1888 – 1918

1888: On 22nd March 1888, following an original letter written by a Scotsman largely associated with Aston villa called William McGregor, who wanted organised home and away games to be played on a seasonal basis. A meeting took place at Andertons Hotel in Fleet Street and after a following conference at the Royal Hotel in Manchester a month later, the Football League was born and had announced its teams for the following seasons competition. The first of its kind in the world. Twelve teams were formerly invited to participate in the league.

The clubs were as follows: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Because of football at the time not having a professional club south of Birmingham, they were no entrants from the southern England. The Football League Kicked off on September 8th 1888 with Preston’s Jack Gordon reliably credited with the leagues first goal. Earlier that same year, West Bromwich Albion after two previous years of disappointment finishing runners up, won the FA Cup after beating Preston North End 2-1 in the final.

1889: The first ever Football League Championship was won overwhelmingly by Preston North End who completed the season without losing a single game. Preston, dubbed the ‘Invincibles’ following their achievements and Managed by William Suddell also went on to lift the FA Cup achieving the first notable domestic double after beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 in the final. Later that year the Football Alliance would be set up. This was a league designed to rival the football league.

1890: A year after winning the first ever football league championship, Preston North End would again reclaim the title, all be it much closer than the one previous, by just two points over Everton. Stoke City drop out of the league after finishing the first two seasons bottom of the table. Stoke, who failed in re-election are replaced by Sunderland who in their debut season are the first club to be deducted points after fielding an ineligible player, Goalkeeper Ned Doig who they signed from Arbroath but played before the league sanctioned his transfer. That same year Blackburn Rovers beat Football Alliance winners the Wednesday club of Sheffield 6-1 to win the FA Cup Final.

1891: After coming close the year before, Everton win the Football League by the same margin over Preston that North End had achieved the year previous. Blackburn Rovers won their second cup in a row and fifth of the decade after beating Notts County 3-1. Stoke City, now playing in the Football Alliance at least had something to cheer about by winning the championship thus gaining re-election to the now fourteen team football league with Darwen. In the close season, Referees and Umpires are replaced by Referees and Linesman. At the request of William McCrum of the Irish FA, the penalty kick is introduced as the free kick is considered not adequate enough for fouls preventing certain goals. The introduction of goal nets is also agreed.

1892: After just one season in the division, Sunderland are the new winners of the football league and are the first team to score 100 goals (exact) in the league. Preston finish second for the second successive year. West Bromwich Albion win the last FA Cup final to be played at the Kennington Oval, beating Aston Villa 3-0. As the Football League increases it’s numbers to two Divisions, Football Alliance Champions Nottingham Forest are elected to the again enlarged first division with Manchester side Newton Heath making the numbers up to sixteen. The second division is made up largely of Football Alliance, following the two leagues merger. The Second Division featured twelve teams: Ardwick, Bootle, Burslem PV, Burton Swifts, Crewe Alexander, Darwen, Grimsby Town, Lincoln City, Northwitch Victoria, Sheffield United, Small Heath & Walsall Town Swifts. Following the rise of professionalism, Sheffield FC approach the FA about organising a cup competition for the countries Amateur sides. The FA decline.

1893: Sunderland are successful again in holding off Preston to the Football League title, Small Heath are the first winners of the new Second Division. Wolverhampton Wanderers win the Challenge Cup against Everton 1-0 at the Fallowfield Stadium. The following season see’s the Second Division increased to fifteen teams with MD Ironopolis, Rotherham Town and Woolwich Arsenal all joining the league. Genoa become the first club in Italy to be formed by Englishmen based and working in the city. A year after being first approached and initially declining to host an Amateur competition the FA Amateur Cup starts for non professional teams to participate in.

1894: Aston Villa are winners of the First Division which for the first time doesn’t feature Preston North End in the top two, Sunderland after two successive titles finish as runners up. Liverpool win the Second Division and with Small Heath  in second, are promoted to the top flight with Darwen and bottom club Newton Heath the first teams suffering relegation to the second division. Notts County are FA Cup winners for the first and only time, beating Bolton Wanderers 4-1 in a final played at Goodison Park, also for the first and only time. The Second Division increases it’s numbers to match the sixteen in the First Division for the 1894/95 campaign, after a season, MD Ironopolis are replaced with Leicester Fosse and Burton Wanderers joining the league. Ardwick change there name to Manchester City.

