“Southport Football Club” was formed in November 1872, as a Rugby Club.
Dr. George Augustus Coombe, later Sir George Pilkington (House Surgeon and Medical Officer of Southport Hospital from 1870 to 1884) was the driving force behind the formation of the club, with the intention of “improving the physical development of our young townsmen”.
Backing for the new venture also came from Southport Rowing Club and the Alexandra Cricket Club, the large field next to whose Club on Manchester Road would become Southport Football Club’s first ground. From an OS map at the time the large field appears behind the Hartwood Road area with access off Roe Lane, It is now covered by housing on Melling Road, Irton Road and Grange Avenue.
At the time there were much fewer differences than there are today between Rugby and Association Football and it was a common occurrence for some clubs to switch codes from one week to the next depending on the opposition and agreement between the clubs.
When the Southport Visiter added a “sports and pastimes” section to the newspaper in 1875, it was a reflection that sport’s popularity had been growing in the town.
In 1876 other teams sprang up playing ‘the handling code’ in the town and the Rugby Football Union changed the scoring mechanism. Scoring by points became the norm.
After 6 years of existence, forward G. Schofield became the first Southport player to be selected for the Lancashire county side, playing against Yorkshire at Whalley Range on 20th January. He also played in the North v South International Trial at Manchester. Scofield played in several Lancashire County matches and appeared in the Southport team photograph in his County jersey.
Around this time, and as older players began to retire, the club began to suffer through a lack of recruits. The Southport Olympic Rugby Club had by this time grown to be the premier Rugby club in the town with younger players choosing “Olympic” over the original Southport club.
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The full story of the formation of Southport Football Club can be found in ‘The Town’s Game: The Origins of Rugby and Association Football in Southport (1872-1889)’
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Listen to part one of a two part series discussing this story on the Grains of Sand Podcast: