We conclude our regular website features with a look at the emblem of the North West Counties Football League and, given all that has gone before, this one is quite easy to work out.
The scrolls at the top and bottom of the shield represent, at the top, the current name of the league, with reference to the major sponsor Hallmark Security, and, at the bottom, the recognised abbreviation of the League name as established back in 1982.
The shape of the shield is of interest in that it is somewhat unusual in having two cutaways on the sides.
If we recall that the overall shape of shields are derived from shields used in combat by knights, then we could speculate that the cutaways in this design of shield could be very useful when the weapon of choice is a lance and the combatant is on horseback. But maybe not.
The devices depicted on the shield are familiar to most of us. The trio of golden wheatsheaves on blue come from the Cheshire County Football Association Coat of Arms. We can go back to the 12th century for the origins of the wheatsheaves as a representation of Cheshire with the association with the Earls of Chester.
The device was continued into the Coat of Arms of Chester City of 1560 and was also occasionally used as the Chester Assay Office hallmark. Sadly, the device does not appear on the logos of either Cheshire East or Cheshire West and Chester Unitary Authorities.
The three lions are the most familiar device to many followers of football in England. One could be tempted here to invoke the memory of the 1996 song by the Lightning Seeds written to mark the participation of England in the European Championships of that year but I think we should swerve that one.
Rather, these particular lions come from the Coat of Arms of the Lancashire County Football Association and differ slightly in pose from those of the English Football Association as represented on the shirts of the national team. The red background colour completes the association with Lancashire.
The two main devices are separated by a pale blue diagonal stripe and we could well suggest that this refers to the oft quoted River Mersey which forms a major part of the border between Lancashire and Cheshire.
The choice of these two very powerful devices take us a long way down the road of an understanding of the history of the NWCFL originating, as it did, in 1982 as an amalgamation of the Cheshire County League (formed in 1919) and the Lancashire Combination (founded in the last decade of the 19th century).
These two leagues were considered to be at the pinnacle of the non-league game in this country and many would suggest that except for the iniquitous re-election process which, until 1986, acted as something of a closed shop in favour of existing members of the Football League, many clubs from both the Lancashire Combination and the Cheshire County League would have achieved professional status.
Talking of moving into the professional game, we can have a quick look back at two of the teams who have graced the NWCFL with their presence and then gone on to play in the Football League.
Accrington Stanley have hit the headlines recently as they gained promotion to League One for the 2018/19 season. Accrington Stanley played in the NWCFL in the first five seasons of the League.
We have again been both delighted and privileged to play the Macron Cup Final at the home of Fleetwood Town at the end of this season. Fleetwood Town, currently a League One side, first entered the NWCFL as Fleetwood Freeport FC in 1997 changing their name to Fleetwood Town in 2002.
Since then, the rise of the club has been somewhat meteoric having been Champions of the NWCFL as recently as the 2004/5 season and progressing rapidly through the football pyramid to the position they occupy today.
If the ever patient reader will allow me, not for the first time, to put my little bit of a spin on things then there are a few things to say about the League.
It is, of course, great to see clubs progressing from our League in the way that both Accrington Stanley and Fleetwood Town have done and this is a significant part of why the NWCFL exists today. Every year at our AGM we say farewell to our Champion club as they move up the football pyramid and we wish them well.
The whole ethos of the League is about opportunity and that, in the footballing sense, can be defined in a number of ways.
For many clubs the NWCFL has provided an introduction to semi-professional football and all that entails in terms of organisation and attention to detail. If we were to say that part of our “mission” is to help to prepare member clubs to progress up the National League System then that would be fair comment.
The reference to opportunity also applies to individual players who will find well organised clubs in a well structured organisation thus giving them an environment in which to develop their talents.
So as we enter the closed season and a break, albeit short, from the game, we have time to reflect on this rain-sodden season and look forward to the challenges ahead as the League expands with the additional division at Step 6.
All that remains for me is to thank all those who have read these slightly whimsical articles and have sent in comments – much appreciated. Thanks also to all of the clubs and individuals who have willingly supplied the necessary information to allow these articles to be written.
On a personal level, it has been great fun writing this series and I, for one, have learned many things, not least just a little bit about heraldry – knowledge is good for the soul.