Archive for February, 2011

The War Years

Good day and welcome back to this weekly special tracking the origins of football. After a week off to allow people to catch up at the half way stage, we are back and this week we are going to take a look at how football was affected by war in Britain.

The most famous story from the war most likely comes from Christmas Eve, 1915, when both British and German forces laid down arms and joined to play a friendly game of football. The football was produced from materials around the battlefield and it is suggested that thousands of men took part in the friendly with the German regiment eventually coming out victorious at 3-2.

The inter-war years were dominated by Huddersfield Town, Everton and Arsenal, who won eleven of the eighteen league titles contested between them, with Huddersfield and Arsenal each grabbing a hat-trick, and Arsenal taking five in total, as well as two FA Cups.

By the turn of the 1930s the national side often played against other national teams from outside the British Isles. However, the FA’s resignation from FIFA in 1928 meant that England did not contest any of the first three World Cups. The 1939–40 season was abandoned in September 1939 following the outbreak of World War II. However, as with World War I, a special wartime league was played throughout the war years, with the FA Cup again suspended. Ten regional “mini-leagues” were initially established in 1939 as well as the Football League War Cup which ran six seasons from 1939 to 1945 with West Ham United, Preston North End, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers winning the trophy while in 1943-44 Aston Villa and Charlton Athletic shared the trophy after drawing 1-1. Various leagues and cups were organised throughout the war years for five seasons until the FA Cup resumed in 1945–46. The Football League returned the following season.

The post-war years were dominated first by Manchester United with three titles and an FA Cup and Wolverhampton Wanderers with three titles and two FA Cups. Although Manchester United’s progress was halted by the 1958 Munich air disaster.  The Munich air disaster took place on 6 February 1958, when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, along with a number of supporters and journalists. Twenty of the 44 people on board the aircraft died in the crash. The injured, some of whom had been knocked unconscious, were taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich where three more died, resulting in a total of 23 fatalities with 21 survivors.


The disaster which left the Manchester United side both depleted and devastated is still remembered to this day at Old Trafford with a commemorative clock and annual tributes to the men who lost their lives in the horrific disaster.


However, during this time English football was being outstripped abroad. England lost 1-0 to the United States at the 1950 World Cup, and then lost 6-3 to Hungary at Wembley in 1953. English clubs had little success in the European club competitions that had been set up. The FA and the Football League persuaded the 1954–55 league champions Chelsea against participating in the first European Cup competition which took place in 1955-56. Chelsea’s successors as champions, Manchester United ignored such advice and went on to reach the semi-final of the 1956–57 European Cup, where they lost to the eventual winners Real Madrid.

In the following seasons European Cup, United defeated Red Star Belgrade in the quarter final only to be decimated in the air disaster at Munich when eight players died returning from the second leg match in Belgrade. Their patched-up team managed to beat A.C. Milan in the home leg at Old Trafford in the semi-finals, but went out of the competition when they lost the return leg 4-0. In the 1958–59 European Cup Wolverhampton Wanderers went out in the first round.

However, the following season they managed to reach the quarter final, where they lost to eventual winners Real Madrid. Two English teams reached the finals of the first two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tournaments. In the 1955–58 Fairs Cup, which took place over three seasons, and which allowed only one team from each participating city, a London XI made up of players from various London clubs, reached the final where they lost 8-2 to over two legs to Barcelona. The next Fairs Cup also took place over three seasons from 1958 to 1960, and Birmingham City reached the final where they also lost to Barcelona, 4-1 in a one-off final.

The Football League was re-organised for the 1958–59 season with Third Divisions North and South discontinued. The top half of each regional Third Division from the previous season formed a new Third Division, while the lower halves formed the new Fourth Division. The restructuring of the league format to the four divisions is what can be seen today. The Npower Championship, League One and League Two make up the three divisions and the Barclays Premier League is the top flight of football now, having broken away from the Football League in 1992.

Thank you very much for reading this latest installment of the origins of football.

I hope you have enjoyed it and feel free to leave any comments on this post.

I look forward to seeing you next week when we look at the rise of international football.

Have a great weekend.



The Football League

Welcome back once again to our weekly special. Origins of Football is a blog where by a series of posts we are analysing and tracing back through the history of British football, discovering where exactly ‘the beautiful game’ has come from and developed.

