Lowestoft and Kirkley memories recalled
IN their heyday, they were arguably the best football team in the country.But during a break in competitive fixtures Aston Villa, the reigning double winners, decided that having beaten all before them they needed a new challenge - and so they ventured to the east coast for a friendly match.
IN their heyday, they were arguably the best football team in the country.
But during a break in competitive fixtures Aston Villa, the reigning double winners, decided that having beaten all before them they needed a new challenge - and so they ventured to the east coast for a friendly match.
Ahead of a unique anniversary tomorrow (Saturday) a rare piece of Lowestoft's history is set to go under the hammer today (Friday).
On February 28, 1898 the mighty Villians descended on town to take on a combined Lowestoft and Kirkley side at Crown Meadow. Fast forward almost exactly 111 years to the present day and at the salerooms of Keys Auctioneers in Aylsham, memories of this particular clash will be recalled as the 'rare' programme from this match is sold.
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Steeped in history, Aston Villa - one of 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888 - were the best team in the country at the time.
They were first division champions in 1893-94, 1895-96, 1896-97, 1898-99 and 1899-1900. They also won the FA Cup in 1895 and 1897, thus becoming only the second side in history to complete a prestigious league and cup double only a few months before this match was played.
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And reflecting upon this, Keys auctioneer and book specialist Andrew Bullock told The Journal: 'Aston Villa were playing away, yet they got the billing. 'I think they were one of the top sides around then, but even in these days it's a long way to travel for a friendly.
'It is very, very rare,' he added. 'In those days programmes were printed on a single sheet and it is a very ephemeral thing.'
The previous owner had the programme framed and while there are slight signs of folding, bidding for lot 1,200 in today's book sale at Key's is estimated to reach around �350-400.
The Journal can today reveal that research has also unearthed some more gems about the game. With six Lowestoft players, and five Kirkley players making up the Combined X1, Villa eventually won the match 6-0.
But Lowestoft Town captain William Beatton impressed The Villains on the day… and he soon became the first-ever player in The Blues - or The Drifters as they were known back then - history to be transferred to a professional club.
Lowestoft Town club secretary, and local historian, Terry Lynes said: 'Villa were very impressed by the Lowestoft captain William Beatton and asked permission to speak to him after the game with a view to him signing and playing for Villa a fortnight later. 'Although interested, Beatton said he wanted to stay at Lowestoft and help them win the first Norfolk & Suffolk League title'
As the Norfolk & Suffolk League has only been formed in 1897, thus the competition had only started that season, Beatton was true to his word as he turned down the best professional side in the country to help inspire Lowestoft to win the league.
This was the same league that Norwich City would eventually enter in 1902-03, and in this very season Norwich lost their first-ever competitive match in the preliminary round of the FA Cup 5-0 to Lowestoft.
'Beatton went on to sign for Villa the following November giving him a permanent place in the club's history as the first player to be transferred to a professional club,' Mr Lynes said. 'He had a few more games for the Town later in his career.'
Lowestoft subsequently dominated the first inter-county competitive league matches winning the title six times in the first seven years, while Beatton was killed in action in 1915, aged 38, and is now buried at Agny Military Cemetery.
Speaking about the programme, Mr Lynes admitted that it is a 'valuable bit' of Lowestoft's history.
'This is very interesting - I did not know that a programme was prepared for this game,' he said. 'Lowestoft programmes were not regularly issued until the mid 1920s. It was not uncommon in those early days for combined local sides to meet professional opposition in friendly matches with competitive matches being a lot fewer,' he added.
The auction starts at 11am today, with this particularly lot likely to go under the hammer between 12.30 to 1pm.