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The Northern Nomads

posted 31 Oct 2018, 08:01 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 31 Oct 2018, 08:02 ]
This is a longer article, which was featured in two parts in the Prescot Cables programmes for the games against Mossley on 16th October 2018 and Runcorn Linnets on 20th October 2018.

The back story to the Northern Nomads football team has been something of a mystery. Much of the information written about them, and available online, is incorrect and inaccurate. In conducting research for another project, I wanted to verify some facts about the Northern Nomads Football Club and began to look into the history of the club and it’s personnel.

The Northern Nomads were founded in Blackburn in 1902 as an “occasional” club, representative of the best of the local amateur teams, after the style of the famous Corinthian Football Club. (The Corinthians promoted the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play. The belief was to show fairness to all, compete with integrity and evenhandedness and to play for the love of the game, rather than the lure of monetary gain. However, playing the game “in the right spirit” did not, necessarily detract from their desire to win).

There was no connection between the Northern Nomads Football Club and the Cricket Club. Indeed, the Cricketers were rather upset at the football club using the same name and claimed that they did not have any right to style themselves as Northern Nomads in view of the fact that the cricket club was started 12 years earlier.

The Nomads were focussed, primarily, in the Liverpool area, which was a stronghold of amateur football, and the Athletic News noted that the committee included “the names of several prominent players connected with the chief amateur clubs in Liverpool. This is, of course, the source from which they expect to raise their team, and… the Lancashire professional clubs are assisting them as much as possible – the Everton people in particular”. 

The Honorary Secretary of the new club was the charismatic, and sometimes controversial, Mr Thomas H. Jackson, a solicitor practicing in Liverpool. All their playing members were also members of other Lancashire amateur dubs, and membership was, initially, limited to past and present University and public school men and old boys of any recognised college, “who did not mind paying a little for his sport”. Many of the players who went on to represent the Nomads also played successfully, as amateurs, for League clubs and juggled their time between work, football league and Nomad’s friendlies.

The Nomads had no official home ground but had good relations with several League clubs and were offered the use of both the Manchester City (Hyde Road) and Goodison Park grounds for hosting matches. Over the years the club would live up to their name by shifting their caravan amongst many grounds around Manchester and Liverpool, including Formby, Stockport County, Fallowfield, Sale Holmfield, Tranmere Rovers, Eccles United, the Wirral Railway Dock’s Station ground, New Brighton Tower, Hoylake, Liverpool Cadby Hall, Burscough, Eccles Taylor’s Ltd, and Stalybridge Celtic. They even played a few matches at Whiston’s Green Dragon ground and occasional cup ties at Port Vale.

The Nomads – by now dubbed in the press as “the Corinthians of the North” - arranged a busy schedule of friendly games, including against various League clubs, and participation in the FA Cup, FA Amateur Cup, Manchester Senior Cup, Altrincham Senior Cup, Cheshire Senior Cup, and the Welsh Amateur Cup. They were, effectively, fielding two distinct sides – their top class side and the “Strollers”, relying almost entirely on local amateur players from the Wigan and Manchester areas, when they were unable to secure the co-operation of their “star” players for ordinary games as many of them were assisting League clubs. The Nomads colours at this time were Black jerseys, White knickers and black socks with white tops. The alternative colours were Scarlet and Amber jerseys.

In 1908, the Nomads reached the final of the Cheshire Amateur Cup, where they met Harrowby of the West Cheshire League, at Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park ground. Unfortunately, they went away empty-handed, losing by two goals to one.

At the end of the 1907/08 season, the Nomads arranged the first of a series of regular European tours, to Denmark and Sweden, where they were unbeaten in five games, including a one-all draw against a Danish select eleven, before a crowd of 10,000 spectators.

3 Nomads players were included in the United Kingdom squad of 18 amateurs which became the 1908 Olympic Games Football champions.

In 1908, the Nomads were one of the founding members of a new Amateur Alliance league, to be run on the model of the Isthmian League in London. In this inaugural season the Nomads performed well, and won the championship on the last day of the season when they were forced to play two home games, back-to-back, at Sale.    

