HISTORY CORNER - MAY
By some strange symmetry, the football season for the Sheffield Football Club has mirrored the early years in recent times, with games in May very much not the norm. It is now 10 years since Club took to the pitch beyond the end of April and over the first 80 years of our existence there are just 2 May games in the archives, due in large part to the new cricket season taking precedence as the more popular game at the time.
In 1863 Sheffield played a side, listed as “Garrison”, selected from soldiers based at Hillsborough Barracks. The fixture was Sheffield’s last before the formation of the Football Association, in October 1863, and neatly bookended the pre-Association years, which had begun with the club turning to Army Regiments to provide external opposition before the formation of another Football Club! “Garrison” won the match with some ease on this occasion, although the rules allowed striking and throwing of the ball so were not the usual regulations for the Sheffield side which had moved towards a purely kicking game at that stage.
The fixture was played on the Queen’s Grounds, which stood across from the rear of the Barracks, on which cricket, athletics, and football took place, often drawing large crowds of spectators. The sports ground has long disappeared, but the pub still stands to this day, although customers who stop in for a drink probably little suspect the building sits between two sites, the Barracks to the front, where a Football Club first played an external opponent, and the once famous grounds behind, of footballing history!
The sides were to have met for a return game the following Saturday, played under Club’s Sheffield Rules, but, showing the still disorganised nature of the game at the time, the opposition “had gone to Scarborough" instead!
May fixtures remained rare for a long time, with just one more listed, before league seasons began to commonly extend into the month, from just before World War II. One interesting bit of May history is from a game against Bentley Colliery, in the Yorkshire League, in 1950. Due to the unavailability of Club’s normal pitch, the match was played at the Coach & Horses ground in Dronfield. Of course, in 2001 the club officially relocated to Dronfield, and it has remained our home ever since, but our first ‘home’ game here actually took place over 50 years earlier than most people think. It also appears we have a long-running habit of playing behind pubs!
Obviously, with May being at the end of so many seasons we have matches that competed promotion and relegation campaigns in the record books, along with several big finals. There was a Yorkshire League Cup Final win in 1978, Club easily beating Maltby Main 4-1 at Bramall Lane, and Northern Counties League Cup successes in 2001 and 2005. Five Sheffield & Hallamshire FA Cup victories came in May between 1994 and 2010. The last of those games was a thrilling 4-2 win against Hallam and was all the more enjoyable as it took place exactly 48 years to the day after our old rivals had beaten us in our first ever final appearance in the famous old competition!
Since then, there have been just three May matches. In 2011 we won 2-1 at Sandygate, to make the 150th anniversary of the world’s first inter-club game between Sheffield and Hallam. Later in the month Club travelled to Rome, to play against Italian side Pro Appio, winning the friendly with some ease, by a 12-2 scoreline.
Our last outing in the month saw Club losing to Frickley in the Sheffield & Hallamshire Cup Final in 2013 – on our side, that day were both Warren Burrell and Jack Muldoon, two players we have been proud to watch go on and have success with Harrogate Town, both making well over one hundred Football League appearances. On the scoresheet for Sheffield in the final was Matt Roney, who is the only player in our current squad to ever make a May appearance in the Red & Black, in fact playing in our last eight May fixtures! Roons made his debut back in October 2005 and has since gone on to set a club record appearance total of 508 competitive games played, with his introduction from the bench in our last game of this season meaning he has now appeared in eighteen consecutive seasons – a true legend of the world’s oldest Football Club!
Words: Andy Dixon, Club Historian.