Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday

Steve McGhee takes a look at some of the programmes issued covering matches between Derby and Sheffield Wednesday.

Formed in 1867 as The Wednesday Football Club (a name they didn’t formally change until 1929), they were invited to join the Football League in 1892 following its expansion from 12 to 16 clubs.

1904/05 Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County

In 1899, Wednesday moved to the ground they occupy to this day. Until 1914, however, the ground was known simply as “Owlerton” as is evidenced on the front cover for their penultimate home game of the 1904/05 against Derby. Both clubs sat comfortably in mid-table so perhaps that, along with the match being played on a Monday, might account for the attendance of just 2,000 – the lowest Derby played in front of all season.

Back in those days, not every club printed a match programme but, of those who did, it would be difficult to believe any matched the Wednesday publication.  At one penny for 16 pages, this appears to be the fifth season of production, implying that it had been the move to their new ground which provided the impetus to issue a programme. The unusual front cover is highly redolent of the era and includes team line-ups with, as the eagle-eyed will notice, Steve Bloomer wearing the number 15 shirt. There is a substantial amount of reading material inside, including a full-page article on the Rams (which mentions that their very first player, Haydn Morley, is now a journalist with the Daily Mail), a separate article detailing the career of Bloomer, “Odds and Ends” and copious statistics including a whole page detailing the individual attendance figures and gate receipts for each FA Cup tie that season (Derby v Preston was watched by 12,000 spectators with receipts of £576). The advertising is particularly interesting with photos of Tom Kay Furniture Removers’ horse-drawn vehicles (including the horse!). Another possible reason for the low attendance at the match is to be spotted on page 4 – this being the first day of Houdini’s week as the star turn at the Alexandra Theatre. The Exchange Dining Rooms offers “quality viands at moderate charges” – viand is a word we don’t often hear these days!  Dunn & Co’s famous hats are offered at 3/9d each. Very smart, too, though the upturned brim would tend to see the rain accumulate, I would have thought.

The match itself ended in a 1-1 draw, the Rams’ goal scored by centre-forward Tom Fletcher, Wednesday’s from Jimmy Stewart.

1923/24 Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County

This action photograph was included in the January 19th, 1924, issue of the “All Sports” magazine (a sister publication to the “Topical Times”, I believe) and shows Derby’s ‘keeper Ben Olney challenged by a Wednesday forward. The caption in the bottom left corner reads ‘Tried and not found wanting. B. Olney, of Derby County, clearing from an attack by the Wednesday forwards.’ From the background, I’m surmising this to be from the match played two weeks earlier at Hillsborough which the Owls won 1-0 in front of a gate of 25,000.

1929/30 Derby County v Sheffield Wednesday

When the fixture list for the season was published, the Easter holiday was similar to Christmas in that the reverse fixture would be played just 24 hours after the original one (assuming neither day was a Sunday). Accordingly, the fixture at the Baseball Ground on April 21st between the two clubs would be quickly followed by the return fixture at Hillsborough the next day. With the two clubs occupying the top two places in the First Division table, the results would go a long way to deciding the destination of the title. It was certainly advantage Wednesday, their 3 point lead (with 2 games in hand) meaning maximum points from the double-header was essential for George Jobey’s team.

The 12 page programme issued for the match is “number 41” for the season and priced at 2d with no match details to be found on the cover. What is surprising is that what editorial the programme possesses (just “Notes & Notions” on page 3 and “By The Way” on page 12) has no mention of the match but concentrates on the upcoming Cup Final between Arsenal and Huddersfield. Even allowing for printing deadlines over a holiday period, this does seem to be another example of mediocrity from the club towards its official organ of communication. At least the advertising is suitable evocative – the Empire Cinema is showing the “all-talking” Gloria Swanson movie “The Trespasser”, prices from 6d to 1/10d. If billiards is more your thing, the Regent Halls in Babington Lane features 24 full-size tables along with light refreshments (on a personal note, I find it a shame that billiards is an almost forgotten game now that snooker is so prominent. With so much repetition, however, I suppose it was never going to be a sport for the television market). If you needed anything asphalted, Derby appears to be the place to live. Three separate adverts from companies more than eager to tarmac your driveway.

