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
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.
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.
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.”
“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 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
The excess which has attended the matches played by that redoubtable football team, the “Aston Villa,” at their ground in the Wellington Road, has attracted the attention of the Handsworth Overseers, who propose to rate the club field – of about six acres – at something like £250 per annum, in lieu of the old rating of £25 or so. It is known that the club has had much “gate-money” of late, and the “grandstand,” recently erected, is another proof of prosperity. Probably the “Aston Villa” gentlemen will appeal against this heavy impost and some compromise be arrived at. “Riches bring cares,” as the old saw has it.
Shown above is an early mention of Aston Villa’s nickname – the Villans – in a report of their match against Stafford Road that was published in the Midland Athlete, dated February 23, 1881.
An earlier mention of the nickname, but spelt “Villains”, appeared in the same journal – published November 17, 1880 – in the report for Villa’s away match against Notts Forest: “…but the attempt was frustrated by Simmonds, and the “Villains” coming down the right wing in pretty style…”
The “Villans” nickname was also given to another team at the time, known as Perry Villa. It’s recorded in a report – again in the Midland Athlete – for their match against Basford Rovers, a club from Nottingham. The match was played at Perry Barr on Saturday, December 17, 1881.
The ‘Villans’ nickname became the basis for a popular character developed by cartoonists during later decades. The cigarette card illustration shown above is a typical example.
During the time Villa’s home ground was at Wellington Road, in Perry Barr, the team was also given the nickname: “Perry Barr Pets”.
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.”
It was a pity rain spoilt Devey’s benefit match, for, on a fine day, the game would have attracted sufficient spectators to make it worth while playing, though after the experience spectators have had of friendly matches at Perry Barr, it would be absurd to expect an attendance which would give a player an adequate reward for all his years of service.
Happily, however, Devey’s friends have worked hard on his behalf, and there is no reason to doubt that he will receive more than £100, which is about the usual amount derived from a Villa benefit.
Of the game little need be said; there was no need for the players to exert themselves, and they didn’t. It proves conclusively, however, that Smith is not now fit for the first team, and that Chatt is by no means a terror. Evans, the new back is, we should say, a decided acquisition.
In view of the match with the Albion tomorrow, training rules have been strictly enforced during the week, and a great effort is to be made to win another match at home.
In the aftermath of Aston Villa’s success in winning the League and Cup ‘double’ in 1897, this letter from the former player Billy Watts was published in a local newspaper.
Presentation Medals to Aston Villa Directors & Officers
Sir – I was pleased to hear that the officials of the above club had been presented with medallions in recognition of services rendered, and I venture to suggest to the management that it would be a graceful act on their part if they could allow such a splendid recognition to act retrospective by honouring the small band of players now left to us who worked so hard in the early history of the club (without fee or expenses), and who subscribed the finances out of their then limited means to keep the concern going. Philospher Jack’s philosophy says had it not been for these pioneers and their hard work on and off the field (including bill posting etc., etc.) the present directorate would have nothing to direct. Going back to the first match played upon their old meadow – viz., against Wednesbury Town – I find we have still in our midst the following old players who took part in same: G. B. Ramsay, Jack Hughes, Teddy Lee, Sammy Law, the writer of this letter, and I would add the names of Will Sothers and Tom Pank. These might be presented with a token which would admit them to present and future matches, and I would venture to suggest that they would be of service rather than otherwise to the management. It is not the intrinsic value, but the graceful recognition which would be appreciated. W. H. Watts
There are at least four Vila players who have far too much flesh on them to play for an hour and a half without tiring greatly. These are Campbell, Devey, Welford and Reynolds (pictured); a week’s hard training would do them the world of good. Press comment,September 7, 1896
Oh, if the Villa forwards would only stop that stupid practice of fiddling about in front of goal. Outsiders are poking fun at the Villa. The Critic, September 25, 1896