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 bottom half of the Third Division table.
We begin with Nelson, who finished tenth in that first season. They played in the first six seasons of the league, remaining in the bottom tier until they dropped down to the West Lancashire League between 1988 and 1992, after which they were re-elected to the NWCFL. Fourteen seasons in the bottom level finally saw them gain promotion to the top level in 2006, however after four poor seasons of finishing in the bottom six the club dropped out of the league for the following season (2010/11) but were readmitted one year later and took the Division One title in 2014. Their stay at the top table was only to last three seasons before relegation back to the First Division in 2017, where they remain to date.
Eleventh were Daisy Hill. The team have always played in the lower division, with a best placed finish of eighth on three occasions. The club changed its name to Westhoughton Town from 1989 to 1994 but this made little difference to their results. They continue to be one of the league’s stalwart clubs.In twelfth were Liverpool side Maghull, who were to spend seventeen seasons in the lower division before dropping into the West Cheshire League in 1999. They have been a division one side in that league ever since and took the title in 2014.
Thirteenth place went to Ashton Town. The club spent three seasons in division three before a one season stay in the Manchester League. They were back for the 86/87 season and remained in the lower division until 2017 when they finished bottom of the table and were relegated to the Cheshire League. This was again to prove a short stay as they were back in the NWCFL for 2018/19.
In fourteenth were Newton who joined from the Mid-Cheshire League. They competed for eight seasons, finishing third in 1985. At the end of the 1989/90 season the club dropped out of the league after finishing bottom for two consecutive seasons. It is unclear what happened to them afterwards. There is a Newton team in the West Cheshire League, but they were playing in that league whilst ‘our’ Newton were still in the NWCFL.
Fifteenth were Oldham Dew who were to change their name to Oldham Town in 1985 and then Oldham Boro in 2009, with a further change to Oldham Borough in their final season of 2014/15. The club played all their seasons in the bottom division and folded after leaving the NWCFLSixteenth finishers were Bolton ST. The club had just four seasons in the league finishing sixth in their final season of 1985/86. It is believed that they folded after resigning.
Seventeenth were Wigan Rovers who lasted just one season before dropping to the West Lancashire League, their fortunes declined in the following years and the club dropped out of this league in 1994.
Propping up the whole competition were Ashton Athletic. The side had a poor early record, finishing last in three of the first four seasons of the league. They dropped down to the Manchester League for the 1986/87 season and remained there until 2006 when they were re-elected to the North West Counties. They were promoted to the Premier Division for the 2008/09 season and have remained at the top level ever since, with a best place finish of fifth on two occasions.