ABSTRACT: Association football had become a prominent part of Manchester’s sporting landscape by 1904 when Manchester achieved its first national success. Its journey had been difficult, relying on the efforts of several key individuals whose relentless determination to widen the sport’s participation ensured the game succeeded. This paper provides an analysis of three pioneering figures, John Nall, Fitzroy Norris, and Joshua Parlby, who took the game from its formalized inception in the region through to its first national successes, considering their class, experience, shared history, and connections, while analyzing what these narratives add to the wider origins of football debate. The author concludes that football’s emergence depended primarily on the activities of key individuals from varying backgrounds who provided the energy, enthusiasm, and organizational structures necessary, while relying on cross-class connections, to establish the game within a region.
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