Willenhall History Society

The Picks

The story of Willenhall Pickwicks Football Club

1884 – 1916

Researched and written by Horace and Peter Davis

Chapter 4 INTO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The early years of the new century were to be notable to the Picks for a lack of the success that they had been accustomed to for most of the nineties. Times were changing, professionalism was becoming a force that had to be reckoned with although still not officially admitted at Picks level. At the A.G.M. of the Walsall and District League on June 23rd 1900 the idea of accepting professionalism was discussed and decisively rejected although it was generally accepted that some clubs were paying their players unofficially. Others felt it would be the end for them if it was to be legalised.

The Boer War was now in full swing and the newspapers were using up more column inches on the reports from the front and inevitably less on football. Tommy Hale, Picks veteran goalkeeper who had first played for them in 1892 and in between service with Willenhall Albion and Willenhall City , had several spells with the Picks, now joined the army and was serving in South Africa .

The 1900-01 season, still dogged by internal problems, was an undistinguished one for the Picks who after a very moderate season could only finish in 7th place out of 12 clubs in the league. Their playing record was.

P

W

L

D

F

A

Points

21

8

11

2

45

49

18

The game against Tipton Victoria at home was not played due to the failure of the Tipton team to turn up for the match. Line-up's were rarely shown in the press but on September 29th 1900 Picks team to play Bloxwich Strollers at Home for which the result was not given was:-

Goal, Kay; Backs, Poole , Clift; Half Backs, Dutton, A. Clift, Southall; Forwards, Knowles, Evans, Barnett, Haynes and Sanders:

We also learn that the Town Silver Prize Band were to play selections before the game to entertain the fans.

Symptomatic of Picks problems was a comment in the Express and Star on September 22nd when the reporter asked "Do not Picks have a groundsman as the seats in the pavilion are filthy".

Picks seemed to always be plagued with the problem of late kick offs due to players failing to turn up on time and on November 23rd 1900 Picks turned up at Hednesford for a third round game in the Staffordshire Junior Cup an hour late. They lost the match by the odd goal of three. Without floodlights which were unheard of in those days, late starts quite often resulted in games not being completed in the winter months due to the onset of darkness.

Portobello was again chosen as the venue for the Walsall Hospital Charity Cup that was staged on November 17th between Wednesbury Old Athletic, and Bilston United, which Bilston won by six goals to one. Apart from this, Picks only moderate success was in the Wednesbury Charity Cup where they reached the final and on April 13th 1901 they fought a hard earned draw one goal each with Darlaston at Wednesbury. The replay took place the following week April 20th at Portobello when 3,000 fans saw them defeated by 4-2.

Season 1901-02 was to be the worst in Picks history so far, the team was going through a transitional stage and there was little continuity throughout. The league was down to 10 teams with Cheslyn Hay having resigned because of financial difficulties. Picks started the season with five defeats in a row, including being knocked out of the Walsall Hospital Charity Cup 2-1 at Darlaston on September 7th 1901 before a crowd of 2,000. On September 21st Picks visited Hednesford Swifts and suffered a 5-1 defeat at the Cross Keys ground. The following week they again travelled to Hednesford to play the Town team on the Anglesey ground with what they claimed was a much stronger team and this time they were crushed by 8-0. They did however play a large part of the game with only 10 men as their Centre Forward Pearce had to leave the field with a nasty eye injury.

On October 14th Picks staged a Benefit Match for their old Centre Half and Captain Jack Chilton and for this game the present team were to play the Picks Old Uns as represented by:-

Goal, Ike Banks; Backs, T. Wright, J. Chilton; Half Backs, F. Moseley, S. Hedges, A. Pearson; Forwards, N. Mellor , J.Longmore, J. Gee, J. Langford and W. Edwards:

The result of the game is not known.

On October 26th Picks visited Wednesbury Old Athletic in the Bilston Charity Cup and lost by the odd goal. For this game, Tommy Hale, Picks burly custodian who was on leave from the front returned to the team to give the finest exhibition of goal keeping seen at Wednesbury. At this stage it was reported that the team was experimental and contained only three players, Hale, Poole and Sanders, who were with the club at the start of the season.

Picks league season continued to deteriorate and on April 5th 1902 they entertained Wednesbury Old Athletic at Portobello in appalling weather and were defeated by 5-2. A crowd of only 100 turned up and in view of the bad weather they were allowed to watch the game from the seats without payment. Picks line up for that game was :-

Goal, Sanders; Backs, Poole , Vickers; Half Backs, Dutton, Whitehouse, Shakespeare; Forwards, Hodgkiss, Yates, Foster, Hicken and Tranter:

Tommy Hale, who had been acting as captain during his leave played his last game before returning to the front on Monday February 10th 1902 in the fifth round of the Staffordshire Junior Cup when Picks entertained Bilston United at Portobello before a crowd of 2,000 and lost by 4-1. The previous Saturday Picks should have played Cannock Town at home in the Wednesbury Charity Cup but the referee declared that neither the pitch nor the weather was fit. The Association, however, ruled that Monday's game had to go on whether the pitch was fit or not. It was reported that Tommy Hales had a very poor game, having very little to do despite being beaten four times, his opposite number in the Bilston goal being four times as busy. After the game Tommy left for the front with the best wishes of his colleagues and Shakespeare took over the skipper's role.