1895: Sunderland’s ‘team of talents’ win back the title after Aston Villa beat them to it the year previous, it’s the clubs third in four years beating Everton in to second place. Bury win the Second Division and are promoted in place of Liverpool who finish bottom of the First. Aston Villa win the first ever FA Cup final played at Crystal Palace. In the repeat of the 1887 final they beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0. Some months later the Cup would be stolen from a shop window whilst on parade in Birmingham. Never to be seen since.

1896: Following their cup success the previous year, Aston Villa are champions for the second time with Derby County finishing runners up. Liverpool set a new goalscoring record as they net 106 times en-route to the Second Division title, they are promoted at the expense of Small Heath, despite West Bromwich Albion finishing bottom of the First Division. Bottom three in the second are Crewe, Rotherham Town and Burslem PVwho are both replaced by Gainsborough, Blackpool and Loughborough respectively. The 25th FA Cup Final is won by The Wednesday thanks to two Fred Spiksley goals in a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

1897: Aston Villa win their second successive Football League Championship, runners up Sheffield United are along way back from the leagues dominant force who also went on to win the cup. Even further back are Burnley who finish bottom of the table, they are replaced the following season by Notts County, who won the Second Division. With struggling Burton Wanderers stepping down to join the Midland Division, Luton take there place in Division Two for the following campaign. Villa’s 3-2 cup final triumph over Everton means they are the second side ever to complete the ‘double’.

1898: Sheffield United go one better than the previous campaign by winning the Football League for the first time in their history. The previous years double winners are nowhere to be seen in sixth place, Sunderland finish runners up and Stoke (who survive relegation to the leagues proposed expansion) are bottom. In Division Two, Burnley, relegated the year before after finishing bottom of the First Division go straight back up as Champions. Newcastle are also promoted in to an eighteen team First Division with Glossop North End, New Brighton Barnsley and Burslem PV (readmitted after two years absence) entering an expanded Second Division. In the FA Cup Nottingham Forest beat East Midland’s rivals Derby County 3-1 to take the trophy for the first time.

1899: Derby reach the FA Cup final again but are beaten 4-1 by Sheffield United in their first appearance in the final. Aston Villa win the league for the fourth time, the first club to do so, as they pip Liverpool who finish as runners up. Manchester City and Glossop North End (in their debut season) finish top two in Division Two, both are promoted at the expense of Bolton Wanderers and the Wednesday. Chesterfield replace Darwen who finish bottom of the Second Division. In Italy AC Milan are formed by British expatriates Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin.

1900: Aston Villa win the championship for a fifth time in seven years, Sheffield United are second with Glossop and Burnley relegated at the expense of Wednesday and Bolton. Bury beat Southampton in the FA Cup final 4-0. Loughborough and Luton are replaced by Middlesbrough and Stockport in Division Two after finishing the bottom pair at the foot of the table. The Olympic games trials a Football tournament for the first time. Three sides enter the competition, Upton Park FC representing Great Britain, Union des Societes Franciases representing the French and the Universite de Bruxelles of Belgium all playing matches against each other. The British side finishing with the best record although no medals would be awarded.

1901: Liverpool win there first Football League Championship by edging Sunderland after 34 games. West Brom and Preston are relegated at the expense of Grimsby and Small Heath. At the other end in the Second Division Burton Swifts finish bottom but for the following season merge with Burton Wanderers to create Burton United, thus keeping their football league status, largely because New Brighton, who finished fourth and Walsall, who finished 16th drop out to be replaced by Bristol City and Doncaster. In the FA Cup, Tottenham Hotspur become the only Amateur side since the start of the Football League to win the competition, playing in the Southern League they beat Sheffield United 3-1 in a replay at Burnden Park, Bolton after originally drawing 2-2 at Crystal Palace. League bosses impose a maximum wage of £4 to cap players earnings.

1902: After a six year gap, Sunderland win their fourth First Division title. Everton finish second. Small Heath (17th) and Manchester City (18th) are both relegated with West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough, for the first time being promoted. Following huge debts Newton Heath are financially saved by Managing Director of Manchester Breweries J.H Davies who offers a new start for the club, thus changing their name to Manchester United. In the FA Cup Sheffield United make up for defeat against Tottenham’s Amateurs in 1901 by beating Southampton in the final after a replay 2-1, both games were played at Crystal Palace. Alf Common, who scored in the final’s first match becomes the first £500 transferred player signing for Sunderland from Sheffield United.

