Willenhall History Society

The Picks

The story of Willenhall Pickwicks Football Club

1884 – 1916

Researched and written by Horace and Peter Davis

Chapter 3 TOWARDS THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

On August 31st 1895 the Express and Star, looking forward to the coming season 1895-6, wrote as follows "The best possible feeling prevails in Pickwickian circles at Willenhall. Every effort is being put forth by the executive and players alike to enable the pet club of the locksmiths once more to deserve the appellation once maintained for them through a number of seasons of being "the finest junior side in the midlands". The players for the coming season will be nearly the same as those who figured on the field last season. With the exception of Longmore, who has signed for Bilston United, all last seasons' players are obtainable, Aston, who formerly played for Bilston United joins the Pickwicks. The Committee have made, we feel sure, a very popular selection for Captain in the person of Langford. Both at and away from home "Jack" has always made a favourable impression by his dashing play. The office of Vice Captain has fallen on Hedges, another favourite. Councillor W. R. Tildesley, the newly elected president, has promised to use his influence on behalf of the club who have entered the Walsall Junior League tournament and will compete for the Staffordshire, Wolverhampton , Birmingham and Walsall Junior cups. Mr David Cooper, who for some season's past has served on the Committee, has been appointed by that body as Hon, Secretary, in place of Mr George Loat, who resigned owing to pressure of other engagements. The Picks open fire on Monday next when they will face Bilston United in a friendly encounter at Bilston. The Willenhall ground is again Portobello, and the colours worn will be as before, Red and White (stripes). "

The Walsall and District Junior League for the season 1895-6 consisted of only 9 teams and of these Wolverhampton Presbyterians later withdrew leaving only eight and thus a programme of only 14 games. In order to compensate the Picks once again added the Leamington Charity Cup to their itinerary.

In league competition Picks this time finished in fourth place out of the eight who finished the course, with the following playing record.

P

W

L

D

F

A

P

14

7

5

2

25

22

16

 

In the Birmingham Junior Cup the Picks fell at the third hurdle when Walsall Wood Athletic defeated them by 2-0 at Portobello on November 2nd. They also made an early exit from the Walsall Junior Cup when Walsall Unity inflicted a 7-0 drubbing on them on their Wolverhampton Road Ground on October 26th in the first round.

In the Staffordshire, Leamington and Wolverhampton Cups, however, they were more successful, reaching the Final in all three but once more failing at the last hurdle each time.

In the Leamington Cup the Picks disposed of Glascote St. George's on January 25th 1896 by 2-1 at Glascote with goals from Eddie Lane and Langford. No other matches are recorded until the Semi-final when Picks drew Leamington Town at Portobello on March 28th and despite being without their regular Keeper Picks had no difficulty in winning by 5-3. The final, at Leamington on Saturday April 4th, was watched by 2,000 spectators many of whom had travelled from Willenhall to support their favourites. Their opponents were Redditch Excelsior who turned up for the game 30 minutes late causing Picks to lodge a protest that was of course overruled and Picks went down by 4-0.

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup the Picks were awarded a bye in the first round. In the second round Chadsmoor Swifts came to Portobello on February 1st 1896 and a crowd of 1,500 saw Picks win comfortably 3-1 in a replay following a 2-2 draw at Chadsmoor 2 weeks earlier. Goals came from Eddie Lane , Jimmy Gee and Steemson. In the next round Picks visited and disposed of Rugeley Albion Swifts by 4-0. This brought them to the Semi-final where Cannock Town were their opponents at Portobello. The interval found the Picks trailing by a single goal but shortly after the interval Partridge levelled matters with a fine header and Picks got the winner almost on time. The visitors, however, were not happy at the result and when the final whistle went their supporters swarmed on to the pitch complaining that the referee had played eight minutes over time and that the score was only 1-1 at what should have been full time. A formal appeal was lodged with the Staffordshire F.A. and on Friday February 28th the F.A. met to consider the appeal. After hearing evidence from the referee who stated that he had actually played short time one and a half minutes and hearing from Picks representatives who claimed the match, it was ordered that the game should be replayed at Portobello on March 7th.

