Sports science, as it was
WHILE the likes of Victor Anichebe and Jonas Olsson undergo the latest in modern medical treatments for their current ailments, their predecessors in the Albion shirt of just under a century ago had to put up with rather more rudimentary forms of treatment and rehabilitation. And lads, if you are on the treatment table, or if you’re just a little bit squeamish, you might want to look away now.
The minute books of the football club record the decisions, great and small, that have been taken throughout our history. They’ve also recorded various moments of interest and, as such, they offer a fascinating snapshot not only of parts of our life story but of thewider culture that existed at that time.If we turn the pages back to January 1914, we discover the way in which injury was a far more sinister visitor to a footballer of the day. No, it’s no picnic nowadays, but when footballers earned little or no more than foundry workers, injury was a savage blow without any real financial cushion.
And, by God, they were painful.
Take the case of inside-forward Ernie Edwards. Joining the club as an amateur in May 1913, he turned professional and then made his debut in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday on 13th December of that year, scoring twice. Had Albion uncovered a new goalscoring gem?
There followed a barren run of five games, and Edwards was left out of the side for a game, returning to score in the 2-0 win over Grimsby in the third round of the FA Cup. He travelled with the rest of the side to Tyneside the following Saturday, January 17th 1914, and grabbed Albion’s first goal in the 3-3 draw, but the game was to end in disaster as he broke his leg in a tackle later in the game.While a fracture might mean a few months out these days, back then, a broken leg was at least a year out and, quite possibly, that was you finished. However, according to the minute books, Edwards was going to be one of the lucky ones.
“Dr Marten had written stating that he had screwed the Bones of Edwards’ leg together with a plate and that he should make a satisfactory recovery.
“A collection at The Hawthorns on Saturday last on Edwards’ behalf had realised £24 – 7 – 0 (£24.35) which had been placed to his credit in a special Deposit a/c at the Bank.
“Newcastle United have handed to the player a Donation of Three Guineas. The question of a further Donation from the Club to the Edwards Fund was deferred.”
Whether Edwards would have played again at the highest level became a moot point as football was soon to take second place to the slaughter of World War One. He recovered sufficiently to guest for Tipton Excelsior during the Great War and then played some reserve team games, helping Albion’s second XI win the Birmingham & District League title in 1920. He moved on to Walsall in March 1920, and then to Merthyr Tydfil a year later. It was left to his brother, Jimmy “Iron” Edwards to win real glory with the Throstles as a member of the famous 1930/31 double winning side.