Clegg Shield: The Oldest School Tournament in the World still being competed for on an annual basis. The first final played this day 128 years ago.

On the 4th of September 1889 a meeting was held at the Central Café in Sheffield’s High Street to discuss the ‘desirability of offering a Challenge Shield for competition between the elementary schools of the town run on the same lines that have guided the Birmingham Junior Challenge Shield.’

On the 21st September 1889 at the Sheffield and District Teachers Association a Mr Champley proposed a football competition between the boys of Sheffield Elementary schools and the decision was confirmed at a meeting on the 7th October with any proceeds raised going to the Teachers Orphanage at Firs Hill. ‘His Worship the Mayor has generously agreed to give a shield for the competition’.

By the 28th October 1889 the newly formed Elementary Schools Football Association announced the launch of the Clegg Challenge Shield. A competition open to all the elementary schools in Sheffield and District to play for a trophy donated by William J. Clegg.

Clearly Birmingham launched the first such school boy tournament, but Sheffield can rightly claim that the Clegg Shield is the Oldest School Tournament in the World still being competed for on an annual basis.

The first final was played on 29th March 1890 at Wednesday’s Olive Grove Ground and won by Thurlstone by two goals to nil against Rotherham. The match was refereed by William J. Clegg who presumably went on to present the Clegg Shield after the match to the Thurlstone boys.

The Olive Grove ground is part of the new Sheffield Home of Football app coming out on the 8th April. Book a place at the launch event here:

On the 3rd May 1890 a team of Sheffield boys took on a London team losing one nil to the “bigger boys” at the Olive grove ground. Once again in the match report below we see the presence of Charles Stokes the man who the year before had been responsible for the foundation of Sheffield United FC.


For the last few years the final of the Clegg Shield has been played at Bramall Lane and a certain Kyle Walker was a losing finalist for his High Storrs team against Tapton school. (From the Clegg Shield to the Champions League and the World Cup via time at Sheffield United FC.)

Newfield School, winners of the Clegg Shield 2017, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 9th May 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

This year the semi-finalists are year 11 boys from:

Tapton v Westfield

Ecclesfield v Bradfield

And the matches will be played on the 18th and 19th April on neutral grounds and there is more information at this website:

Why not go along and see the future world cup football stars of Sheffield?

With thanks to Andy Davis at Tapton School for the current information and the fantastic photographs.

More on the history can be found at

A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom

Link to book page –

Sheffield: The Home of Football walking app

As the author of A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom (available to purchase here I was approached by Sheffield Libraries to design the route and write the content for a free to download app that offers a walking guide to the heritage of Sheffield football, it is called ‘Sheffield: The Home of Football. It covers the rich history of the four remaining clubs (out of the 95 that existed between 1857 and 1899) and the Sheffield & Hallamshire County F.A. (England’s first County Association)

The walk is just over 4.7 miles and while visiting the ten stops over the 90-minute walk you will be introduced to the places and the people that made Sheffield the home of Association football. (You should allow another 30 minutes of extra time to linger at the various points of interest). Enhanced with audio clips and map mash-ups showing Sheffield in the 1850s and today; you will be transported back to the Victorian era when the world’s first football club started.

The app is available as a free download from the 8th of April at

Join us for the launch day walk on Sunday April 22nd from midday onwards, when all the home football club historians will join you to answer any questions. Also attending are the authors of ‘Flying over an Olive Grove: The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley’; Mark Metcalf and Clive Nicholson. The vicar of Heeley Parish Church and Geoffrey Norton, who is a descendent of Nathaniel Creswick will say a few words before the walk commences. The Lord Mayor will be providing half time oranges at the Town Hall and the walk ends at Highfield Library which will supplying free refreshments. Please wear your favourite football club shirt to show the true spirit of Sheffield the Home of Football. It is important to book for this free event at

There is a Facebook Group set up to support the app and the launch walk; just search for Sheffield the Home of Football once you have logged in to Facebook. Or click here

Sheffield the home of football

I have been researching English football history for over 10 years and as a Sheffielder I became increasingly perplexed as places such as Lancashire, London and Zurich all laid claim to the ownership of the birth of Association Football. Meanwhile in Sheffield itself we seem content not to shout about our footballing achievements from the rooftops, but hopefully that will change as momentum grows in the city to talk more about our unique footballing heritage.