The appeal was to no avail as 2,000 spectators saw the Picks win the replay 2-0 and so go forward to the final. Picks opponents in the final were Leek Town and again the ultimate prize was snatched from their gasp when, after being held to a one goal draw at Molineux, Leek snatched the cup by winning 2-1 in the replay at Stoke.

In the first game played on Saturday March 21st 1896 before 3,000 spectators trouble again reared its ugly head when, following a foul by Partridge, a spectator immediately rushed onto the field and deliberately struck him. This caused a large crowd to collect and Police Sergeant Hankinson soon became aware that the services of his men were required. Several free fights broke out and it was fully 10 minutes before order could be restored and the game could continue. The score stood at one goal each at the interval, with the Picks goal coming from Centre Forward Sheimson. There was no further score and the game ended in a draw 1-1.

Picks line up was as follows:

Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Bytheway and Partridge; W Backs, Ecclestone, Hedges and Southall; Forwards, Gee, Lane, Sheimson, Langford and Edwards:

The replay took place on Saturday April 18th at Stoke and as the Picks travelled north several changes were announced to their line up which was as follows:-

Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Bytheway and Partridge; Half Backs, Hedges, Pardue and Southall; Forwards, Gee, Lane, Wright, Langford and Edwards:

Hopes were briefly raised when Picks took an early lead but this was soon cancelled out when C. Lowe equalised soon afterwards. Play continued fast and furious in the second half, Picks put the ball in the net from an indirect free kick but it was of course disallowed because it had entered the net direct without being touched by any other player. Shortly after the disallowed goal, Lowe scored again for Leek and this was to remain the final score. The Picks once more failed at the last hurdle by a score of 2-1.

In the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity cup full details of their fixtures are not available. In the second Round they disposed of Wolverhampton Presbyterians by 2-0 at Portobello on March 14th 1896 . A previous attempt to play the game on January 25th was declared void due to the failure of the referee to put in an appearance. The game on this occasion was eventually played as a friendly which Picks won by 3-1.

In the Semi-final, which was played on Tuesday April 21st Picks beat Dudley Road Excelsior in a closely fought game by 3-2 and thus went forward to meet old rivals Bilston United in the Final.

The Final was played at Molineux on Monday 27th April and between three and four thousand fans turned up to see a keenly fought contest. At full time the score stood at 1 goal each but after consultations both teams agreed to play extra time and during this period Bilston snatched the winner and thus won the cup by the odd goal of three.

On March 14th the Picks agreed to play Darlaston in a benefit match in aid of a Mr W. Palmer who had met with an accident at work. The game was played on the ground of Pleck St. Johns and Picks won by 2-0.

On Friday April 10th it was announced that Picks full back Partridge had been selected to play for the Walsall and District Junior League against Walsall on April 30th on Walsall 's ground. The first of many honours that were to come the way of Picks players in the years ahead.

The 1896-7 season began with the announcement that Picks popular Centre half and captain Jack Chilton was unlikely to play again because of injuries he had received during the previous season. Hedges had been appointed captain and a new centre half named Cusler had been signed. They had also signed a new Centre Forward named Gates and two new full backs Nicholls and Poole . George Poole was a promising player who had played for Wolverhampton and District League side Beulah and who was to play a prominent part with Picks in coming seasons.

Picks got off to a good start in the league which had been extended to 10 clubs this season. By January 9th they led the league with 16 points from 9 games but later fell away to finish in third place behind Champions Bloxwich Strollers and Runners up Darlaston. Things tended to get a bit heated from time to time and on Monday November 6th in a league game at Bloxwich things boiled over after 75 minutes when James gave the Strollers the lead following a corner. Picks protested vehemently about the validity of the goal and when the referee stood firm the Picks left the field causing the game to be abandoned, much to the disgust of the home crowd.

