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Cup provides a silver lining for Wood Green

Sport | Published:

It was one of the country's first-ever football tournaments and a trophy coveted by some of the biggest clubs in the region.

The Wednesbury Charity Cup predated the founding of the Football League and was contested by some of the earliest ever teams fielded by Albion and Wolves.

Now, more than a century on from its heyday, the historic piece of silverware is sparkling once more thanks to five months of restoration and set to benefit a Wednesbury amateur team when sold at auction next month.

The story began earlier this year, when the cup caught the eye of an eagle-eyed jeweller while in very different condition to what it is now.

"My first thought was it was a piece of scrap," explains Aaron Sheldon, who runs Bowjangles in Wednesbury town centre. "A customer had brought it in and wanted to know if it was silver. My first thought was no. This thing was jet black.

Trace

"Then I noticed the hallmark, which meant it was silver, so I started work on it.

"To be honest, I still didn't think anything of it before I started uncovering some of the engraved names.

"The first one I saw was Walsall Town FC and I knew that was what Walsall started out as.

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"Below that was Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest. It was then I knew I needed to find out a bit more!"

Sheldon enlisted the help of a local historian in order to trace the early history of the cup, before taking it to Crescent Silver in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter to see if there was any chance of the silverware being restored.

He continued: "It took five months of work to get it to where it is now.

"It is remarkable really, you start to realise you have in your possession the trophy from one of the oldest football competitions going."

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First held in 1880, eight years before the founding of the Football League, the Charity Cup continued to be contested for more than a century in various guises, though it spent much of its later history as an amateur tournament.

One of the most notable early games on record was the 1883 final between Albion and Nottingham Forest, which attracted a crowd of more than 4,000 to Perry Barr. Forest won the game 5-3, while Baggies skipper Jack While suffered a career-ending broken leg.

"Some of the stories are incredible," added Sheldon. "I'm not really a big football fan but you look at some of the teams who played in the cup, whose names are engraved on the trophy and you can't help but wonder.

"There is so much history wrapped up in one trophy, you almost don't know where to start."

The restored cup is now set to be auctioned next month, with 15 per cent of the hammer price going to Wednesbury-based amateur team Wood Green Athletic.

"I always try and help out the local teams and this seemed the right thing to do," explained Sheldon. "Bids for the cup are expected to open at between £3,000 and £4,000 so the club should receive a decent amount."

Paul Mansell, manager at Wood Green, said: "The gesture is hugely appreciated by the staff, the team and all of the supporters.

"This will mean the rest of the season will be covered financially. It is a huge weight off our shoulders."

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