1903: Bury win the FA Cup by a record scoreline of six goals to nil over Derby County. It’s Bury’s second cup win in four years. In the league Wednesday are champions for the first time. The Sheffield based team edge Aston Villa and Sunderland by a point to take the title. Manchester City and Small Heath are promoted with Grimsby and Bolton coming down in to Division Two. Bradford City are elected to take Doncaster’s place in the Second Division.

1904: The Wednesday win their second successive title with newly promoted Manchester City finishing in second place. City also going on to win the Challenge Cup after beating Bolton 1-0 thanks to a Billy Meredith goal. In Division Two Preston pip Woolwich Arsenal by a point to win the title, both replacing Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion in the following season’s top flight. Elsewhere in the Second Division, Stockport are replaced by Doncaster for the 1904/05 campaign. FIFA, the ‘Federation International de Football Association’ is formed in Paris on 21st May 1904. Nations including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden are founding members of the worlds first governing body.

1905: Chelsea are formed following Fulham turning down the chance to buy Stamford Bridge. The grounds owners, deciding to create their own team to play at the West London ground. Also solving ground problems in the capital are Crystal Palace, who finally turn professional after the FA originally opposed the idea that a team could play a cup final on its home ground. Newcastle United are Football League Champions for the first time beating Everton by a point to the title. With the Football League increasing again to twenty teams in each division, for the following campaign, Bury and Notts County survive relegation with Liverpool (Champions) and Bolton Wanderers promoted from Division Two.

The Second Division welcomes back Stockport who replace Doncaster (who had replaced them the year before) and includes four new sides, the newly formed Chelsea, Clapton Orient, Hull City and Leeds City for the coming season.  Manchester City’s Billy Meredith is suspended after attempting to bribe Aston Villa’s captain during a league game. The FA Cup is won by Aston Villa thanks to two Harry Hampton goals against League Champions Newcastle. Small Heath change there name to Birmingham City. After setting the previous record three years earlier. Alf Common becomes the first footballer to be transferred for £1,000 as he joins Sunderland from Sheffield United.

1906: Liverpool win the first 38 game season top flight, their second in five years. Preston North End are runners up for the fourth time. Nottingham Forest and Wolves are relegated, Bristol City and Manchester United take their place in the Division through promotion from the Second Division. Newcastle lose for the second successive year in the Cup Final as Everton beat them 1-0. Following the suspension of Billy Meredith the year before due to trying to bribe a player, the Prevention of Corruption Act is put in place making bribery and match fixing a punishable offence. England join FIFA.

1907: Unhappy with the financial wage capping, a Players Union is organised to the football league and FA’s dissatisfaction with the worry of players becoming too powerful. Any players joining the Union would be threatened with ban’s should they take up membership. Newcastle win their second title in three years as newly promoted Bristol City finish second. Nottingham Forest bounce straight back into the First Division after winning the Second Division Championship. Chelsea are also promoted after only two years in the football league. They replace Derby and Stoke who are relegated in to Division Two. Burslem PV and the leagues bottom club Burton United are replaced by newly elected Oldham Athletic and Fulham for the following campaign. In the Challenge Cup the Wednesday beat Everton 2-1 in final. 

1908: The Football League saw its first outcome of two teams finishing with identical records as both Blackburn and Woolwich Arsenal finished the season in joint fourteenth. In all six clubs finished on 36 points in the First Division’s lower regions, Manchester United winning it by nine points over Aston Villa, in what is United’s first ever title. Bradford City and Leicester Fosse win promotion over bottom club Birmingham and Bolton Wanderers. Division Two’s bottom club Lincoln City are replaced by Bradford Park Avenue, Stoke who finish tenth also went out of the league, Tottenham Hotspur replacing them. Second Division Wolverhampton Wanderers are FA Cup winners for the second time after beating Newcastle, beaten in the final for the third time 3-1.

The FA Charity Shield is introduced by FA Vice President Charles Clegg. A competition for the Football League and Southern League winners is created with the proceeds going to charity. The league fail to impose a £350 cap on transfers with the authorities realising that the rule is unenforceable. England play their first International against non British opponents as they play Austria in Vienna, the first time the National team plays on foreign soil. Football makes it’s ‘official’ debut in the London Olympics, the Great Britain team, made up of the English Amateur side win gold beating Denmark in the final 2-0. The English Football Association join as a member of FIFA.

