The Football League Clubs of Lancashire – Part 1

Football is big in Lancashire and the north-west of England.  The huge scale of industrialization and urbanization during the 19th century in the region brought huge numbers into the area. Football’s popularity as the working man’s sport soon spread as the growing cities and mill town each created their own professional football team.

The football league’s first season started in 1888 and of the 12 original teams 6 hailed from within the boundaries of Lancashire. The first title was won by Preston North End as they went through their campaign undefeated and also won the FA Cup. They followed this up by retaining their title the following season with Everton becoming the champions in the 1890–1891 season.

Preston North End still survive today playing in the Championship which is now the second tier of the football league. They play on the same site in the Deepdale area of Preston, that they played in the 1888 season. They have not won the top tier league since the 1889-1890 season, but they have won the FA cup on two occasions and have been beaten finalists five times.

One of Preston’s most famous players was Tom Finney who played 433 times in the league scoring 187 goals. The “Preston Plumber” as he was known, also scored 30 goals for England. Since his retirement in 1960 the club have not played in the top flight of English football. One of Preston’s closest rivals has been Blackpool who were founded in 1887 and joined the second division of the football league for the 1896–1897 season. In 1900 they moved to the Bloomfield Road Ground and they have remained there ever since.

They now play in the third tier of the football league and tend to yo-yo between the divisions from season to season. They play in tangerine shirts and their most successful period was during the 1950s. They had four top six finishes in the old first division, and in 1956 had their best ever league season finishing runners up.

When England played Hungary in 1953 there were four Blackpool players in the side, and later in the same season they won their only FA cup in what is now known as the “Matthews Final”.

Stanley Matthews the Blackpool winger

Playing Lancashire rivals Bolton Wanderers, they found themselves 3–1 down with only 35 minutes to go. A hat trick from Stan Mortenson saw Blackpool fight back to claim a 4–3 victory. The game, however was remembered for the wizardry of the Blackpool winger Stanley Matthews. He ran rings around the Bolton defenders to create the goals for Mortenson to score.

Playing for Bolton that day, and indeed scoring, was the legendary Nat Lofthouse who scored 30 goals for England in only 33 appearances. For Bolton he scored 255 goals in 452 games in the 15 seasons that he represented them, which started in 1946.

Bolton were founder members of the football league and they hold the record of spending the most seasons in the top flight without ever winning the league. In the 73 seasons that they have been in the top division they have finished third on three occasions. They have won the FA cup however, on four occasions and been beaten finalists in three other years.

For 106 years they played their home games at Burden Park but in 1997 they moved to an out of town location which was originally called the Reebok Stadium, but is now known as the Macron Stadium. This arena has a capacity of 29,000 seats and there is a hotel and conference rooms within the complex. The arena is also used for concerts and is very much a modern-day stadium.

For a club with such a rich history Bolton are one of a couple of Lancashire sides that are striving to climb back into the premiership. The investment in order to do so nowadays is massive, but the returns are big as well.