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Football in Prescot 1: Prescot Wesley Guild FC

posted 31 Aug 2018, 07:19 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 22 Oct 2018, 05:01 ]
During my trawls through the old newspapers for stories about Prescot Cables, I have noted some information about many of the other football teams who played in and around Prescot over the years. It is my intention to put together a series of short articles which highlights some of the history and stories from some of these other clubs.

This first article appeared in print in the progamme for the Cables v Glossop North End match on 21st August 2018.

Following the Industrial Revolution, Victorian England brought about a “leisure revolution”. The organisation of industrial production had generated a growth in available free time, which triggered an array of leisure pursuits and recreational activities for the working population. Whilst the public house offered one solution – highly frowned upon by respectable society, organised games were considered a much more acceptable pastime. Athletic sports, cycling and cross country running all became prominent during this era.

However, Association Football embodied all that was considered virtuous and wholesome in Victorian England. Whilst games for individuals tested skill, games for teams encouraged co-operation and mutual reliance, and satisfied a growing taste for competition. Football began, usually as an adjunct to other, well established organisations, the cricket clubs, the Institutes, local firms and the public houses, all of whom could help with facilities and equipment and many fledgling football teams used the local pub as a clubhouse and played on the local Cricket field.

In Prescot, an unusually large number of competitive football teams were established around this time. In this series of articles we will look at some of their stories. 

Prescot Wesley Guild FC

During the late Victorian period, many Churches and Chapels, seeking to improve boy’s habits and, at the same time, to enhance their own popularity and membership, began to run football teams.

The Wesley Guild came about because of concerns about retaining young people in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which at the time had almost a million children in its Sunday Schools.

A Methodist Conference in 1896 officially adopted the Wesley Guild within the constitution of Wesleyan Methodism. The central principles on which the Guild was based were embodied in a Charter, known as the 4 C’s – Comradeship, Consecration, Culture and Christian Service, and the motto, One Heart, One Way.

Guide-lines were laid down for meetings to rotate between devotional, literary, social and musical and Christian service evenings. Many Guilds also established programmes including cycling trips, garden parties, summer camps and holiday clubs for the young people. Some Guilds established sports clubs. By 1909, 2200 local Guilds had been formed with a membership of more than 152,000.

In Prescot, the town’s Wesley Guild set up a football club, which quickly became prominent locally.

For the 1908/09 season, the Prescot Wesleyan Guild football club applied and were accepted into Division 2 of the West Cheshire League and settled in very well, eventually finishing in third place in the 14 team division.

At the start of the 1909/10 season the Prescot Athletic club allowed the Prescot Wesleyan Guild, who remained in the West Cheshire League, the use of the Hope Street ground for their home matches.  The Guild side obviously felt at home as they had another successful season, finishing runners up to champions Bebington St Andrews in a reduced division of 10 sides.

In 1910/11, the Wesleyan Guild finished the season in fourth position and did well to reach the semi-final of the Pyke Cup, where they were defeated by eventual winners, Hoylake by 2 goals to one. [It was a remarkable season for Hoylake who, as well as securing the Pyke Cup, retained the league title, won the Birkenhead Charity and Wallasey Hospital trophies and narrowly lost in the final of the Wirral Senior Cup.]

The following season, the Wesleyan Guild, were renamed Prescot Nomads (probably due to the lack of a home ground of their own), but continued to play in the West Cheshire League. The Nomads were often referred to as “The Blues” due to their playing jerseys. They challenged for the second division title all season, before finishing second to Wallasey Rovers.

Finally in season 1912/13, the Prescot Nomads brought success to the town by clinching the West Cheshire League Division 2 Championship. Although there was no automatic promotion, the Nomads were elected to join Division 1.

For the Nomads, season 1913/14 was one of consolidation in their higher division, finishing in a comfortable 6th place. However, of interest was their progress in the Pyke Cup.

In November 1913 the Prescot Nomads entertained Ocean Athletic in a Pyke Cup tie. The kick off had been scheduled for 2.30 pm, but the visiting team did not emerge from their dressing room until fully 10 minutes after that time. There was a further wait for the Ocean Captain to appear before the game could get underway. The match finished one-all after 90 minutes, and the referee ordered 20 minutes extra time to be played. However, “it was obvious to the onlookers that the game would not be completed, for the shades of night were falling fast”. With just 5 minutes remaining, the referee abandoned the match with the Nomads leading 2 – 1, to the irritation of the home players and supporters.

The replayed game also ended in a draw, after extra time, as did a further replay. Eventually, the two clubs decided to toss a coin to determine the winners. Satisfyingly, the Nomads captain called correctly and the Prescot side progressed.

After the onset of the War, the West Cheshire League struggled on for the 1914/15 season, and in the semi-final of the Pyke Cup, Prescot Nomads overcame Ellesmere Port 4-3, at Cammell Laird’s ground in Birkenhead. Gate receipts for the match totalled only £3 8s. 6d, with the match officials aiding funds by giving of their services free of charge.

Easter Monday – April 5th 1915 - saw a keenly fought Pyke Cup final held at Prenton Park. An early goal by Wirral Railway was enough to overcome the Nomads in front of 3,000 spectators, despite the Prescot side having the majority of the game. In his victory speech the Railway captain sportingly suggested that “a draw would have been a fair result.”

However, even the West Cheshire League programme was petering out as war calls meant more and more clubs were unable to honour their fixtures. Even where matches were played the clubs often failed to forward the results to the League secretary. By the end of the 1914/15 season, it was agreed that the league would shut down until happier and more peaceful times prevailed.

Unfortunately, the Prescot Nomads Football Club did not remerge after the war.