The match itself saw the Rams power their way to a 4-1 victory, thanks to a hat-trick from Bobby Barclay and a single strike from John Robson. The Owls’ reply coming from Mark Hooper. The attendance of 25,446 was 5,000 down on the season’s highest which, once again, given the magnitude of the match is surprising.

And so to the return fixture…

1929/30 Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County

With the Owls’ lead down to one point, there was quite the following for Derby who made their way to Yorkshire by coach or train. A lot more than expected as, by the time the match kicked off, there were still long queues at the turnstiles.

The Wednesday programme hadn’t changed much since the example I reviewed earlier from 1905, except the passing of the years is reflected in the fact that the issue is now part of volume 30. Priced at 2d for 16 pages, “To Our Readers” features a short article on the history of the Rams along with a list of bracing tunes the Dannemora Steel Works Prize Band would entertain the crowd with prior to kick off. There’s also a plea to supporters to “buy a programme – don’t borrow one”. Were the club struggling with sales even in a successful season? “Dressing Room Stories” on pages 11 and 13 has very little to do with football and is essentially a series of jokes/amusing stories. Some of them are corny beyond words but one can sense how well they would have gone down in the old Music Halls. The sum of 14 shillings gets you to Wembley for the Cup Final via one of two advertisers in the programme – take your choice between L.M.S. or L.N.E.R. Where the latter might have the edge is they included a restaurant car even for third class tickets. The Angel Hotel takes out a full page ad, one of the highlights being their “whist drives for 150 people” whilst Ellesmere Coaches promise you “health, happiness, life and freedom” on their pneumatic-tyred vehicles. “Travel On Air” as they put it. Sounds impressive!

The match itself was an end-to-end affair, the home side coming out on top 6-3 in front of a crowd of 41,218. The Rams goalscorers were Barclay and Robson once again as well as Harry Bedford. Jack Allen netted a hat-trick for the hosts, Walter Millership, Mark Hooper and Ellis Rimmer also on target. Eventually the Owls did the necessary with their games in hand to win their maiden title.

1934/35 Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County

August 1934 saw Wednesday switch to a larger-size programme. The number of pages rose from 16 to 20, team lineups were switched to the centre pages and the striking front cover now bore an artist’s representation of Hillsborough. Still priced at 2d, it was excellent value for money.

The editorial “To Our Readers” details Derby’s history along with pen pictures of the expected line-up. There’s also an intriguing but confusing item entitled “Derby’s Grouse” which hints at ill-feeling on the pitch between the Rams’ players and those of Sunderland. The Roker Park club had made a complaint to the F.A. and Derby were not given a right of reply. The editorial concludes by repeating the complaint made by Tottenham Hotspur that lower division clubs would automatically inflate their valuation of a player once it was found out that it was Spurs who were the potential buyer. The Dannemora Steel Works Prize Band are still the resident band on matchday and page 13 lists today’s musical itinerary (6 tunes, including “Entry of the Gladiators”). “Fan Fare”, penned by Smiler Wile, wryly recollects a game of snooker he had in the players’ clubroom at Hillsborough. As he had never played snooker before and didn’t know the rules, you can probably guess how the article would pan out. There are a couple of enlightening numbers hidden under the “Supporters Club Notes” column. Firstly, that membership stood at just over 1,000 (which seems low for a club that size in that era) and that a “special campaign” was about to begin to try and increase that by 8% per month. Secondly, the Owls’ previous away game had been against local rivals Huddersfield but that “only” 200 Wednesday fans made the trip. The low turnout blamed on the “deluge” of rain falling over the area that day. Many of those who were advertising in the programme of 1930 were still doing so four years later with whist drives strangely prominent. Both front and back pages feature ads for razor blades (Sheffield still had a steel industry then). On page 6, the LNER have taken out a full-page ad in an attempt to explain how best to apply for group travel tickets – a complex process involving a number of related factors. Moviegoers have the latest “Tarzan” offering at The Regent – Johnny Weismuller in the lead role, whilst over at the Albert Hall, “Such Women Are Dangerous” starring Warner Baxter is the main attraction.

