Reading through old copies of late 19th Century copies of Athletic News is an interesting hobby. It has unearthed some excellent adverts meant to attract football clubs and players into buying their wares.
William Shillock of Birmingham advertised his sporting goods in the Athletic News in 1899. Only four years earlier it was from his shop window in Newtown Road that the FA Cup was stolen. It was on display after Villa’s FA Cup win and was never recovered. However, this didn’t appear to affect Shillock’s reputation as he was clearly still very much in business during 1899.
Shillock’s advert claimed that was the inventor and maker of the lace to toe football boot boasting that they were “STILL THE BEST” and that they had an “INDESTRUCTIBLE TOE”. The list of clubs that use these “celebrated boots” include some great 19th Century football names such as Newton Heath (Manchester United), Woolwich Arsenal (Arsenal), Leicester Fosse (Leicester City) and Glossop North End.
Obviously footballs were clearly an important aspect of sporting advertisement, and from William Shillock you could buy “The McGregor”. A ball that was used in “the International match England v Scotland and the English Cup Final”. If the McGregor was a little too pricey you could always opt for the excellently named Bulldog, Endurance or Junior League ball, demonstrating that footballs have always had evocative names long before the “Mitre Delta” or “Jabulani”.
You’ve got your boots, you’ve got your football, now all you need is a shirt to proudly wear. Shillock claims his shirts are splendid quality and offers such delights as sash, stars or crosses on his shirts. He makes a similar claim that you can buy “indestructible” shirts to go with your indestructible football boot toes.
William Shillock wasn’t the only businessmen advertising his goods in the Athletic News. Fattorini & Sons who would later make the FA Cup that is still in use to this day.
A direct rival for William Shillock was Alec Watson who supplied a wide array of footballing goods from Shin Guards to “Knickers”. He appears especially proud of his butonless football, the Globe used for “Final Cup Ties and Principal Matches”. The buttonless football comes in many styles with lovely names, Champion, Chrome, Triumph, Alert, League & Wonder being your options.
Perhaps my favourite football advertisment in the Athletic News is for turnstiles. It may seem an odd thing to advertise, but football was going through a great expansion and clubs needed a way to control their crowds a little more easily.
Source: The wonderful British Newspaper Archive. Athletic News February 27 1899, August 7 1899 & August 14 1899.