For Saturday February 20th 1897 Picks had arranged a friendly with local side Willenhall City but when they found they had to play a Wednesbury Charity Cup match at Bilston on the following Monday evening they fielded what was

in effect nothing more than a scratch side for the match in order to rest their players for the cup game. The team lined up as follows:-

Goal, C.W. Davies; Backs, Morgan and Humphries; Half Backs, Pearson, Chilton and Ecclestone; Forwards, Corbett, Smallman, Walker, Willis and Bould:

C.W. Davies was the club treasurer. City won 3-0 and it was said that very few of the players had ever played on the ground before.

For this season the Birmingham Association was chosen to provide the team to represent the England Junior International side against Scotland and a number of trials were held to determine the team, one of which was played at Portobello on Monday March 15th 1897 with a number of Picks players taking part. As a result further honours came the way of Picks players when both Poole and Yates were selected to play against Scotland on April 3rd, a game which England won by 5-4.

An interesting situation arose on February 11th 1897 when Picks found themselves due to play Willenhall Albion at home in the Walsall Junior Cup and Aston Old Edwardian in the Leamington Charity Cup, also at home. Picks decided to play both games as arranged with the Game with Albion being played at Portobello and the other game being played on the ground of Willenhall City at Fibbersley. Aston Old Edwardian declined to play their game, objecting to the fact that Picks would not be at full strength and would not be playing on their normal ground. When they failed to appear Picks took the field in accordance with the practice of the day and kicked a goal, thus claiming the game. The Walsall Junior Cup game with Willenhall Albion ended in a draw 2-2 with Picks winning the replay on March 6th by 5-3.

In cup competitions Picks were to win the Walsall Junior Cup and reach the finals of the Wednesbury Charity Cup, the Walsall Hospital Cup and the Wolverhampton Wanderers Junior Charity Cup. In the Staffs Junior cup they were defeated by Bloxwich Strollers 3-1 on January 16th but there was some consolation for Willenhall fans when local side Willenhall Albion defeated Strollers at Portobello by 3-1 in the Semi-final to go into the Final where they lost narrowly to Newcastle Swifts by 3-2.

In the Walsall Junior Cup 2,000 spectators saw Picks defeat Bloxwich Strollers 3-1 in the Semi-final at Brownhills on March 25th 1897 and thus go forward to the Final at Bilston on April 17th where they defeated Brownhills Albion by 3-0 to win the cup. For the Picks Eddie Lane got two of the goals. There was some criticism of the choice of Bilston's Prouds Lane Ground for the final, a reporter of the day commented "I don't think Prouds Lane is a proper enclosure to hold so important a match. Why do they not try to raise a few sticks for a grandstand".

This was to be Picks only success, however, for in the Wednesbury Charity Cup they reached the final having beaten Bilston United, Walsall Reserves and Cannock Town along the way, the Walsall side having been decisively beaten by 7-0. In the final they came up against Wrockwardine Wood from Shropshire , and were unlucky to lose to the only goal scored by Howells early in the game. Clarkson, coming out to meet a high ball misjudged it and saw it bounce in front of him and sail over his head into the net. The game was played at Molineux before a crowd estimated to be at least 5,000 and was said by the President of the Wednesbury Association to be the largest ever to watch such a final and this would mean good medals for the players.

Picks line up for the game was:-

Goal, Clarkson, Backs, Morgan and Poole ; Half Backs, Dutton, Hedges and Baugh; Forwards, Southall, Sambrooke, Gee, Yates and Lane:

In the Final of the Wolverhampton Junior Charity Cup Picks came up against Bilston United at Molineux on April 30th but disappointingly lost by 4-1 with Picks only goal coming from Billy Southall.

In the Final of the Walsall Hospital Charity Cup played on Monday April 26th at Walsall , Picks lost to Bloxwich Strollers by the only goal of the game scored after 17 minutes by Powell. The game, played at Walsall , was watched by 1,500 spectators.

In the Birmingham Junior cup a crowd of nearly 4,000 at Prouds Lane saw Bilston United beat Picks by 2-0. During the 1896-7 season Picks are reported to have played a total of 53 League, Cup and Friendly games.

