There are two ex-Sheffield United players in this year’s World Cup squad for Russia but things were much better last century, with ten England internationals regularly playing for United for the entire 1903/04 season. As part of my ongoing research for my book ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0 this is another important record for Sheffield football.
Sheffield United hold the record as the only club to have the distinction of fielding 10 England internationals at the same time in the season of 1903/04. They didn’t just achieve this in one league game but in a total of eight games over the course of the season. I have spoken to the England Online website to corroborate the record that was stated in the Sothebys auction guide and he was not aware of any club since, equaling or bettering, the record. I discovered today that Graham Budd auctioneers asked Sheffield United’s official historian John Garrett to investigate the photograph on their behalf. Interestingly John says that only the actual players and the club directors received a copy of the photograph, so it is extremely rare.
United regularly fielded a team of 10 England Internationals past and present in that season. (Usually 11 internationals played every game in that season for the Blades with Ireland’s Peter Boyle making up the numbers). It must have been a special achievement for them to arrange the photographic record.
10 England present or ex-players in the team = 8 games
9 England present or ex-players in the team = 12 games
8 England present or ex-players in the team = 9 games
7 England present or ex-players in the team = 2 games
6 England present or ex-players in the team = 4 games
5 England present or ex-players in the team = 4 games
4 England present or ex-players in the team = 1 games
A total 40 games played in the 1903/04 season with never less than 4 England internationals in the United side.
The ratio of England internationals playing reduced as the season progressed which resulted in a drop of form with the team finishing in 7th place in Division One.
I was lucky enough to secure a photograph of the record breaking team at a recent Sotheby’s auction taken outside of the Cricket Pavilion at Bramall Lane.The photograph of the United team wearing their England shirts and caps was taken in the close season between 29th of April 1903 and September 5th, 1903 as Tommy Morren played his last match for United 29th April 1903 and he is in the photograph. If the photograph been taken a few weeks earlier, it would have been an amazing 11 Sheffield United England internationals as Hedley also had one his England cap in 1901. George Hedley does not feature in the photograph as he played his last match for United on April 6th, 1903.
(Note the cricket ball under Bennet’s foot in the photograph, suggesting a summer date with the photographer)
Players in photograph. Back -Left to right
Jack Housley (Trainer) – a well-known Sheffield footballer who first played for Garrick FC and featured in the world’s first ever game played under floodlights at Bramall Lane in 1878 between two teams representing the Sheffield Football Association. He died tragically after slipping on a banana skin as he got off a tram car aged 64.
William Harrison Johnson-6 England caps-17/3/1900-4/4/1903-PRESENT international at time of photo.
Harry Thickett- 2 England caps- 20/3/1899-8/4/1899-PAST international at time of photo.
William Henry Foulkes—1 England cap—29/3/1897-PAST international at time of photo.
Peter Boyle (Ireland)-5 caps for the Republic of Ireland-PRESENT international at time of photo.
John Nicholson (Secretary)- the man we would nowadays call the manager held the position for thirty years. Nicholson presided over the most successful period in the Blades history, winning four FA Cups in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925 (also reaching the final in 1901,1936) and maintaining United as a dominant league force, winning the old 1st division Championship in 1898. Despite never holding the post of manager at the Blades he was offered just such a position at Manchester City in 1926 but turned it down, preferring to remain in his home town. Nicholson also suffered a tragic death aged 68 after being knocked down by a lorry outside Midland Station on his way to meet the team leaving for an away match against Aston Villa FC.
Ernest ‘Nudger’ Needham – 16 England caps—7/4/1894-3/3/1902-PAST international at time of photo.
George Waller (Trainer)-played for Wednesday in the 1890 FA Cup Final and was the trainer for four F.A. Cup winning teams and the League Championship side, as well as Yorkshire for Cricket. Waller was a tactical innovator, and introduced the idea of using one inside forward to play in a deeper role, capable of accurate passing, who could bring faster wide men into play, often with long cross–field balls. This would remain United’s style of play well into the 1930s and only began to change following Waller’s departure in 1930.
Front-Left to right
Walter Bennett—2 England caps -18/3/1901-13/3/01-PAST international at time of photo.
Alf Common—3 England caps–29/2/1904-19/3/1906-PRESENT international at time of photo.
Arthur Brown—2 England caps -29/2/1904-17/2/1906-PRESENT international at time of photo.
Fred Priest-1 England cap—17/3/1900-PAST international at time of photo.
Bert Lipsham-1 England cap—3/3/1902-PAST international at time of photo.
Tommy Morren -1 England cap—5/3/1898-PAST international at time of photo.
Bernard Wilkinson –1 England cap—9/4/1904-PRESENT international at time of photo.
Alf Common is famous for being the subject of the world’s first £1,000 transfer fee whilst Arthur Brown, debuting as an 18-year-old, still features high on the list of the youngest players to represent England, a distinction currently headed by Theo Walcott. Bert Lipsham was one of Millwall’ s first mangers and went to Canada where he helped found the Canadian Football Association William Harrison Johnson and Peter Boyle both had sons who won F.A. Cup winner’s medals in 1925 with Sheffield United.
Read more about Sheffield football history in:’ History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom‘ http://bit.ly/2qYw0r0
With thanks to:
Denis Clarebrough & Andrew Kirkham (2008). Sheffield United Who’s Who. Hallamshire Press