18 Famous Football Players (Boy’s Own Paper Volume 4 of 1881/82)
This is the earliest published colour representation of Association footballers that I have ever found – click on the image to enlarge it. It is curious that it should appear in the Boy’s Own paper ; a bastion for public school boys and rugby.
In the year of issues in which the lithograph appears there is no mention of Association football, just a regular article on rugby football. Other sports covered were lawn tennis and cricket but certainly not Association football. I wonder if there was a misunderstanding between the publishers and Willat and Grover Lithos who produced the image. The previous year they had produced “Famous English Cricketers 1880” for the same publication. The company, based in Nottingham, would have naturally received the next commission but perhaps the northern company misunderstood what was expected when asked for “Famous Football Players” and produced this striking image of Association football with no fewer than four Nottingham players. The final mystery was why, having settled on eighteen Association footballers, did the artist decide to feature an oval rugby ball in the foreground? ;A last minute rugby compromise for the Boy’s Own Paper perhaps?
In the book “England’s Oldest Football Clubs” I have researched the backgrounds of all eighteen players and discovered their autobiographical details and football careers and reproduce the image in full.