Picks also entered the Leamington Charity Cup but went down to Rudge (Whitworth) by the odd goal in a replayed Semi-final at Leamington on Thursday April 8th 1897 . The 1897-8 season seems to have been one that was marred by some unrest in the camp. At the club's annual meeting in August Mr W.R. Tildesley was re-elected as club president for the third year, Mr C.W. Davies Treasurer for the tenth year and Mr David Cooper secretary for the third year. By September Mr Davies had resigned for business reasons and his place as treasurer taken by Mr W. Bailey. Sammy Hedges the previous season's captain had departed for Darlaston where it was rumoured that wages and signing on fees were being offered as an inducement to sign. Baugh another popular player had departed for Wellington and there was alarm amongst the supporters of the Picks when rumours swept the town that Darlaston had attempted to lure Billy Southall away from Portobello, but to his credit he decided to remain loyal to the Picks. Clarkson the goalkeeper had also briefly left the club and a new goalkeeper named Butler signed to replace him but Butler was unfortunate enough to break his wrist in a practice game and Clarkson returned for a time. Joining the club from Willenhall City were Massey and Rhodes and from Willenhall Albion Ikey Evans. P. Nevitt was also reported to be available.

By September 25th it was announced that recent signings Rhodes and Massey had also left the club and had joined forces with Willenhall Albion having disassociated themselves from the Pickwick's fans. Tommy Hales the former Picks goalkeeper now with Albion is also reported to have had a disagreement with the Albion committee and was said to be "On the sulks and abandoning the citadel "pro tem". Was this unrest the seeds of professionalism rearing its ugly head in the "lock town"?

Season 1897-8 saw the formation of a new league to be known at first as the Walsall and District Junior League No 2. later to become the Walsall and District Minor League. To avoid the possibility of any confusion, the Walsall and District Junior League, conscious of its more senior status, dropped the word Junior from their title and became the Walsall and District League.

With so much unrest it was hardly surprising that this was not to be one of Picks better seasons, they struggled near the foot of the table for most of the season, rarely getting out of the bottom two and finished 10th out of 11 teams and amassing a total of only 10 points from 20 games. Their full playing record in the league was as follows:-

P

W

L

D

F

A

P

20

4

14

2

22

59

10

 

Some consolation came their way when they added the Walsall Junior Cup to their trophy cupboard. After defeating Bilston and Bloxwich Strollers in the third and fourth rounds they came up against Hednesford Swifts in the Semi‑

final winning a closely fought game by 2-1. The game was played at Darlaston on 26th March 1898 . The Final took place on April 9th at Portobello when Cannock Town were their opponents. Picks won the game 2-1 but Cannock immediately lodged a protest on the grounds that Yates had played for his works side in an unaffiliated game. The protest was upheld and the game was ordered to be replayed on April 23rd at Bloxwich. The Picks line up in the first game was :-

Goal, Roberts, Backs, Poole and Partridge; Half Backs, Dutton, Jones and Shakespeare; Forwards, Thompson, Chilton, H Yates, Kendrick and Belcher:

The protest was all to no avail as the Picks won the replay by 2-0 and so achieved their only success of the season. An interesting aside was that on the same day as the replay Picks also played a league game at Brownhills where presumably they played their reserve team against the Albion and lost by the staggering score of 12-1.

This was not the only protest that the Picks were involved in this season for on February 12th they travelled to Blackheath in the 5th round of the Junior cup and beat Coombs Wood by 2-1 again their opponents lodged a protest on the grounds that Picks had played an illegible player and again it was upheld, the game being ordered to be replayed at Molineux on March 12th and again the Picks maintained their superiority by winning 3-1. The line up for that game being:-

Goal, Clarkson; Backs, Poole and Partridge; Half Backs, Dutton, Jones and Belcher; Forwards, Thompson, Nash, Yates, Kendrick and Shakespeare:

The next stage was the Semi-final and on March 26th Picks played Darlaston at Walsall and went down by 3-1.

