The Edwardian Football Club (Rugby Union) celebrates 2001-02 as it's 119th Season. It's beginnings can be traced to a meeting convened on June 26th 1882 in the old King Edward's School building in New Street, Birmingham. The object of the meeting to was establish an Old Edwardian Football Club. The Rugby code had been played for a decade or so at the school and a demand had developed from the Old Boys to found a club so that they could continue playing after leaving New Street. Previously, Old Boys had formed a side just to play the school on an annual basis, the first occasion being on December 22nd 1877. The 1883-84 season saw a new club embark on it's career in competitive adult Rugby Football. This makes the club the oldest club in England which originated as an Old Boys Rugby Club, outside the London area.
Old Edwardians soon established themselves as a force in Midlands Rugby. It is interesting to note such names as Moseley, Rugby, Stourbridge and Wolverhampton on the fixture list for 1884-85. In 1886 the club entered the Midland Counties Union and participated in its cup competition. In the same year home matches were played at Warwickshire County Cricket Ground, Edgbaston, after spending the first three seasons playing at Bristol Road. A first true milestone was the appointment of P. C. Adams as captain, a position he retained for the next 6 seasons, and the club prospered under his leadership. Old Edwardians reached the semi-final of the Midland Counties Cup in the 1886-87 season (losing out to Rugby) but a little later achieved the outstanding success by winning the trophy in 1889-90 season, defeating an already famous Burton team in the final. In the same season victories were recorded over Coventry, Leicester and Moseley. After these triumphs Percy Adams maintained his links with Old Edwardians and the game in general. He was club President from 1904 to 1045 and North Midlands representative to the Rugby Union from 1921 until 1939.
For some years after the heady successes of 1890 form fluctuated, but the semi-final stage of the Midlands Cup was attained in 1892-93 and 1894-95 (on both occasions defeats were inflicted by Coventry) and then in 1896-97 were runners up to Moseley. At this time home matches were played at a ground in Wake Green Road, Moseley. The turn of the century heralded a less auspicious period, but Old Edwardian B. Oughtred (who had left the area to work in the North of England) captained England in the 1902-03 international season.
A Golden Age
Playing fortunes recovered remarkably in the years 1906-1914, an era in which some historians of Midlands rugby have referred to as a veritable Golden Age in the Club's history. For instance in the 1906-07 season victories were recorded against Bath, Burton, Moseley, Nuneaton, Old Merchant Taylors and Rugby. In the 1913-14 season wins were recorded against Cheltenham, Clifton, Moseley, Northampton, Nottingham and Rugby. E.W. Assinder , one of a pair of wing three-quarters was selected for England against both Wales and Australia in 1908-09. He figured in the Midland Counties team regularly between 1905 and 1914. The other winger was F.J. Breedon who progressed as far as being England reserve in recognition of try scoring feats for Club and County. In the 1910-11 season he crossed opponents lines 39 times and this is still a Club try scoring record for a a season. Old Edwardians still pursued a somewhat nomadic existence and moved from Wake Green Road to Vicarage Road, Kings Heath in 1911. A third Old Edwardian to be capped by England was H.C. Harrison, a massive forward who played much of his rugby with the services. He managed to play against Scotland, Ireland and France in 1913-14.
Between the Wars
After the involuntary cessation of activities during the First World War the Club became affiliated to the North Midlands, one of the new county organisations established from the old Midland Counties in 1920-21. In fact the very first match played under the auspices of the North Midlands was Combined Old Edwardians (i.e. with Five Ways, Camp Hill and Aston) against the Rest of the Union at the Old Edwardians ground which was now at Hazelwell. The 1920-21 season saw 6 members playing for the North Midlands and one of them M.C. Price, played in all the county games in the following season. Indeed since that inaugural season more than 40 members of the Club have represented the North Midlands.
During the 1920's the standing in the game of Old Edwardians was assured by a constant supply of good players from a series of exceptional School XV's at King Edward's. This strength can be judged by the fact that 9 Old Edwardians appeared for the county during the 1925-26 season. It is difficult to single out individual players, but mention must be made of R.J. Pringle-Brown who became a successful Club and North Midlands captain in the late 1920's, being selected for the county 24 times.
Old Edwardians maintained a first class fixture list throughout the inter-war period. Fixture lists included such notables as Cheltenham, Moseley, Coventry, Northampton and Sale. It is fair to say that the team often struggled against such opposition, but successes there were, which are still recalled by those who participated. One such occasion was December 17th 1932 when the team, depleted by the absence of Bob Pringle-Brown, beat Sale 9-6 away, with the home side fielding 3 current internationals.
In the early 1930's the captaincy passed to G.F. Mountford, a courageous and skilful scrum-half who also played for the North Midlands. Another prominent player was S.E.A. Anthony a hard tackling wing-forward, who was in the Midlands XV against the 1935 All Blacks and who had an England trial in 1938 after joining Leicester. Needless to say Old Edwardians continued their travels around South Birmingham and played home games at Wheelers Lane, Kings Heath, Birmingham until the last war.
The Recent Past
Immediately after the war there were three memorable seasons. Home games were played at the County Cricket Ground for the second time in the Club's long history. A peak of performance was reached in 1948-49 when Moseley were defeated home and away for the first time since the halcyon days of 1910.
