Retro: Sheffield Wednesday’s 170-goal legend

Fred Spiksley's second goal as  The Wednesday won  the 1896 FA Cup final, beating Wolves 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Fred Spiksley's second goal as The Wednesday won the 1896 FA Cup final, beating Wolves 2-1 at Crystal Palace
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Next Sunday (September 4) marks the 149th anniversary of the formation of Wednesday Football Club.

John Pashley’s proposal to form a football club was accepted by members and a committee was established by the 60 or so who joined the new club that night.

The book - Flying Over an Olive Grove, the story of Fred Spiksley, is out on September  5

The book - Flying Over an Olive Grove, the story of Fred Spiksley, is out on September 5

In their first game, the Mechanics Club were beaten by three goals and four rouges to one rouge in a game played at Norfolk Park.

A rouge was the outer part of the then 12 feet wide and nine feet high goal. It was separated from the middle part – the goal – by posts on either side.

One goal was worth any amount of rouges. Rouges were abolished in 1868 when the goal width became eight yards.

In terms of goals scored Andrew Wilson is Sheffield Wednesday’s alltime goalscorer with over 200 goals.

In third place is outside left Fred Spiksley who in all first team fixtures between 1891 and 1903 scored 170 goals, which included 100 in the Football League.

This record gives Spiksley the highest average goal ratio of any winger in the history of English football.

Signed from a highly successful Gainsborough Trinity side, Spiksley made his debut for Non-League Wednesday 125 years ago this Friday (September 2) in a pre-season game at Sunderland Albion.

Although the away side lost 2-1 their goal was scored by debutant Fred Spiksley, whose life has been captured in a 130,000 word new book: Flying Over an Olive Grove which will be released on Monday, September 5.

Spiksley went on to score both of the Wednesday goals when Wolves werebeaten 2-1 in the 1896 FA Cup final.

His first was arguably the quickest ever in the final as it was scored within the first 30 seconds.

Spiksley was the best footballer in the world in 1896 and a year later when Sheffield Town Hall was officially opened the Wednesday fans began referring for decades afterwards to the rooftop Vulcan - which has his hand in the air - as ‘Fred’ as it appeared to show him appealing for a foul.

Spiksley is commemorated on the plaque at Olive Grove, where Wednesday first played their League Football before they moved to Hillsborough in 1899, where exactly 127 years ago this Thursday they played their first game.

Chesterfield were beaten 5-1 with Spiksley scoring Wednesday’s first goal at the new ground.

Exactly 15 years later on September 2 1914, Britain was at war with Germany, where Spiksley was the head coach at FC Nuremberg. Like many British nationals he had been thrown into prison and the vast majority were to stay locked up for the next four years.

Not so Fred Spiksley who managed to trick his way out of prison and hot foot it home with his wife and young son.

He arrived back in Sheffield on September 2 and two days later on Septembe 4r 1914 his story appeared in the Sheffield Independent.

Spiksley, a gambler and womaniser off the pitch, was a remarkable man and he left behind a treasure trove that included twice writing his autobiography.

His own words have now been combined with contemporary match reports and extensive research to reveal the lost story of a boy who was born to a boilermaker in a small terraced house in Gainsborough and who went on to become a footballing hero on the local, national and international stage.

* Flying Over an Olive Grove: The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley A Flawed Football Hero is the first great working-class football story. The book will be available in Sheffield bookshops and at Hillsborough and can be ordered online at https://false-9.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/flying-over-an-olive-grove-hardcover or on amazon.