The Picks were also busy on the fund raising side and on March 8th they staged a splendid concert at the Town Hall in order to raise much needed funds for the club. Among the artists they had engaged were, Miss A.M. Brown (Bilston) well known and appreciated by members of the Liberal Club, Mr W. Whitehouse (Bilston) a first class tenor formerly engaged as principal tenor at the American Church, Paris; Mr A. S. Marrian (Birmingham) one of Mr Bywaters most successful pupils and an entertainer who was new to Willenhall, Mr Ernest Wilmott. With such inducements friends of the club were expected to rally round in large numbers and give it a much needed lift.

During the course of the season the unrest within the club had taken its toll on the field and there had been numerous changes in the personnel of the playing staff, which had no doubt had its effect on the field of play. Picks however, were putting all this behind them and looking forward to the next season with enthusiasm.

The season 1898-9 began with the club still in a state of turmoil and heavily in debt. At the Annual Meeting the President Councillor W.R. Tildesley resigned and his place was taken by Mr Noah Haynes. Mr David Cooper, the secretary also tendered his resignation after having held the position for the past three seasons and in his place Picks appointed an old player Mr Jack Langford to the position. It was stated that Mr Cooper had had a difficult time from the outset but he had always done his best for the club despite being plagued with players continually leaving the club to turn professional. There were also constant rumours that some clubs were tempting players away with promises of signing on fees and high wages although at this stage the Walsall and District League was still an amateur organisation. Picks problems during the previous season had not been helped by the fact that of 18 cup ties they played, fourteen were played away from home and of these only three had made a profit, the remaining eleven not bringing in enough to pay travelling expenses.

As the Picks had finished last but one in the league the previous season they had to go cap in hand to the league for re-election but in view of their record this was only a formality and the Picks entered the season 1898-99 full of optimism and rightly so. For this season the strength of the league had been increased to 22 clubs and Picks were soon into their stride and heading the league table. By the end of the year they had played 11 league games winning 10 and drawing the other and this form continued to the end of the season when they were declared champions having played 22 games of which they won 18 lost 3 and drew 1. They scored 92 goals with only 30 against them and amassed 37 points. During the whole of the season they had played a total of 43 League, cup and friendly games, of which they won 32 and they scored the staggering total of 184 goals with 64 against.

In this season they also won the Wolverhampton Charity Cup for the seventh time, beating Walsall Unity 13-0 in Round 3 on November 19th, Willenhall Swifts 6-2 on January 28th and disposing of old rivals Wednesbury Old Athletic by 2-0 on February 25th in the Semi-final. Their opponents in the final were Bilston but the score is not known.

In the Staffordshire Junior Cup the Picks reached the Semi-final before losing a close contest by 3-2 to Darlaston on March 4th. Consolation, however, in that this season for the first time the Picks ground was chosen as the venue for the final between Darlaston and Stafford Rangers which was played on March 26th and resulted in a one all draw. For some reason the issue was never decided and the two teams held the trophy jointly.

This season gates reflected Picks success and on October 7th 2,000 spectators saw Picks drop the only point they lost to the end of the year, when Hednesford Swifts held them to a draw 2-2 at the Cross Keys ground on November 5th. It was reported that a special train ran from Willenhall, to convey Picks supporters to Brownhills for their clash with Brownhills Albion, a game the Picks won by 2-1. On October 15th over three thousand filled the Portobello ground to see the Picks decisively beat old rivals Bilston by 4-0.

At this time Junior Internationals were popular and the Birmingham Association was chosen to provide the England team to play Scotland on April 8th at Parkhead and to this end a number of trial games were held throughout Birmingham area. One of these games was held at Portobello on February 27th when the "B" team defeated the "A" team by 2-0 with a number of Picks players appearing. This resulted in George Poole, Picks popular full back being selected for the International Match, the result of which was a goal-less draw.

