The season began disastrously with the first league win coming at the fifth attempt with a 10-1 victory at Rossendale. The Saturday evening Football Standard, edited by William Lymath, a Central Committee member who wrote under the name of 'Itinerant' celebrated in verse,
Bring out your brazen trumpets Have forth the sounding drum There's no mistake about it That first league victr'ys come! Then blow yer bloomin' ardest And bang that blessed drum Let all both near and farthest Know that league victr'ys come This latter state of Rossendale Must surely be their worst- For Central landed seven goals 'Ere they could notch their first Oh! Sad the fate of Rossendale All hope must serve be gone When on their own high mountain's steep They're routed ten to one Bang, Bang, along that drumlet For Central's spanking team Who waltzed all round the Hillman And banged 'em through like steam
Central won the return match 10-0 on Christmas Day. lnside left Jackie Kirwan scored five goals at Rossendale and three in the return match. A native of Wicklow he was Central's most sought-after player at that time and in February, 1898 he was transferred to Everton together with centre-half Harry Stringfellow for a fee of £130. He subsequently played for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1901 F.A. Cup Final and gained 16 lrish International caps.
The transfer fees enabled the club to embark on a London tour losing 5-0 at Reading and defeating St.Stephens 2-0.
With transfer fees and a curtailed wage bill the club's finances improved. At the end of the 1896-97 season Central met Preston North End in a friendly and to everyone's amazement won 6-1. Speedy outside-left Lollie Halsall subsequently to play for Blackpool and Preston, excelled.