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Aston Villa and the rain-protected winger

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Charlie Athersmith was not only a great player for Aston Villa, but he once did something very amusing.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

This edition of Holte History is about Charlie Athersmith. Mr. Athersmith was by all accounts an excellent player and had a great career in claret and blue. But there was one fact about him that really made him stand out as a potential person to write about. You'll know what it is when we get there.

William Charles Athersmith was born in Bloxwich in Staffordshire on May 10, 1872. He played for the wonderfully named Bloxwich Strollers in his early career before signing for Aston Villa in 1891.

On his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1891, he scored a hat-trick. Athersmith and John Devey, both newcomers to the club in 1891, would combine well in their first season at Villa. Winger Athersmith and striker Devey combined for 40 goals in 1891-92 with Athersmith providing 25 assists. Athersmith would play so well in his first season that he received his first of twelve England caps in March 1892. Villa reached the 1892 FA Cup final but would lose to West Bromwich Albion.

Athersmith would go on to be a crucial part of the Villa side that dominated the late 1890s. With Athersmith in the side, Villa won the league in 1894, 1896, 1897, 1899 and 1900. They also won the FA Cup in 1895, where they got some revenge on West Brom, and 1897.

As good as he was, there's one story about him that stands out. In 1901, Villa took on Sheffield United in a game plagued by bitter, freezing rain. It was so bad that Sheffield United goalkeeper Willie Foulke suffered mild frostbite. After getting fed up with the conditions, Athersmith decided to borrow a fan's umbrella and proceeded to play the remainder of the match carrying an umbrella to shield him from the conditions. And not only that, he scored. With an umbrella over his head, Charlie Athersmith scored a goal in a English First Division football match.

Author Simon Page, who wrote "Pinacle of the Perry Barr Pets", said of this event:

"Such an incident would perfectly fit Charlie's personality. There was a cheeky humour about the man and he could actually have crucified any defence while wearing a three-piece suit, bowler hat and carrying a briefcase to match his umbrella."

However, later that year, Athersmith would leave Aston Villa and join Small Heath, who you may know today as Birmingham City. Athersmith played 311 matches for Villa, scoring 86 goals. He played another four seasons at that other club before retiring in 1905. He served as Grimsby Town's trainer from 1908 to 1909. He passed away at the young age of 38 in 1910.

Charlie Athersmith should be remembered as one of Aston Villa's most important players in the most dominant period in the club history. But he should also be remembered for scoring while playing with an umbrella.

Sources

http://spartacus-educational.com/ASTONathersmith.htm

http://www.avfc.co.uk/page/NewsDetail/0,,10265~2622449,00.html

http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2013/02/12/villa-star-charlie-athersmiths-england-caps-set-to-be-sold-for-1000-each/