Monday, 14 June 2021
Saturday, 12 June 2021
Story of 19th century English footballer, Fred Spiksley, has EARLY DAYS OF a Celtic connection
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
Reproduced from the Celtic View 2017
THE 19th century saw the birth of association football, a sport that was often a chaotic mixture of professional and amateur organisation. Those who played the game in those early years were the pioneers of something that is now played and watched in all corners of the globe, providing unimaginable riches to those who play at the highest level.
Celtic, of course, were formed back in those early days, formed just over 130 years ago, on November 6, 1887, and in recent years, the Celtic Graves Society have sought to remember and properly honour the early Celts, from the Founding Fathers to those who first played for the team.
Indeed, their next event takes place at St Kentigern’s Cemetery, Lambhill, Glasgow, on Saturday, December 2 (12noon) to mark the final resting place of Alec Collins, one of those early Celts.
Earlier this year, the Graves Society travelled further afield, joining forces with supporters of Slavia Prague for a ceremony at the graveside of Johnny Madden in the Czech Republic capital.
Madden had played in Celtic’s first ever game – the 5-2 win over Rangers on May 28,1888 – while he was part of the first Celtic team to win the Scottish League (1893).
He later became known as ‘the father of Czech football’ following his years coaching with Slavia. And he appears in a new book which celebrates the colourful life of Fred Spiksley, a celebrated footballer in England during that time, though the story of his life is one which has long been forgotten until now.
Flying Over An Olive Grove by Mark Metcalf and Clive & Ralph Nicholson (both relatives of Fred Spiksley), has brought Spiksley’s story to life.
An FA Cup winner with Sheffield Wednesday, he hit a hat-trick for England against Scotland, while he was also chased along the touchline by the future Queen of Britain, shared a stage with Charlie Chaplin and escaped from a German prison in 1914… and that’s just the information provided in the dust jacket!
Fred Spiksley crossed paths with Johnny Madden when they both played together for Gainsborough Trinity in 1887, prior to Madden joining the Celts.
Madden had already established himself as a player of note, playing and scoring for Dumbarton in their 1887 Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibernian, a result which helped precipitate Celtic’s formation.
The seeds of his future career as a coach were sown at Gainsborough, who had given him this title when they brought him to the club as a way of circumventing the rules governing the signing of professional players at the time. However, Madden took the role, and that of player, seriously, and Fred Spiksley and his team-mates were to benefit from that attitude and experience.
Spiksley later said of the early Celt: “There’s no doubt I owe a great debt to Madden as I was placed under his guiding influence, and he became my coach, mentor and friend.
“On being introduced to senior football, there is no doubt that for their future success and welfare, young players greatly need the steadying influence of an experienced and talented player close at hand. His advice, if followed, will go a long way towards bringing out any ability that young players may possess.
” The story of Fred Spiksley is an entertaining and informative one for any football fan interested in the early years of the beautiful game, brought to the current generation of supporters with family pride by his ancestors.
Thursday, 10 June 2021
Big Issue North 31 May - 6 June
Watchdog slammed over Covid
Unions say employers under-report deaths
The Health and Safety Executive has been accused by campaigners and unions of failing to protect workers during the pandemic.
Activists say the government body has allowed employers to under-report occupational exposure to the virus and failed to ensure personal protective equipment and ventilation standards have been rigorous enough.
Employers should report cases to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if a worker has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence it was caused by occupational exposure.
In the 13 months to May 2021 there were 32,500 Covid-19 cases reported by employers and 388 deaths. These are small figures compared with the 4.4 million people nationally who have contracted Covid-19 and the 15,263 registered working-age deaths.
Sixty per cent of reports were in the health and social work sector, including hospitals, residential homes and day centres, with 7 per cent in education and 5 per cent in manufacturing.
Janet Newsham, co-ordinator of the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, which advises workers on safety, said: “They are an underestimate of those who have contracted Covid and died as a result. If there is a public inquiry into the pandemic it should include looking to find the truth about workplace infections and deaths.”
