128 years ago today – Sheffield United play for the first time at Bramall Lane

Following their win against Wolves last night Sheffield United have now won 7 of their 10 Championship games this season and sit second in the League table. In fact there is no club in any of the four leagues who can match United’s win rate, if you start counting from the beginning of last season.
128 years ago their start could not be any more disappointing.United’s first game at Bramall Lane did not come until 28 September 1889 against Birmingham St George’s of the Football Alliance which they lost 4–0. They had been formed on the 22nd of March and had played a practice match Hallam FC ground on the 20th August. United played its first competitive game against Notts. Rangers FC, of the Midland Counties League, on 7 September 1889, losing 4–1 at Meadow Lane; W. Robertson from Dundee, scored United’s first ever competitive goal. Following this game Heeley FC was chosen to be the first Sheffield opponents and this match was played on the Sheaf House ground. United won 2-1, the two goals coming from James Duncan and S. Mack , and the game was watched by 2,200 spectators.
More information on the foundation of Sheffield United in my new book :’A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’  http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0
Having battled through four qualifying rounds of the F.A. Cup in its first season United beat Burnley 2-1 in the first round proper but was drawn against another powerful Lancashire club, Bolton Wanderers FC, who won by thirteen clear goals; this remains United’s heaviest ever defeat. Some compensation was gained from being the losing finalist in the replayed final of the Sheffield Association Challenge Cup with Rotherham Town winning by a goal to nil, a game played at the ground of the Rotherham Swifts. In spite of not belonging to an organised League in the first season, United played a total of fifty-seven friendlies and Cup games.

Sheffield United FC played their first competitive game 128 years ago today

United played their first competitive game against Notts. Rangers FC, of the Midland Counties League, on 7 September 1889, losing 4–1 at Meadow Lane; W. Robertson from Dundee, scored United’s first ever competitive goal. Following this game Heeley FC was chosen to be the first Sheffield opponents and this match was played on the Sheaf House ground. United won 2-1, the two goals coming from James Duncan and S. Mack and the game was watched by 2,200 spectators. The first ever United match at Bramall Lane on the 28th September against Birmingham St. George FC, ended badly with a 4-0 defeat, watched by 4,000 spectators.

(There is much more detail on United’s early history in my newly released book A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0 )

Because United did not belong to a specific league in 1889 the vast majority of the games were friendlies, but they did enter the FA Cup and after navigating four qualifying rounds against Scarborough FC, Heeley FC, Sheffield FC, and Rotherham Town they met and beat Burnley FC in the first round. The second-round match away at Bolton Wanderers FC represents United’s darkest ever day when they experienced their worst ever defeat by thirteen goals to nil on 1st February 1890. The initial draw had been for a home tie at Bramall Lane but the United committee took ‘£40 or £50’ to switch the match to Lancashire. With United playing the Trotters next Tuesday an away win could help make recompense for this ancient black mark.

According to Denis Clarebrough and Andrew Kirkham’s book- ‘Sheffield United Who’s Who’, Howlett, the United goalkeeper who had poor eyesight, lost his glasses early on in the game and spent much of the match searching for them in the muddy goal mouth. Charlie Howlett from Gainsborough Trinity FC was one of five local professionals, who answered United’s advert placed when the club was formed in March 1889:


“Sheffield United Cricket Club. The committee have decided to form a FOOTBALL CLUB for next season, for Bramall Lane ground. Professionals may send testimonials and on or before, March 30th to Mr. J.B. Wostinholme, 10 Norfolk Row.”

Charlie Howlett stayed with United for five seasons until he returned to his previous club  Gainsborough Trinity FC, where he played for another nine seasons before retiring.

They had much greater success in the Sheffield FA Challenge Cup making the final in their first season without conceeding a single goal against Exchange FC, Heeley FC, Attercliffe FC and Staveley FC in the early rounds. They played Rotherham Town in the final at Bramall Lane in a match that ended in a goaless draw and United eventually lost by a single goal in the replay played at The Holmes, Rotherham.

Sheffield Wednesday FC’s 150-year-old football history started with a less than punishing schedule

Sheffield Wednesday celebrate their 150th birthday next week and face a more challenging match schedule than their forefathers. Whilst modern day Wednesday FC will have completed more than thirty matches by Valentine’s Day next year, their founding fathers had an easier schedule of just seven games over a similar period. The lack of matches clearly didn’t detract from their performance with their seventh match culminating in the club’s first trophy; the Cromwell Cup.
(There is much more detail on the Cromwell Cup and Wednesday’s early history in my newly released book A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0 )
Let’s start at the beginning. In an earlier blog, I discussed whether Wednesday’s actual foundation date is the 4th or the 5th of September ( http://bit.ly/2sLbMRf) but it still took until the 19th of October 1867 to play their first ever match against a team called United. (No, not that United but the United Mechanics FC who had been formed in 1865 from well-to-do engineers from various Sheffield firms.)
They maintained a leisurely one match per month schedule (Heeley FC in November, Dronfield FC in December and Heeley again in January 1868) and they finally played a competitive match on the 1st of February against Exchange FC in the semi-final of the Cromwell Cup. Only four teams entered the tournament with Garrick FC and Wellington FC contesting the other semi-final, with Wednesday and Garrick meeting in the final on the 15th February 1868. Wednesday won by one goal over the much-fancied Garrick FC to claim the world’s second oldest Association football trophy (after the Youdan Cup of 1867 (See http://bit.ly/2rmF7Re )
I am told that the cup is currently on display in Mr Dejphon Chansiri’s (Club owner) office.
Why not join in Wednesday FC’s birthday celebration this Sunday (3rd September) at the Owls in the Park event where I will be selling my book at a special discount on stall 15.