, the headquarters of the British gun-making industry, the fancy metal trades and of innumerable branches of the lighter hardware crafts, together with its numerous surrounding towns responded nobly to our invitation. The news of our reception in London had gone before us, and we met with a prodigious welcome from the screw-makers, the teapot turners and the manufacturers of artificial jewelry and ‘Brummagem goods’ in general.”

Chief He-Dog leads a parade of native American Indians from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show along New Street in Birmingham.

However, the opening show on the afternoon of Saturday November 5 resulted in a dismal attendance as Aston Villa were in action on the same day on the other side of the town, taking on Small Heath Alliance in a cup match. The crowd at Muntz Street was estimated at 12,000 and Villa won the tie 4-0.

A week later, the penny Dart journal posted a brief review of the opening show in its ‘gossip’ column:

The Wild West, at Aston, is a frost. On the opening day, instead of an attendance of 20,000, there was not much over fifteen hundred. It was a poor audience for a third-class football match. The huge stand had a few in the corner, and oceans of empty benches. Mr Sims Reeves-Smith [promoter] expected the Brums would come there in their thousands, not to say millions. But very few people seemed to know or care about it. The show is interesting. At least five or six items in the programme. But, to sit it all out in a cold, damp, November twighlight is not exhilarating – just. There was nothing to be seen of the Wild West after five o’clock. And one or two people, who came in at ten minutes to five, and whose shillings were taken, were highly indignant and demanded their money back.