Last week’s edition saw Notts County, who are the oldest professional football club in the world and this week, we are going to take a look at the formation of The Football League. The Football League is the oldest structured competition in the world, preceding all other leagues around the world. Having been founded in 1888 The Football League became the top flight of English football for over a century before the advent of the Premier League in 1992.

With football’s popularity ever on the increase and more and more men playing the sport to a high standard the Football Association had to decide whether the game could be allowed to go professional or not. Four years of meeting son the subject followed before in 1885, the Board of Directors agreed that professional in football should be legalised.

Mr William McGregor who was a director at Aston Villa Football Club at the time, was the man who took the initiative after the legalisation and decided to start and create a league whereby clubs would be guaranteed fixtures and regular income. On the 2nd of March, 1888, McGregor made his first move and made contact with the executive boards at Aston Villa, as well as five other clubs; Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, Stoke F.C.  

Having studied American sporting structures in some detail McGregor had devised the plan that each team would earn point based on the result, playing each opponent both home and away before the winner is crowned, the team with the most points. This structure is almost an exact replica in most sports nowadays, but it originated from the American Football system in US colleges.

If you are ever visiting Manchester, why not take a visit to The Royal Buildings in Market Street? That is exactly where you would find a commemorative red plaque in the place where The Football League was officially named and started on the 17th of April. However, it is known that the league was created and formed by McGregor and company at Anderson’s Hotel in London on the 23rd of March 1888, the day before the FA Cup final.

A few months passed by before the first ever official football league in the world was scheduled to begin. By this time, twelve clubs had joined and The Football League was set to begin with their first ever season starting on the 8th of September 1888. The twelve clubs which competed in the inaugural season were; Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke F. C., West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

So with the scene set the season went ahead as planned and winning teams earned two points for a victory, losers none and a draw would earn teams one point each. Also each team would play each other twice, once at their home ground and once away from home. After twenty-two weeks of competition the first ever official football league season was over and Preston North End ran away victors, not losing a match all season and in turn won the first ever league and cup double, winning The Football League and the FA Cup.

It did not take long for The Football League’s popularity and reputation to flourish. By 1892, only four years after the league’s formation the directors of The Football League took the decision to create a Second Division with the absorption of the rival Alliance League as well as it being able to make room in order to accommodate all of the clubs who wanted to play in the official Football League. Nottingham Forest, The Wednesday, and Newton Heath were added to the new First Division, and Darwen were reallocated to the new Second, bringing the First Division total to 16 clubs. With the addition of Northwich Victoria, Burslem Port Vale and Sheffield United the Second Division of the football league began with twelve teams, totally the whole league to twenty-eight professional clubs.

The league continued to grow as the next season saw six more professional clubs join the system; as Burton, Leicester, Liverpool, Middlesborough, Newcastle and Woolich Arsenal all moved into The Football League. After ten years of The Football League it was decided that there was going to be automatic promotion and regulation for the top and bottom two clubs of the league system. This ruling was brought in after the old, Test Match structure brought the game into disrepute when Stoke and Burnley colluded in the final in order to allow both sides to play in the First Division the following year.


The Football League has continued to expand for a long period of time and today’s structure sees seventy-two different teams play across three divisions. When the top twenty teams in the country took the decision to break away from The Football League and form the FA Premier League, now the Barclays Premier League after various rebranding, The Football League also commercialised and became a sponsored league. Having taken sponsorships of the league for the previous decade, the breakaway made by the ‘elite’ clubs did not affect the financial position of The Football League.

Today, The Football League is The Npower Football League after a massive new sponsorship deal saw the energy company take over from Coca-Cola as the league’s sponsors. Queen’s Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest are currently occupying the premium places in The Npower Football League, sitting the two automatic promotion places which would earn them a place in The Barclays Premier League for the 2011/12 season.


Thank you very much for reading this week’s edition of Origins of Football.

I hope you have enjoyed this latest post, feel free to leave any comments; any feedback would be much appreciated.

I look forward to seeing you for next Friday’s instalment when we analyse how football developed and maintained its status through the years of war.

Have a great weekend, The Npower Football League has a full weekend of fixtures for you to enjoy as the world’s oldest official football league still lives, 123 years on after its formation.



