Gone and forgotten – part 1 – Manchester Central FC

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” so said William Shakespeare. The final line to bring that up to date is “and then there are those who achieve greatness buy spun king loads of cash on a project”

Let me take you back to 1931. The Empire State Building has just been completed in New York City, A banking crisis threatens the European economy and the first screenings of Dracula and Frankenstein scare the living daylights out of film goers in London. But in a closed meeting room at the Football League headquarters in Preston there was a monumental debate raging.

At the time there was no automatic promotion between the Football League and the Non Leagues. In fact the 92 team Football League was basically a closed shop, with no team ever “elected” to join the league at the annual end of season vote. The process used to be that any non league club could throw their hat into the ring to be elected as a new member club but it would require a majority vote from the Football League club chairman. And unsurprisingly they were a close knit group who didn’t like outsiders. In fact it wasn’t until 1951 that Workington became the first club to join the Football League in this way at the expense of New Brighton. Occasionally an incidence would occur when they found themselves a team short and they would send a telegram to a non league club and ask if they wanted to join the party.

You didn’t have to even prove you were a successful club to apply for election. Take the case of The Argonauts in 1928 who applied for entry to the league without ever actually playing a game. The one thing they had going for them apart from having an eccentric chairman was that they had agreed a lease to play at Wembley Stadium. The excellent Twohundredpercent website tells the story of the most bizarre club nearly to play in the league brilliantly.

In the same year that the Argonauts were making their audacious bid, a new team was being formed in Manchester. Manchester Central were formed by Man City director John Ayrton (at the time there were no rules about having a stake in more than one club) who saw an opportunity to utilise the Belle Vue Stadium he owned in the east part of the city for more than just a weekly speedway meeting. In their first season they joined the Lancashire Combination League, finishing a disappointing seventh. However, this didn’t stop Ayrton applying to take the club into the Football League at the end of their first season. Unsurprisingly their bid failed. Continue reading

Tigers maul their wildcat neighbours – The Long Good Friday parts 1 and 3

This was to be the day of all days.  The plan was to take in three (THREE!) Rugby League games, fitted around a trip to Oakwell to watch Barnsley v West Ham.  Originally on the agenda was the Humberside derby as Hull Kingston Rovers took on their bigger neighbours Hull RLFC at Craven Park.  As the ground (recently chosen as one venues for next year’s Rugby League World Cup) was a new one on me I was well up for this. However, at some point between early February when the fixtures came out, and early April when I got round to trying to buy a ticket the game appeared to have been switched to the KC Stadium and my interest waned a little as I have been there a few times already.

Game two became game one and just forty five minutes after leaving the TBIR Northern HQ in Lincoln I was pulling up outside the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster at 3pm.  In fact I appeared to be one of the only cars there, and if it wasn’t for the sight of the London Skolars coach I would assume it was wrong place at the wrong time.

Doncaster is a football town.  However, the opening of the Keepmoat stadium five years ago has breathed life into the rugby league team and they are now proudly trying to work their way up the Rugby League ladder, playing this season in the National Championship 1.  The club have had an emotional life, which has seen numerous name changes, grounds, owners and flirtations with mergers, bankruptcy and the odd promotion.  But today it is about steady progress and playing at an excellent venue such as the Keepmoat certainly helps.

The Skolars history by comparison to Doncaster’s has been sedate to say the least.  They were formed in 1995 as a club for graduating students who still wanted to play the game. They have made steady progress up the leagues, and whilst they will always live in the shadow of London’s other rugby league side, the Broncos, they continue to play the game in the right spirit. Continue reading