I am grateful to Lesley Corner who writes about a former Burton United player, Charles Grewcock:-
My great grandfather, Charles Grewcock, was a committee member and then secretary and manager of Burton United in 1904-5. He wrote an article for the book ' Burton United' which I have produced for you below. Charles was well known in Burton, not only for his commitment to Burton United, but also as a 10-mile cross country champion in his youth. He was a lifelong member of the Licensed Victuallers Association, running the Barley Mow, Old White Horse and The Leopard at various times. He became a widower when his wife died of a stroke in 1946 after having some teeth extracted. He had 2 sons, one of which was my grandfather, and the other who suffered fatal injuries in World War I. Charles died in 1954 at the age of 90.
If anyone can provide me with further information about him, or any photo of him or the team, I would very much welcome them. Email them to email@example.com
THE BOOK OF FOOTBALL
BURTON UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB
ITS GALLANT FIGHT FOR FAME AND FORTUNE
BY C GREWCOCK
Note: Written November 1905
Early Association days in Burton: The progressive enterprise of Burton Swifts: Peel Croft Ground purchased: The Swifts elected to the Alliance in 1890: The Staffordshire Cup won in 1892: Indifferent performance in the League: The club seeks re-election in 1901: The two premier Burton clubs amalgamate, and the title Burton United is adopted: Poor gates and a first season’s loss of over £700: A hard fight with adversity: The mayor comes gallantly to the rescue: Disastrous 1904-5 season: Mr Mundy, Secretary Grewcock, and an enthusiastic committee gallantly set to work to better matters for 1905-6: Poor Cup Record: Brighter future prospects.
Colours: Green-and-red shirts, white knickers.
Ground: Peel Croft, Burton on Trent.
Photo of Mr C Grewcock, Secretary of Burton United FC. “He is an enthusiastic and hard-working official, and has done much to forward the cause of the club for which he works”.
While the beginnings of Association football in the Brewing Metropolis are not exactly lost in the mists of antiquity, yet, on the other hand, the dribbling code is not a plant of mushroom growth in Burton, for as far back as the early ‘Seventies the town had several clubs of excellent calibre, notably the Wanderers, the Strollers, the Rangers and Outwood Star who were able, not only to give a good game, but not infrequently a good thrashing as well to some of the best combinations in the Midland Counties. Many of the men connected with these clubs were first-class exponents of the game, and for many seasons such names as David Rutherford, Jack Faulkner, Sam Lawrence, Billy Fellows, Pat Murfin, Tom and Jack Bancroft, Sam Black, Alf Sheffield, Fred Price, Tommy Soar, Fred Roberts, “Jerry “Chandler, Fred Waring and 'Bag’em' West were familiar in the mouths of lovers of the game as household words, and enjoyed quite a Midland reputation. Then came the days of George Kinsey, 'Troll' Robinson, Adrian and Arthur Capes, Sam Emery, Teddy Birch, George Hubbard, Jack Thornley and others, and, with the demise of the Strollers and Rangers clubs, the contest for premier honours was left to the Swifts and Wanderers. Many and keen were the battles fought on the Derby Turn and Shobnall Road grounds, to say nothing of an occasional tussle on Kidger’s Field : on which plot of land Gordon Street now stands and, taking the campaign as a whole, it must be admitted that the honours of war rested with the Derby Turn combination.
It is just twenty years : for it was in the autumn of 1885 : since professional football first secured a footing in Burton, and the credit for its introduction belongs to Mr John Parker, who at that time was honorary secretary of the Burton Wanderers FC. The first local player who received pay for his football was Measham Tunnicliffe, who was known to his many admirers by the sobriquet of 'Navvy', one of the best centre half-backs in the Midlands.
In the following season, Burton Swifts (formerly known as Outwood Star) resolved to emulate the example of their local rivals, a course which naturally did much to enhance the keenness of the struggle for supremacy. Better-class football was the immediate result, and, from the point of view of finance, the Swifts had a distinct advantage, thanks to the generous help they received from Messrs James and J T C Eadie, who not only liberally subsidised the club, but purchased for its use the present playing field at Peel Croft, with stands and fencing, at a cost of something like £6,000.