Welcome to week three of this weekly special where we are tracking the origins of British football. So far we have seen the formation of the oldest club in the world, Sheffield FC and the establishment of the national governing body, the Football Association. Today we’re going to switch our focus back to clubs and look at the oldest of the professional clubs in the world.

Notts County Football Club was formed in 1862 and is globally recognised as the oldest professional team out of all of the full time clubs in the world.

On the 28th November 1862, the Nottingham Guardian reported: “The opening of the Nottingham Football Club commenced on Tuesday last at Cremorne Gardens. A side was chosen by W.Arkwright and Chas. Deakin. A very spirited game resulted in the latter scoring two goals and two rouges against one and one.” This shows that Notts County predated the Football Association, therefore devising their own rules before joining the FA at the first opportunity and playing under the standardised national rules.

The club’s first home was in the grounds of Nottingham Castle at Park Hollow but having made the decision to play games against outside teams in December 1864 they realised they were going to need a bigger venue. After a long search a various temporary venue the club eventually decided that Trent Bridge Cricket Ground was the place where they wanted to settle and moved there in 1883. Soon after Trent Bridge became a full time cricket venue which meant that Notts County had to make another move.

Searching for a home was difficult and for a period The Magpies ending up back at the Castle Grounds as they waited for a venue which suited them. They also went through a period where they shared the Town Ground and City Ground with city rivals Nottingham Forest. Finally, in 1910, Meadow Lane became available and Notts County moved in and have stayed right up to the present day.

 In 1888 Notts County became one of the twelve founding members of the Football League. This brought structure to national football and the league system was well and truly established and began to grow at quite a rate. The club had to wait six year after the formation of the Football League for their first silverware, when in front of 37,000 supporters at Goodison Park, Everton, they lifted the FA Cup for the first and so far only time in their history. The 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers made County the first ever second division side to win the trophy.

The club had to wait even longer for their team to have a good run and make a real mark in the Football League. The start of the 1970’s is considered to have been their best period so far with Jimmy Sirrel at the helm. Having taken over at the start of the decade when Notts County laid in Division Four, Sirrel took the team and made a real impact and the decade proved to be the most successful of the club’s history, starting the 1980’s in Division One and recording a famous victory over Chelsea FC.

 After that win, three consecutive seasons in the top flight of British football followed but when the wage bills began to rise and commercialism to full hold of football, The Magpies were unable to keep up and the decline begun. Survival was to become difficult for the oldest professional football club in the world and various public pleas to fans and investors alike for money were often the case.

Through the turbulent periods where money was hard to come by for the club, support never dwindled and attendances at Meadow Lane have always stayed up. Supporters Trusts and many more officially affiliated organisations were set up in order to keep the club alive and there was a constant search for money and investment.

In 2009 it seemed that all of Notts County’s problems could have been solved when the business Munto Finance stepped in and bought the club, signalling their intentions straight away with the appointment of former England manager, Sven Goran-Eriksson as their number one. Money was flooding into the club and dreams began to reignite and the club had a special vibe of excitement around it once again.

However, as 2010 dawned, Munto Finance lost money, and the amount of support available for the club was minimal and the accountancy business was forced to sell up after a £500,000 winding up order was served by HM Revenue & Customs. The situation was so dire for Notts County that the club was eventually bought by Ray Trew for the lowly sum of £1. That one pound gave him the majority shareholding and overall control of the club; once the takeover was complete both Eriksson and all involved in Munto Finance resigned from the club and stepped down.

Trew managed to gain the services of former England international, Paul Ince as the manager and the club are starting to gain some momentum. Currently playing in the Npower Football League One, The Magpies are hovering around the mid-table mark and are starting to build a strong squad which they believe could eventually be able to challenge for promotion. The ultimate goal of the club at the moment is to try and restore pride to the oldest professional football club in the world.

Thank you very much once again for reading this series of football history.

Feel free to leave any comments; any feedback would be much appreciated.

Look forward to seeing you for next Friday’s instalment when we take a look at the formation of the Football League.

Have a great weekend, Notts County are away at Tranmere in a there o’clock kick off, keep your eye out for the score from the oldest professional football team in the world.