WIGAN UNITED FC (again!), WIGAN ASSOCIATION FC AND WIGAN BOROUGH FC
In November 1919, just over a year after the war had ended, a new club was formed. Wigan United Football Club (no link to the earlier club) played their initial matches at the Honeysuckle Ground in Poolstock, but by the end of the 1919-20 season, United were playing at the then unused Springfield Park for alternate home matches. By the start of the 1920-21 season, the club used the ground for all its home games.
The enclosure was said to be “spacious and easy to get to”, but spectators had to endure poor facilities as the ground had not been used extensively during the war years. The club did however, erect new dressing-rooms. At this time, a season ticket cost 7/6d (37p), while supporters who paid at the turnstile were charged 6d. per game (3d. for juniors).
It was at this time that United followed in the footsteps of Wigan Town by angering the Lancashire F.A.
As United were an amateur side they were not allowed to pay their players, a rule which was apparently broken. The directors were told that they would have to stand down and United would have to turn professional. On October 31st 1920, Wigan United played their last game – against Darwen – before a public limited company was created.
As United were in effect no longer in existence, another name was required for the new team. ‘Wigan Association Football Club’ took over the fixtures of the former tenants and played under that designation for approximately three weeks, when the F.A. agreed that all their demands had been adhered to, allowing the club to become officially known as Wigan Borough Football Club.
Borough’s first game at Springfield Park was on November 21st 1920, when 4,000 spectators watched a 2-2 draw against Bacup Borough. A poor start was witnessed with the first victory arriving at Springfield Park on January 2nd 1921 when Horwich RMI. were beaten by 2-0. Towards the end of that month, Borough announced their intention to apply for membership of the Third Division (North) of the Football League. They were elected at a Football League meeting in March 1921.
September 3rd 1921 became a historic day when Springfield Park hosted it’s first ever Football League game. Nelson were the visitors, being victorious by 1-4, with an attendance of 9,000. The previous weekend had seen Boro win their first ever Football League game against the same opposition at theirSeedhill stadium in the opening game of the 1921/22 season.
In August 1922 the Wigan Observer reported that, ” .….much voluntary and exceedingly useful work has been put in by the members of the Supporters Club and other enthusiasts, and Springfield Park presents a much improved appearance in consequence. The hoardings have been raised in several places where before it was possible for the matches to be seen from outside the ground, whilst the raising back of another portion enables the crowd to pass from one set of turnstiles to the other without first going into the streets. The playing pitch has received a lot of attention also, in addition to the turf having been brought to a splendid state, the ground now benefits from an additional training facility.
The registered offices have been moved from Wallgate to Springfield Park, and the manager, Mr Bamlett, will have better supervision of the players. The referee’s room has been transferred to a place under the stand. Along the front of the stand a red ash cinder track has been laid and provides grand facilities for sprinting practice.”
THE DAY NEWCASTLE UNITED FC AND CARDIFF CITY FC CALLED SPRINGFIELD PARK ‘HOME’
On October 2nd 1922, Newcastle United played Cardiff City at Springfield Park in aid of the Whitehaven Pit Disaster Fund. The Bluebirds won 4-0 in front of 15,000 people. The fund was set up over eleven years previously following the loss of 136 lives (men and boys) at the Wellington Pit on Wednesday evening of May 11th 1910. The fund had been expanded over the previous decade because the mines around Whitehaven were known for their ‘gassy’ nature and there were many violent explosions up to four miles below the ground over a number of years resulting in loss of life. At the final count over 1,200 men women and children lost their lives working down the mines in that area.
THE FA CUP, STADIUM UPGRADES AND TWO PROUD RECORDS
As Borough did not enter the F.A. Cup in 1921, the ground had to wait until the next season to stage an F.A. Cup tie. The first match was against Eccles United on November 18th 1922 in the 4th qualifying round. Borough won 4-0.
The early 1920’s was a golden age for Springfield Park. The original stands were replaced, a new Main Stand was constructed, followed by the Shevington End Stand and finally the Popular Side Stand, which ran from the half-way line towards the Shevington End. Crowds rarely dropped below 7,500 and Borough set the ground’s record League win on March 3rd 1923 when Lincoln City were beaten by 9-1.
In 1925, the National Press stated that Springfield Park “is the largest sports ground in Europe”.
Towards the end of the decade Wigan Borough drew the current Football League Champions, Sheffield Wednesday, in the F.A. Cup and provisions were made for the tie, which was expected to set a record attendance. The banking was raised behind the Town End goal, crush barriers and thirteen extra turnstiles were installed. On the day of the match, January 12th 1929, the gates were opened at 12 o’clock and the official attendance was given as 30,443. Borough lost the tie 1-3.
The largest attendance for a Football League match at Springfield Park was recorded on April 1st 1929 when Borough overturned Stockport County 4-0 before a crowd of 15,500.
Both of these proud records stood when the ground was demolished in 1999.
(Special thanks to Dave Roughley. This project is a combination of his work and mine.)
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