Willenhall History Society

The Picks

The story of Willenhall Pickwicks Football Club

1884 – 1916

Researched and written by Horace and Peter Davis

Chapter 2 THE SUCCESSFUL EARLY NINETIES

Although the Picks were to spend the next three seasons in the wilderness as it were, they were still able to achieve some success as they set out to recover their strength. In season 1890-1 in addition to winning the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup they were also losing finalists in the Walsall Junior Cup and also the Birmingham Junior Cup as well as reaching the Semi­final of the Staffordshire Junior Cup, a competition in which they were to figure prominently in the coming years. They were also instrumental in bringing some of the best amateur clubs in the Midlands to their Portobello enclosure. The facilities at the enclosure were constantly being improved to keep it as one of the best footballing venues outside the football league in the Midlands .

The 1890-1 season opened with a visit from Port Vale Rovers on Monday September 8th 1890 and the Express and Star of that day announced the game as follows "The football lovers of the Lock and Key metropolis have become quite jubilant over their local cracks The Pickwicks and attended in force to witness the opening match. About 2,000 being present. The grounds at Portobello have been trimmed up and otherwise made more suitable for the players and when the Pickwick's team met Port Vale Rovers this afternoon everything was in favourable order". For the record Picks won 2-0.

On October 11th 1890 Picks travelled to Molineux where they narrowly defeated Wolves Reserves by 3-2. On February 7th 1891 they entertained a team selected by the Walsall F.A. at Portobello. The proceeds of the game were to boost the funds of the Walsall Association. A crowd of 1,500 saw the game end all square at one goal each. After deduction of match expenses the Picks were able to hand to the association the sum of £9.15s.11d towards their funds, a total that was not an inconsiderable sum in those days.

Playing at Right Back for the Association that day was a promising young player named William Tennant. Tennant was later to spend a short time as an amateur with the Picks before signing for Wolves. He played regularly in the reserves until fate one day took a hand. He was called upon in an emergency to play in goal and he played so well that he made the position his own. He made 39 appearances in Wolves league team and a further 6 in F.A. cup games including the Final in 1896 against Sheffield Wednesday, but as opportunities were limited for first team football due to the fact that Wolves had W. C. Rose, an England International, as their first choice, he left for Walsall where he was their regular goalkeeper for several years.

On February 21st 1891 Aston Villa brought a strong reserve side to Portobello for a friendly and the Picks were successful by 4-3.

In the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup they played their way to the Semi-final where, on May 2nd. 1891 they met and defeated Tettenhall Wood 2-0 at the Molineux Grounds before 1,500 spectators. The Picks team for that match was:-

Goal, Banks; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Moseley, Chilton and Osborne; Forwards Loat,

Pearson, Southall, Lowe and St. Ledger:

At this stage in the season it was reported that Picks had so far played 35 games of which they had won 24 lost 6 and drawn 5. They had scored 117 goals and conceded 53.

The Final was on 9th May 1891 when their opponents were Harts Hill Unity, the game again being played at Molineux. This time the game attracted little enthusiasm and Picks won 2-0 before a poor gate. It seems that familiarity had bred contempt. Picks line up was:-

Goal, Banks; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Moseley, Lowe and Osborne; Forwards, Loat, A.Pearson, Southall, Jones and St. Ledger:

In the Walsall Junior Cup Picks, having disposed of Brownhills Albion and Cannock Town in the earlier rounds, came up against Causeway Green Villa in the Semi-final. On Monday April 20th the clubs drew 2-2, whereupon they were ordered to replay on the following Saturday but Causeway Green declined to play on that day due to commitments in another competition. At the appointed time Picks took the field, kicked the ball in the net and claimed the game. The Final took place on Monday April 27th 1891 against Unity Gas on Walsall Town Swifts ground at the Chuckery and Picks were narrowly defeated in a close game by 3-2 watched by 1,500 spectators.

Picks also reached the final of the Birmingham Junior Cup in this season. Full details of their cup run are not recorded but en route for the Semi-final they defeated St. Phillips 2-1 on December 6th and Worcester Rovers 3-0 on February 14th at Worcester . This brought them up against Birmingham Unity Gas whom they defeated 4-2 on April 11th before 700 spectators at Wednesbury Oval after a drawn game. In the Final however they succumbed to the powerful Singers side by 1-0. No other details of this game have been found. Singers changed their name later to Coventry City .

