The great English clubs 1896-7

August 25, 1896
All the leading Association teams are now in practice for the opening of the season of 1896-7, which will be inaugurated in Scotland on 15th August, and in England on 1st September.

The time which has elapsed since the last season closed has been utilised by various organisations for strengthening their teams, and there has been such a tendency to put fancy prices on transfers – the price for Jimmy Whitehouse, transferred from Grimsby to Aston Villa, being £250, and of Fred Wheldon, from Small Heath to the Villa, no less than £350 – that it would not be surprising if the League took the matter seriously in hand.

Whilst the figures paid by Aston Villa stand out most prominently from the rest, other clubs have had to pay to some tune, Adrian Cape’s transfer from Burton Wanderers having cost over £100, whilst other transfers have run up to £70, very mediocre players having £30 opposite their names. This payment for transfer, however, is entirely apart from the question of remuneration to the player. It is often little better than blackmail levied by one club on another, and when it is remembered that the 16 First Division clubs hold the signatures of over 690 pro’s, it will be realised that the question is one which ought in the interests of the game to be settled; because unless the League steps in, as in the case of Jack Taggart, whose transfer to Walsall was refused by West Bromwich Albion, when it was decided that the latter must accept a good deal less than they demanded, it often means that the clubs can play the dog-in-the-manger and prevent the player helping anybody.

Glancing at the First Division of the League, it does not appear that there will be much change in the comparative strength of the various combinations, though the inclusion of Liverpool in place of Small Heath will make it still harder to escape the test matches, for the Merseyside club are now a powerful organisation.

Nottingham Forest
We should fancy, however, that so far as nominal playing strength is concerned Notts Forest will be the most improved eleven in the division, for Adrian Capes is one of the finest – if not the finest – centre in the League, and it was just at this part of the field that the old Reds were the weakest. They have, however, also signed, Arthur Capes, who fully understands and makes play for his brother, whilst they have signed a new in goalkeeper in addition to Dan Allsopp, the new man being Martin, of Newark, and with the best of their last season’s men they have in all 22 first-eleven men to select from.

Aston Villa
Nevertheless, nothing on form ought to be able to beat Aston Villa in the race for the League championship. They have all their last season’s men, though big offers were made to several (including Jimmy Crabtree and John James Campbell) to induce them to join Scottish combinations. Then they have strengthened themselves in goal by the signature of Whitehouse, and have improved their inside-left by securing Wheldon, whose transfer they have long sought. Besides this they have a splendid list of reserve, amongst the latest – and best – acquisitions being Bourne, of Kidderminster.

Jimmy Crabtree, Aston Villa (Lloyd’s Weekly News: February 3, 1895):

It does not seem likely that Sunderland will be able to get very high this season, for not only have they lost their secretary and manager, Mr. Tom Watson, who really built up the team of “all the talents,” and who has now become secretary to Liverpool at a salary of £250 per annum, but they have also lost James Millar, perhaps the best of their forwards, who, with Andrew McCreadie, their crack centre half, has joined the Glasgow Rangers. Against these losses they have secured William Longair, the Dundee half back; Matt Ferguson, the Moss End right half, Bob Johnstone, the Renton outside left; Andrew Hamilton, a Falkirk forward, and Andrew Wilson, the promising back of Strathclyde. Of course they have the old players with the exceptions named.

Everton finished third last season, but it is questionable whether they will figure so well during the coming campaign, for they have lost James Adams, gone to Edinburgh; and Bob Kelso and Jack Hillman, who have joined Dundee, and have parted company with the lively Tom McInnes. Of course when these are crossed off they have still a goodly list of last season’s players, but most of the men who have been secured for places in the team which needed strengthening have yet to prove themselves in English football of the first quarter. These are Bob Menham, a custodian from the army, and George Barker, the Guardsman, full back. Both men are highly spoken of, but they will need to turn out very well indeed to answer the calls on them. They have also signed two fresh centres in John Cameron, of Greenock, and William Campbell, of Renton, whilst their other “captures” are John Tait Robertson (Greenock), half back; William Nash (Dumbarton), inside right; and several local players of promise.

