Bloxwich, Staffordshire born outside right Charlie Athersmith began his football career in 1884 when only 12 years old with Bloxwich Wanderers, and when they amalgamated with Bloxwich Strollers he continued playing for the Strollers. He played for Unity Gas in Saltley in 1889 before joining League club Aston Villa in February 1891, making his Football League debut against Preston North End the next month. He made such an impression for Villa that he was soon selected for England, winning his first England cap in a 2-0 win over Ireland at Cliftonville Gardens, Belfast, when he set up Harry Daft for both of England’s goals. Two weeks later he played in the 1892 FA Cup Final where Aston Villa lost 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion at The Kennington Oval. This was the first of four consecutive seasons in which he scored eleven goals per season, his best career return being the dozen goals he scored in 1896-97 as Aston Villa did The Double.
Athersmith played a key role in Aston Villa’s League Championship winning sides of 1894, 1896, 1897, 1899 and 1900 as well as reaching two further F A Cup Finals, winning the Cup on both occasions in 1895 in a revenge victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Crystal Palace, and 1897, when The Double was sealed with a 3-2 victory over Everton at The Crystal Palace. He also played in three Sheriff of London Charity Shield matches against Scotland’s Queen’s Park and twice against The Corinthians, scoring the only goal in the last game at The Crystal Palace in March 1901.
Surprisingly he was not recalled to the England team until February 1897, when he scored in a 6-0 win against Ireland at Trent Bridge. He went on to win 10 more England caps through to April 1900, all three of his England goals coming against the Irish. He also made 9 appearances for The Football League, scoring 4 goals.
Many Villa fans from the era often recalled a famous incident during a League game in 1901 against Sheffield United which was played in driving freezing rain. Many of the players, including the legendary United goalkeeper Willie Foulke suffered mild frostbite in the bitter conditions. Finally, early in the second half Athersmith had had enough and borrowed an umbrella from a member of the crowd. Minutes later United’s Ernest Needham went one better and took a great coat from a spectator. Athersmith, complete with umbrella later scored. Athersmith’s time at Villa Park also saw him in the side who suffered a sensational third round FA Cup exit against Millwall Athletic in a second replay in March 1900 but he continued as a first team regular until his transfer to Birmingham neighbours Small Heath (now Birmingham City) in September 1901 after 86 goals in 310 appearances for Aston Villa.
He was relegated in his first season with Small Heath but missed only four games as they were promoted back to the First Division in 1902-03 as Second Division runners up. However he lost his regular place at the start of the 1904-05 season, and having scored 13 goals in 106 appearances for Small Heath, Athersmith played on a Tagg & Campbell tour of Germany in 1906, for which he received a year’s suspension from football by the Football Association, it was lifted in May 1907, by when he had retired. He then spent two seasons at a trainer with Grimsby Town between June 1907 and May 1909 before leaving the professional game.
He was a first cousin of 1930’s Rotherham United and Liverpool player Vic Wright.