Birmingham has a long and strong football history, with team alliances often spanning generations. The three best recognised local teams – Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, were established in the second half of the nineteenth century. Below are match reports for each of the teams from New Year’s matches. For the record – I am a Bluenose (Birmingham City fan) – but I couldn’t find a better result for a New Year’s match. Which may come as no surprise to many!
Football teams were quite often founded by churches, particularly non-conformist chapels, or by workplaces and also unions. Aston Villa were formed by the members of the Aston Villa Methodist Chapel in 1874 and went on to become one of the founding members of the Football League. Club chairman William McGregor was the man behind the establishment of the world’s first football league in 1888. (Many thanks to John Lerwill for this information). The match report below is of a game which took place on New Year’s day, 1885:
Aston Villa vs. Queen’s Park – the champion club of the Midlands visited Glasgow yesterday and played the premier club of Scotland. A very large crowd attended at Hampden Park to witness the match, which throughout was very well contested. In the first half the Queen’s Park scored 3 goals and Aston Villa 1. In the second half, Aston Villa played against the wind, and in fifteen minutes scored the second goal. Shortly afterwards, the right wing, in a brilliant run, registered a third goal, amid great cheering. Encouraged by this success, they played up splendidly and nearly scored several times, but the slippiness of the ground spoiled their accuracy, and the match ended in favour of Queen’s Park, by 4 goals to 3. The teams were entertained to dinner, and the Aston Villa team’s health was enthusiastically drunk.
While the first teams were playing at Hampden Park, each team also had second teams playing at Perry Barr; Villa Park not yet having been built. It was reported that around 2,000 spectators attended the Perry Barr match and that a capital game was witnessed. Queen’s Park won 3-0.
These next reports are both from the same day, January 2nd, 1886, as reported in the Birmingham Daily Post of January 4th
Birmingham City F.C. was originally founded as Small Heath Alliance in 1875, taking their current name in 1943. They were one of the first 15 founding clubs of the F.A. second division and were its first champions in the 1892-1893 season.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Small Heath Alliance – played at Burton. A large number of spectators were present. The visitors started downhill, and for a short while the ball travelled from end to end, but the cross wind spoilt effective play, no score being registered by half-time. The latter half was very exciting. The Alliance scored first, but the Wanderers, a few minutes before time, won 2 goals to 1.
West Bromwich Albion was founded as a works team in 1878, by George Salter’s Spring Works. Originally called the ‘Strollers’, they were the first football team to adopt the ‘Albion’ suffix. Although based in Staffordshire, the club registered to play in the Birmingham and District Football League and took part in the Birmingham Cup. Along with Villa, West Brom were one of the founder members of the Football League. The following report is from the 4th round of the English Cup, with a controversial goal allowed at the end. The referee is named as Mr. Cofield of the Birmingham and District Association.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers – an unusual amount of interest was manifested in this match in the fourth round for this cup, and the weather being fine upwards of 8,000 persons visited the Albion ground, at Stoney Lane, West Bromwich, to witness the match. The Albion won the toss, and elected to play down-hill. They at once commenced aggressive tactics, but were met by a stout resistance by Mason and Lowder, who each played a splendid back game and several times forced Roberts to use his hands. With the assistance of H. Bell and H. Green, the Albion kept their antagonists from making much headway, and towards half-time enabled the home forwards to change the venue of the game. Before half-time the Albion scored a couple of points, Loach and G. Bell sending the ball through. With the hill and wind in their favour in the second half, the Wolverhampton contingent worked strenuously to obtain a point, H. Aston, Brazier and Brodie each putting in some good work. The defence of Albion was, however, too much for them and, seeing an opening, T. Green rushed up the field with the ball. A bad miss by Mason proved disastrous, for Green finished up his run by scoring third point. Playing up with renewed vigour, the Wanderers severely pressed the Albion back division, and it was said that an attempt by H. Aston sent the ball through, although it seemed to the majority of the spectators that the ball went over the bar. The point was allowed, however, and the Albion ultimately won by 3 goals to 1.