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.
From a local newspaper report, April 4, 1897
Much doubt was expressed among a certain section of Aston Villa supporters before the present season commenced as to whether the committee had acted wisely in paying such a heavy sum as £300 to the Small Heath club for the transfer of their crack left-winger, George Frederick Wheldon, and a large number of “wiseheads” did not refrain from maing public their opinion that Wheldon had seen his best days, and would be of no use to Villa. Where are those “prophets” now?
As it has proved, the investment was one of the best the Villa have made in recent years, for the ex-Heathen has been the most consistent of as brilliant a quintette of forwards as ever stepped on a field, and is well worth every penny the League Champions paid for him.
He had the honour of playing for England against Ireland at Nottingham a few weeks ago, and scored three of the goals obtained by his side. In the opinion of many competent judges he is the best inside-left forward in the country, and England would have no cause to regret it had he been chosen to play against Scotland at the Crystal Palace tomorrow.
Wheldon has scored more goals for the Villa in League matches this season than any other player, the number to his credit being sixteen, Jack Devey being responsible for fifteen, In addition to being a champion footballeer, Wheldon is a smart cricketer, and played for Worcestershire on several occasions last summer. He is 26 years of age, being born on November 1st,1879, so should be of much use to te Villa club for many years to come.
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.”
From The Athletic News, Tuesday, January 10, 1888
“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
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.
If you are a collector of ephemera then this item may interest you – an Aston Villa Football Club letterhead produced for use in the first decade of the 20th century.
It’s printed in three colours, predominately blue, but a second shade of blue is used for the club crest and also what now appears to be a discoloured gold ink.
Shown right is a better example of the crest’s colours from a version of the club’s letterhead used 50 years later: light blue, embossed in a gold colour.
Notice the telegraph address – Villa, Birmingham – used by the club for communication. No email in those days! No mention of Villa Park, either. The registered office is Aston Villa Grounds.
Here’s the front and back view of Aston Villa’s fixture card for season 1889-90. It shows the club’s reserve team fixtures and was printed by John Gateley, a letterpress printer whose company was located in Weaman Street (where the Birmingham Mail offices are now.). In 1891 John Gateley was living in Grosvenor Road, Handsworth, with his wife and two servants. He was also a season-ticket member of the club.
George Ramsay, the Villa Secretary once wrote to Gateley – in March 1887 – complaining about some posters he printed for the club and said this:
“I have just seen the Port Vale Bills which are not to order and the Committee have refused to accept them. You must therefore print anotheer 100 in the proper diamond form. Last time you printed across the diamond I told your people how disappointed we were and that we would never have any more done that way. If you were trying to save time we would rather wait a couple of days than put out such an abominably ugly thing. I have told Smart to return them. Please do the others at once. Yours Geo. B. Ramsay”
E. Smart was an employee of Gateley. Two months earlier Ramsay issued another complaint via Smart:
“Can I depend on you having about half a dozen Bills for January 8th match pasted about the ground next Saturday, 3 on the back of the big stand, 3 in the road, 2 at Bowan’s Corner. In explanation to my last card your son tells me Mr Gateley told him he had no Bills left. This was not true as I saw Gateley thereafter who told him to come back in a few minutes and he would have them ready and they were lying there for him. Besides if he could not get them he should have let me know at the time. I hope it will not occur again or I will get some one else to do it that I can depend on. If you cannot do it this week let me know at once.”
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.
Perhaps the greatest of all Villa captains to have donned the claret and blue shirt, Archie Hunter arrived in Birmingham from Scotland on 8th August 1878 without “a single friend in the town”. But the Scotsman did not remain friendless for too long. Withing days he had joined Aston Villa, a move to prove a major factor in establishing the club’s early successful playing history.
Triumphs of the Football Field, narrated by Archie Hunter, the Famous Villa Captain, was first serialised in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury of 1890. It records Hunter’s early life in Scotland and his successful career with Aston Villa before his premature death in 1894. As well as offering an insight to the genesis of Aston Villa, the book also provides plenty of tales and anecdotes of football life in the late 19th century.
From the Birmingham Gazette, March 13, 1884
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”.
Here’s an unusual item from the Fifa Collection that is housed at the National Football Museum in Manchester. It’s described as an Aston Villa matchsafe – a white metal vesta case with a fine enamel decoration recording the club’s League and FA Cup ‘double’ season of 1896-97, including a portrait of club captain John Devey.
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.
• More information about Aston Villa’s colours and kits at historicalkits.co.uk
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.
source: local press coment, October 9, 1896.
“Ball used at Derby County match reported too heavy and large. Point same out to Shillcock [supplier] and in future instruct groundsman to weigh and measure them prior to being used.”
Source: Aston Villa Minutes, Thursday September 26, 1895.
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.”
Source: Claret & Blue magazine, number11, January 1995
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.
In these days of multi-million pound budgets set by football clubs and vast salaries paid to their players, this early Aston Villa balance sheet summarising the 1877-78 season is a fascinating insight to the finances of a fledgling football club. The report is provided by E. B. Lee, both a playing member of the club and its financial secretary.
