West Bromwich, Staffordshire born half back Albert Wilkes played for Oldbury Town in 1895 before joining Second Division Walsall in 1896, for whom he made his Football League debut at Gainsborough Trinity that September. He was an ever present in Walsall’s 1897-98 campaign before being signed by First Division Aston Villa in the 1898 close season after 6 goals in 46 appearances for The Saddlers.
He made his Aston Villa debut that September in a home victory over Stoke and played 11 League games as Aston Villa won the League Championship, before playing 21 games in their 1899-1900 campaign that saw them successfully retain the League Championship. He was less fortunate in the FA Cup where he found himself part of a Villa side beaten in a famous cup upset by Southern League Millwall Athletic in March 1900.
He was first selected for England in March 1901, playing in a 6-0 thrashing of Wales at St James’ Park, Newcastle, and he also played in a 2-2 draw against Scotland at The Crystal Palace at the end of the same month. The following year he played in all three home internationals, although the first match against Scotland, at Ibrox on 5th April 1902, was abandoned (and declared void) due to a fatal stand collapse. He scored his only goal for England in the replayed match four weeks later at Villa Park, which also finished a 2-2 draw and proved to be his last England cap of five.
He was a member of Aston Villa’s 1901 FA Cup semi final team that lost to Sheffield United at The Baseball Ground, Derby, and played in two Sheriff of London Charity Shield matches against The Corinthians, losing the first in November 1899 and winning the second in March 1901, both matches being held at The Crystal Palace.
The Aston Villa News and Record described him thus in September 1906: “A player of parts and a worthy follower of past Villa heroes. Scrupulously fair and honest in tackling, a willing worker, and an adept at finding openings for goal in big games. No place in the half-back line comes amiss to him. A quite, unostentatious player of the untiring order, he has done his share in raising the tone of football both on and off the field. ‘Straight as a die’, he is a general and deserved favourite.”
After the 1903-04 season his appearances for the Aston Villa became less frequent, and in the summer of 1907 he joined newly elected Second Division club Fulham, having scored 8 goals in 159 appearances for Aston Villa, where his appearances remained sporadic, with 2 goals in 16 appearances for The Cottagers. He had a brief spell with Chesterfield Town playing three times for the club in April 1909 before retiring in July.
He is also famous for his eponymous sports photography business. He began his photographic career whilst still a player and he continued until his death. His son Albert Wilkes Junior continued the business until it was sold to leading photographic agency Colorsport in 1970. He was later a Football League referee and an Aston Villa director from September 1934 to his death in December 1936.