On Saturday April 25th 1891 the Express and Star published the following poem that they said had been received anonymously through the post.

WILLENHALL PICKWICK'S APPEAL.

Ye gents and bodies of this town,

Just read this simple lay.

About a team you all admire.

But which gets little pay.

 

In each event they always try

To gain themselves renown;

Then bring the trophies they receive

To decorate the town.

 

They ought to be an honour to

The "Town of locks and keys".

And they should surely get support

From those they try to please.

 

Then give your aid without delay,

To help your native team;

Who don’t complain but work, and try

Their laurels to redeem.

 

It’s true they're only working men,

but that’s no fault of theirs;

And that proud title they will leave

To their succeeding heirs.

 

To you I plead, on their behalf,

to patronise their cause;

And then each donor shall receive

The Pickwick's warm applause.

The 1891-2 season also was not without its successes, for they were finalists in the Staffordshire and Birmingham Junior Cups. On September 12th 1891 Picks opened their season with a visit to Molineux where they lost to a strong Wolves Reserve side by 3-0. The Picks line up for that opening game was:-

Goal, Banks; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Mellor, Chilton and Meacham; Forwards, Fletcher, Pearson, Southall, Edwards and Gee:

On Monday October 12th 3,500 people saw Wolves play a select Eleven at Molineux for the benefit of Albert Fletcher the former Picks player and England International whose career had been terminated by an injury he received the previous season in a game against Aston Villa at Villa Park. Wolves won 3-0.

On Tuesday December 29th a game was played at Portobello for 11 silver medals, proceeds in aid of the Doctor Tonks Memorial Fund between Willenhall Victoria, who won by 6-2 and Willenhall Strollers.

Press coverage of games left a lot to be desired this season and many games simply were not reported at all. However, in the Birmingham Junior Cup they disposed of Wordsley Olympic, Hednesford Wanderers, Brownhills Albion and Lozells in the Semi-final at Wednesbury. The Picks lost once more, this time to Singers ( Coventry ) by 2-1 in the Final of the competition.

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup complete records are not available but Picks met and defeated Burton Alma and Rugeley Albion Swifts before reaching the Semi-finals where they met Newcastle Swifts at Portobello on January 2nd 1892 and won by 3-1.

The Final was against Stoke Swifts, the previous seasons' winners, and was to take place at Molineux Grounds on Monday March 28th 1892 . A crowd of 2,000 saw the two teams fight out a thrilling but goal-less draw. The Picks line up for the game was:-

Goal, Hale; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Meacham, Chilton and Moseley; Forwards, Mellor, Fletcher, Gee, Southall and Edwards.

The replay took place on the afternoon of Monday April 4th again at Molineux and a large crowd saw an unchanged Picks team score first but failed to hold the advantage, the game again ending in a draw, this time by 1-1.

For the second replay Picks had to travel to the Cobridge Athletic grounds (Home of Burslem Port Vale) on Thursday April 21st but this time a crowd of 1,500 saw the Stoke team make no mistake, winning by 4-2.

In the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup the Picks reached the Semi-final, where on Monday April 18th 1892 they were soundly beaten by old rivals, Harts Hill Unity by 5-1.

The season 1892-3 was to be the last season without league football for the Picks, but they were again winners of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup, they also again reached the Final of the Staffordshire Junior Cup that was all over by Christmas that season. In addition they also reached the Semi-final of the Birmingham Junior Cup.

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup little is known of the early rounds but Picks reached the Semi-finals where on November 26th 1892 they trounced Newcastle Swifts by 8-1. This put them once more into the Final for which they had to travel north to the Cobridge Athletic Grounds on Christmas Eve to play Dresden United. They were defeated by 2-0. It was reported that the condition of the pitch was, to say the least, not ideal.

