OUR FIRST – TEAM PHOTO POSTCARD
What we have here are St Albans City team photos that were produced as postcards. The earliest one in the collection is from the 1909-10 season, the second year of the club. The team is pictured with the Herts Charity Cup that was won by virtue of a 2-0 win over Barnet Alston at Clarence Park on 5th March 1910 in front of a crowd of 2,200.
The photo was taken in front of the cricket pavilion in Clarence Park . The dressing rooms for the players were inside the pavilion with the same facility not being added to the football ground until 1929. The team line up in the photo shows one change from the side that defeated Barnet Alston, which leads to the possibility of the photo being taken on 9th April when Rickmansworth were soundly beaten 6-0 in the Herts County League.
The reverse of the postcard has just a few works printed on it; ‘CORRESPONDENCE,’ ‘ADDRESS ONLY,’ ‘X30,’ and ‘BIRDSEY. Photo., ST.ALBANS.’
Birdsey was Herbert Edward Birdsey, born in Studham in 1857, who worked in various trades until setting himself up as a photographer in 1908. He ran his photography business until 1926 and passed away two years later.
The players marked with an asterix played against Rickmansworth. The one change in the team from that game and the Charity Cup final is Frank Hughes who came in for George Butcher . St Albans-born Butcher had since joined West Ham United. At this time, West Ham were members of the Southern League Division One.
Included in that photograph are a number of interesting characters. The man with the towel slung over his right shoulder is City’s ‘sponge-man’ George Hartley. George had played 15 times for the original St Albans club with the last of which, as goalkeeper during a 2-1 Herts County Cup semi-final win over Hoddesdon, being his only competitive game for the old club.
Frank and Willy Hughes were the second pair of brothers to play for the club and, to this day, the only set of siblings to have both scored on their debut. Injury finish Willy’s career with the club in January 1911 but not before he had scored 39 goals in just 37 games. Frank was hardly a slouch in front of goal and chipped in with six in nine games.
Goals were very much a feature of this side with 141 being scored in the 35 games played. In addition to Willy Hughes notching 35 in 26 games, Tommy Knott bagged a goal a game in 24 appearances and George Butcher also had a goal a game record from 19 games prior to joining West Ham.
Birdsey produced another City team photo during the 1909-10 season but that one featured the Reserve team. That postcard is the earliest known photograph of a St Albans City Reserve team.
OUR LAST – TEAM PHOTO POSTCARD
The last surviving St Albans City team photograph to appear on a postcard was published during the 1923-24 season. This was our first year in the Isthmian League and is where we remained until the start of the 2004-05 season when we became founder member of Conference (National) League South.
The 1920s was the most glorious period in the history of the club and, in spite of losing our first three games that season, we finished our first campaign in the Isthmian League as champions. As with the 1910 postcard, the team was captured by local photographer Birdsey and, again just like the first postcard, the team were photographed in front of the cricket pavilion that looks resplendent with its ornate ironworks.
It has not been possible to identify the exact date that the photo was taken due to the players who appear in the picture having played together in five different home games that season.
The formation of the players in Birdsey’s photo is also how they lined up on the pitch. Goalkeeper Ted Barnes is flanked by his full-backs Bert Sansom and Fred Holland while the midfield trio of Percy Bird, Harold Figg and Fred Hellicar are in the middle row. As was the fashion at the time, teams played with five forwards with the centre-forward, our all-time top goal scorer Wilf Minter, in the middle of the front row.
The reverse of the card confirms that it is a Birdsey production. Birdsey, however, did not have a monopoly on City photographs with Cherry & Co. also getting in on the act. Cherry were the brothers Arthur and Edward Cherry who ran their business from the city centre end of London Road. Edward Cherry emigrated to Canada in 1907 but returned to England in 1920.
Cherry’s first photographed the City during the 1912-13 season when they committed both the First and Reserve team to film for posterity.
As with the first postcard photo from 1910-11, the Reserve team picture here includes a set of brothers, Willie and Charles (Charley) Paul. Willie is second from the left in the front row and Charley is two seats further along. The brothers played for the club either side of the Great War with Charley scoring a dozen times in 25 First team games while Willie knocked in 29 goals in 50 games. The duo were also regulars in the Reserve team scoring a combined total of 41 goals in a known 93 games (unfortunately, we do not have all the line ups from Reserve team matches at this time).
Team photographs for other local St Albans clubs from this era are also in existence, St Albans Thursday, Abbey Old Boys (former pupils at The Abbey School) and St Peter’s, for example. Postcards were also used to notify players if they had been selected for a game. As recently as 1972, postcards were used by away clubs to notify the home club of their possible line up for inclusion in the matchday programme. The Walton & Hersham line up shown on this card was sent to City’s assistant club hon. secretary Derek Bing, postage 3p. In the Walton side were former Saints Dave Bassett and Kieron Somers.