140 years ago today : Sheffield Association and the Football Association amalagamate

Sheffield FC had joined the F.A. back in 1863 but had continued to play under its own rules. The final barrier to the two codes joining was whether a throw-in could be thrown in any direction (London Laws) or at right angles (Sheffield Rules). With Sheffield’s acceptance of this rule, finally the two codes amalgamated in 1877:

“The Sheffield Association has decided to join with the Football Association in the adoption of the Clydesdale amendment with regard to the throw from touch. This union makes one code for association players in England, so that at last, after many attempts, the Football Association and Sheffield have Amalgamated, a step that will be greatly conducive to the advancement of the dribbling game”. Sheffield Independent. Saturday 28 April 1877


History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889… ‘Speed, Science and Bottom ‘- availability update

Just spoken to the publisher and it seems that the books will not be available this month. They are saying they will not be later than May 12th but hopefully sooner. As I know more I will let you know. Apologies for the delay.

Martin Westby

Gutta Percha: from reinforcing football boots to filling root canals

In Victorian times it is certain that some teeth were dislodged by reinforced football boots during a game of ‘rugger’, so it a happy symmetry that today’s modern teeth are protected by the same material that made those boots so sturdy. That material is Gutta percha and the story begins with the launch of the Football Association in 1863.

The instigation of the Football Association  is celebrated as the seminal moment when Association football was born. The meeting at the Freemason’s Tavern in Great Queen Street was a coming together of the ball-carrying exponents (Rugby) and the ball-dribbling community. The main point of contention, between the two groups, was over ‘hacking’, otherwise known as the wanton kicking of your opponents.

The FA meeting was heavily influenced by a letter from Sheffield FC. The Secretary dealt with matters of correspondence which included a long communication dated 30th November from the Mr. William Chesterman, club secretary of Sheffield FC. He enclosed a subscription for enrolment but also put forward the Sheffield point of view that: ‘the Association’s proposed rules permitting running with the ball and hacking were directly opposed to football and were more suggestive of wrestling.’

Ebenezer Cobb Morley and Arthur Pember listened to the petition from Sheffield and hacking was prohibited in rule number 10, of the new laws:

“Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary. “

and rule number 13 states:

“No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots. “

So, what is Gutta percha?

Gutta percha is a naturally occurring latex or rubber from Malaysia that players would apply to their football boots to make them harder and less forgiving in the tackle. In Victorian times Gutta percha became a household word as it was used for many domestic and industrial purposes. The Malaysians had used it for centuries to make knife handles and walking sticks, but in 1843 it was classified as a natural thermoplastic and was used in great quantities as an insulator of underwater cabling and other electrical cabling. By 1851, 1.5 million kilograms was being imported into Britain to make furniture, jewellery, pistol grips, canes and walking sticks. Gutta percha also revolutionised the design of golf balls in 1860, which became known logically enough as the ‘gutty’. So, it is no surprise that it was the readily available material of choice, in the 1860s, to weaponise your football boots in anticipation of a manly game of Rugby.

The widespread use of Gutta percha declined in Britain with the advent of Bakelite in 1907, but it was in the field of dentistry rather than the football field that it would retain its superiority. In 1867 Gutta percha was first used for root canal filling, but it been used in dentistry from as early as 1847 by Edward Truman. If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer with a tooth abscess, you will know that after they are cleaned and disinfected, the roots are filled to prevent reinfection. What you will not be aware of is that sitting in your root canal right now, is the same material that was outlawed by the Football Association 154 years ago; good old Gutta percha.

The 140th Sheffield Association Challenge Cup Final tonight at Bramall Lane

The Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA Senior cup final is played tonight at Bramall Lane for the first time since the 1940s. The tournament is the oldest County Cup in England ,which started in the 1876/77 season, so tonight’s final is the 140th ever contested.

Shaw Lane FC and Frickley Athletic FC are this year’s finalists, the County FA are offering big discounts on tickets ,which are available to all its Charter Standard Clubs. They offer tickets at £1 each (minimum purchase of 5 tickets and maximum 30 tickets). Paying on the night would cost you £7 for adults and £3 for children/concessions.

The final 140 years ago was contested between Wednesday FC and Heeley FC was a victory to the Owls by 4 goals to 3 after extra time.

If Frickley Athletic FC  win tonight for a 15th time they will become the club that have won the tournament the most number of times, beating Wednesday’s record of 14 victories.

Why not support this historic evening?

Wednesday FC turn professional 130 years ago this month

In April 1887 five Wednesday FC players formed a break away football club called Sheffield Rovers and threatened to leave unless Wednesday started paying wages. The gamble worked and the full story is in my new book that is available for order now at this link.

Sheffield FC win the F.A. Amateur Cup. 113 years ago, today

Sheffield FC claimed its greatest ever prize by beating Ealing FC 3-1 at the Bradford City ground, and lifted the F.A. Amateur Cup.

F.E.M. Chambers played as a back for Sheffield FC in the victory, his father was Harry Waters Chambers, the club’s very first Hon. Sec. back in 1857. It was the Chamber’s family home Parkfield House, that the club’s inaugural meetings took place. Harry Chambers played in the first match played under the new Laws of the Football Association on Saturday January 9th, 1864 in Battersea Park.

The two teams for the historic match were:

The Presidents Side: A Pember (No Names Kilburn), Charles W. Alcock (Forest), HW Chambers (Sheffield FC), AM Tebbut (Forest), Gray (Club Team unknown), Drew (Club Team unknown), RG Graham (Barnes), WJ Cutbill (Forest), A Morten (No Names Kilburn), J Turner (Crystal Palace), Morris (Crystal Palace), Renshaw (No Names Kilburn), Leuchers (Barnes), A Scott (Club Team unknown)

The Secretary’s side: EC Morley (Barnes), JF Alcock (Forest), CM Tebbut (Forest), A Lloyd (Crystal Palace), C Hewitt (Club Team unknown), GT Wawn (War Office), JP Phillips (War Office), Innes (Barnes), McCalmont (Barnes), Needham (Club Team unknown), H Baker (No Names Kilburn), AJ Baker (No Names Kilburn), Hughes (Club team unknown), Jackson (Forest).”

Providing a nice piece of historical symmetry Charles W. Alcock, presented the F.A. Amateur Cup and the medals to the victorious Sheffield FC on April 4th, 1904.