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Football and the First World War

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa emerged as the most successful English club of the Victorian era, winning five League Championships and three FA Cups including the Double in 1896/7.

Aston Villa was formed in 1874 by 4 members of the local Wesleyan cricket team who named the club after a local mansion of the same name. The club won its first FA Cup in 1887 with captain Archie Hunter becoming one of the game's first household names. Aston Villa were one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888 with one of the club's directors, William McGregor being the league's founder.

Villa won the first of their championships in 1893-94 finishing six points ahead of champions Sunderland.  They won the title again in 1895-96, 1896-97, 1898-99 and 1899-1900.   They won the FA Cup 1895 and 1897. 

Among the illustrious names associated with Villa at this time were dribber George Ramsay, centre-forward Archie Hunter, Howard Spencer, James Crabtree, winger Charlie Athersmith (who played one game in the rain carrying an umbrella), and captain John Devey, who led the team in all of its first five championship seasons.

George Ramsay was a gifted footballer Soon people were coming to Villa matches just see him.  He became the first player to score in every round of the FA Cup in Villa's victorious 1887 campaign. Ramsay also took charge of training which saw dramatic improvement that showed in the results.  Villa slowly improved under his guidance which culminated in them winning their first trophy in 1880 with Ramsay as captain.

Ramsay retired from playing in 1882, but remained at the club as secretary/manager from 1884-1926. Ramsay later described their approach to the game as 'a dash at the man and a big kick at the ball'. 

Archie Hunter was a hugely successful forward, clever ball player with a commanding personality.  He became the first player to score in every round of the FA Cup in Villa's victorious 1887 campaign.  During a Football League match against Everton in 1890 Hunter suffered a heart attack and collapsed. He never played again, and died at the age of 35.

Howard Spencer An incredibly gifted player, he was known as the 'Prince of Full-Backs' during his hugely successful time at the club and was renowned for his sportsmanship. 

Villa were also involved in a major off-field drama during this period.  Following the FA Cup win over WBA in 1895, the trophy was put on display at a Birmingham bootmaker’s shop.  It was stolen on 11 September and never recovered.