At that time the Swifts were members of the Combination, while the Wanderers were connected with the Midland League, but in 1890 the Swifts secured a well-deserved lift in the football world, being elected members of the Football Alliance, which then included such clubs as Notts Forest, Small Heath, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Grimsby Town, Stoke, the Arsenal, Sunderland Albion etc.
The following year (1892) saw the two principal combinations : the Football League and the Football Alliance: amalgamate, constituting the finest combination in the world, and thus the Swifts gained a footing upon the League ladder which they retained so long as they continued to exist as a separate organisation.
Their team in 1892 was a very smart one, including, as it did, such experts at the game as Donald Sutherland (ex-captain of Grimsby Town), Arthur Worrall (Wolverhampton), and the brothers W and E May (Notts Forest), who were so alike in build and features that it was difficult to say which was which when they were apart. The season was not all a bad one from a League point of view, as they finished sixth, but it was especially memorable for the fact that they captured the Staffordshire Cup. The match was played on the Mullineaux Grounds, Wolverhampton, their opponents being Aston Villa, (the holders of the trophy) who felt so cocksure of retaining it that they had not taken the trouble to bring it with them!
The season of 1893: with the most expensive combination the club ever had, including Sam Jones (the Welsh International goalkeeper), Walter Perry (West Bromwich), Alec Boggie, and the late Jimmy Munro : again saw the Swifts sixth on the list with 31 points; and then in 1894-5 the Wanderers: who, under the capable supervision of W D had been making very small fry of Midland League clubs : secured admission to the charmed circle. They secured 35 points out of a possible 60, while the Swifts only totalled 24; but in the following season the Derby Turn brigade quite eclipsed all previous performances, and only missed taking part in the test matches by goal average, tying with Grimsby in the matter of points with 42 for third place. The Wanderers’ record was a really brilliant one, the men being seen at their best against their most powerful opponents, and no one who followed their fortunes in those halcyon days will easily forget how they defeated Newcastle by 9 goals to 0, and Manchester United by 8 to 0. The ensuing season, however, proved just as disastrous for the Wanderers as that of 1894-5 had been successful, for they finished last but one on the table, and failed to secure re-election, while the Swifts, who occupied but one run higher, were given another chance.
From 1897 to 1901 there is very little to record that would be pleasant reading from a Burton point of view, 28 being the highest number of points the Peel Croft club secured during this period, and in 1901 they had once more to seek re-election.
In the meantime, the parlous state of Association football in the town, and the difficulty of getting an adequate measure of support for two senior clubs, had caused the representatives of the rival organisations to carry on informal negotiations with a view to amalgamation, and, after one or two well-meant but fruitless attempts, a town’s meeting, which was largely attended and was presided over by the Mayor, unanimously approved of the fusion of forces. Some discussion naturally took place as to the name of the new club, but eventually, with but one dissentient, it was dubbed 'Burton United'. The management for the first season was vested in a committee composed of an equal number of representatives of each of the defunct organisations, and the following were chosen to man the new ship on its first voyage: Messrs George Rae (Chairman), W Matthews, A J Woolrych, S H Morris, J Bancroft, H Meakin, C Grewcock, with W D Clark as secretary-manager. Though late in the day, the committee managed to get together a capital set of men, including Peers (Notts Forest), R Gray, Archie Livingstone, T Arkesden, Billy Joyce (ex- Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur player), and Chris Mann (Aston Villa). This team, in transfers, summer wages etc cost the new club something like £500, but there was no doubt the money was well spent, as the representatives of the club were, as a result, able to present such a case to the League that their re-election was once more secured, the United tieing with Bristol City for top place in the voting. From a playing point of view, the first season of the new combination was a distinct improvement on its predecessor, 30 points being secured, but the gates were far from realising expectations, and, as a consequence, the committee found themselves faced by a heavy deficit of between £700 and £800 at the end of April.