James Martin, a trade union tutor at Warrington and Vale College, said union reps have reported cases to him where workers have been told to wear a mask rather than a visor. This has led to people wearing glasses being unable to work safely due to them steaming up.
Martin has also heard of employers unwilling to conduct mandatory Covid-19 safety inspections.
The Employment Act says employees have the right to leave work if they are facing serious or imminent danger.
Martin said the union Unite had backed staff who feared super-spreader events at employers, threatening industrial action, and this had resulted in improved safety measures.
“But that is not an approach that can be taken by less well-organised workplaces,” he said. “The HSE should be helping such workers but it is an unreliable source of advice and support. It fails to inspect many workplaces and allows employers to self-regulate themselves.”
HSE says it has undertaken investigations into 216 of the reported 388 deaths and made over 219,500 Covid19 workplace spot checks, Watchdog slammed over Covid Unions say employers under-report deaths of which 92,000 were site visits. Daily workplace checks average over 2,000, up from 700 in November 2020.
HSE says spot checks have been targeted at industries where workers are most vulnerable to transmission risks and 90 per cent of employers checked either have the right precautions or will make changes without the need for enforcement notices.
But Newsham said: “Covid spot checks are mainly phone calls. The HSE got £14 million extra public funds but have not employed fully trained inspectors and have relied on untrained staff using body cameras on workplace visits.”
She added that inspectors have generally failed to contact union officials, who are “independent voices that are critical to ensuring employers carry out their safety responsibilities”.
She said: “Trade unionorganised workplaces are safer. By taking our advice on the transmission risk, which early on we knew was mainly airborne, union reps have pushed employers into improving workplace ventilation.”
Employers found guilty of breaking health and safety laws can be fined, jailed or lose the right to be a company director. HSE has not prosecuted any employers for breaking laws over Covid-19.
A HSE spokesperson claimed that the best use of its time is “through persuasion, advice and reprimand, not slower legal proceedings”.
The spokesperson added: “To meet the demand for PPE in healthcare, legal requirements have been temporarily eased, including conformity assessment procedures and CE/UKCA marking. To ensure these products are safe their supply must be agreed by HSE as the market surveillance authority for workplace PPE.”
Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Disabled people and benefits, access to services, the Equality Act and hate crime are all examined by Tim McSharry of the Access Committee for Leeds, an unfunded long-standing disabled led volunteer organisation.
In 1971 and inspired by the 1970 Equal Pay Act, Allyson Daykin and her young workmates got organised at KP Foods and later won better terms and conditions. Victory initially though did not just mean challenging management practices!
In 1971, aware that the 1970 Equal Pay Act had been enacted after the 1968 successful Ford sewing machinists strike at Dagenham, Rotherham’s Allyson Daykin and her badly exploited, mainly female, juvenile workmates at KP Foods sought to improve their wages and conditions.
They quickly came up against resistance from the male dominated TGWU workplace branch and thus set out to organise themselves. In doing so Allyson was pushed forward and elected by her workmates to the role of shop steward, a position she fulfilled for 37 years.
This 10-minute interview starts with Allyson describing how her working-class upbringing stood her in good stead when she began work at 15.
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Just gone online is coverage of the We Remember (those killed by the police) March and Public Talk (by Gareth Pierce. good speaker) from 1995 in Hackney. https://markwritecouk.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/trevor-monverville-memorial-lecture_8385.mp4
Thursday, 29 April 2021
PFA PLAQUE TO WOLVES AND ENGLAND LEGEND STAN CULLIS TO BE UNVEILED AT HIS ELLESMERE PORT SCHOOL ON 17 JUNE at 1.30pm
Stan Cullis is one of the football greats. As a boy he attended Cambridge Road Primary School, Ellesmere Port. The school is now set to honour him by erecting a plaque on the building and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is delighted to offer its support.
The date for the unveiling is 1.30pm on Thursday 17 June, the day before England face Scotland, a fixture that Stan Cullis played twice in.