On Friday December 30th a complimentary dinner was provided by townsmen at the Cock Inn, Walsall Street in recognition of the gallant fight which the team had made in the Final, and in his speech the club President Mr J.B. Lees was bitterly critical of the conditions that had prevailed for the game. He described the pitch as nothing else but a frozen ploughed field. He said the ball they were given to play with was not in fair condition, in fact he said that they would not have given it to their team to practice with. He also expressed concern at the number of times visiting teams had let them down at the last minute and no doubt it was this problem that led Picks to return to league football the following season after three year's absence. To date the Picks team had the following record:

P

W

L

D

F

A

19

11

5

3

56

32

In the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup the Picks disposed of Dudley Road Excelsior and Harts Hill Unity on the way to the Final, where on Saturday April 29th 1893 they met and defeated Bloxwich Strollers by 4-1 at Molineux. The Picks team was as follows:-

Goal, Hale; Backs, Meacham and Wright; Half Backs, Mellor, Chilton and Moseley; Forwards, W. Edwards, H. Edwards, Southall, Yates and Gee.

Picks goals were scored by Southall, Yates, H. Edwards and a scrambled effort.

In the Birmingham Junior Cup they accounted for Harts Hill Unity, Oldbury Town , Rudge and Ellen Street Victoria before coming up against Lozells in the Semi-final. The first game took place at Molineux on March 4th 1893 and between three and four thousand spectators saw the teams draw 2-2.

The Picks team was as follows:-

Goal, Hale; Backs, Meacham and Wright; Half Backs, Mellor, Chilton and Moseley; Forwards, W. Edwards, H. Edwards, Southall, Gee and Yates:

The replay took place on March 11th at Perry Barr and Lozells won a closely contested game by the only goal scored.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Walsall and District Junior league on Tuesday June 13th 1893 , Picks along with Walsall Unity, Wordsley Olympic, Wednesbury Rovers and Harts Hill Unity applied for membership of the league and were accepted. Together with Brownhills Albion, Bloxwich Strollers, Cannock Town , Wolverhampton Presbyterians and Cotterills they made up a league of 10 teams for 1893-4 season.

On September 2nd 1893 Picks played their first game in the Walsall and District Junior League when they entertained Brownhills Albion at Portobello and were defeated by 3-0. The line up for that first encounter was:-

Goal, Hale; Backs, Meacham and Wright; Half Backs, Priest, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, Edwards, Lane, Yates, Knowles and Gee:

On September 23rd Jimmy Gee, described as of considerable promise but very young, signed for Walsall Town Swifts who were about to move to their new ground at West Bromwich Road .

Despite this inauspicious start this season was to be the most successful in Picks history to date. Not only did they win the league title at the first attempt but they also won the Birmingham Junior Cup for the first time and also the Walsall Junior Cup. In addition they were also finalists once again in the Staffordshire Junior Cup and the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup. This was a fine performance for the Picks to celebrate their return to league football.

In the league controversy reared its ugly head again when Picks entertained Walsall Unity at Portobello on December 16th. Picks won comfortably enough by 5-2 but despite this the visitors were far from happy, they complained that the referee had admitted disallowing a perfectly good goal for Unity, who complained also that their Goalkeeper Thorpe had already been bundled through before one of Picks goals were scored. As a result he was off the field for a long time, but the protest was all to no avail.

As the climax of the season approached the Picks were battling to win the league championship. They were neck and neck at the top of the league with Wolverhampton Presbyterians. There was little between them and the clubs were due to play each other at Portobello in the last but one league game on April 14th in a game that would decide the league championship.

In view of the importance of the game a larger than usual crowd saw the Picks win comfortably by 4-1, with goals from W. Edwards 2, Langford and Southall. No details of the line up were given in the press report. Picks thus crowned their first season in the league by winning the championship. Their full playing record for the season was:

P

W

L

D

F

A

P

16

11

4

1

46

25

23

In the runners up position was Hednesford Town with 22 points.

In the Birmingham Junior Cup, Picks disposed of Cannock Town in the first round on November 4th by 2-1. They then received a bye in the second. In the third round played on 23rd December they beat Brownhills Albion 3-2 at Portobello. On January 27th they entertained and defeated Mount Zion by 5-2 in the fourth round, and in the fifth round, again at home, they defeated Smethwick Carriage Works decisively by 4-1. This took them to the Semi-final against Bournville. The game was played on March 3rd 1894 on West Bromwich Albion's Stoney Lane ground and again Picks made no mistake, winning by 4-1 with goals by Yates 2, Edwards and Langford.