To prove that Sheffield is the home of football I recently produced the following roll call of footballing accolades held by Sheffield:

Oldest Football Club in the World: Sheffield FC

Oldest Club Rules in the World: Sheffield FC

Second Oldest Football Club in the World: Hallam FC

Third Oldest League Football Club in the World: Sheffield Wednesday FC

Oldest ground in the World still to be hosting Association Football: Sandygate

Oldest stadium in the World still to be hosting professional Association football: Bramall Lane

Oldest Knockout Cup in the World: Youdan Cup

Second Oldest Knockout Cup in the World: Cromwell Cup

Oldest County Football Association in England: Sheffield Football Association

Oldest English County Knockout Cup: Sheffield Challenge Cup (Jointly with Birmingham F.A.)

Oldest English Charity Knockout Cup: Wharncliffe Charity Challenge Cup

World’s first use of Floodlights at a football match: Bramall Lane

World’s first League Club to be called ‘United’: Sheffield United FC

Oldest Church Team in the World: Heeley FC

Oldest ‘State’ School Football Club in the World: All Saints’ Night School FC

Oldest School Tournament in the World: Clegg Shield

Oldest Pub Team in the World: Garrick FC

Oldest Player Insurance Scheme in the World: Sheffield

First ever Chairman of the Football Association: Sir Charles Clegg

First ever F.A. Cup: Made in Sheffield by Martin, Hall & Co.

The facts above to my mind prove incontrovertibly that Sheffield is the home of football a fact further confirmed by my 2017 book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889… ‘Speed, Science and Bottom.’ which is available to purchase here

The Great Sheffield Flood : This day 154 years ago killing 270 people

The Great Sheffield 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.

“Six hundred and fifty million gallons of water roared down the Loxley valley and into Sheffield, wreaking death and destruction on a horrific scale. Individual experiences were infinitely tragic, pathetic, and sometimes bizarre. The first to drown was a two-day-old baby boy, the oldest a woman of eighty-seven. Whole families were wiped out; one desperate man, trapped upstairs in a terrace house, battered his way through five party walls to safety collecting thirty-four other people as he went; a would be suicide, locked in a cell, decided, as the flood poured in, that he no longer wished to die; one poor old man drowned alongside his sleeping companion – a donkey; a husband put his wife and five children on a bed on which they floated until the water went down.’ After about thirty minutes the flood gradually subsided leaving a trail of destruction more than eight miles long: it was later described as ‘looking like a battlefield’. In addition to the massive loss of life; total or partial destruction occurred to 415 dwelling houses, 106 factories/shops, 64 other buildings, 20 bridges and 4,478 cottage/market gardens.”






The following pages from the above book list the extent of the damage done to property:






I discuss the effect that this tragedy had on the fledgling Sheffield football scene in my book:

A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom

Link to book page –

Ernest ‘Nudger’ Needham died this day in 1936 : Sheffield United’s greatest ever player?

