THE?LUKES. A football team so well-known and respected in their own corner of the Black Country that they didn’t even need to use their full name.
The football club affiliated to St Luke’s Church on the Four Ways at Cradley Heath may be long gone now, but they were local heroes for much of their existence, with dozens of their lads going on to make the grade as professionals, and four going on to become full England internationals. This was no run of the mill local side, and now, thanks to local author and Lukes enthusiast Trevor Sidaway, their definitive history is ready to be told in a brand new book: Cradley Heath St Luke’s Football Club 1896 — 1961.
It’s a slim but tightly packed volume of 70 pages, and from the very first chapter it’s clear that St Luke’s had an impressive pedigree. Amongst the very first players to pull on the shirt back in the 1890s was Stourbridge-born George Layton, who moved on to Small Heath FC, the fledgling Birmingham City.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that Bill Wooldridge, who signed for Wolves in 1900, playing 350 games and becoming team captain, turned out for the Lukes in his teens.
By 1911 the team were taking on all-comers. In that year, only fifteen seasons into their existence, they enjoyed an excellent FA Cup run, knocking out the likes of Hereford City, Nuneaton Town, Hednesford and Darlaston, before succumbing to Chesterfield Town on their home ground of Codsall Park in Cradley Heath.
During the First World War, St Lukes established a new home on land behind the Victoria Inn at Dudley Wood; a site which would eventually become famous as the home of Cradley Heathens speedway team. They took their stand and railings with them from Codsall Park.
Without giving too much away here, Trevor’s history of the club takes the reader through league and cup victories, changes of strip and changes of fortune, thanks to a wealth of photographs, club accounts, letters, and the diaries of the club’s director for many years, Percy Bullas.
So how did Trevor, who for 25 years was Managing Director of Lye engineering company Indentec, come to be writing up the history of a local football club?
“I took up writing as a hobby when I retired in 2000,” Trevor told us.
“And as I’m Cradley Heath born and bred, and a member of the Sidaway clan, I deal mainly with subjects covering the history of my area of the Black Country, and felt that the history of the Lukes was a story worth telling.
“I’m passionately fond of the beautiful game, so researching and writing up the history of my own local football Club seemed the thing to do — and so it proved to be!”
The new book is available now, and we will be stocking copies in the Bugle shop on Cradley Heath High Street.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Mary Stevens Hospice, Stourbridge.