Sheffield United’s 128th Birthday this week

As Sheffield United head over to Oldham FC today looking for three more points towards promotion to the Championship, we remember 22nd March 1889.

128 years ago, Charles Stokes called upon Charles Clegg as a fellow member of the Bramall Lane Ground Committee to solicit his opinion as to the formation of a new football club. Charles Stokes knew something about running football clubs having been involved with Heely FC and Milton FC and was on the founding Committee of the Wednesday FC in 1867.

United would be different to the earlier clubs, it would be designed along professional lines from the very beginning.

The Sheffield press response was not at all anti-professional, describing it as:

“an entirely new departure, but no pains will be spared to secure the services of first-class players, and it is hoped to be able to get together a combination equal to anything in the country.”

150 years ago: The Football Association discusses ‘dissolving’

In March 1867 things were not going well for the Football Association. Four years after the launch at the Freemasons tavern, Ebenezer Cobb Morley considered dissolving the organisation because of the lack of interest in clubs taking up the code. Only six people attended the 12th February 1867 F.A. Annual General Meeting

“Mr. MORLEY said he was a little discouraged at the paucity of attendance that evening, when he remembered that at the commencement of the association in 1863 they had a crowded room, and much more enthusiasm was displayed by those who attended in the interest of the pleasant pastime of football than had ever been shown since. The only way he could account for it was the supposition abroad that the Football Association had accomplished the objects for which it was established, and that there consequently was no further need of its services.”

Fortunately for the F.A. one of those six people attending was Sheffield FC’s indefatigable Hon. Sec. William Chesterman; he brought with him a letter of support and encouragement for the F.A., not just from his own club but the recently founded Sheffield Association, which represented all the fourteen clubs that played regularly under the Sheffield rules, representing in excess of 1000 members. (My research in fact suggests there were sixteen clubs in 1867).

Without the intervention of the Sheffield Football Association and the message they conveyed down to London with William Chesterman, I think the Football Association would have voted to dissolve that night. Which leads to lots of interesting alternate theories to what would have happened to the ‘ball-dribbling’ code. Would London and the south have become a Rugby stronghold, leaving Sheffield to lead the Association message from south Yorkshire? And if so what would have happened when the Sheffield Association was faced with the problems of professionalism? They were devout amateurs and much less open to compromise than Charles W. Alcock was in July 1885; the probable outcome would have been the Association game splitting into two halves with Lancashire running the professional game.

An interesting alternate universe that could have happened if William Chesterman had not made the long journey south from Sheffield to London in March 1867.

140 years ago today -First ever Sheffield Association Challenge Cup Final Tie

Heeley FC and Sheffield Wednesday FC played in the final of the first ever Sheffield Association Challenge Cup (1876/77),played at Bramall Lane.

“The Sheffield Football Association Challenge Cup. Decidedly the most interesting match of the Sheffield football season was that which took place on Saturday afternoon, at Bramall Lane Ground, between those two well-known clubs, Wednesday and Heeley. The contest was the final outcome of the Ties for the splendid silver trophy offered for competition early in the season by the Sheffield Association. The Wednesday and Heeley teams had succeeded in defeating all their previous opponents, and now met to decide as to superiority between themselves. As may be easily understood, the highest excitement was manifested in the result of the struggle, not in Sheffield alone, but in all the football circles of this and the neighbouring counties. It would probably be within the mark to state that between seven and eight thousand spectators must have visited the ground during the afternoon. Many ladies were present – some of them, judging from the warmth of their plaudits, being doubtless relatives or close friends of the players engaged.”

“Heeley won the toss and Mr. W. H. Stacey, the Wednesday captain, kicked off against the wind, which was blowing pretty strongly. Heeley at once assumed the offensive, and at the call of half-time, they had secured three goals, two of which were accidently put through by Wednesday players, to their adversaries welcome. With the wind in their favour it was now confidently anticipated by their friends that Wednesday would soon succeed in scoring, though their most sanguine partisans hardly imagined that they would so completely alter the appearance of the game. After some magnificent play, the Wednesday players succeeded in equalising matters. The scene of excitement that followed the last goal beggars description. The efforts to score now on both sides and thus win the cup were quite terrific, time being almost up. Both of the teams laboured exhaustively till the call of time, but no further score having been effected the match was declared to be a tie. Immense cheering succeeded the declaration of this result. The players now gathered in a group in the centre of the ground, and there was a short parley as to what course should be pursued – whether the match should be played out then, or whether a postponement should take place to a future day, when the contest could be replayed from the start to the finish. The captains of the two teams eventually agreed that the team should antagonise for another half-hour – fifteen minutes each way – and if at the end of that time nothing more were scored, the match be re-played on a future occasion. After some exciting play, Wednesday scored a goal. Time was eventually called, and the Wednesday Club thus became the victor of this magnificent and gloriously contested match – unquestionably the best of this season – by four goals to three.”