Book out now : A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889 : Speed, Science and Bottom

Ernest Needham was born at Whittington Manor on 21st January 1873 and died on the 8th March 1936. He played local football for Waverley and Staveley before joining Sheffield United in 1892 and played an important role in the club’s promotion to the First Division of the Football League.He won his first international cap against Scotland on 7th April, 1894. In the 1896-97 season Sheffield United were runners-up behind the double-winning Aston Villa. Sheffield United, led by Ernest Needham, won the First Division championship of the Football League in the 1897-1898 season. The club struggled the following year in the league but the team beat Derby County in the 1899 FA Cup Final.In the 1899-1900 season Sheffield United had the best defensive record in the league, the club finished in second place to Aston Villa.The following season Needham was a member of the Sheffield United team that reached the 1901 FA Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur, the game ended in a 2-2 draw, with Spurs winning the replay 3-1. Needham was a member of the Sheffield United team that played Southampton in the 1902 FA Cup Final,which United won 2-1.Ernest Needham played his last international game for England on 3rd March, 1902. Over a eight year period he won 16 international caps and scored three goals for his country. Needham retired from professional football in 1909. During his time at Sheffield United he scored 49 goals in 464 games. He continued to play cricket for Derbyshire in the County Cricket Championship until 1912,scoring 6550 runs.

This is an image from the 1905 Book of Football magazine that is for sale at

In the February 2018 edition of the Flashing Blade fanzine the editor analysed Sheffield United records to try to gauge who was Sheffield United’s best ever player. He did this by awarding  points for what players over the years achieved -so for example winning the FA Cup and League Championships. The winner by some distance was Nudger Needham.

Book out now : A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889 : Speed, Science and Bottom

Biography detail from Wikipedia

Incredibly early drawing of a football match in America from 1861

Is this the world’s first ever image of a football game from a newspaper?

This full-page engraving is from the August 31st 1861 Harper’s Weekly newspaper depicts a scene from the Civil War, featuring Union troops  from the 1st Maryland Regiment ‘playing football before evening parade’.

I discussed in my last blog the world’s first photograph of a football team in a newspaper from 1876 but early drawings were more common, nevertheless 1861 is still very early:


Here is a close up of the action:

It predates north America’s first ever football club. the Oneida Football Club (1862)  (founded in Boston Massachusetts), by one year and exemplifies the worldwide fascination with kicking a football.

I cannot find an earlier representation of a game of football (folk,rugby or association) in a newspaper  that predates this American 1861 sketch.

The image below is of an Australian rules football match at the Richmond Paddock (now Yarra Park), Melbourne, in about 1866. The building in the background is the Melbourne Cricket Ground pavilion.

The earliest Association football drawing that I am aware of is featured in my book and is from 1875.


The above image is important because it uses the word ‘Association’ and the match features goals but the football match during the American Civil war could well be the first drawing of a football game ever used in a newspaper.

If you find an earlier depiction of a football match in a newspaper earlier than August 1861 please get in touch.

My book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ is available to purchase at

Playing football when it’s cold – the view from 1875

The game viewed in reference to the players is a capital one both for boys and men during the winter months, when there is a great temptation to shrink from taking open-air exercise. An excellent antidote to the attractions of the fireside, the arm chair, the three-volume novel, or the billiard-table is an hour or two in the football-field, which, even with its frequent accompaniments of fog, rain, wind, and mud, is a capital tonic both for body and mind, and conduces, like all other outdoor sports and pastimes do, to preserving the men’s sana in corpore sano. May it not be said also without exaggeration that football like cricket is no bad school for the temper, and for the development of certain moral qualities by no means to be despised? It requires pluck and dash; but it also requires caution, judgment, patience, a keen eye, and cool nerve. Without these no player can be called proficient. As the hunting-field is a good preliminary education for riding a Balaclava charge, in like manner the football-field may be viewed as affording excellent training to a man who physically or morally wants to keep his legs in delivering or sustaining an adverse shock. Many qualities necessary to success in life are necessary for success in the football-field, and are brought out by it. On the occasion of a great match being played in Ettrick Forest between the Ettrick men and the men of Yarrow, the one side backed by the Earl of Home and the other by Sir Walter Scott, one of the songs written to commemorate the game has it thus –

Then strip, lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,

And, if by mischance you should happen to fall,

There are worse things in life than a tumble on heather,

And life is itself but a game of football.

The Graphic – Saturday 03 April 1875