Non-League Football Clubs Darwen & Nelson Have Massive Histories
As the Premier League and Football League cancelled all football across the country in March this year, a new period drama arrived called “The English Game” written by Julian Fellowes appeared on our television screens. The series was about the origins of modern football and featured the story of Darwen Football Club a team that was run by a local mill owner and a team of players who worked in the mill, looking to become the first milltown club to win the FA Cup against former public schoolboys in Old Etonians.
The programme shows a pivotal moment for the working class as English football went on to become a game for the masses and not just for public schoolboys. AFC Darwen the club that featured in the series, are still playing football in the non-league as part of the North West Counties Division One (North) and the club is making extra revenue at this difficult time by selling club shirts that were seen in the television series.
The club has received pre-orders for fifty shirts from around the UK and overseas, the old fashioned shirt is being produced by Burnley based Surridge Sports and the clubs chair person Sarah Hindle said “Sales are going well, its amazing really as we didn’t know what to expect. The shirts are going into production the first week in June 2020 and it’s really fantastic to see so many people interested in buying the shirt, which will give the club a financial boost whilst the season is cancelled due to coronavirus.”
Darwen Football Club became the first football club in history to have a professional footballers on their books, when Jimmy Love signed for the club and made his debut in October 1878. He formed a right wing partnership with Tommy Marshall and became top goalscorer at the club, scoring twice against Eagley in the FA Cup second round by which time Fergie Suter had also joined the club as a professional. Love, scored two more in the third round and was in top form when Darwen faced Old Etonians in the famous 5-5 draw on 13 February 1879. Darwen were 5-1 down at half-time but came back in the second half to make it 5-5 with Jimmy Love scoring two second half goals.
As football became a working men’s sport in the late eighteen hundreds, milltown clubs started forming in towns such as Darwen, Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley and Nelson as the game moved away from the rich to become a game for the working class. One of those milltown clubs are is still in business today Nelson Football Club formed in 1882 and took part in the Lancashire League before becoming a founder member of Third Division North in 1921, winning the Championship a year later to gain promotion to the Football League Second Division.
As part of their preparation for life in the Football League Second Division, Nelson went on a pre-season tour to Spain in the summer of 1923, as part of their pre-season tour the club became the first English club to beat Real Madrid on home soil. The tour proved to be a great success for Nelson Football Club after beating Real Madrid 4-2 they also beat Real Oviedo 2-1. Unfortunately after such a successful tour the club’s first season in the Football League didn’t go well and they were relegated back to the Third Division North.
Nelson Football Club also famously started the management career of Joe Fagan who became player manager of the Lancashire club. He spent two seasons at Seedhill Park from 1951 to 1953 before coming assistant manager Rochdale Football Club. He later went on to became reserve coach, first team coach, assistant manager and manager of Liverpool Football Club were he won the European Cup, Football League Championship and League Cup in his first season as manager of the club.