The special guests for the day are Warrington born John Richards, a Wolverhampton Wanderers legend and England international and Stan Cullis’s son, the Reverend Andrew Cullis. Wolves director John Gough will also be present and as will Gordon Taylor of the PFA. The Mayoress of Ellesmere Port, Cllr Lisa Denson, will join proceedings.
Born 1916, Stan Cullis started his career playing at school level. He was twice a Football League runner-up with Wolves, where he also finished as FA Cup runners-up in 1938-39. He represented at centre half his country on 12 occasions and captained the side in the last pre-war game. He also made 17 war time appearances.
As manager of Wolves between 1948 and 1964 he three times led the Black Country club to the Division One title and twice won the FA Cup. Cullis helped pioneer the move by English clubs into playing in Europe. A statue to Cullis stands outside Molineux.
According to the PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor OBE.
“In order to inspire the next generation of male and female footballers and to encourage all pupils to do their best at sport the PFA is keen to take the stories of former pupils who became great football stars back into the schools they attended.
“It will be the third time the PFA has unveiled plaques to footballing legends at the schools they attended. In 2018, Harry Gregg and Alex Williams performed the joint ceremony to Frank Swift and Jimmy Armfield at Revoe School, Blackpool. In 2019 Brian Kidd and John Aston junior did the honours for John Aston senior at Ravensbury Community School, Manchester. They were both great events in which pupils at the schools played major roles.”
John Richards, Wolverhampton Wanderers and England, League Cup winner 1974 and 1980, UEFA Cup runner-up 1972.
“Stan Cullis created a Wolverhampton Wanderers team that was the most successful in the club’s history. Stan was idolised in Wolverhampton, and quite rightly so. Not only did Wolves win 3 League titles and 2 FA Cups, he also created a team which could compete at the highest level with the then European giants such as Honved, Moscow Dynamo and Real Madrid.
His teams set the standard. Our seventies side, and every other since, is compared to and measured against the successes of the Stan Cullis era. He set a high bar which no other team or manager has come close to reaching. His accolade as Wolves greatest ever manager is richly deserved. “
Reverend Andrew Cullis, Stan Cullis’s son.
“I was delighted when I heard that Cambridge Road School in Ellesmere Port, where my dad was a pupil, was planning to put up a plaque in his memory. Some years ago I saw the house where my dad lived, and it will be very special to visit the area again and see his old school – and enjoy such a wonderful occasion.”
Darryl Pickering, Cambridge Road Primary School Headteacher:
“The school is delighted to play its small part in honouring one of its former pupils. We are working with the children, some of whom will assist with the unveiling, on a series of arts projects associated with Stan Cullis and these will be on display on the day and permanently thereafter.
“Thanks to some local sponsorship we are buying a football trophy and we intend organising a local annual Stan Cullis football tournament.
“Stan Cullis was an outstanding professional and a credit to Cambridge Road Primary School and Ellesmere Port.”
The PFA will also be honouring this year, Bert Whalley, the former Stalybridge Celtic and Manchester United player and coach who lost his life at Munich, by unveiling a plaque to him at the home of Stalybridge Celtic at 6pm on 27 July and following which a special match involving Bert’s former clubs will be played.
Later this year, a plaque to another Ellesmere Port hero, Joe Mercer, will be unveiled at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall. No date has yet been fixed.
For further details contact Mark Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07392 852561
The address for Cambridge
Road Primary School is Cambridge Road, Ellesmere Port,
Cheshire CH65 4AQ
The film can be viewed at any time online for £2.25: http://vimeo.com/ondemand/wappingtheworkersstory A DVD version is available from Platform Films, 37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU or by email to email@example.com with your details. The price is £8.00 + £1.00 p&p and cheques should be made out to Platform Films or pay via PayPal. A permanent online link to the film can be found on the Platform Films website, together with the PayPal link for payments and donations. Help towards the cost of making the film will be much appreciated. The Platform Films website link is here: www.platformfilms.co.uk/wapping
Monday, 26 April 2021
Rolls Royce Avon Engine, South Lanarkshire College
This was unveiled on 25 October 2019 and is of a jet engine subject to a workers’ boycott in Scotland during the 1970s because it was to be used by Chilean dictator General Pinochet’s airforce.
