Where Are They Now? Part Five

Fri 20th January 2023 | Statistics
By Kevin Lawton

The North West Counties League’s inaugural season was 1982/83, with the merger of two leagues, The Cheshire League and the Lancashire Combination. That first season saw twenty team First and Second Divisions and an eighteen team Third Division.

What has happened to those teams in the following forty seasons? Continuing our series, League Statistician Kevin Lawton looks where our inaugural clubs from 1982 are now, moving into the top half of the Third Division table.

Champions in that first season were Colne Dynamoes. The team were to see a meteoric rise and fall over the next ten years. It took them four seasons to gain promotion to Division One and, after bringing in a number of ex-Football League pros – including Alan Kennedy of Liverpool fame, they were promoted to the NPL Division One. They also won the FA Vase that season, beating Emley in the Wembley final.  Despite having a three-point deduction they won the league and moved into the Prem. They finished top of the league at the first attempt but were denied promotion as their ground failed the grading criteria. It came as a huge shock when the club’s owner closed the club down with immediate effect. The current Colne club were founded in 1996.

Second in the table were Warrington Town. The club were promoted to the First Division for the 86/87 season and were also FA Vase semi-finalist.  They were crowned Division One Champions in 89/90 and moved to the NPL, where they spent seven seasons before relegation back to the NWCFL. They returned to the NPL in 2004 and won promotion to their current level, the NPL Premier Division in 2016.

Third place went to Clitheroe, who were to have a very successful twenty years in the league, gaining promotion to the First Division at their first attempt and winning the title in their first campaign. In 2003/04 they were again champions, and this saw their promotion to the NPL, where they have played ever since, with a best placed finish of sixth last season.

In Fourth place we find current Prem side, Prestwich Heys. They had four seasons in the Third Division and the club decided to step down to the Manchester League for the 86/87 season. They were Premier Division Champions on four occasions, the last being in the 15/16 season, after which they were elected back to the NWCFL, at this time a two-division competition, so they started in Division One. They gained promotion to the Prem after the two Covid shortened seasons.

Finishing Fifth were Vulcan Newton.  The team had just two seasons in the NWCFL, dropping down to the Warrington and District League before merging with another local club to form Vulcan Clock Face FC. 

Sixth were Blackpool Mechanics, now known as AFC Blackpool, after a name change in 2008. The team are one of our ‘ever presents. They were Third Division Champions for 85/86 and before the name changed, spent many season as a mid-table side in Division two. The 2010/11 season saw them take the title and move up to the Prem. A decent 9th after their first season after promotion was followed by four more seasons before relegation back to the current First Division. Thy missed out on promotion last season after finishing fourth but going out in the Play-Offs.

Bacup Borough finished seventh. They were to spend eight seasons in the lower division before promotion to our top tier in 89/90. Five seasons at the new level eventually ended with relegation back to Division two in 95. They finally took the title at the end of 2002/03 – their only title to date. The club were to spend twelve seasons in the top tier, the final two with a short lived name change to Bacup and Rossendale Borough. After finishing bottom of the Prem in 2014/15 they were relegated back to the First Division and finished a creditable 7th last season.

Eight place finishers were Atherton Collieries. 1986/87 saw the side take the Division Three title and a further promotion to the top tier after finishing second in 95/96.  The club struggled to make much of an impact over the next thirteen seasons, finishing in the bottom five eight times.  The were relegated back to Division One at the end of 2008/09. The club consistently finished in the top six in the division and won the title at the end of 2014/15. Two seasons later they were Prem Champions and moved up to the NPL, First Division North. The following season they were Champions and now reside in the NPL Premier Division.

Ninth went to Whitworth Valley. The club played in the lower division for six seasons before deciding to drop down to the Manchester League for the 1988/89 season. The club resigned during the 2008/09 season. Whitworth Valley now play in the Lancashire Amateur League.

Part six, the Third Division bottom half, will follow next week.

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