In February 1898 it was reported that Mr Levi Johnson, a Wolverhampton businessman had purchased the Shakespeare Inn. He also owned the "Ring 0' Bells" in Wolverhampton , a pub that had been used by the Wolves as their Headquarters during their Dudley Road days. Mr Johnson was a native of Macclesfield, being born in 1850. In May 1881 he was elected to the Wolverhampton Borough Council, in which capacity he served for 57 years. He became an Alderman in 1900 and Mayor three years later. For many years he was treasurer of Wolves and was said to have managed their affairs very shrewdly, being largely responsible for keeping their financial affairs on an even keel. Mr Johnson was later to figure prominently in the affairs of the Picks also. He died in 1937 aged 87 and there is a memorial to him in St Peters Church where he was for many years a sidesman.

With the League championship under their belts for the third time Picks looked forward to the 1899-1900 season with a little more confidence although their future was still clouded by financial difficulties. At their Annual Meeting in August the club's treasurer stated that financially the previous season had been the most successful of recent years. The receipts for the year were £223 and expenditure £214 leaving a balance of £9 and the club still had liabilities totalling £53. Several accounts owing from the previous year amounting to about £30 had been paid off. At the end of the season before last the club owed £70 to various creditors. There is now owing about £53 against which the club has cash in hand of £8 and £9 owing in subscriptions and accounts outstanding, thus leaving a total deficit of £34. He pointed out however that the club owns the Grandstand and other fixtures on the ground together with the players’ outfits which would more than cover the deficit.

Bruce Read was appointed to act as joint secretary along with Jack Langford. There were not many changes to the playing staff but Picks announced that C. Massey and W. Kendrick had been transferred to Bloxwich Strollers. Picks also had a reserve team playing in the Walsall and District Junior League.

Picks opened the season on September 2nd 1899 when they entertained Darlaston at Portobello in the Semi-final of the Walsall Hospital Charity Cup before 2,000 spectators, the game ending in a one goal draw. The replay on the following September 9th was the first game played on Darlaston's new City Ground, described in the press as being "a well-appointed enclosure" but Picks went down by 2-1 before about 2,000 spectators. Picks protested that short time had been played but the protest was overruled. In contrast to the previous season Picks struggled near the bottom of the table and by the new year were 8th in the table out of 11 teams with only 8 points from 9 games played.

On January 12th Jack Langford announced his intention to retire from the post of joint secretary due to lack of support but it seems he was persuaded to withdraw it. Picks were still plagued with problems on the field as well, and on April 7th 1900 Picks had to play with only 10 men when it was reported that Clarkson their goalkeeper, who had returned to the club this season, had failed to turn up for the second Saturday running. Rhodes had to keep goal in a game they lost by 1-0 Rhodes must have played reasonably well however for he retained his place in goal for the following week. At the end of the season Picks found themselves lying in 5th place. Their playing record for the season was

P

W

L

D

F

A

P

20

7

9

4

36

54

18

 

On October 21st the final of the Walsall Hospital Charity Cup was staged at Portobello between Bilston United and Darlaston, resulting in a win for Darlaston by 2-0. The game was watched by nearly 3,000, stated to be the largest crowd to be seen on the ground so far.

In the Staffordshire Junior cup Picks reached the fifth round before going out to Wednesbury Old Athletic. The first game on February 24th at Wednesbury ended in a goal-less draw but the replay at Portobello on the following Saturday was charged with drama. With only 17 minutes left to play Picks led by 3-0 seemed to be coasting to victory when the Old Un's staged a grandstand finish to turn the game round and win by 4-3 much to the annoyance of the home followers.

The Picks Birmingham Junior Cup campaign ended in the third round, again after a draw. On January 6th Picks were held to a draw by Brownhills Albion at Home but in the replay on January 20th Albion ran out winners by the odd goal of three.

In the Wednesbury Charity Cup Picks fell at the first hurdle when they were defeated at Tipton Victoria on December 30th by 2-1.

No team line ups have been found for this season but it seems that there were very many changes in personnel, with the inevitable outcome. Again, at the end of the season, the trophy cupboard was bare.

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Originally published in book form by Willenhall History Society 1994

©Willenhall History Society