1909: Unlucky in the Cup they may be but Newcastle United went on to win their third title of the decade. Everton finished as runners up for the fourth time with Manchester City and Leicester Fosse relegated after finishing as the bottom two. In the Second Division Bolton as champions and Tottenham, who where only elected in to the Second Division that season, finished as runners up to gain promotion. Despite finishing bottom Blackpool survived and Chesterfield were swapped with the re-elected Lincoln City for the following campaign. In the FA Cup, a single Sandy Turnbull goal was enough for Manchester United to beat Bristol City in the final. United’s first ever cup win. A group of footballers lead by Manchester United’s Welsh winger Billy Meredith called ‘the outcasts’ begin to train independently as they threatened to withdraw their labour in the football league until the salary capping is increased. Authorities cave in and the maximum wage is increased to £5.

1910: Aston Villa crown a remarkable 17 years with their sixth Football League title in all. Liverpool finish second with Chelsea and Bolton relegated in to Division  Two. Manchester City win the Second Division by one point, ahead of the promoted Oldham, Hull and Derby, the latter two missing out. Birmingham finish the season at the foot of the Second Division but its Huddesfield Town who are elected in Grimsby’s place. After three unsuccessful finals Newcastle win the Cup following a replay at Goodison Park with Barnsley. Two goals from Albert Shepherd leading them to a famous first win.

1911: Manchester United claim their second title success in only four years. Nine years after changing there name from Newton Heath. They clinch the league after finishing above Aston Villa by a point, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest are relegated, Second Division Champions West Bromwich Albion and runners up Bolton gain promotion. For the third time Lincoln finish bottom of Division Two, neighbours Grimsby are re-elected in their place. After winning it the year before, Newcastle United are again Challenge Cup runners up, Bradford City winning their first final 1-0 in the Old Trafford replay.

1912: Blackburn Rovers are champions for the very first time. Everton finish second for the sixth time in the Football League. Preston & Bury go down with Derby as Champions of Division Two and Chelsea as runners up going up, Lincoln are again re-elected after Gainsborough finish bottom. Another new winner of the FA Cup sees Barnsley beat West Brom at Bramall Lane 1-0 after a Harry Tuffnell goal in extra time of the replay. New laws state a Goalkeeper can no longer handle the ball outside his area. Danny O’Shea is transferred from West Ham United to Blackburn Rovers for a record £2,000. The Stockholm Olympics sees the Great Britain side win gold for the second time beating Denmark 4-2 in the final.

1913: Sunderland beat Aston Villa to the championship but the Birmingham side get their own back in the Cup Final after beating the Rokerites 1-0 in front of 121,000 at Crystal Palace. Its Sunderland’s fifth championship, Villa’s fifth cup win. Preston North End win the Second Division Burnley promoted as runner up. Notts County & Woolwich Arsenal suffer relegation from the top flight. Woolwich Arsenal move across town from South – East to North London as they bid to find more supporters.

1914: Blackburn are champions again, the second time in three years, Aston Villa are runners up for the second successive year. Derby County finish bottom of the table with Preston one place above them both relegated. Division Two Champions Notts County and Bradford Park Avenue replace them. Nottingham Forest finish bottom of the Second Division but survive re-election for the following season. Burnley beat Liverpool 1-0 to lift the last FA Cup at Crystal Palace. Ex- Evertonian Bert Freeman with the goal. Woolwich Arsenal change their name to Arsenal.

1915: With War looming, Everton are the last Football League Division One Champions Post World War I. Oldham finish in their highest position ever of second, Tottenham finish bottom of the league with derby top of the Second Division and Glossop North End propping up the league. Despite concerns from the house of commons due to the safety of players, the FA Cup Final goes ahead with a new trophy on hand for the winner (the old one being awarded to Lord Arthur Kinnaird for his services to the game). Sheffield United beat Chelsea in what was called ‘the khaki cup final’ due to the huge attendance of Army personnel at the Old Trafford game. The match itself ended 3-0 and was played in Manchester so it would not disrupt travel in and around the capital.

1916: CONMEBOL is formed following the idea which FIFA imposed in Europe as a governing body for the game. The South American Football Confederation is set up and with it, a tournament for its nations teams. the Campeonato Sudamericano de Selecciones (now known simply as the ‘Copa America’) begins life with Uruguay winning the first competition which is held in Argentina.

1917-1918: No competitions due to the World War.

