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Match knights

WEDNESDAY'S BOY: William Clegg and, below, his long-lost medal.

WEDNESDAY'S BOY: William Clegg and, below, his long-lost medal.

A MEDAL in a box revives memories of the gentleman footballers who both became knights. John Vincent reports.

Such was the case when a man in Devon discovered an unfamiliar star-shaped medal which has now been identified as that awarded to a 19th-century Sheffield Wednesday footballer.

And not just any old footballer. William Clegg, and elder brother Charles, became the first Wednesday footballers to be capped by England. William went on to become a football administrator, president of Sheffield Wednesday and a leading local politician who was elected Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 1898 and was often referred to as the “uncrowned king of Sheffield”.

As if that was not enough, he was also a solicitor... gaining widespread publicity when he defended the infamous housebreaker and murderer, Charles Peace, who was the son of a Sheffield shoemaker.

Brother Charles was later appointed chairman of the Football Association and was the first to be knighted for services to football. Extraordinarily, his brother was also knighted.

Now William Clegg’s long-lost medal – won when Wednesday beat Heeley 4-3 after extra time at Bramhall Lane, to lift the Sheffield Association Cup in 1877 – is expected to fetch up to £2,000 when it goes under the hammer at a Bonhams sale, in Chester, on June 1.

It was the first trophy for Wednesday since the club was founded in 1867. Glory days in the First Division were around the corner with Wednesday winning the FA Cup in 1896 and 1907 and the League Championship in 1903 and 1904.William Clegg was perhaps not the most gifted players of his generation if a brief verdict on his skills in sportsman and administrator Charles Alcock’s 1875 Football Annual is anything to go by.

“A safe kick and good half-back,” is the succinct assessment. Nowadays, no doubt, he would be described as a “midfield star”.

But he was nothing if not versatile and became leader of the Liberal group on Sheffield City Council from 1895.

In his early political years, he pressed for the tramways to be municipally owned and then for the construction of council housing in the city, a campaign which led to a 400-home estate at Wincobank.

He also acted as the major financier of the local Liberal group.

After his political career ended, he concentrated on social and philanthropic work, taking a keen interest in education.

He became the pro-chancellor of Sheffield University and chairman of the city’s education committee.

William died, aged 80, in a Sheffield nursing home in 1932.

 

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