For many, including myself, the origins of organised football and how teams were started remains a source of fascination. Our subject this week – The Wirral Senior Cup – allows for a brief exploration of the formation of football clubs many years ago by reference to the winners of this trophy.
That the competition started as long ago as 1886 and that there is a complete list of winners and runners-up from the very beginning provides excellent source material for anyone wishing to study the origins of football clubs – in this particular case, the clubs from the Wirral Peninsula.
We can look at the formation of football teams in several groups. Included amongst these are teams formed from pubs, schools/universities, groups of friends, church associations and, most significantly for this article, companies. This is not the place for an exhaustive treatise on this subject but if we look at the Wirral Senior Cup winners selectively, concentrating on just the latter group, then we can learn something about the history of the area these clubs come from.
Familiar to followers of the NWCFL we see Cammell Laird and Vauxhall Motors representing shipbuilding and car manufacture. If we take the names of just a few of the clubs which won this trophy before the First World War we see names such as L & NW Locos, Port Sunlight, Garston Gas Works and Burnels Ironworks. As the century progressed we start to see names such as Shell Mex representing the chemical industry alongside Port Sunlight until we reach more modern times when, with the exceptions of Cammell Laird and Vauxhall Motors, references to the industrial history of Wirral have vanished. Having said that, neither Cammell Laird nor Vauxhall Motors could be considered as works teams these days – only the names survive.
Perhaps what I’m suggesting is that social historians have a source of information within the history of local football competitions to add to their sources when it comes to understanding the way communities have developed over the last century and a half.
As we saw with last week’s article about the Mid Cheshire Senior Cup we can find District Football Associations running competitions in their specific area. In this case, we have the Wirral District Football Association and their most prestigious competition from the 10 competitions run locally on behalf of the Cheshire County FA.
As we have seen from above, it was first played for in 1886 and has continued except the wars years 1914 -18 and 1942 - 44, up to this season. It is primarily played for by teams at step 7 but in more recent years clubs from The West Cheshire Second Division and the Chester & Wirral Leagues have chanced their arm. If we go right back to the origins of the competition we see the involvement of the professional clubs, Tranmere Rovers and the long-departed New Brighton Tower, both of whom count this trophy amongst their honours list. This season there are 16 entries although the 12 - 14 is the average each season. The Competition is sponsored by one of our local Businesses, Colheart Properties which enables the Association to administrate through the season, hold the Final at a prestigious facility, usually Cammell Laird 1907’s home ground, and provided high-quality awards to the winners and finalists. In previous years the final had been held at Tranmere Rovers but costs of ground hire and ground staff made the event difficult to sustain there.
The Cup itself stands over 30 inches and the base has bands on each of three tiers around the circumference, engraved with all winners from the start of the competition. Of note is the “leaning footballer” which, it is reported, no-one is willing to try to straighten up for fear of causing damage.
This season we see Cammell Laird 1907 progressing through the first two rounds of the competition with victories over Poulton Royal (on penalties) and Ellesmere Port Town.
We are indebted to Kevin Mighall, Secretary of the Wirral District Association, for his contribution to this article.