With Hale's departure imminent Picks signed a new Goalkeeper named Lester from West Bromwich Standard but on Saturday March 1st it was reported that Lester had failed to turn up for the game with Wednesbury Old Athletic at Wednesbury and Picks went down by 5-1 with full back Vickers in goal. This was the second consecutive week that he had let them down. On the following Monday Picks, now with Sanders in goal, turned the tables on The Old Uns defeating them by three goals to one in the Walsall Junior Cup fourth round to reach the Semi-final where they drew 1-1 with Brownhills Albion at Bloxwich with the following team:-

Goal, J.Sanders; Backs, J. Tranter, W. Vickers; Half Backs, J. Dutton, R. Whitehouse, S. Shakespeare; Forwards, C. Hodgkiss, A. Yates, H. Foster, L. Hicken and F. Sanders:

Yates scored Picks goal. A large crowd saw Picks go down in the replay at Portobello by 3-0. J. Hopkins replaced Foster at Centre Forward and Foster moving to the left wing vice F. Sanders.

Picks ended the season on April 20th when Bridgetown Amateurs were the visitors and they turned up so late that the kick off did not take place until 5.30pm . The game ended in a goal-less draw and the press reported that it was the only occasion on which Saturday evening football had taken place at Portobello. The Picks had never been off the bottom of the league all season, the first time ever in which they had found themselves in this position. The record for the season was.

P

W

L

D

F

A

Points

18

4

12

2

25

59

10

They were firmly entrenched on the bottom and had to go cap in hand to the league at the A.G.M. to apply for re-election, which fortunately was granted.

During the season Picks were again in trouble with the authorities as a result of crowd behaviour at Portobello on December 14th when they played Hednesford Swifts in the third round of the Walsall Junior Cup, a game which Picks had won 3-2. A Meeting of the Walsall F.A. on Friday January 24th 1902 ordered Picks Committee to provide accommodation on the ground for the referee and to provide police assistance at all matches in future. Warning notices were also to be posted in prominent places. It was also stated that the Picks committee did not provide much assistance to the referee. The match ordered to be replayed at Hednesford with Picks forfeiting their share of the gate to the association. If these instructions were not carried out the league would consider impounding Picks share of the previous gate.

If the previous season had been disastrous for Picks 1902-03 season was not to be a lot better in terms of the success achieved. They opened the season on Monday September 1st by being the first team to play on Cannock Town's Brookfield ground, but they lost by the odd goal of three. Picks first success came on September 20th when they visited Walsall Reserves and defeated them by 4-0 before 600 spectators. Burden 2, Reed and Lane were the goal scorers. There were few successes at league level however and Picks finished the in ninth place out of twelve having played 22 games, winning only 6 losing 13 and drawing 3. Only 32 goals were scored against 59 conceded. 15 points saw them just about safe.

On September 27th Picks exchanged Dutton for Albert Evans of Bilston in an effort to effect an improvement but it did not seem to have the desired effect. One bright spot, however, was the form of Joe Hopkins, a local lad who had joined the Picks during the previous season and was now beginning to make his presence felt. By 1904 Hopkins form had attracted the attention of Wolves and he duly signed for them where he eventually made his first team debut on November 14th 1904 at Manchester City where he marked his debut by scoring Wolves only goal in a 5-1 defeat. He made 47 first team appearances, scoring 14 goals from the wing before injury forced him to retire at the end of the 1906-07 season.

Crowd trouble was much in evidence during this season again, and yet again Hednesford Swifts were involved. On November 22nd they came to Portobello for a game in the 4th round of the Staffordshire Junior Cup and although Picks appeared to have won comfortably by 6-0 it was reported that there were disgraceful scenes during the game, which culminated in an unfortunate incident near the end. Two players began fighting, many of the crowd rushed on to the field to join in and a lively time ensued with blows being freely struck. The game ended with one of the players who had been involved taking to his heels, with the other players and most of the crowd in hot pursuit. Whether the incident had any bearing or not is not known, but at the end of the season Hednesford Swifts had to seek re-election but they failed to obtain sufficient votes and went out of the league.

