Wigan Football Roots : Wigan Town FC

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Following the demise of Wigan United, the town needed another team and in July 1905 a club called Wigan Town was formed by Edward Sutcliffe, a solicitor from Rawtenstall and Roger Charnley, son of the Chairman of the Football Association. Prior to the club’s formation the promoters of the association football team insisted that they were in no way going to get involved in petty fighting with the local rugby club as they saw that the town was big enough to support both codes of football. This then is the very first RECORDED instance of the town’s association football and rugby clubs not being very good bedfellows. Immediately on their formation they applied to become members of the Football League and they received five votes and this was nowhere near enough to get them into the league. The other club that failed to get elected was Oldham County who polled ten votes more. Wigan Town then started season 1905/06 in the English Combination. They had taken the place of Middlewich who had disbanded in January 1906. Town’s first ever game was against Hull City at Springfield Park in a pre season friendly in front of 4,000 fans and the team was:

Hodgkiss, J. Britnell, F Smith, Gledhill, Jones, Pilling, Taylor, Wilson, L. Smith, Forbes and Currie.

Town, despite rumours throughout the season of first class signings and ambitions to play in the Second Division of the Football League, finished rock bottom of the League. They had amassed a sorry total of just seven points, four of which had been deducted for playing an ineligible man during two of their League games. The only highlight of the season was when world famous music hall comedian George Robey brought a team to play Town at Springfield Park in aid of the Chief Constable’s Clog and Stocking Fund. To give Town a sporting chance George played himself.

Their full record for season 1905/06 was,

P 28 W 4 D 3 L 21 F 32 A 90 Pts 7

The team finished in 15th position. There were 15 teams in it

The following season (1906/07) was one of considerable controversy. Late in 1906 rumours persisted that Town were to cease mainly because the Committee of the club had resigned following allegations of wrong treatment of some of the club’s players. An Emergency Committee was soon running the club and they were immediately hit by the news that Town were to be suspended from the League until all irregularities with regards to their players were cleared up to the satisfaction of the Football Association. The ban was very quickly lifted after they complied with the authorities and Town continued to do well in the League.

Much needed revenue was brought into the club when both Sheffield United and Aston Villa agreed to play Town in friendly games at Springfield Park. Sheffield won 6-2 on Saturday 9th March 1907 and the game with Villa ended in a 1-1 draw.

Towards the end of the season a youngster named Alex Culshaw, originally signed from Chorley and a future England Youth International player, was transferred to Bury to raise desperately needed funds. Town also went out of the Lancashire Junior Cup in the first round when Adlington won at Springfield Park. Despite all the club’s troubles the team did very well finishing the season in third place in the league.

Playing for Town at this time was Peter Boyle (signed 1907). He had an excellent football pedigree having played for Sunderland 29 times in the Football League and for Sheffield United for whom he had scored once in 150 League appearances. He had also played for Northern Ireland. 

Money was tight and so Town applied to join the Lancashire Combination on the grounds that travelling expenses incurred throughout the season were crippling the club. Their application was accepted.

Their full record for season 1906/07 was,

P 26 W 12 D 6 L 8 F 44 A 45 Pts 39

The team finished in 3rd place in the league. There were 14 teams in it.

Season 1907/08 in which the team was playing in the Lancashire Combination Second Division, proved to be the last ever one for Wigan Town. Blazing controversy was evident again and the writing was on the wall when three of Town’s professional players, O’Hara, Sutton and Dean were given free transfers. Moses Atherton, a future Wigan Athletic manager, had earlier been transferred to Blackburn Rovers. By April, Town were finding it increasingly difficult to turn out a full compliment of players for their League games. On one occasion Town played a game at Colne after a delayed kick-off which happened because the club were literally scouring the streets of Wigan looking for players willing to turn out for them. The match started fifty minutes late and Town were crushed 12-0.

A public appeal was called for through a letter in the local press (the Wigan Observer and the Wigan Examiner) addressed to the working men of Wigan. The letter asked the public to subscribe at least a shilling a week to the club in return for five pounds shares in the club.

The organisers of the scheme had addressed their appeal to the local ‘Working Class Men of Wigan’ and stated that they were confident, that due to the fate of the previous town teams that the people of Wigan would ‘rise to the occasion’ and succeed in keeping association football alive in the borough.

The club’s hopes of survival were pinned on at least one thousand people taking up the offer. The expected revenue (£2,500) would have been sufficient to guarantee the club’s survival, however, not for the first time, nor the last, the Wigan public let its town’s association football team die

Their full League record for season 1907/08 was,

P 38 W 9 D 5 L 24 F 43 A 104 Pts 23

The team finished in 19th place in the League. There were 20 teams in it.

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