Vital Football

Latest Aston Villa News

Something For The Weekend (405)

Something For The Weekend (405)
I'm told 1874 was a very good year.

I was delighted to get a copy of John Lerwill's latest book recently, entitled Aston Villa: The First Superclub. It is a cornucopia of information and the sort of thought-provoking facts which tend to send me on journeys of speculative wondering.

What with there being not many Villa reasons to be cheerful these days, I found a lot of pleasure in finding out about that famous meeting between the 15 guys who started the club in 1874. The great thing about John's book which others seem to lack, is the little details which really set the imagination going.

For some reason, I had always assumed that the guys who started the club were men of a certain age. My vision of them, not discouraged by illustrations I have seen, was that they were gentlemen in their full manhood. So I was totally amazed to find that they were mostly boys, the majority being not even twenty years of age. One of them, William Such, was only fifteen and the oldest Billy Weiss (the singing butcher) was only twenty-two. When it comes to their trades, they were mostly in the Jewellery business and there were a couple of clerks, a whip thong maker and William Scattergood who worked at a brewery.

It is these sorts of detail which fire the imagination and a picture begins to form of Birmingham at the time, which you can't help adding to, with other odd bits of information picked up over the years to fill out a growing picture of Victorian Birmingham and then beyond. And one thing is certain, those boys must have been a completely different set of chaps to their modern equivalents.

To get any insight into what these chaps and lads might have been like, I think it would require an understanding of the Methodist movement and its role in creating Victorian values and social networks, which helped create many a business and many of the professional football clubs now still in existence. Certainly attitudes towards sport did not escape the influence of Samuel-Auguste Tissot. So given the times, perhaps they were rather more pious, puritanical and jingoistic than your average Holte-ender these days. And if we accept Max Weber's conclusions they would be rather in favour of a certain sort of strait-laced capitalism - certitudo salutis and all that.

To get an idea of Birmingham of the time, it probably would require a study of the career of Joseph Chamberlain, who started his slum-clearance in 1875 and was trying to provide safe drinking water for a population, 50% of whom were still drinking water from a well, with all the delights of run-off from local cesspits and streets covered with horse-muck. And at the risk of disturbing our ancient idyll further, it wasn't exactly a peaceable time in Aston back then either, as the Aston Park riots attest.

Even if we assume that poverty and disease were horrendous in the over-crowded slums where Corporation Street was to be, it must have been boom time in the little hamlet of Witton.

From the time George Kynoch built his first shed there in 1862 and had purchased an extra nineteen acres in 1872, the factory grew. By 1882 George Kynoch owned the second biggest ammunition factory in the country and eight-hundred people were employed on the Witton site.

This must have made Witton and Perry Barr the perfect place to build a football club and the Scottish George Kynoch and the growing Scottish contingent at Villa must have shared an empathy which must have been crucial to the growth of the club in those years. It all starts to sound like a Scottish invasion when you start to count up the jocks.

And as Lerwill describes in his book, the prawn-sandwich brigade existed even then, as the well-heeled would drive their carriages up to the ground off Wellington Road and view the games, as from portable corporate boxes.

I have little doubt that Villa benefited greatly from the support of such a fine example of a paternalistic capitalist as George Kynoch. Despite a few problems with the business the site had expanded by another eighty-five acres by the time the football league kicked off in 1888. These must have been heady, optimistic and confident times, for the whole of Birmingham.

It all kind of makes these days seem rather flat and predictable by comparison. Its impossible to imagine what it must have felt like to be a citizen of the undisputed dominant power across the globe.

Apart from the huge transformation which Chamberlain was bringing about in Birmingham and the extension of the vote to all rate-paying British men, the world was in massive flux. The American Civil War had only finished a few years previously, which had redefined modern warfare, the machine gun had been invented and was to be refined by another American, and in the year our Villa boys had their meeting, a patent for barbed-wire was taken out.

The Franco-Prussian war had just ended and Germany had been united into a single country, which began the escalation towards the First World War.

And as if to mark the on-set of another age and to foreshadow the horrendous century to come, in the same November in 1874, when Villa played their first ever game, Winston Churchill was born, two months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace.

So there I was, lounging in my Levis (first produced in 1874) dreaming of Villa as a superclub and very much looking forward to them winning the double in 1897, when I was roused from my musings by being told, Villa had gone up a place in the Premiership without even playing a game, after Wigan lost 3-0 to Newcastle.