153 years ago today : The Sheffield Great Flood

No new Sheffield football clubs were formed in this year, no doubt as a result of the Great Flood, an unparalleled disaster that (with the exception of maritime disasters) was the greatest loss of life in the Victorian era in Britain. On the night of 11 March 1864, assisted by a strong south-western gale, the newly built dam, known as the Dale Dyke Dam in Bradfield Dale near Low Bradfield on the River Loxley, collapsed while it was being filled for the first time, killing at least 270 people.

The Youdan Cup : the oldest Football Cup in the world-150 years ago today

The Youdan Cup

Hallam FC were the winners of the oldest Football Cup in the world, the Youdan Cup, in 1867.

The first two rounds were on a knockout basis; however, the final was contested between three teams playing each other in turn. The final between Hallam FC and Norfolk FC was played at Bramall Lane, on 5 March 1867 and attracted 3,000 spectators, each paying 3d admission. Thomas Youdan, ever the business man had the final played on Shrove Tuesday, when the “common man” would have a day off work. The throng did not have a great deal to cheer, with the match ending goalless, decided by rouges scored:

“THE YOUDAN FOOTBALL CUP. -The Hallam and Norfolk Football Clubs played the final match for this prize at Brammall-lane Cricket Ground, Sheffield, on Shrove Tuesday. The toss for choice of goals was won by Norfolk, who kicked with the wind, but were unable to score. After playing half time ends were changed, when it was soon evident the Hallamites had the game in their own hands. After half an hour’s play the ball was kicked by Elliott, not through the goal, but just over it, and was touched down be Ash in splendid style, after running round two of his opponents before getting to the ball, thus securing a rouge. The Norfolk captain immediately kicked off, thus hoping to secure a goal for his side whilst his opponents were off their guard, but in their haste and confusion they left their goal unprotected, which was taken advantage of by one of the Hallam players securing another rouge, when time was called. Thus, Hallam won scoring two rouges to their opponent’s nothing.” Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle – Saturday 09 March 1867

The promised Youdan Cup should have been presented on the 11th of March but instead a silver claret jug was awarded, as the Jarvis-designed Cup was announced as not being ready on time:

“THE YOUDAN FOOTBALL PRIZE. – During the last three weeks, the members of the local football clubs have been competing for a silver cup, presented by Mr. Thomas Youdan. After a protracted and keen competition, the Hallam club was declared victorious. At the conclusion of this competition it was resolved that the Mackenzie and Norfolk Clubs, who had been beaten by the Hallam, should play for a second prize. Accordingly, the clubs met at Brammall-lane Cricket Ground, on Saturday last, and after a well-contested match- each side in turn appearing to have the best of the game- Norfolk eventually won by one rouge. Last evening representatives from each of the clubs to the number of about forty sat down to dinner at the Adelphi Hotel, Arundel-street. After partaking of an excellent repast, served in Mr. Sampson’s usual excellent style, Mr. Councillor Hawksley was called on to preside, while the vice-chair was occupied by Mr. J. Birley. The usual loyal and patriotic toasts having been given and duly responded to, the prizes were put upon the table. They consisted of two handsome cups. The first prize, presented by Mr. Youdan, is a richly-ornamented claret jug, and the second a double-handled goblet. The first prize is not from Mr. Jarvis’s design on account of the protracted time which would have been required in its manufacture; but it is understood that Mr. Youdan will present one after that design next year. The goblet is enriched with appropriate figures. After the prizes had been handed round the company, Mr. Sampson very generously “hanselled” them by filling them and setting them on the table. The chairman being a member of the victorious club, Mr. Birley presented the goblet to the Hallam Club. In doing so, he proposed a vote of thanks to the donor for the handsome gift- a gift which he was sure had been keenly contended for and honourably won.” Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 12 March 1867