Today marks exactly 150 years since the birth of ‘The Wednesday’ at the Adelphi Hotel in Sheffield.
As part of their celebrations, Wednesday have launched two new books written by club historian Jason Dickinson.
‘Sheffield Wednesday FC – the Official History, 150 Years’ and ‘WAWAW – Fans’ Memories Through the Generations’ went on sale as a package at Owls in the Park yesterday. The anniversary history book covers every facet of the club’s long, rich existence in 13 distinctive chapters. Two extracts have been revealed exclusively to The Star, outlining the formation of the club.
At a general meeting held on Wednesday last, at the Adelphi Hotel, it was decided to form a football club in connection with the Sheffield Wednesday Cricket Club, with the object of keeping together during the winter season the members of the cricket club.
From the great unanimity which prevailed as to the desirability of forming the club, there is every reason to expect that it will take first rank.
The office bearers were elected as follows: President, Mr. B. Chatterton; vice-president and treasurer, Mr. F. S. Chambers; hon. secretary, Mr. Jno. Marsh; assistant, Mr. Castleton; Committee: Messers Jno. Rodgers, Jno. Pashley, Wm. Pilch, Wm. Littlehales, Jno. White, C. Stokes, H. Bocking.
Above sixty members were enrolled, without any canvas, some of them being the best players of the town.
Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Friday 6 September 1867 - The above announcement began the next chapter in Wednesday’s history as the members of the cricket club agreed a motion to start a football section.
The relatively new sport of association football was already starting to make inroads into the town’s sporting scene, having first began on an organised basis in 1857 when the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, was founded.
They were followed by Hallam FC in 1860, who, like Wednesday, were a cricket club that formed a football section, while teams such as Milton, Pitsmoor, Norton, Norfolk and Collegiate were now playing regularly in the town; interest was such that in March 1867 the Sheffield Football Association was formed.
The medieval game of football had been played for centuries around the globe in such destinations as China, Greece and Italy, while a ‘mob’ version was recorded in England as far back as the fifteenth century, with towns and villages involved in games that could take days to complete.
It was not until the 1840s that a new regulated version of association football emerged from the public schools of England and this quickly spread countrywide as the various scholars, responsible for formulating those early rules, returned to their hometowns after completing their studies.
The game was recorded in Sheffield in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s but actually it was two Acts of Parliament that provided the biggest boost to the sport – the Factory Acts of 1847 and 1850, which increased the hours of work but put in place regular working patterns and, crucially for football, ensured that work ceased on a Saturday no later than 2 p.m. With Saturday afternoons now at their disposal, the workers started to explore leisure pursuits and the arrival of the exciting game of football quickly captured the imagination – within two decades it grew from just the universities to almost every town and village in England.
The new game was fast, exciting, highly competitive, easy to play and involved passion and rivalry that would quickly divide loyalties in work places, public houses, clubs and even families; football was here to stay and quickly became the national sport of England.
The town of Sheffield was also expanding rapidly and Victorian society placed great emphasis on fitness, sport and well-being, duly promoting football as a way of achieving all three.
Of course, today’s product bears little resemblance to those early years with games being played between teams ranging from 11 to 15 a side, hacking, tripping and handling of the ball were all allowed, and the shape of the ball more similar to the modern rugby ball.
There were also no formations to speak of with most of the players running around the field following the ball – like you would expect to see in primary school playgrounds today – with injuries commonplace.
The only constant was a gentleman guarding the goal and two men who just hung around their opponents’ goal in the hope of forcing the ball in – such niceties as throws ins, crossbars, team strips and penalty areas were still years away.
Players would often dash straight from their place of employment and play in their work clothes with one side tying handkerchiefs around their arms to distinguish themselves from their opponents.
It should also be noted that despite rules being introduced into the game, there was in fact two differing sets, with ‘Sheffield Rules’ played in the north of England and ‘Cambridge Rules’ in the south.
At the end of the 1876/77 season one unified set of rules was adapted by all, and these have remained ever since, with several notable adaptions and additions.
It was against these social, economic and lifestyle changes that the members of Wednesday Cricket Club took the momentous decision, on Wednesday 4 September 1867.
| Other subjects covered in the ‘Sheffield Wednesday FC - the Official History, 150 Years’ include all the managers, club presidents, chairmen and the various grounds that Wednesday have called home since 1867.
There are also in-depth profiles of the club’s greatest players.
In ‘WAWAW – Fans’ Memories Through the Generations’, Dickinson has interviewed a number of Owls fans, who share their stories on the ups and downs of following the club.
Supporters give their opinions on their greatest matches, players and managers, including well-known Wednesday fans Pete McKee and Martyn Ware.
The retail price for the two books is £35.