In cup competitions Picks fared a little better. In the Birmingham Junior Cup they reached the Semi-final, disposing of Princes End United 5-0 in Round 2, Kingswinford Wanderers 3-2 in Round 3, Birchills Villa 2-1 in round 4 and Woodsetton 3-2 in round 5 before falling in the Semi-final 5-0 to Bournville on March 14th 1903 on Nettlefolds ground at Stirchley. In the Wolverhampton Junior Charity Cup they also reached the Semi-final but this time Woodsetton turned the tables with a 4-2 win on March 28th. In the Staffs Junior Cup they reached round 5 before losing 2-0 at Darlaston on January 17th and in the Walsall Junior Cup they went out in the third round, being beaten at home by Bilston United 2-0. The Picks line up for the game was:-

Goal, Sanders; Backs, Tranter, Poole ; Half Backs, Evans, Whitehouse, Southall; Forwards, Lane, Hicken, Foster, Reed and Burden:

Interestingly, Billy Southall who first played for the club way back in 1890, was still playing in 1902 and was probably Picks longest serving player ever.

In the Wednesbury Charity Cup 4,000 spectators saw Picks defeated 4-0 in the third round at Darlaston on December 20 th, their line up on that occasion being the same as had been beaten by Bilston in the Walsall Junior Cup.

After their eventful fourth round tie in the Staffs Junior Cup Picks lost 2-0 at Darlaston in the next round on January 17th.

The Picks affairs were still very unsettled as the 1903-04 season began. At the Annual Meeting Mr Noah Haynes, who was a member of the Local School Board had felt he could no longer carry on as President and in his place Mr Levi Johnson, who had recently purchased the Shakespeare Inn was elected, bringing with him a wealth of experience to the committee. Jack Langford was still carrying out the duties of secretary but he would now operate in tandem with Mr Charles Hobley. Of the previous seasons playing staff only two had been retained, George Poole who would captain the side and Joe Hopkins who would act as vice captain. Picks poor form in recent times had resulted in support being drawn away from them by an emerging Willenhall Swifts who although only playing in the Wolverhampton and District League, a much lower standard than the Picks, were more successful and they had a ground at the Wakes Field that was more central.

Before the season commenced it was announced that former Picks player Wolverson had been suspended for playing during the summer months, and the suspension that had previously been imposed on full back Vickers was now rescinded.

With the expertise of Levi Johnson behind them Picks began a slow improvement, they opened the season with a three all draw at home to Walsall Reserves on September 5th with the goals coming from Hopkins 2 and Barnett, and the following week a large crowd saw them beat old rivals Bilston United at home 4-3. The kick off in this game was put back for 1 hour to enable supporters to watch a walking match that was taking place at the Robin Hood grounds between Southall and Massey, presumably the two former players. It is not recorded who won the walking match.

Picks continued to show some improvement and by the end of October they were lying a handy fourth but then two successive defeats at the hands of Darlaston set them back, the second was on November 14th when they lost 4-2. The line up on that day was:-

Goal, Wright; Backs, Adams , Haddon; Half Backs, Poole , Belcher, Wootton; Forwards, Ginder, Barnett, W.Cooper, A. Cooper, and Hopkins :

That gives some idea of the changes that had taken place from the previous season. Tommy Wootton, who had come into the side this season was another player who was to serve the Picks loyally for many more years.

With the improvement on the field, gates also improved and on September 26th 2,000 spectators saw Picks hold Wednesbury Old Athletic to a 2-2. On October 10th a further attendance of 2,000 saw them dispose of Bloxwich Strollers by 3-1. Picks continued to maintain their improved league form and finished 5th out of 12 teams with the following record.

P

W

L

D

F

A

Points

22

9

8

5

43

39

23

This season also saw the Picks back to winning ways in cup competitions, when, for the first time in several seasons they lifted the West Bromwich Charity Cup by beating Bilston 1-0 before a very large crowd on Thursday April 28th 1904 on the Willenhall Road Ground Bilston. They were described as the first Junior side to gain possession of this handsome trophy worth 100 guineas and donated by the West Bromwich Charity Association. The local press reported the post match scenes as follows:- "The captain of the locksmiths on being presented with the cup by the association representative, expressed a desire to be able to retain it for some time, and afterwards Mr Bailey responded and thanked the team for their splendid victory, wishing the association success. The cup was well seasoned and speeches were made complementing the team, and also wishing the success to be the means of increasing the financial position of affairs. The victory will do the club a vast amount of good. This being the first piece of silver won by the Picks for some seasons a great amount of enthusiasm existed, and on reaching Willenhall the town was crowded to excess, all eager to give vent to their feelings of appreciation of a meritorious victory. The players were cheered again and again through the Market Place, along the Old Road , and all the way to their Headquarters". The Picks had disposed of Wednesbury Old Athletic at the third attempt as well as the reserve sides of both Walsall and West Bromwich to reach the final.

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Originally published in book form by Willenhall History Society 1994

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