Derby went into the match on great form, having won 5 of their previous 6 games, and had risen to 5th place in the table, overtaking the hosts who lay in 8th place. On the day, however, in front of a rather disappointing attendance of 19,401, a single Harry Burgess goal earned the Owls both points.

1943/44 Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County

A striking cover for this, the fifth of ten matches Derby played in the Football League War Cup Qualifying Competition that season. Wednesday were unbeaten to date, however the Rams had lost their last two matches, home and away to Leicester City.

The programme issued, at 1d for 4 pages, was, as all were in those days of paper rationing, basic but at least colourful. Team lineups are on page 2. With players on active service and the heavy reliance on guest players, the lineups printed in a programme didn’t always bear very much resemblance to that out on the pitch but, here, there were only 3 changes to the Rams’ XI. “Lines from the Lads” on page 3 is simply a couple of messages to fans from Owls players who were guesting for clubs nearer to where they had been billeted. Statistics fill the back page. There is still sufficient room to include adverts for safety razors, scissors and cutlery along with “Godfrey’s cough linctus” which promises to look after “your chest and lungs as you yell ‘em to victory”.

A crowd of 9,000 on the day witnessed a 3-1 win for the home team, Dally Duncan on target for the Rams.

1953/54 Derby County v Sheffield Wednesday (reserves)

The autumn of 1953 saw the Rams back in the Second Division for the first time since 1926 and, by late November, with 17 matches played, they were struggling to come to terms with the change in status, lying 15th in the table as they were. Not so the club’s reserve team, however, who were 3 points clear of Burnley at the top of the table as well as being the league’s highest scoring club with 51 goals in 18 games. These had been shared amongst no fewer than 13 players, Ray Wilkins leading the way with 12 goals. Whilst the first XI were trying to get their season going again at Plymouth, Sheffield Wednesday’s reserve team were next up at the Baseball Ground. For the match, the standard 4 page programme was issued costing 2d.

Match details are on the front page, though the prominence of the upcoming match against Swansea means it’s easy to misinterpret which match this programme refers to! There is no editorial, just the usual stats on pages 2 and 4 and team lineups on page 3. There is an advert for the upcoming floodlit friendly against Partick Thistle where it is noted that the only seats that could be booked in advance were for those in the “B” stand.

The Rams maintained their position as league leaders with a 5-2 victory, goals shared between Jack Stamps and Cecil Law – I’m just not very sure in what proportion! Indeed, with Stamps on the verge of moving to Shrewsbury Town, I’m wondering if this was the last match the club legend would be on the scoresheet for the Rams. Any observations gratefully received.

1958/59 Derby County v Sheffield Wednesday

The last programme I feature comes from September 1958 when, following the Owls’ relegation the season before, the two clubs renewed their rivalry in the Second Division. Both clubs had lost only once in the early weeks of the campaign, the healthy attendances recorded at their respective home fixtures a benchmark of that confidence.

Derby issued their standard 16 page programme for the match, priced at 3d. There are detailed reports from the club’s previous games at Ipswich and Scunthorpe along with pen-pictures of the Owls’ first team squad.  On page 7 is a notice that a collection would be taken prior to kick-off and at half time in aid of the RAF Association and that the band of No.126 Squadron from Derby would be playing.  The advertising reflects the industrial nature of the area at the time though there is an interesting one from Derby Airways offering a daily return service to Glasgow. British Railways offer return tickets priced 21 shillings to London for the upcoming game at Fulham.

The Rams seemed to freeze on the day, however, as Wednesday dominated the match, coming out on top 4-1 in front of a crowd of 24,227. The Owls’ goals came from Jim McAnearney, Redfern Froggatt and a brace from Derek Wilkinson, the Rams’ consolation reply in the 81st minute from Dave Cargill.

The Yorkshire team would go on to win the Second Division that season, promoted along with Fulham.  For Derby, a final position of 7th was as good as it would get before their own title win a decade later.

This article was first printed in issue 17 of Derby County Memories (June 2017). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.