George Frederick Wheldon (1 November 1869 – 13 January 1924) was an English sportsman. He was sometimes known as Fred or Freddie Wheldon. In football, he was an inside-forward for England and several Football League clubs, in particular for Small Heath and Aston Villa. In cricket, he was a right-handed batsman and occasional wicket-keeper, who played county cricket for Worcestershire in their early seasons in the first-class game.
After retiring from sport, he became a publican in Worcester, where he died at the age of 54.
"Diamond" Freddie Wheldon, an inside-left with good footwork and an eye for goal, joined Small Heath, then playing in the Football Alliance, in February 1890. In the following six seasons he missed only one League game. In 1892–93, the inaugural season of the Football League Second Division, he scored Small Heath's first ever Football League goal, and his 25 goals in 22 appearances that season did much to help the club to the Division Championship; they failed to win promotion via the Test Match system then in operation. He scored over 20 goals again the next season, and this time the club were promoted. On Small Heath's relegation in 1895–96, Wheldon joined reigning First Division champions Aston Villa for a fee of £350.
In his first season, he was Aston Villa's leading scorer, and in 1897–98 he was the League's top scorer with 21. During his four seasons at the club they won three League titles, including the League/FA Cup Double in 1896–97. Wheldon also won four England caps during this period, scoring six goals.
At the end of the 1899–1900 season he moved to West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £100, which made him the first player to play for all three major Birmingham-area clubs. He later represented several other clubs for short periods, and retired from football in January 1907 at the age of 37.
|“||One of the select few who have won fame both at cricket and football. At one period of his long and brilliant career, Fred Wheldon's services would have been accepted by any club in the country. When at his best, he was undoubtedly the finest inside left forward England possessed. His command of the ball, his adaptability to prevailing conditions, combined with his dodging, his swerving, and his deadly shooting, made him a great player in the highest company. Brilliant with head and foot alike, he has always been an ornament to the game. Can boast the distinction of having represented Small Heath, Aston Villa, and West Bromwich Albion.||”|
The Villa News and Record 1 September 1906
Born in Langley Green (which was then in Worcestershire), Wheldon made his debut in Worcestershire's maiden first-class game, against Yorkshire in May 1899. He made a useful 49 not out in the first innings, and held two catches in Yorkshire's second. Wheldon played in 14 matches in total that season, scoring 541 runs at an average of 33.81 including three half-centuries.
The following season Wheldon had a rather thinner year, averaging under 20 despite making exactly 100 against Hampshire and in the process sharing in a sixth-wicket stand of 186 with William Lowe. 1901 was worse still, as he did not pass 51 in 26 innings, and 1902 was little better, but he returned to form at last in 1903 with 969 runs – the most of his career – including 112 against Somerset. He also collected his only first-class stumping that year, against Yorkshire: Thomas Straw had been due to keep wicket, but was delayed in arriving at the ground, so Wheldon replaced him both in the team and behind the stumps.
Wheldon passed 900 runs again in 1904, also collecting 40 catches – by far the most in a season in his career – and making 103 against Leicestershire, but thereafter his form fell away rapidly and in 1905 he recorded a disastrous aggregate of 237 runs in 18 innings, dropping out of the team in late July. He did return for 1906, but again his form was poor and though he made an unbeaten 89 batting at number nine against Warwickshire (out of 633; again Wheldon kept wicket) his next highest score was 31 and he played no more after the end of the season.
- Tony Matthews (1995). Birmingham City: A Complete Record. Breedon Books. p. 133. ISBN 1-85983-010-2.
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