“The Prince of Full Backs”, Edgbaston, Birmingham born full back (he could play either side) Howard Spencer began his football career in 1890 playing for Stamford and Birchfield All Saints, and he played for Birchfield Trinity in 1891 before joining Aston Villa in April 1892 as an amateur. Having turned professional in June 1894, he made his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion the same October at the age of 18. At the end of his first season in the first team, Spencer played in the 1895 FA Cup Final victory over West Brom at The Crystal Palace and, the following season, helped Villa to win the League Championship, following this up with The Double of League Championship and FA Cup in 1897. Further League Championship medals followed in 1899 and 1900 and he captained Aston Villa to a further FA Cup victory in 1905, when they beat Newcastle United 2-0 in the Final.
Spencer made his international debut for England on 29th March 1897 in a 4-0 victory over Wales at Bramall Lane. He retained his place in the team for their following fixture on 3rd April 1897, a 2-1 defeat to Scotland at The Crystal Palace, going on to win a total of six caps over the next 8 years. He first captained England in a 4-0 victory over Ireland at Molineux in February 1903, becoming the first Aston Villa player to captain England in the club’s history. His final appearances for England came on 27th March and 1st April 1905 in victories over Wales and Scotland in which he also captained his country. He also made 9 appearances for The Football League.
He spent 13 years with Villa, scoring twice in 294 appearances despite taking the 1901-02 season off in order to rest his knee and ankle for twelve months in the hope of recovering from an injury. Over the course of his career, Spencer gained a reputation as a fair player and was well known for his good sportsmanship which earnt him his nickname. He announced his retirement from football at the end of the 1906-07 season but offered to play for the club in future if needed. This offer was taken up by Villa in November 1907 when Spencer played in three League matches, his final appearance for the club coming on 30th November 1907 against Newcastle United.
Following his retirement, Spencer joined the Aston Villa’s board of directors in 1909 and served as a director until 1936. He later also served as vice-president of the club.