Southport FC Former Players Association (Port Online)

An eleven of novices

An auspicious start for "an eleven of novices who know little of the game and style themselves Southport Wanderers"

We’ve spent time looking into the formation date of the football club for very good reason – we know it isn’t really 1881. The previous article on this subject went into why it’s still considered valid to claim it but if you’re like me, you probably want to know the real date.

If we trace a direct line of descent I think it lies with the formation of Southport Wanderers and therefore is really 1884.

Researching the British Newspaper Archives I found a report in the popular Lancashire ‘paper Athletic News from a game played on Saturday 13th September 1884 between Halliwell (of Bolton) and Southport Wanderers. It’s the earliest confirmed Wanderers game I have been able to find so far and if you ever wanted proof that, not only were Southport Wanderers a different club to the Southport Football Club of 1881, but that the two clubs were a class apart in terms of stature and ability, reports and letters published in various local papers in the week that followed the game give valuable insight.

Southport Football Club were clearly concerned that as other clubs were springing up in the town there would br cases of mistaken identity when those teams played further afield. The scoreline of this particular game was a 20-0 defeat so they acted quickly to set the record straight!

A letter printed in the Liverpool Mercury on Tuesday 16th September, written by R W T Hatch, the secretary of Southport Football Club, revealed their concerns:

In his letter he states that “this is calculated to do the Southport Club much unnecessary damage in the football arena” and corrects that this “was the first team of a new Southport club, called “The Southport Wanderers”.

Articles in the Athletic news in the days that followed the original report also served to clarify.

Dubbing Wanderers “an eleven of ‘novices’, who know very little of the game” it is little wonder that Lancashire FA refused to see them as a ‘senior’ club 24 months later.

Even the Manchester Courier and Guardian were forced into publishing a correction contending that they had originally reported it as Southport due to the information having been received from previously reliable sources.

All being told the result of this game has been kept from the official records of Southport Football Club. Whether it should now be is a matter of opinion. From memory it’s the single biggest defeat I’ve seen recorded for “our” club.