Identity is important to any aspiring football team and the fledgling Gorton Association Football Club chose to wear a distinctive kit consisting of black shirts with a white cross pattée emblazoned across the left breast. The smart new kit set the tone for what the players hoped would be a successful period in the club’s development and from the moment it was first worn in 1884 the club progressed and grew, becoming Ardwick in 1887, before re-launching as Manchester City in 1894.
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As we build up to the Manchester derby this weekend the usual questions of who represents Manchester best crops up, as does the ‘you’re not from Manchester’ argument. People also talk about Manchester history and so on, so I thought I’d write a few thoughts here to hopefully help anyone with their Manchester geography, history etc. Some fans will love this; some may hate it, but either way it’s all factual. Here goes….
On the question of history: The earliest recorded game for Manchester United (as Newton Heath) is in November 1880 (against Bolton Wanderer’s 2nd team) while the earliest recorded game for Manchester City (as St Mark’s West Gorton) was one week earlier than United’s game. Much is made of the 1878 formation date but that’s a bit of a red herring. There is no evidence of football participation by the Heathens until November 1880. From 1878 Newton Heath did play cricket and perform athletics. Similarly, St Mark’s are known to have played cricket from the 1860s but this does not mean the club should trace its history of football activity to 1867 (or any other date prior to 1880). I go into a lot more detail on all of this in The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919 but subscribers can also read the evidence & more via the following link:
Of course City was the first of the two clubs to take on the Manchester name, doing so in 1894. That year Newton Heath also tried to reform as Manchester but were prevented from doing so as there was already a Manchester FC in existence (the rugby club). Again you can read the evidence and facts in the Emergence of Footballing Cultures:
Also on the question of history… Manchester City were the first to find national success when they won the Second Division title in 1899 (also becoming the first Manchester side to earn promotion). City were also the first Manchester team to win a major trophy when they won the FA Cup in 1904. United were the first team to win the League with their first national success coming in 1908. United were the first to win a European trophy, winning the European Cup at Wembley in 1968, while City’s first European trophy (the European Cup Winners’ Cup) came in 1970 at Vienna. Both successes of course predate the first UEFA-tournament successes of Liverpool, Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Juventus and so many other perceived European giants (note: The Fairs Cup was not a UEFA tournament).
On representing the city of Manchester the point is often made, usually by City fans, that United ‘don’t come from Manchester’, so here’s a bit about geography: It is true that Old Trafford is not in the city of Manchester and that it’s in the borough of Trafford (not Salford as some say). United have been based there since 1910. Of course Trafford is within Greater Manchester, just as Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside and the city of Salford are. Prior to 1910 United played in Clayton and Newton Heath. At the time of their formation Newton Heath was not a part of Manchester. It was added to the city in 1890.
Similarly, West Gorton, where Manchester City was first founded as St Mark’s (West Gorton) was not part of the city of Manchester until 1890. Neither club was based in the city of Manchester at time of formation. City’s roots included various moves and name changes, with them settling in Ardwick in 1887. Ardwick had been incorporated into Manchester in 1838, meaning that from 1887 the Blues were based within the city of Manchester. The club moved to Maine Road in 1923 and their current home in 2003, both of which were within the city of Manchester by the time of the club’s move. Whichever way you look at it City have been based in the city of Manchester since 1887 while Newton Heath/United were based in the city of Manchester from 1890 to 1910. So for those who would like the maths that’s 135 years v 20 years.
In terms of first blood in the Manchester derby… Newton Heath beat Ardwick in the first derby in a first team competition that still counts today. That was the FA Cup in 1890-91 and you can read about that here:
Ultimately, all of these are merely bragging rights for particular views but I thought I’d post the facts because, all too often the facts get misreported and myths profligate.
I didn’t realise this was available but here’s film of a talk plus Q&A I did about the early history of football in Manchester. It’s of interest to anyone keen on the origins of football or any of the Manchester clubs… Indeed the social history of Manchester. It lasts about 55 minutes and was part of the promotional work connected with my book ‘The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919’, published by Manchester University Press.
Here’s the recording:
If you are interested in the book then that can be bought direct from Manchester University Press or via usual retailers, such as Amazon: