Another 11/9 debacle : Villa left bamboozled for 119 years

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Very few football followers are ignorant of the name ‘Pickles’, the dog famous for finding out the stolen Jules Rimet trophy in 1966. But, it may come as a surprise to know that the theft was not the first of its kind. Exactly 119 years ago, on this day only, Aston Villa fans were dumbstruck to find that they do not have the trophy anymore to celebrate their second FA cup win.

On 20th April, 1895, Bob Chatt, in the very first minute of the match, scored the fastest goal in FA Cup Final history and helped Villa defeat West Bromwich Albion to register their second FA Cup title.

Aston Villa team that won the FA Cup 1894
Aston Villa team that won the FA Cup 1894

Afterwards, Aston Villa lent the trophy to a football equipment shop in Newtown Row, Birmingham to proudly display their achievement. The shop, owned by William Shillcock, left the Cup in the window for everyone to see. But, on the night of 11th September, the trophy was stolen to everyone’s utter amazement.

The Police, after preliminary investigation, told that it happened sometime between 21:30 on 11 September and 7:30 the following morning. FA offered a £10 reward for the return of the Cup, but unfortunately it was never found and Aston Villa was fined a princely sum of £25.

All on a sudden, the Football Association had a big problem. In those days, there was only one trophy and so, no one knew how to make a replica. Eventually, the FA borrowed one of the copies given to the Wolverhampton players and copied the design.

However, people had to wait as many as 63 years to get the biggest surprise about this incident. It was 1958 when Harry Burge, an eighty-three year old man by then and a known petty criminal in the Birmingham area around 1900, came out of his shell and made a confession that went viral at that time. While staying in a homeless hostel, Harry told a reporter from a Sunday newspaper that he was behind this theft. His confession was, “I stole the Cup. I used it to make false coins.”

It was definitely impossible to prove or look into his claim, being so long after the incident. But, this incident will remain one of the most colorful and interesting stories in the history of FA Cup football.

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