What of Football? Let me at once confess that in my opinion this king of winter pastimes has done more to refine, dignify and elevate the masses of English people than any sport I know.
My only regret is that the many thousands that stand watching the games played, one half of the number are not themselves engaged in it. They would be all the better for it.
Bull-baiting, cock-fighting and rat-killing have well-nigh disappeared from the amusements of a certain class, but football today is stronger than ever.
As a healthy and invigorating sport I recommend it, and I feel confident in my own mind that all who play it, who mix with the world, who advance in life, feel improved in morals, in health, and in broad-mindedness. They learn how to take defeat with good grace, and acquire the inestimable quality of submission to superior forces, which prompts the loser to offer his hand and congratulate the winner.
Football, in fact, brings a flood of sunshine into the wearying gloom of thousands who are compelled by force of circumstances to be cooped up from year end to year end and in factories and in grimy workshops.
• Edwin W. Cox, 1894, who later became Editor of the Aston Villa News & Record
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.”
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.
From the Villa News & Record, December 24, 1927 A tribute to “Teddy” Cox by John Urry
Edwin William Cox (always known as “Teddy” of that ilk), was a born journalist if there ever was one. Brought up as a compositor on the Leamington Chronicle and the Birmingham Daily Mail, he was a well-read and very sensitive peruser of books and papers, and he had a memory like a tombstone. He wrote English as clear and limpid as a running stream, and his descriptive powers, especially on sporting matters, were a good deal above the average. His football notes were always fine, good-natured and fair, and he would never be harsh to a player unless he did something deeterminedly dirty, and then he would lay the lash on very smartly indeed. “Teddy” Cox was a very dear old pal of mine, regarded by all good sportsmen as fair-minded, straight, and honourable, and extremely good company, for he “had a way wid him,” like Father O’Flynn, that made him a very lovable person. He was the first editor of the Villa News. His only fault – and a not uncommon one amongst pressmen – was procrastination. “Teddy” died in 1915, and if you are ever visiting the ancient church at Welford-on-Avon (delightful spot!) you may notice some altar-rails to his memory put there by the pressmen of Birmingham, as an affectionate tribute to a good and honest journalist.