See:- https://naepasaran.com award winning film on the episode.
Photograph taken by Craig MacLean and not to be reproduced without permission.
Matchgirls Strike and Annie Besant, Fairfield Road, London E3
Photographs are courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to be reproduced with permission.
Matchwomen by Louise Raw
Friday, 8 August 2014
STRIKING A LIGHT: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their place in History
Published by Bloomsbury
This book demonstrates that the 1888 strike by 1,400 matchwomen and girls at Bryant and May should rank with the similarly successful strikes by Gasworkers’ and Dockers’ the following year in changing forever the face of British trade unionism, which until then had tended to be craft unions only. Now, unskilled and poorly paid workers had the confidence to organise themselves and engage in collective action. Trade union membership doubled to over 1.5 million by 1892 and rose to over two million in 1899.
The women, who were employed at a factory on Fairfield Road in East London, were poorly paid. Average pay was around 8 shillings (40p) a week with some earning less than 5 shillings. This was for a seven-day working week that started at 6.30am in the summer and 8am in the winter and which ran till 6pm with half an hour off for breakfast and an hour for lunch. Half a day’s pay was lost if they were late for work and there were also a series of illegal fines and deductions for materials such as glue and brushes. Many workers were confused about how their wages were calculated. They were also badly bullied by domineering foremen some of whom were not averse to handing out physical punishment.
Matches were essential in Victorian homes for lighting candles or gaslights and where coal fires provided heat and hot water. Although portable devices to produce a flame had existed for centuries it was the discovery of phosphorus in 1669 that paved the way for mass production of matches.
In 1831, the introduction of white phosphorus by French chemist Charles Sauria made matches much easier to strike by increasing their toxicity. Within a few short years it was well known that phosphorus poisoning affected workers in match manufacturing.
Safer alternatives were to be ignored for decades with Bryant and May, the largest match manufacturer in the UK, who persuaded the government to veto the proposed banning of white phosphorus internationally. Workers at Bryant and May were forced to take their meal breaks at their workstations, thus increasing the risk of contracting ‘phossy jaw’ in which the jawbone rotted producing evil-smelling pus that made it almost impossible for anyone to remain in the sufferer’s presence. Death, often very painful, was not uncommon. Bryant and May failed to report illnesses and fatalities and sacked any worker exhibiting any symptoms.
Bryant and May became a limited company in 1884 and they expanded overseas and bought out the smaller matchmaking companies in Britain, with their dominant position allowing the company to force down wages in the industry.
Workers at the factory took strike action to try and raise wages and improve factory safety with walkouts in 1881, 1885 and 1886. With no union organisation or funds these failed but demonstrated workers were aware of the need to collectively fight for their rights. This was also demonstrated by matchwomen throwing red paint over a statue of Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone that had been erected by Theodore Bryant who illegally deducted a shilling from their wage packets to help pay for it.
Bryant and May’s shares had more than tripled in value since they were issued in 1884, leaping from £5 to over £18. Twenty per cent dividends were standard and amongst those to benefit were a number of prominent clergymen and Liberal politicians.
On 15 June 1888, after Henry Champion had drawn attention to low wages at the company, members of the Fabian Society resolved not to use any matches made by Bryant and May and called on others to also boycott the firm. Annie Besant was keen to investigate further and swiftly visited Fairfield Road where she – and possibly other Fabians who accompanied her – approached a small number of women as they left work to get accounts of their working conditions. They confirmed what Champion had said and she wrote an article for The Link that was published on 23 June.
By heading her work ‘White Slavery in London’ Besant made the point that it would cost Bryant and May much more to look after a slave than it paid in wages to its workers. The article did not however call for strike action, which, in general, Besant disapproved of during her life.
