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For the love of football! Handmade score cards from England – and world’s – first competitive league season show fan’s invincible passion

Posted on 11/03/2020 in Press Coverage

Sports fans the world over love to check the scores and results but few would go to the trouble one football fan went to more than 130 years ago.

Just uncovered for our next Sports Memorabilia Auction on May 19 are a set of nine score cards – all painstakingly written out by hand - which date back to when the English Football League was born in 1888-89.

That first season of league matches included just a handful of teams and Derby County was among them. As a Rams fan, I’m proud of the fact DCFC was one of only 12 clubs among the founders of the Football League, the oldest competition of its type in the world.

The Rams faced opposition from a group of Midlands and northern clubs including Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In their first match the Rams drew 1-1 with Accrington. They accumulated 16 points over the course of the season and finished tenth.

The devoted supporter impressed me with their diligence. These days when we can find any result on our smart phones in seconds, few people would think to record match stats. But some fans still like to do so, carefully noting down the team, subs and scores - by hand in a notebook!

Those score cards provided an early indication of the devotion, passion and fascination football was set to generate among fans in the decades to come.

The handmade cards account for all fixtures and results from the early seasons of the Football League First and Second Divisions and feature 1888-89, 1889-90, 1892-93 (First and Second Division), 1893-94 (First Division), 1894-95 (Second Division), 1895-96 (Second Division) 1896-97 (First and Second Division).

The unique collection includes the results of Preston North End’s 'Invincible Season'. The Preston North End team of the 1888–89 season were nicknamed ‘The Invincibles’ after completing an entire season undefeated in league and cup competition - 27 games in total.

Other teams to make an appearance on the score cards include Newton Heath, Burton Swifts and Burton Wanderers. Burton Swifts were stablished in 1871. The club joined the Football League in 1892, remaining members until merging with Burton Wanderers to form Burton United in 1901. The team we know now, Burton Albion, formed in 1950 but the score cards remind us that the brewing town’s sporting heritage goes back to the early days of the Football League.

As for Newton Heath, they’re now Manchester United. The club was formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR Football Club by the Carriage and Wagon department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath.

This find, which arrived at one of our free valuation events, is set to go to auction with an estimate of £300-£400.

Also uncovered for our May sale is a rare Irish Free State football cap awarded to Leo Dunne for two 1935 fixtures played against Switzerland and Germany.

Dunne was a left-back, capped only twice by the Irish Free State - the two games this cap was awarded for. Born in Dublin, he played for Manchester City and Hull City. The cap has a guide price of £500-£800.

Also uncovered are a large set of football tickets relating to Tottenham Hotspurs’ 1960-61 season when they won The Double - the Football League First Division and FA Cup. Estimate £600-£800.

Nostalgia plays a huge part in the world of sports memorabilia. Lots like these rekindle warm memories for fans. And when it comes to football, passions run deep.

I was reminded of this at our last Sports Memorabilia Auction when football fan Jim Murray battled through flood chaos from Northamptonshire to reach our Etwall HQ before we opened. That’s how determined he was to gain the item of his dreams.

Jim, a former Fleet Street journalist and author of the world-renowned Whisky Bible, is a massive Millwall fan. Up for auction was an England shirt from 1911 from a game played at The Den, Millwall’s ground.

Unbeknown to us, Jim had wanted to own a shirt from that game for 35 years - but thought he’d never find one. When he came across a news story about it, he had to read it three times to believe it.

The shirt was worn in an England v Wales British Home Championship game on March 13, 1911. England won 3-0. There has never been a full international game played at Millwall since.

The hammer fell at £4,000 from an estimate of £800-£1,200. Jim said: “There’s no way I’m going home without it.” True football fans are invincible.

Entries are invited until May 1 for our May 19 Sports Memorabilia Auction. To find out more or arrange a free sports memorabilia valuation, email [email protected]. Free valuations are available at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire DE65 6LS, Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm, Wednesday, 5-7pm, and Saturdays, 9am-noon.