It was only with difficulty that they were able to find the wherewithal to pay summer wages to the class men they wished to retain, but they managed to do so, and the players available for 1902-3 included Mann, Livingstone, Harry Ashby (now with Leicester Fosse), Jacky Lewis (of Bristol Rovers), and Arkesden. The financial affairs of the club were entrusted to the management of Mr George Rae, who had for many years been a hard-working and enthusiastic supporter of the Swifts FC while Mr W D Clark was re-elected secretary-manager. Although avoiding the indignity of having to sue for re-election, the performances of the team were anything but satisfactory, the total number of points showing a decrease of 1 on those obtained during the previous season, while the state of the finances was such as to cause the management extreme anxiety.
The team for 1903-4 included Harry Bromage (Derby), Clough (Nelson), J Reynolds (now of Sheffield Wednesday), Hargreaves (who, with Bromage, is playing for Leeds City), and Orlando Evans (Aston Villa), and, for the second season in succession, the Crofters finished sixth from the bottom with 29 points. Strenuous efforts were made in the close season in various ways to raise the wind so that a better class of men could be secured, but the debt incurred by floating the combined club clung to the shoulders of the committee like an Old Man of the Sea, and so, having to part with several of the best men, including Harry Ashby, Reynolds , and Archie Livingstone, it was not with very sanguine feelings that the season 1904-5 was entered upon; indeed when Mr C Grewcock took over the position of secretary-manager in succession to Mr Clark, things were, perhaps, as bad as they ever had been, and the general opinion was that we had arrived at “the beginning of the end”.
The play of the team only served to strengthen this view, for victories were, like angels’ visits, “few and far between”, and, with the takings growing “smaller by degrees and beautifully less”, and creditors pressing for immediate remittances, some of the more pessimistic patrons predicted that the club would not see the season out. In the meantime, thanks to the public spirit of the Mayor, a town’s meeting was called, at which a “Penny Fund” was launched, and the proceeds from this and other sources sufficed to keep the wolf on the right side of the door.
The season, from a playing point of view, proved the most disastrous in the brief and chequered history of the United, for they finished last but one with 20 points. Very little hope was entertained that the League would favourably consider another application for re-election, but the movement for the extension of the League saved them, and great was the delight of the club’s supporters when it became known that Burton was not, after all, to lose its place in Second League circles.
With Mr C Mundy as treasurer, and a loyal and enthusiastic committee at his back, Mr Grewcock at once set to work to get a team together for 1905-06, a tasks which, taking all the circumstances into consideration, would have daunted any but the pluckiest secretary-manager. Only two of the old team could be prevailed upon to remain – Bromage, Mann, Ashby, Evans, C L Aston, Gould, and the Brothers Hargreaves all departing for “fresh fields and pastures new”. Summer money was, of course, out of the question, but, for all that, a team has been secured whose performances up to date have amply justified the wisdom of the committee in engaging them.
Seven of them, viz Starbuck (goal), Shreeve, Culland backs), Davis (half-back), Gutteridge, Burton, King (forwards), are practically local lads, the four who have come from a distance being Battles (Stockport), Robinson (Fosse), Hunt and Bradshaw (Fulham). The eleven does not make any pretensions to brilliancy, but it has proved itself a decidedly hard-working and useful one, and the fact that at the time of writing the club had secured 12 points, as against 20 all last season, warrants the habitués of Peel Croft in anticipating that April 1906 will find the club in a much-improved position as compared with the one they occupied twelve months previously.
So far as the National Cup is concerned, the United have not, up to date, cut a very distinguished figure in the competition, but that has by no means been for the lack of ambitions in the particular direction. “The stars in their courses” have, however, seemed to fight against the Crofters, and the only performance deserving of special mention was the drawn game played with Manchester United at Clayton, in 1903-4: at least, that was the official verdict, although the Burton people who saw the game aver to this day that the Lancastrians’ equalising goal was a rank off-sider.
In the pre-amalgamation days, however, both the Swifts and Wanderers created a surprise now and then in the pot-hunting expedition, and perhaps in the not very far distant future the United may rise upon a wave of Cup-tie successes, and inaugurate a period of prosperity for the gallant Second League club, whose prospects seem to grow steadily brighter and brighter.
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