HISTORY CORNER - APRIL
In the earliest days of football clubs the season didn’t overlap with the cricket season, with most members returning to play the summer sport for the next several months. The only April games we have recorded from the first 30 years came in 1865 as Club beat local side Pitsmoor before travelling to play in Lincoln later in the month. The biggest feature of note from both matches was that they were each players as 11-a-side games. Up to this point the number of players on each side had varied greatly, stronger clubs often playing with less men on the field, but from around this time onwards 11 seemed to become the accepted number.
From the 1880s to the end of the century the feature of April was generally an Easter weekend tour – there was no complaining about overcrowded fixture schedules in those days as the tours would regularly see Club playing each day, apart from Easter Sunday, over the weekend! The 1892 took in a total of 5 games in 6 days! Those tours saw Sheffield play clubs such as Third Lanark, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Swindon, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
April the 4th 1904 witnessed the greatest success in the club’s history when goals from John Hoyland, Harold Bedford and Frederick Milnes helped Sheffield beat Ealing to lift the FA Amateur Cup. The match was played in front of a crowd of around 6,000 at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium and remains Sheffield FC’s only nationwide trophy success.
By the end of the 1957/58 season, striker Geoff Robinson had scored an amazing 241 goals from 227 games played but age catches up with everyone and, although still making appearances for the Reserves, he stopped playing in the first team. Just over 4 years on from his last appearance, in April 1962, a backed up fixture schedule saw Club playing both a Yorkshire League match and a Sheffield FA Cup Semi Final on the same day! The first team travelled to Stocksbridge and won to reach the cup final with a second side put together to fulfil the league fixture against Saltaire – the side included Robinson and, although they narrowly lost the game, of course he scored one last time, his final total of 242 comfortably standing as a club record to this day.
April 1977 witnessed the club’s only ever Wembley appearance. At the start of the month Club won a 2-legged Semi Final to set up the FA Vase Final match at the national stadium. A goal from John Pugh was enough to secure a 1-1 draw against Billericay Town, meaning a replay was required. Sadly, the replay ended in defeat but let’s not dwell on that as it didn’t happen in April!
This month will mark the 22nd anniversary of Sheffield playing at the Coach & Horses ground in Dronfield. After a nomadic existence the club moved to our current home and played out a 0-0 draw against Thackley, in the Northern Counties East League, although the ground wouldn’t be officially opened until the following July with a visit from Manchester United!
In April 2008 Sheffield beat a young Ajax side, 2-0 at Bramall Lane, to conclude our 150th anniversary celebrations. Although we didn’t know it at the time, the 5th of April in 2014 was a notable date – after missing the previous two games winger James Gregory returned to the side for a trip to Sutton Coldfield and it would be nearly two years before he missed another match, with his run of 93 consecutive appearances setting a new club record.
Due to the global pandemic we had no April games in 2020 or 2021 but faced a busy end to the season last year, taking 8 vital points from 6 games to successfully see off relegation worries. This time round we are, unfortunately, looking nervously over our shoulders at the bottom 4 places in the table again. Hopefully plenty of you can get down to as many of our April games as possible and help us get the points we need to retain our Northern Premier League status, ahead of a much more successful campaign in 2023/24.