For well over a hundred years, it has been assumed that Besant was the leader of the strike – with few historians questioning whether well over one thousand very poorly paid workers really would go without pay under the leadership of a middle-class women they hardly knew – Louise Raw very capably demonstrates this was not the case. The key to this was a re-examination of Besant’s own writings and the newspapers of the day along with Raw’s finding and interviewing grandchildren of some of the strike leaders. Besant’s role in the strike was important but she was not its leader and to suggest so has meant the inspiring story of the matchwomen’s courage has remain hidden whilst the ability of working-class people to successfully organise collectively in defence of their needs has been underplayed.
Besant’s article did though push the company on to the defensive and after denying all the charges Bryant and May sought to discover who had spoken with Besant. To ensure there were no such further attempts to exercise free speech workers were asked to sign forms stating they would remain silent about their working conditions.
Exactly how many refused to sign is not known but on 2 or 3 July at least one woman and possibly two more were dismissed. The company denied this had anything to do with any failure by a worker to sign the distributed forms and they cited a lack of trade and some disciplinary problems for the sackings. None of the remaining female workers believed this and suspecting foul play they downed tools and marched out of the factory. The small number of male workers who mostly worked as dippers joined them.
Ignoring company reinstatement offers the women widened their demands to include other conditions, including the ending of illegal deductions. The women immediately organised an effective, noisy picket line and felt confident enough to send a deputation of six matchwomen to meet company directors. When the discussions were not to their satisfaction, they resumed their strike.
On 6 July around one hundred strikers marched to the offices of Besant near Fleet Street and where three of them informed her of developments and asked for her assistance. The following day, Besant wrote a further article for the Link in which she expressed her dismay at the action the women had taken but continued to call for a boycott of Bryant and May’s products.
On 11 July, a friend of Besant’s, Charles Bradlaugh MP raised questions in Parliament and a deputation of 56 women who marched there to meet him brought parts of central London to a standstill as onlookers starred at the appearance of so many poor people. Newspaper coverage of the strike was intensified and for the first time it was reported that embarrassed shareholders were pressuring management at Bryant and May to come to a compromise with those refusing to work. The Star and Pall Mall Gazette began collecting donations from its readers and on 14 July the first strike pay was distributed. It was also reported that the women themselves had been collecting funds across East London.
On 16 July 1888 the company’s directors met with a deputation of matchwomen and two days later the company ceded to all the strikers’ demands. This included abolition of all fines, ending deductions for paints and brushes, all grievances to be taken straight to the managing director without the intervention of the foremen, the provision of a breakfast room to allow for meals to be eaten away from work stations and the formation of a union so that any future disputes could be officially laid before the company. The Union of Women Matchworkers, which was then the largest union of women and girls in the country, was formed, with Besant taking the role of secretary for the next few years. One of her first engagements was to speak to 5,000 Tilbury Dockers who in October 1888 unsuccessfully took strike action over a pay increase.
The Star newspaper had no doubt about the importance of the outcome:
The victory of the girls……is complete. It was won without preparation – without organization – without funds……a turning point in the history of our industrial development……
Even in 1923 every person at the Fairfield Works was believed to be a trade unionist.
The victory by the matchwomen would undoubtedly have raised morale amongst working people in East London. The factory on Fairfield Road was less than two miles from where the 1889 Dock Strike began. Strikers and dockworkers lived cheek by jowl; many were related to each other, including plenty with Irish backgrounds, whilst there are also strong indications that amongst both sets of workers there were some with a strong interest in radical politics.
During the 1889 Great Dock Strike its leaders such as Tom Mann, Ben Tillett and John Burns regularly made reference to the matchwomen as they recognised that what had been achieved demonstrated that the previously unorganised could combine and win improvements in pay and working conditions. The Dockers’ were to prove this was now a fact of life with a famous victory that further threw open trade unionism to all workers whatever their skills.
Louise Raw must be congratulated for her persistence over many years to try and discover what really happened at Bryant and May in 1888 as she has produced a book of vital importance.
Political Martyrs Monument, Edinburgh
rected by the Friends of Parliamentary Reform
In England and Scotland.
For more on Muir see:-
More to follow in due course.
Photo by Craig MacLean and not to be reproduced without permission.