Bearing in mind that the season was effectively only its third, the club was already running two teams, first and second.
Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in laying before you a BALANCE SHEET of the ASTON VILLA FOOTBALL CLUB for the Season 1877-78
Although there appears on the Statement a small balance in your favour, the Club is still in debt £4 4s. for printing expenses not yet paid. On the other hand, since the accounts were audited, I have received a little over £1 for ticket money from the Sheffield Heeley match, and shall no doubt shortly receive more, as there are tickets out, not yet accounted for. There are also outstanding subscriptions to the amount of £1 5s.
No doubt the slight deficiency stated above is accounted for in the improvements which have been effected on the ground, staking, roping etc., and also in the great expense gone to in arranging some very important matches, which are certainly for the advantage of the Club in a playing point of view, and probably in a financial one in regard to next season.
I am, Gentlemen, Yours faithfully, EDMUND BOTTERILL LEE, Financial Secretary
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
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 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.
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.
From The Athletic News, Tuesday, January 10, 1888
Mr D. Arkell, architect, who designed the splendid grand stand at Perry Barr, had the disposal of over 600 reserve tickets for last Saturday’s great match [against Preston North End], and by Friday eveining every one was sold. Of these, 200 were disposed of at 10s. each, and the remainder at 5s.. so that he will have a handsome sum to hand over. The applications for these tickets were from all over the kingdom, among the places represented being Northumberland, Nottingham, Shropshire, Lancashire, Cheltenham, and Leicester. Seven very favourably situated seats went for £5, or nearl 15s. each.
• According to the National Office of Statistics, £1 in 1888 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £130.83 in 2020.
This illuminated address was presented to Villa player and team captain John Devey on the occasion of his benefit match against Derby County, played at Villa’s Perry Barr ground on Monday, October 5, 1896.
The artwork was produced by the former Villa forward Oliver Whately, a commercial artist who claimed he introduced the famous combination of claret and blue as the club colours which first appeared as stripes on the kit worn for season 1886-87 when Villa won the FA Cup for the first time; so it is interesting to see how Whateley’s colours on his artwork match with those of modern times. Devey’s benefit match raised £100 for the player who later became a director of the club.
The illuminated address reads as follows:
• On the occasion of your benefit match – Derby County v. Aston Villa – we, the undersigned, on behalf of your numerous friends and admirers who have subscribed, ask your acceptance of a cheque value £100, as a mark of esteem for, and goodwill towards you, and as an acknowledgement of your great, successful, and unique skill as an Athlete extending over a period of 13 years.
• We remember with pleasure that you were for four years a forward player for the late St. George’s Football Club, abd were Captain during the latter portion of this time, and since the year 1892 you have held some honorable position in connection with the renowned Aston Villa Football Club.
• Under your judicious, kindly, yet firm captaincy, this club has more than maintained the prominent position it attained under the leadership of your predecessor – the evr to be remembered and beloved Archie Hunter.
• We record with gratification that during your Captaincy the Club has enjoyed the proud distinction of twice securing the League Championship, years 1894 and 1896, and winning the English Cup in 1895, besides numerous other Local Trophies, and your splendid play and Captaincy have been largely instrumental in producing these brilliant results.
• In the glorious cause of Charity, you have ever been a willing worker, ungrudgingly placing your services at the disposal of your club, for Charity matches.
• Your courteous demeanour, manliness of character, love of fair play, and power as a leader, have alike endeared you to comrades and opponents, whilst the willing admiration of countless thousands has testified to your skill on the football and cricket fields.
• We trust your career as an athlete will long continue, and when, in the natural course of things, retirement comes, that your days may be long in the land, and passed in the part of it, in which you have worthily lived, and with which you are so closely and honourably identified, and that you may yearly see the games to which you are so devoted, increase in popularity, bringing fuller health, and improved physique to its legion of players and followers.
Signed on behalf of the Subscribers: W. McGregor (Chairman), Joseph Dunkley (Treasurer)
Signed on behalf of the Committe: J. Adams and A. W. Cooknell (Hon. Secretary)
“Olly” Whateley, Illuminator, Elm Lodg, Mortlake, London
From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 20, 1892
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”
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.
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.
A letter from G. B. Ramsay to A. Brown, 15 September 1886
I am much disappointed and the Committee annoyed at your not turning up to Training last night, as you promised me you would, and they hope you will go down regularly every Tuesday and Thursday in future. I have also been told that your Boots are not fit to play with, and must request you to get another pair at once. I have also heard expressions from the Committee to the effect that you don’t seem to work very agreeably with Rich Davis when he is your partner, and they hope you will try to improve this point which will be to the further interests of both of you. I hope you will give this your earnest attention, as all are on the look to make any improvement whatever, towards the better making of the Team in view of the great match we have before us. You have been selected to play on Saturday at Perry Barr, kick-off 3.30 prompt.
Geo B Ramsay