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.
• 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.
“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
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)
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.
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.
1890-91 wasn’t the best of seasons for Aston Villa. Without Archie Hunter to lead them – he had retired in January 1890 – the team struggled to compete at top level, finishing in ninth place in the League and exiting from the FA Cup in the second round. However, Villa retained two local trophies, the Mayor of Birmingham Chaity Cup, and the Birmingham Senior Cup, and also lifted the Staffordshire Cup for a second time.
The end of season line-up is: (back row) Alfred Albut, Fred Dawson, Joshua Margoschis. (middle row) James Lees, Billy Dickson, Jimmy Warner, James Cowan, Albert Allen, Tom McKnight, Charlie Hare, Harry Devey, George Campbell, Fred Burton, Isaac Whitehouse, Jack Graham, William McGregor, Archie Hunter. (front row) Fred Cooper, Charlie Athersmith, Albert Brown, Gershom Cox, Dennis Hodgetts, Louis Campbell, George Ramsay.
Here’s another rare Aston Villa team group. It’s from the 1892-93 season, and likely to have been taken at one of Villa’s away games, which could probably be identified by the line-up as follows:
(Standing) Dick Oxenbould (trainer), Peter Dowds, Fred Burton, Walter Evans, Bill Dunning, George Campbell, Joseph Dunkley, James Cowan, George Ramsay. (Seated) Albert Brown, Charlie Athersmith, Charles Hare, John Devey, Dennis Hodgetts.
Dowds joined VIlla from Celtic in the summer of 1892 and stayed just one season before moving on to Stoke and then returning to Celtic. He died from TB at the early age of 24 in September 1895. A headstone was laid in 2014 by the Celtic Graves Society, to mark Dowds burial site.
There was a period during the latter half of the 1880s when Villa team groups began to show more club officials in the line-up than players. This probably gave birth to the phrase “official team group”, signifying that the photograph was commissioned by the Villa hierarchy as a record of the club’s success in winning trophies.
This photo, taken to record the club’s trophy haul for the 1889-90 season, is a typical example. In fact, there are only TEN Villa players in the lineup. The 19 other men are all club officials.
So which Villa player is missing from the “official photocall”? It has to be the great Archie Hunter and team captain who collapsed while playing for Villa at Everton on January 4, 1890. Hunter was later given medical advice to retire as a player, which he accepted, and he never took to the field again in Villa colours. It’s possible that Hunter may have returned to Scotland for a period to recuperate, hence his absence from the team photograph. He later served on Villa’s committee until his premature death in November 1894.
The imbalance in the photograph between players and officials was intentional. It’s a tribute photograph intended to honour an “absent friend”; a full turn out by club officials, and where no other player was drafted in to fill the vacant spot left by Hunter – hence only ten players in the group. Officials and players were united in expressing their esteem for the club captain they considered irreplaceable.
The standing players are: Albert Aldridge, Frank Coulton, Dennis Hodgetts, Thomas Clarkson, Albert Brown and James Cowan. Seated are Harry Devey, Albert Allen, Gershom Cox and goalkeeper James Warner.
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.
This early England team photograph features two Aston Villa players – Howard Vaughton and Arthur Brown, both seated on the ground.
The England lineup is the team that lost 5-1 to Scotland at Hampden Park on March 11, 1882. Vaughton equalised after 35 minutes to level the score after Scotland had taken the lead in the 15th minute, but goals just either side of the break put England 3-1 behind after 46 minutes. Two further goals in the second half completed a convincing win for the Scots.
It’s likely that this is the very first official team group of Aston Villa. It was taken after the cub’s success in winning the Birmingham Senior Challenge Cup for the first time, beating Saltley College 3-1 in the final played at the Aston Lower Grounds on April 3, 1880. Davis, Ramsay and Mason were Villa’s goalscorers.
The Villa players are wearing black jerseys featuring a large, red-lion logo. The exception is the goalkeeper John Ball. His top is a ‘Garibaldi’ style shirt and the lion is reversed. Ball joined Villa from Arcadians for the 1879-80 season but left the club later in 1880 when he moved from Birmingham to live in Coventry.