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The History of West Brom Albion – How it all began

It is possible that an organization of football players existed in London between 1421 and 1423, but the game as we know it today was still relatively in its infancy. The oldest football club with a well-documented, continuous history is the Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854 at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The club now plays rugby union.

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The Birth of Non-University Football

Sheffield Football Club, in Sheffield, England, is the oldest documented non-university club and was founded in 1857. It initially played a code of its own devising. The club joined the English Football Association (FA) in 1863 and is recognized by both the FA and FIFA as the world’s oldest club now playing association football.

The club’s rules influenced the FA, including handball, free kicks, corners, and throw-ins; it did not adopt the Association’s code in full until 1877. Cambridge University Association Football Club has been described by both the university and the BBC as the oldest club now playing Association Football.

According to Charles Astor Bristed, in the early 1840s at Cambridge, there were games played between clubs from different colleges and houses. Cambridge rules date from 1848, and football is documented as being played on the original club ground, Parker’s Piece, as early as 1838. The earliest existing evidence of the Cambridge University Football Club comes from “The Laws Of The University Football Club” dated 1856, and held at Shrewsbury School.

The Quest for a New Sport: The Birth of Football in West Bromwich

Imagine this: a group of young men hanging around the streets after work. Nothing to do except drink, gamble, fight, or wander around aimlessly; nothing changes! The folk of West Bromwich had always enjoyed their ‘sports’. These, along with the people who engaged in them, were none too refined. In the yards at the back of the local pubs, many of these sports took place.

Cock-fighting, rat-killing, and dog fighting were common. Bets were laid amidst intakes of the local brew, and raucous crowds cheered on their ‘favorite’. These were tough times, and the moralist view of such sports, while voiced and legislated for, found little favor with the locals. Even when laws were introduced, these pastimes continued.

Bored cricketers and the emergence of football

Bored that the cricket season was over, after all, many were keen cricketers and were looking for a sport to play during the winter months to occupy themselves. There had been talk of setting up a football team, but as football was in its infancy and had not really made an impact in West Bromwich due to the activities of the above-mentioned alternative sports. The rules of the game were still at the time being drawn up. What inspired these young men to form a team that would eventually be internationally recognized?

The challenge of forming a team

A few of the young men had seen a couple of games and decided to try it out. One essential thing was missing: a ball! As there were no sports shops at that time in West Bromwich that stocked football equipment, and the tram fare would have taken most of the funds to buy the ball, it was decided to take a stroll down to nearby Wednesbury, where the nearest sports stockist was situated, and the men knew they could purchase a ball there.

Wednesbury boasted a few fine teams at that time: Wednesbury Old Athletic, who played at The Oval (which is where Wood Green School is now), and Elwells FC. The stroll to Wednesbury not only gave them a ball but also the name under which they were to play for the next year or two: “West Bromwich Strollers.”

The name change and the club’s foundation in 1878

The club was then founded in 1878 as West Bromwich Strollers in West Bromwich. The team played their first match on 23 November 1878, drawing 0-0 in a 12-a-side game against workers from Hudson’s, a local soap factory which was situated where Tesco’s is now. Most of the Strollers’ players worked at George Salter’s Spring Works.

They were renamed West Bromwich Albion in either 1879 or 1880, becoming the first team to adopt the Albion suffix. The name Albion was taken from a district of West Bromwich where some of the players lived or worked, close to what is today Greets Green.

Dartmouth Park and Coopers Hill as host locations

The next problem the team encountered was somewhere to play the game. Dartmouth Park and Coopers Hill were chosen to host the matches. The New Street entrance to the park was the site of the first “Albion” game, although sometimes the Beaches Road entrance and occasionally, if the weather was bad, they would use The Herbert Street side. Can you imagine playing football in the park now? The Health and Safety brigade would have a field day.

Markings, crossbars, and evolving rules

No official markings, no crossbar as we know it, little more than two sticks with a piece of tape across, no corner flags, just a piece of grass, a goal keeper who could catch the ball anywhere on the field he felt like. Hence the introduction of pitch markings, probably just two parallel lines four times the length of a cricket pitch, and a line to show the goal line, then a box of 18 yards to keep the goal keeper under control.

Later, a full circle was added to give the team kicking off control instead of a straight line halfway across the field and everyone kicking lumps out of their opponents. The next step was a penalty spot 12 yards from goal, and then a box 6 yards from the goal to stop goal kicks being taken from the edge of the 18-yard box. Finally, a quarter circle was added at the by-line and goal line to stop the attacking player from gaining ground from a corner kick.

Albion’s First Competitions: Birmingham & District Football Association

For the first two seasons of their existence, Albion played local sides on parks pitches throughout West Bromwich, Smethwick, and Wednesbury, occasionally traveling as far afield as Stourbridge to get a game. The real breakthrough came at the start of the 1881-82 season when they decided to pay a subscription to join the Birmingham & District Football Association, thus becoming eligible for their first competition, the Birmingham Senior Cup.

From humble beginnings to recognition

It was their run to the quarter-finals of that tournament, beating, as they did, established sides such as Elwells FC from Wednesbury and Calthorpe Edgbaston, that made their name in the Birmingham press. Suddenly, the local papers began to take notice of the club and began reporting on their games. And the big journey of “The Baggies” had started!


When and where was West Bromwich Albion founded?

West Bromwich Albion was founded in 1878 in the town of West Bromwich, located in the West Midlands of England. It all began with a group of young men who wanted to find a sport to play during the winter months after the cricket season ended.

How did West Bromwich Albion get its name?

Originally known as “West Bromwich Strollers,” the club was renamed “West Bromwich Albion” in either 1879 or 1880. The name “Albion” was taken from a district in West Bromwich where some of the players lived or worked.

What inspired the formation of West Bromwich Albion?

The young men in West Bromwich were keen cricketers and sought a sport to occupy themselves during the cricket off-season. Football was still in its infancy in the area due to the popularity of other sports like cock-fighting and rat-killing. The challenge of forming a football team intrigued them, and the rest is history.

What was football like in its early days at West Bromwich Albion?

In the early days, football at West Bromwich Albion was far from the modern game we know today. There were no official markings, crossbars, or corner flags. The goalkeepers could catch the ball anywhere on the field, and pitch markings were basic, consisting of just parallel lines and a goal line.

What are some unique features of West Bromwich Albion’s original football ground?

West Bromwich Albion played their early matches at Dartmouth Park and Coopers Hill. The New Street entrance to Dartmouth Park was the site of their first “Albion” game. The lack of modern facilities, such as the absence of corner flags, made it a far cry from today’s professional stadiums.

What were the early competitions that West Bromwich Albion participated in?

The club’s early competitive breakthrough came when they joined the Birmingham & District Football Association in the 1881-82 season. This made them eligible for the Birmingham Senior Cup, where they gained recognition by defeating established sides.

What is West Bromwich Albion’s legacy in the modern era?

West Bromwich Albion’s legacy extends beyond being the one of the oldest clubs in association football. They have had their fair share of triumphs and challenges over the years, but their rich history and devoted fanbase continue to make them a cherished part of football culture.

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