Football Bucket List Number One: Sheffield FC versus Hallam FC

Not doing anything on Sunday afternoon?

Then go and see these two aristocrats of Association football play a match that was first played 157 years ago. (It may have even taken place earlier than 1860 as I hypothesise in “A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom” -see http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0)

Sheffield FC had been playing football since October 24th, 1857; initially playing internal matches during the winter to maintain their fitness in anticipation of athletics during the summer months. They eventually found an external team to play football against in December 1858 when they played and beat the locally garrisoned 58th regiment at the barrack ground at Hillsborough. It was probably at this game that Sheffield FC first picked up the concept of rouge scoring from the Eton educated officers. They played and beat the same team again in December 17th, 1860, but the historical ‘first derby’ match against Hallam and Stumperlow was played nine days later on Boxing Day 1860.

“Sheffield Football Club v Hallam and Stumperlowe Clubs – this match was played on Wednesday upon the Hallam Cricket ground in the presence of a large number of spectators. Owing to the severe weather several players were absent from each side, but the spirit exhibited by those who were present prevented the game from flagging or becoming uninteresting to the observers, who were extremely liberal with their plaudits on the successful ‘charge’ or quiet ‘dodge’, and equally unsparing in their sarcasm and country ‘chaff’ on the unfortunate victims of the slippery ground or the ‘pure’ scientific. The day was beautiful and the ‘uniform’ of the men contrasting with each other and the pure snow had a most picturesque appearance. The Sheffielders turned out in their usual scarlet and white, whilst most of the country players wore the blue garment of the Hallam Club. It would be invidious to pick out the play of any particular gentlemen when all did well, but we must give the palm to the Sheffield players as being the most scientific and also more alive to the advantage of upsetting their opponent. No serious accidents, however, occurred – the game was conducted with good temper and in a friendly spirit – and when darkness closed upon the scene, the Sheffield club, notwithstanding their inferior numbers, counted two goals to nothing, and went home fully satisfied with their victory.”

Elsewhere a short-lived Liverpool FC had played a game resembling what would become Rugby in November 1857 and down south the Alcock brothers fresh from Harrow school had started Forest FC in 1859 (later the Wanderers FC). They too struggled for early opponents; playing Mincing Lane (an athletics club) and Richmond (Rugby) but it was Sheffield that was leading the way. By the time Forest FC played their first official external match in 1862 there was already ten Sheffield football clubs playing regularly.

The world’s oldest derby between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC is on the 30th July at 2pm at the Coach and Horses ground in Dronfield, priced at only ££6.00. Don’t miss it and tick a box in your football bucket list, when the world’s two oldest football clubs (still in existence) renew their 157 year old acquaintance.

Are Sheffield Wednesday FC set to celebrate their 150th birthday a day too early?

In my book “A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom” (http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0) I list Sheffield Wednesday’s foundation date as September 5th 1867, but online I have noticed that the date referred to is always September 4th 1867.

Which is right?

An article in the Star newspaper on the 30th June last month spoke about the ‘Owls in the Park’ event on Sunday  the 3rd of September ‘to coincide with the Championship club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The club was officially formed on 4 September 1867.’

With alarm bells ringing I went to the official Sheffield Wednesday FC website which also stated the 4th September 1867 as the start date (https://www.swfc.co.uk/news/2012/march/facts-and-figures/).

My original source for the 5th of September foundation date came from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, dated Friday 6th September 1867, stating it was formed the day before:

‘SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY CRICKET CLUB AND FOOTBALL CLUB. – At a general meeting held yesterday, at the Adelphi Hotel, it was decided to form a football club in connection with the above cricket club, with the object of keeping together during the winter season the members of this influential club. The office-bearers were elected as follows: – President, Mr. B. Chatterton; vice-president and treasurer, Mr. F. S. Chambers; hon. Secretary, Mr. Jno. Marsh; assistant, Mr. Castleton; committee, Messrs. John Rodgers, John Pashley, Wm. Pilch, W, Fry, Wm. Littlehales, John White, C. Stokes, and H. Booking. After which above 60 good men were enrolled as members, and this without any canvass, amongst whom are many of the best players in the town.’

The Sheffield Independent newspaper waits till Saturday September 7th to report the same detail verbatim, but instead said that the meeting had been held on ‘Wednesday last’ , which makes the birth date of Wednesday the 4th of September.

So which local newspaper got it right?

Which day should Wednesday fans celebrate their 150th birthday-the 4th or the 5th?

I decided to go with the 5th of September in my book, firstly because one would hope that the closest report to the actual event should get it right and it was the Telegraph that wrote the original historic content. Secondly and more importantly Wednesday’s definitive (and first) reference book ‘The Romance of Wednesday 1867-1926’,written  by Richard Sparling in 1926, states categorically ‘The historic special meeting of the Wednesday Cricket club, which saw the birth of the football club, was held on Sept. 5th 1867 in the Adelphi Hotel.’

My advice for Owls would be to celebrate on Tuesday 5th September , or use the historical confusion as an excuse to make it a two day event and start the day before.

At the moment Sheffield Wednesday Football Club appear not to have a 150th commemorative match planned for the 5th of September (or the 4th!). The most appropriate team to choose for the match would be Dronfield FC , as that was the first external team they played, after a number of months of practice, on December 31st 1867.

In the absence of an official celebratory match, the fixture computer has stepped in to make an appropriate choice for Wednesday’s first opponents after the celebrations, with a home match against Nottingham Forest FC (on the 9th of September). Only the two Nottingham clubs are older than the Wednesday, making the Owls the third oldest professional club in England, so a match between 2nd and 3rd is to be greatly anticipated. (Sky seem to agree and have made the  match a live game at 17.30)

Sheffield FC kick off their season tonight against Chesterfield FC, in a fixture echoing a game from 1872

Sheffield FC start their 160th season with a home match tonight against Chesterfield FC.

The Spireites will only have a six mile journey north for this friendly game at the Coach and Horses Stadium so the attendance should be high. Whilst Chesterfield FC can claim a higher position in the League Pyramid they cannot compete with Sheffield FC’s history.

In my book “A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom” (http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0) I look at the history behind Chesterfield FC.

The current Chesterfield FC dates from April 1919, and was formed from the Chesterfield Municipal FC, but a short-lived Chesterfield FC started nine years after Sheffield FC in 1866 but ceased in 1881. (Spookily the address of Chesterfield FC’s present day Proact Stadium is 1866 Sheffield Rd).

Football was played even earlier than 1866 by a Chesterfield team in 1864, in a one off match against Norton FC.

The early Chesterfield FC seemed to struggle with the decision on whether to throw it’s lot in with the Sheffield F.A. or the Derbyshire F.A. The direct railway line opened between Sheffield and Chesterfield in 1869 and from 1870 Sheffield club teams such as Norfolk FC and Sheffield United Mechanics FC, made the short trip to Chesterfield to play football but it was not until January 1st 1872 that I found a match played at the Recreation ground between Chesterfield FC and a representative Sheffield team. The Sheffield Independent (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000181/18720102/008/0003) reports it as a practice match for Sheffield  in anticipation of a game against a London team on the 27th January. These Sheffield teams represented the pick of the Sheffield FA and the games against the representatives of the London FA were very prestigious. (Sheffield FC  played few club games from 1865 and tended instead to play inter county matches.)

Both Clegg brothers played in the New Year’s day match and Sheffield won by two goals to nil ; a similar result tonight would be well received by Sheffield FC. The match kicks off at 7:30pm with prices reduced to £6 adults and £3 concessions, all pay on the night.