In the final Picks had to meet the previous years' winners Lozells and a keen contest was anticipated. The game was played on Aston Villa's ground at Perry Barr on Saturday March 31st 1894 and the teams lined up as follows:-

Picks: Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Edwards, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, Yates, Longmore, Tapper, Langford and Edwards:

Lozells: Goal, Ross; Backs, Chattaway and Hodgetts; Half Backs, Salt, Williams and Beach; Forwards, C.E. Harley, Edwards, Harley, Saunders and Staite:

At half time Picks trailed 2-0 and things were looking decidedly uncertain for them, but in the second half they staged a tremendous fight back and managed to level the scores at 2-2 thus earning themselves a replay.

The replay took place on Monday April 23rd at Molineux Grounds and Picks were finally successful, winning decisively by 4-1 to lift the trophy for the first time after two previous failures at the last hurdle.

In the Walsall Junior Cup, Picks path to the final saw them dispose of Bloxwich Strollers at their Bloxwich Ground on October 21st before 1, 000 spectators. The second round on November 25th saw them beat Birchfield Trinity 3-0 at home.

In the third round they entertained Rushall Red Cross on December 23rd and won by 4-2. However, the Rushall team lodged a protest with the Walsall F.A. that "The goal posts were not the required distance apart, a goal was illegally disallowed and a player illegally sent off". The referee, however, said he was sent off for using foul language. The protest was dismissed as frivolous and Picks went forward into the Semi-final.

The Semi-final took place at the Oval Wednesbury on Saturday March 10th 1894 when local rivals Darlaston were their opponents. A crowd of 2,000 gathered to watch the match and the press reported "that they travelled from their respective localities by train, bicycle and wagonette and that interest was at a high pitch of excitement as kick off time drew near".

The teams lined up as follows:-

Picks: Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, W. Edwards, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, Yates, Longmore, Tapper, Langford and H. Edwards.

Darlaston: Goal, Griffiths ; Backs Green and Gough; Half Backs, Myatt, Edge and Davies; Forwards, Porter, Tewkes,Buder, Adey and Wilkes:

The Picks won by 2-0, the goals coming from H. Edwards and an own goal from the keeper and went on to play Windsor Street Gas in the Final.

The Final was played at West Bromwich Road on Saturday April 11th before a crowd of 1,000. Picks fielded the team that had beaten Darlaston in the Semi­finals. Windsor Street Gas lined up as follows:-

Goal, Benton ; Backs, Cotterill and Haslem; Half Backs, Thornwell, Yates and Sham; Forwards, Job, Merrill, Lewis, Trueman and Young:

Picks won 2-1 with both goals coming from H. Edwards who was in fine form. Lewis scored for the losers. Picks thus became the first club to win the cup twice since its inception.

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup Picks reached the final for the third year running, but once again they were to come away empty handed. On October 21st they visited Cannock Town at their Simms Lane ground where 1,000 spectators saw them win easily by 6-3.

It may be that there were few entries this year because by November 11th they were already engaged in the Semi-final against Hanley Town at Hanley. A keenly fought game ended in a 3-3 draw and the Hanley side had to come to Portobello on December 2nd for the replay. This time Picks made no mistake and with the aid of ground advantage and the enthusiasm of their loyal supporters they won comfortably by 2-0.

Their opponents in the final were to be Market Drayton and the game was to be played at Stoke on Monday January 1st 1894 . The Picks were at full strength for the game, their line up being:-

Goal, Hale; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, H.Edwards, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, W. Edwards, Langford, Tapper, Longmore and Yates:

The Market Drayton line up was not given. The Picks, who were favourites, travelled north on a special excursion train together with hundreds of supporters to find on arrival that the pitch was "laid with frost and very rough". In fact it was reported that their chances were considerably minimised by the fact that they had to have "bits" on the bottom of their shoes to enable them to play.

Picks were in for a shock, however, for despite having the balance of play in first half they changed ends losing 3-0 and despite a valiant fight back in the second half they went down by 4-3. It was reported that much money had been laid with the bookies on a Picks win and it was said that the Picks Goalkeeper Tommy Hale had been got at. At any rate he had a very poor game and as a result, lost his place in the team, being replaced by Clarkson who took over shortly afterwards.