The Football League

1888/89Preston North EndAston VillaWolverhampton WanderersStoke City
1889/90Preston North EndEvertonBlackburn RoversStoke City
1890/91EvertonPreston North EndNotts CountyWest Bromwich Albion
1891/92SunderlandPreston North EndBolton WanderersDarwen
1892/93SunderlandPreston North EndEvertonNewton Heath
1893/94Aston VillaSunderlandDerby CountyNewton Heath
1894/95SunderlandEvertonAston VillaLiverpool
1895/96Aston VillaDerby CountyEvertonWest Bromwich Albion
1896/97Aston VillaSheffield UnitedDerby CountyBurnley
1897/98Sheffield UnitedSunderlandWolverhampton WanderersStoke City
1898/99Aston VillaLiverpoolBurnleyThe Wednesday
1899/1900Aston VillaSheffield UnitedSunderlandGlossop North End
1900/01LiverpoolSunderlandNotts CountyWest Bromwich Albion
1901/02SunderlandEvertonNewcastle UnitedManchester City
1902/03The WednesdayAston VillaSunderlandBolton Wanderers
1903/04The WednesdayManchester CityEvertonWest Bromwich Albion
1904/05Newcastle UnitedEvertonManchester CityNotts County
1905/06LiverpoolPreston North EndThe WednesdayWolverhampton Wanderers
1906/07Newcastle UnitedBristol CityEvertonStoke City
1907/08Manchester UnitedAston VillaManchester CityBirmingham City
1908/09Newcastle UnitedEvertonSunderlandLeicester Fosse
1909/10Aston VillaLiverpoolBlackburn RoversBolton Wanderers
1910/11Manchester UnitedAston VillaSunderlandNottingham Forest
1911/12Blackburn RoversEvertonNewcastle UnitedBury
1912/13SunderlandAston VillaThe WednesdayWoolwich Arsenal
1913/14Blackburn RoversAston VillaOldham AthleticDerby County
1914/15EvertonOldham AthleticBlackburn RoversTottenham Hotspur
1915/16No Competition (World War I)
1916/17No Competition (World War I)
1917/18No Competition (World War I)

The FA Cup

1887/88West Bromwich AlbionPreston North End2-1Kennington Oval
1888/89Preston North EndWolverhampton Wanderers3-0Kennington Oval
1889/90Blackburn RoversThe Wednesday6-1Kennington Oval
1890/91Blackburn RoversNotts County3-1Kennington Oval
1891/92West Bromwich AlbionAston Villa3-0Kennington Oval
1892/93Wolverhampton WanderersEverton1-0Fallowfield Stadium
1893/94Notts CountyBolton Wanderers4-1Goodison Park
1894/95Aston VillaWest Bromwich Albion1-0Crystal Palace
1895/96The WednesdayWolverhampton Wanderers2-1Crystal Palace
1896/97Aston VillaEverton3-2Crystal Palace
1897/98Nottingham ForestDerby County3-1Crystal Palace
1898/99Sheffield UnitedDerby County4-1Crystal Palace
1899/1900BurySouthampton4-0Crystal Palace
1900/01Tottenham HotspurSheffield United3-1 (2-2)Burnden Park (Crystal Palace)
1901/02Sheffield UnitedSouthampton2-1 (1-1)Crystal Palace
1902/03BuryDerby County6-0Crystal Palace
1903/04Manchester CityBolton Wanderers1-0Crystal Palace
1904/05Aston VillaNewcastle United2-0Crystal Palace
1905/06EvertonNewcastle United1-0Crystal Palace
1906/07The WednesdayEverton2-1Crystal Palace
1907/08Wolverhampton WanderersNewcastle United3-1Crystal Palace
1908/09Manchester UnitedBristol City1-0Crystal Palace
1909/10Newcastle UnitedBarnsley2-0 (1-1)Goodison Park (Crystal Palace)
1910/11Bradford CityNewcastle United1-0 (0-0)Old Trafford (Crystal Palace)
1911/12BarnsleyWest Bromwich Albion1-0 (0-0)Bramall Lane (Crystal Palace)
1912/13Aston VillaSunderland1-0Crystal Palace
1913/14BurnleyLiverpool1-0Crystal Palace
1914/15Sheffield UnitedChelsea3-0Old Trafford
1915/16No Competition (World War I)
1916/17No Competition (World War I)
1917/18No Competition (World War I)