Derby County
Derby County have the whole of last season’s men at their disposal, and have also signed Jimmy Turner (the Stoke and Bolton man); John Boag (the Cowlairs centre); William Fisher (Kilmarnock); who “plays somewhere inside,” as a forward; Buchanan (Perth), centre half; George Goodchild (late of Sunderland Reserves), outside right; and Joe Frail (Glossop), a custodian with a local reputation.

Bolton Wanderers
Bolton Wanderers have all their last season’s first team, but have strengthened themselves by adding Billy Thomson and Alex Gilligan, the crack forwards of the Dundee team; Sam Scott the left back of the Port Glasgow team; and Hartley Shutt of Nelson, who has the reputation of being one of the best backs in the Lancashire League.

Stoke have suffered serious defections, for George Clawley has joined Southampton St Mary’s, Tom Hyslop has gone to the Glasgow Rangers, Jimmy Turner to Derby, and Jack Robertson to Edinburgh St Bernards. These losses have been made up by the engagement of Fred Latham (Crewe) for goal; Harry Simpson, of the same club, for half back; Alf Wood and Billy Baird, two forwards from the Greenock club, and one or two local players.

Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn Rovers do not see likely to be quite as strong as last season, as up to the time of writing this there was considerably doubt about Harry Chippendale, who is thinking of joining Manchester City, and Jimmy Haydock, who has an idea of journeying south, whilst Peter Turnbull has gone to the Glasgow Rangers, and John Murray has retired. On the other hand, they have signed John Campbell and John Proudfoot of Partick Thistle; Price, the Renton centre forward, and one or two locals.

Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United
Sheffield Wednesday have practically their same team as last year, though Laurie Bell is doubtful; whilst their townsmen, the United, have in addition to the pick of their old men, secured John Bowes (Darlington), inside left; Charles Henderson (late of Wolverhampton and Bolton), inside right; Fred Priest (South Bank), outside left; and Jack Almond (Bishop Auckland), centre forward.

Preston North End
Preston North End have parted with one or two of last season’s “passengers,” including James Sharp, their captain, and have signed Alex Brown (St Bernards); David Boyd (Glasgow Rangers), centre forward; Alex Findlay (Arbroath), outside right; Tom Pratt (late of Grimsby), inside right; and one or two local players.

Bury have a strong list of players, all their last season’s men being available, in addition to which they have secured Jack Darroch (Dundee), back; Willie Hendry (Dundee), half back; Fred Thompson (of Sunderland Reserves), in goal; and Dilworth Hartley (Darwen), outside right.

Burnley are mainly relying on last season’s players, with the addition of locals. Their losses, which include Tom McLintock, are likely to be serious.

West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion have strengthened their team by the inclusion of Abraham Law (Millwall Athletic) for goal; Tom Evans (Fairfield), back; Peter McManus (Edinburgh Hibernians) half back; and Bill Ford and Macnamara (Dundee) and Ben Garfield (Burton Wanderers).

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers have a list of 24 players to choose from, their new men being George Harris (Aston Villa) as reserve goalkeeper; George Eccles (Burslem Port Vale), back; a couple of men from Hednesford Town Club, and one or two very promising locals.

Liverpool – the new comers in the division – will select their team from the following: Harry Storer and Willie Donnelly (Clyde), goal; Billy Dunlop, Barney Battles, and Tom Wilkie, backs; Archie Goldie, Joe McQue, Thomas Cleghorn, John McCartney, John Holmes, Robert Neill (Edinburgh Hibernians), half backs; Jimmy Ross, George Allan, Willie Michael (Heart of Midlothian), Frank Becton, Fred Geary, and Harry Bradshaw, forward.
(Sheffield Evening Telegraph: August 25, 1896)

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