La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibarruri) statue, Glasgow
Glasgow's memorial to the International Brigade volunteers from Great Britain who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War. It stands in Custom House Quay. Erected by City of Glasgow, 23 February 1980 and rededicated 23 August 2010.
A very good piece on it and the woman who it is named after, Dolores Ibarruri, is at:-
Photograph courtesy of Craig MacLean and not to be reproduced without his permission.
Mary Seacole statue, St Thomas’s Hospital, London
Photograph courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to be reproduced without his permission.
On 30 June 2016, a memorial statue of Mary Seacole, 1805 – 1881, was unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE in the gardens of St Thomas’s Hospital; the UK’s first in honour of a named black woman.
Central to the successful campaign was the role of the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, which is part of Unite the Union.
See also:- https://www.maryseacoleawards.co.uk The Mary Seacole Awards provide an opportunity for individuals to be recognised for their outstanding work in the black and minority ethnic (BME) community.
Millicent Fawcett, London
Photographs are courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to be used without written permission.
A statue in Parliament Square, London to Millicent Fawcett, the British suffragist leader and social campaigner, was unveiled in April 2018.
The names and images of 55 women and four men who supported women's suffrage appear on the statue's plinth. They are as follows:
- Louisa Garrett Anderson
- Dame Margery Corbett Ashby
- Margaret Ashton
- Minnie Baldock
- Frances Balfour
- Lydia Becker
- Rosa May Billinghurst
- Teresa Billington-Greig
- Helen Blackburn
- Ada Nield Chew
- Frances Power Cobbe
- Jessie Craigen
- Emily Wilding Davison
- Charlotte Despard
- Flora Drummond
- Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy
- Isabella Ford
- Henrietta Franklin
- Mary Gawthorpe
- Eva Gore-Booth
- Anna Haslam
- Claude Hinscliff
- Laurence Housman
- Edith How-Martyn
- Elsie Inglis
- Annie Kenney
- George Lansbury
- Minnie Lansbury
- Mary Lowndes
- Mary Macarthur
- Margaret Mackworth, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda
- Chrystal Macmillan
- Catherine Marshall
- Eva McLaren
- Priscilla Bright McLaren
- Dora Montefiore
- Edith Mansell Moullin
- Catherine Osler
- Maud Palmer, Countess of Selborne
- Adela Pankhurst
- Dame Christabel Pankhurst
- Emmeline Pankhurst
- Sylvia Pankhurst
- Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence
- Frederick Pethick-Lawrence
- Agnes Pochin
- Eleanor Rathbone
- Sarah Reddish
- Annot Robinson
- Esther Roper
- Lolita Roy
- Agnes Maude Royden
- Julia Scurr
- Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington
- Sophia Duleep Singh
- Nessie Stewart-Brown
- Ray Strachey
- Helena Swanwick
- Ellen Wilkinson
Memorial to building workers, London
A bronze statue dedicated to workers killed on building sites was unveiled in 2016 on Tower Hill, London.
Wreaths are placed by the statue each year on 28 April which is Workers' Memorial Day.
Photographs courtesy of Mark Thomas and not to reproduced without permission.
Hillsborough Monument Memorial, Liverpool
The Hillsborough monument was comissioned by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and sculpted by Tom Murphy.
Background: A young girl asked her Father, where is the Hillsborough Memorial? She was told: ‘There is one in Anfield.’ She said: ‘Why can’t we have one in the city centre for everyone to see.’ This simple question was the catalyst for this monument.
The monument is at St John’s Garden, Old Haymarket, Liverpool L1 6ER
Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography and not to be reproduced without permission.
|Many thanks to Mark Thomas for this photograph and which is not to be used without permission.|
James Hammett – Tolpuddle
The grave of James Hammett, one of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs, is at Tolpuddle, Dorset.
The stone reads:
PIONEER OF TRADES
BORN 11 DECEMBER 1811
DIED 21 NOVEMBER 1891
The date at the top refers to the date of the trial and transportation of the men.