In the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup Picks reached the Semi­final where, on the afternoon of Monday April 16th 1894 they defeated Wolverhampton Clutha at Molineux by 2 clear goals. The game was played before a poor crowd in miserable weather.

The final brought together old rivals the Picks and Bloxwich Strollers. These two teams had contested the final the previous season when Picks had won comfortably by 4-1 and in addition, they had knocked Strollers out of the Walsall Junior Cup earlier in the season, so confidence was high in the Picks camp. The match was played at Molineux on Saturday April 28th 1894 . This time things were to be different. A crowd of about 2,000 saw Picks turn in a lack lustre performance to lose this time by 4-1. The Picks consolation goal was scored well into the second half when they were already three goals down.

The Picks:

Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, H.Edwards, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, Yates, Longmore, Tapper, Langford and. W. Edwards.

Strollers:

Goal, Green; Backs, Proffitt and Lyons; Half Backs, Hazlewood, Munn and Phillips; Forwards, Dunston, Sadler,James, Aulton and Harrison:

Despite their disappointments, the Picks had their most successful season to date, their complete record being as follows:-

CHAMPIONS

Walsall and District Junior League

WINNERS

Walsall Junior Cup

WINNERS

Birmingham Junior Cup

FINALISTS

Staffordshire Junior Cup

FINALISTS

Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup

The 1894-5 season, though not to be quite as successful as the previous one, still had its moments. In the league Picks held on to the title they had won the previous season after a slow start. By November 17th 1894 they were on top with 11 points from 8 games and they never looked back, finishing the season as champions with the following record:-

P

W

L

D

F

A

P

16

11

3

3

51

37

23

In The Birmingham Junior Cup they made an early exit when they were defeated by Walsall Unity 3-2 on November 3rd 1894 before a crowd of 2,000. In the Walsall Junior Cup they were ousted by Bloxwich Strollers by 2-1 in the second round on November 24th.

With their early departure from these two competitions, and worried that their fans would not be getting their full complement of cup football, Picks decided to affiliate to the Leamington F. A. and to enter for their cup, which they did. In the first round the Picks had a bye. Then they accounted for Tamworth Town by an unknown score in the second round. They then entertained Coseley Town in the third round at Portobello and won 2-1. This put them into the Semi-final where their opponents were Leamington Town , the match to be played on March 23rd. 1895 on the Emscote Road Ground Warwick.

As usual a special excursion train left the London & North Western railway station packed with 600 supporters intent on cheering their team to the Final and a large crowd was in attendance. Although no crowd figures were given it was reported that £34 was taken in cash at the gate. This was in addition to money from the sale of tickets that were sold in advance of the game giving estimated gate receipts of about £45.

The Picks dominated the game from start to finish. Goals from Edwards, Tapper, Chilton and Longmore saw them romp home by 4-2. No line-ups are reported for this game or the Final.

The final, played on Saturday April 13th at Leamington saw Picks in contention with the powerful Rudge (Coventry) and in addition to the usual special train that left for the Royal Spa town, many more supporters are reported to have taken advantage of the fine spring weather and set off by bicycle although whether they all arrived at their destination is not known. Again a large crowd saw Picks go down by 4-2 after a gallant fight in which they were handicapped by an injury to Harry Edwards who was off the field for a time but later returned amid loud cheers. Longmore scored one of Picks goals. The name of the other goal scorer was never recorded.

On March 30th 1895 Picks entertained a strong Wolves Reserve side at Portobello and managed a creditable draw 4-4 Picks line up on that day was:-

Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Wright and Partridge; Half Backs, Hedges, Chilton and Southall; Forwards, Barratt, H. Edwards, Tapper, Langford and W.Edwards:

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup the Picks reached the fourth round before losing 2-1 to Hednesford Town on October 20th 1894 .

Success did however come their way once more in the Wolverhampton Wanderers Charity Cup Final when they defeated Cannock Town 3-0 at Molineux before only a moderate crowd.

RETURN TO PICKS INDEX

Originally published in book form by Willenhall History Society 1994

©Willenhall History Society