Villa are not quite a superclub these days but we have to take our consolations where we can find them.



Keep the faith!
Win FREE pizza with Vital Football!
Select your team and get 50% off if they score twice.
www.papajohns.co.uk/football

Writer:Steve Wade
Date:Friday December 7 2012
Time: 4:21PM

Comments

0
feel free to put a link to the book in the comments Mr Lerwill!
The Fear
07/12/2012 16:31:00
0
luckily for us Wigan are looking like fulfilling their long-anticpated potential this season.
malacaxeta
07/12/2012 17:25:00
0
What a wondrous tour of the gaslamp era, Steve! Well done!! And with grateful thanks to the Fear for the prompt, here be my link to find out more details about 'The First Superclub': http://www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/superclub.htm
the_lergy
07/12/2012 17:36:00
0
Superb article. In essence the difference between Villa and a Chelski or ManCi££y. You cant buy a heritage like ours. Thanks Steve.
TelfordVilla
08/12/2012 09:50:00
0
Citeh have a great history and heritage. Their founder Anna Connell is believed to be the only woman in the history of football to have started a club. Whatever you think of Sheikh Mansour -- and he looks a more responsible owner than the mad Russian in west London -- Citehs last gasp winning of the league was a great story and will go down in football history. Chelsea on the other hand.......!!!!
VillaWillRiseAgain
08/12/2012 18:05:00
Page 1/1
  1. 1

Login to post a comment

Recent Aston Villa Articles

Who Will Aston Villa Face In 2016/17 (30/5/16)

All promotions and relegations for the season of 2015/16 have been confirmed, so the full make up of the Championship for 2016/17 is now known.

Nigel Pearson NOT Aston Villa Bound - Rammed

Phew (for me) and doh (for others!) Nigel Pearson has gone to Derby County

Di Matteo Appointment Close

Late yesterday evening it was reported that further talks between Chairman Steve Hollis and Roberto Di Matteo had taken place...

No Villa Regrets For Amavi

French Left back Jordan Amavi has said he has no regrets about joining Aston Villa last summer, and he's pretty down to earth when it comes to his thoughts...

Archived Vital Villa Articles

Vital Villa articles from

Site Journalists

J P Fear
Editor email
Profile
Mike Field
Editor email
Profile
Steve Wade
no email
Profile
Villa_Grizzly
no email
Profile
Turkish Penguin
no email
Profile
Glensider
no email
Profile
Chris Heath
no email
Profile
M Calucar
no email
Profile
JuanPablo Angel
no email
Profile

Current Poll (see more polls)

Roberto Di Matteo would be:
Suggested By: JP Fear
A great appointment30%
A good appointment but I'd prefer a.n.other39%
An average appointment16%
No thanks appointment!15%
ScoopDragon Premier League Network Sites

League Table

# Team P W D L Pts. GD
C Leicester City 38 23 12 3 81 32
2 Arsenal 38 20 11 7 71 29
3 Spurs 38 19 13 6 70 34
4 Man City 38 19 9 10 66 30
5 Man Utd 38 19 9 10 66 14
6 Southampton 38 18 9 11 63 18
7 West Ham 38 16 14 8 62 14
8 Liverpool 38 16 12 10 60 13
9 Stoke 38 14 9 15 51 -14
10 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 50 6
11 Everton 38 11 14 13 47 4
12 Swansea 38 12 11 15 47 -10
13 Watford 38 12 9 17 45 -10
14 WBA 38 10 13 15 43 -14
15 Crystal Palace 38 11 9 18 42 -12
16 AFC Bournemouth 38 11 9 18 42 -22
17 Sunderland 38 9 12 17 39 -14
R Newcastle 38 9 10 19 37 -21
R Norwich 38 9 7 22 34 -28
R Aston Villa 38 3 8 27 17 -49
Vital Football Comment
Latest F1 News
Ricciardo screwed for second week running
Latest Vital Boxing News
Price Wins by Second Round Knockout
Write for Vital Football

Recent Aston Villa Results (view all)

Aston Villa Fixtures (view all)

Vital Members League Table

RankNamePoints
1.Pride of Lions904
2.The Fear543
3.kefkat367
4.sirdennis304
5.Fulford274
6.Lerner Out!250
7.JuanPabloAngel229
8.glensider205
9.Silhillvilla186
10.DeanoVilla181
The Vital Football Members League