In the second meeting the two winning tries were scored by P.B. Jackson, who had left school only two years previously. This talented player went on to great things with Coventry in the middle 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, then to play on the right wing for England more than a score of times and to experience a marvellous New Zealand tour with the 1959 British Lions. The first post war captain was R.J. Garratt. As a capable full-back Bob Garratt had made his debut for Edwardians in 1935 and earned 13 North Midlands caps in all, skippering the county to a championship semi-final in 1947-48. Another county player at this time was A.R. Corely who, in the centre, developed a fine understanding with Peter Jackson outside him.
With all the wisdom of hindsight it can be said that the 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s saw important changes in the rugby world which were to have repercussions on Old Boys Clubs. The largely first class fixture list became a sterner test although Old Edwardians acquitted themselves well enough to retain most fixtures. Standards of rugby were rising in general and the supply of players from the school began to be affected by more and more O.E.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s leaving Birmingham to follow higher education on leaving King Edwards. The situation became more apparent in the 1960Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. Eventually, in 1968, the decision was taken to go Ã¢â‚¬ËœopenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Nevertheless many very good players had come from the home the School in the 1950Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s and 60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s to play at county level. Props Alan Bramley (who captained North Midlands) and Trevor Wilden, full-back Peter Vernon, full-back or wing-forward Bryan Homer and forward Roger Brown (who played for the 1st XV from 1947 to 1975) and some players are worthy of special mention.
A major step forward, and investment for the future, was made in 1959 when at last Old Edwardians obtained their own ground at Streetsbrook Road, Solihull with two pitches and excellent facilities.
The Most Recent Past
A new phase in our history was consequently directly upon going open. Between 1969 and 1975 there was a considerable resurgence in fortunes. The fixture list was still very formidable during those years and the 1st XV more than held its own. The desired influx of good players from outside materialised and combined with Old Edwardians produced a successful blend. Under the leadership of H.J.R. (Roy) Stevens, an industrious second row, 23 wins were achieved in 1969-70 with one of the newcomers, Barry Jones, scoring 24 tries and Howard Addington amassing 202 points. In 1971-72 there were a record 27 victories and a North Midlands Cup run to the semi-final stage.
Further successes came in the following season under the first non-Old Boy skipper, Richard Bowen, a Welsh scrum-half who had joined from Moseley. In all 24 matches were won, 809 points were scored and Clifton, Halifax, Huddersfield, Lydney and Nuneaton were amongst those defeated. Surprisingly the team lost in the North Midlands Cup Final to Evesham, but deservedly so on the night at the Reddings. However, in 1973-74 the cup was won when Dixionians were beaten in the final. 1974-75 saw 23 victories and only 11 defeats, amongst those vanquished were Bridgewater, Manchester, Nuneaton and Vale of Lune.
Throughout the early 1970s it was certainly true that Old Edwardians were the strongest side in England to have evolved from Old Boy Rugby and a sporting rivalry with Whitgiftians for this title produced a series of entertaining encounters.
As happens in all clubs from time to time successes became less frequent and, after the mediocre seasons and much debate, the name of the club changed in May 1977 to Edwardian Football Club (Rugby Union). It was felt that this might encourage new recruits by further publishing the fact that it was a truly open club.
Many members thought that the name Old Edwardians still suggested an Old Boys Club in an age when genuinely Old Boys teams had virtually ceased to exist or accepted the viability of being restricted to the junior echelons of the sport. It has to be said that the Edwardian Football Club has struggled since the late 1970Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s and has not managed to emulate the earlier glories of its long history. There has been grounds for optimism. A resurgence under the guidance of club captain Mike Pearce and the backing of a resourceful management team led the club to an excellent Provincial Cup run and a solid performance in the league.
Like many other clubs in the lower echelons of the game, Edwardian F.C. continued to be challenged by the acceptance of professionalism throughout Rugby Union. Whilst it was meeting the need to administer the game, the finances and the facilities on a commercial basis it was keen to maintain an amateur ethos at the playing level. This is a belief that is firmly at the roots of the club today.
Under the captaincy of Gary Colleran, Eds not only gained promotion as league winners but went through to the quarted-finals of the Pilkington Shield where they lost on the away rule to local rivals Malvern. The following few years saw Edwardians float through the league and cup competitions unable to produce the continual winning results needed to gain promotion or silverware. The captaincies of Noel Brady, Brian Chapplehow, Anthony Chapman and Derek O'Reilly saw us maintain our position within a changing league structure and mature as a team of players.
After a consolidation period in the late 1990's, Edwardian F.C. has moved on to create the solid platform required to take it on a successful path through the next decade.
A pro-active recruitment policy is not only attracting new players from clubs near and far but is reforging links with King Edwards School. The latter is seen as a key step in recruiting players three or four years hence when they finish their university education. The coaching skills of Barry Richards and his word alongside some strong captains achieved the winning results of former years, managing to successfully win North Midlands Division 1 in 2001/2002 and Mids West 4 North in 2005 /2006 - pushing the club forward.
Under player/coach John Corr, Edwardians have seen significant success in reaching the Junior Vase Final at Twickenham in 2011 and also promotion to Midlands 3 West (North).
A number of key sponsorship deals are providing the financial stability and new facilities demanded by the modern game. Currently our growing Junior Section is seen as one of the most exciting developments in recent years. The hard work of many individuals in this area is seen as key to the future stability of the club.
It is pleasing that the Junior Section has launched a Colts section for the 2013/14 Season, run and overseen by 1st XV player Gareth Symes, thereby providing a transition from Junior to Senior rugby.
Edwardian F.C is maintaining an environment it believes will make it succeed over a very difficult period in 'grass roots' rugby history.