Tolpuddle Martyrs: transported in 1834 for forming a Trade Union – see TUC site at:- https://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk/story
“The rich and the great will never act to alleviate the distress and remove the poverty felt by the working people of England. What then is to be done? Why, the labouring classes must do it themselves, or it will forever be left undone.” George Loveless, one of the Tolpuddle Martyrsh
The annual weekend long Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in July attracts up to 10,000 people.
Many thanks to Mark Thomas for this photograph and which is not to be used without permission.
By SIMON MULLOCK and MARK METCALF
ASTON VILLA might have expected an invitation into the European Super League - given they are one of only five English clubs to have lifted the European Cup.
Yet when the midlands club played a key role in the formation of the Football League 132 years ago, it became clear that profits and politics would always come first in football.
A statue of William McGregor stands outside Villa Park. A draper by trade, the 42-year-old Scot had become a committee member at his local club in Aston in 1877.
Eleven years later, he became the driving force behind the Football League after realising it was the only way forward following the game's turn towards professionalism.
Cash was needed to pay the players – and high-profile FA Cup ties and friendly matches were not going to meet the bills.
McGregor took his inspiration from the baseball leagues in the United States and so in April 1888 a meeting was convened at the Royal Hotel in Manchester to formalise the Football League.
The 'Cricket and Football Field' sporting newspaper reported that “a dozen association clubs, who style themselves the pick of the talent have joined hands for their own mutual benefit, apparently without a care for those unhappily shut out in the cold.”
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez may have even taken his inspiration from McGregor when he asked Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham to join the ESL last weekend.
Both men certainly wanted more bang for their buck.
McGregor decided that the Football League would be based around the railway network of the midlands and north west to meet transport needs.
He spent months working undercover to gauge opinion before putting his plan in motion.
Bolton Wanderers jumped on board immediately – and Trotters secretary John Bentley proposed another eight clubs to go with the five already invited by McGregor.
The Villa administrator had decided on a one-town, one-club policy.
That meant Villa's Birmingham-based rivals Mitchell St George’s were out.
McGregor's view that gate money should be divided by both clubs was immediately dismissed and replaced by a guarantee that visiting clubs would be paid £15.
Derby County were admitted despite having little kudos at the time.
And it was decided that Everton would represent the city of Liverpool ahead of local rivals Bootle because their Anfield stadium was reserved for football and not shared with a cricket club.
In Nottingham, three teams vied for inclusion – but Notts County occupied Trent Bridge and were given the nod ahead of the stronger teams at Forest and Notts Rangers.
Stoke's invitation ahead of rivals Port Vale may have had something to do with their secretary Harry Lockett being already lined up to become the Football League's first secretary.
Halliwell missed out to Bolton – despite recently beating their neighbours 4-1.
And with Sheffield's rail service considered poor, there was no room for The Wednesday.
So Accrington, Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Derby, Everton, Notts County, Preston, Stoke, West Brom and Wolves became founding members of the Football League.
Some additional info that was not included in the article:-
In 1887, professionalism was only legally two years old
On the eve of the 1888 FA Cup Final, which saw West Bromwich Albion surprisingly beat Preston North End, seven clubs met.
Then on 17 April 1888 at the Royal Hotel, Manchester the twelve clubs concerned formalised affairs.
In Nottingham, County were weaker than Forest and Notts Rangers but they occupied Trent Bridge. This promised a better gate.
Bolton Wanderers had been well beaten 4-1 in March 1888 by neighbours Halliwell who should have been Bolton’s League representative especially as they were also superior to Blackburn Rovers, FA Cup winners in 1884, 1885 and 1886.
Once the 12 announced their plans, Forest, Halliwell and the Wednesday, which suffered because Sheffield at the time had a poor train service, wrote asking to join the League. They were left disappointed, rejected on grounds that it was impossible to find sufficient dates for additional fixtures.
Forest and Sheffield Wednesday became part of an extended league system in 1892-93. No such fortune for Halliwell who went bust in May 1889.
And of the original 12, only one is no longer in existence – Accrington, who folded in 1896.