On New Year’s Day 1909, the Nomads played the Scottish amateur side Queens Park, at Hampden Park. This was the holiday fixture which had traditionally been fulfilled by the Corinthians.  Nearly 20,000 spectators were present, to witness “a capital match”. In what almost amounted to a full amateur international, the Nomads fielded nine amateur International players. After a close game, Queens Park triumphed by a single goal. The total gate money amounted to £575 and the Nomads had been guaranteed £75 for the game. However, as the match had proved such an attraction, and had been financially successful, the Queen's Park club subsequently forwarded a cheque for £100 to the Northern Nomads.   

In May 1910, the Football Association recommended the Nomads to the Council of the Brussels Exhibition when they desired an English club to take part in an International Football Tournament. This was, indeed, an honour, as the tournament comprised of a number of very strong teams from Belgium and Holland, Germany and Austro-Hungary. The Nomads defeated Union St Gilloise 2- 0 in the final and it was said that a certain Liverpool solicitor was so enthusiastic over the Nomad’s triumph that he volunteered to “fill the cup”, but when he saw the size of the trophy, he lost his memory!

In May 1911 the Nomads embarked on another successful continental tour, where results included a 9 -0 thrashing of Standard Liege, a 5 – 2 victory over a Belgian XI and a 2 - 1 win against a Holland XI. This was the club’s fourth European tour and they had yet to be beaten on their travels. This was followed in 1913 with further European honours in an International Tournament in Bruges. A 3 – 0 victory over Dordrecht meant that they won another “massive silver cup”. 

In 1913, Tom Jackson, fell foul of the F.A. and was temporarily suspended from football after he failed to provide definite information after he made an incendiary allegation that “clubs competing in the Amateur Cup competition from the North Riding and Durham (with very few exceptions) are not bona fide amateur clubs" and that “some members of the F.A. Council know full well that this true, but they dare not act.” The F.A. ruled that Jackson’s allegations must be substantiated or unconditionally withdrawn. ,

Northern Nomads were keen to make their mark in domestic competition, and in 1914, they reached the final of the F.A. Amateur Cup, for the first time, narrowly losing to Bishop Auckland 1 - 0 at Elland Road. The club did gain some silverware by lifting the Manchester Junior Cup the same year, beating Berry’s Association 4 – 3 in the final, at Hurst.

The Nomads limped on throughout the war years, but had been decimated by the loss of it’s strongest players. However, the club still had Tom Jackson, and by the summer of 1919, “Pa” Jackson had lost none of his enthusiasm to get the amateurs back to their pre-eminent, pre-war standard as quickly as possible.

In 1920/21 the Nomads won the Welsh Amateur Cup beating Cardiff Corinthians 2 – 0 in the final at Llandudno. Shortly after, came the sensational news of the suspension, sine die, of the Northern Nomads Football Club. The F.A. had appointed a commission to investigate the organisation of the club, which requested the secretary to forward minute books, account books and vouchers of the club. After this request was not complied with, the club and it’s officials were suspended by the Football Association.

The suspension was soon lifted, but the subsequent F.A. report was damming, finding that the Northern Nomads club was not properly constituted according to the rules of The Football Association, the minute and cash books had been kept in an irregular and unsatisfactory manner, incorrect information had been given to the F.A. as to the affiliation of the club to a county association, meaning that the club took part in the F.A. Cup competitions without proper qualification and that the committee of the club had been negligent of their duties.

The report found that Mr. T. H. Jackson should be strongly censured for his general faulty conduct of the affairs of the club and that Mr. S. Cookson be censured for carelessness in respect of a statement of accounts to which his name was appended.

In the light of these findings, it might be considered that the instruction for the Northern Nomads to “get their house in order” was a fairly lenient judgement. After their spectacular fall from grace, a reconstruction of the club was necessary, with former players Alec Robertson as Secretary and David Gilmour as chairman. The reconstruction saw the Nomads quickly become a significant force again, and they won Welsh Amateur Cup, again, in 1925, defeating Llanidloes 5-1 in a replay, after a one-all draw.

They also reached the semi-final of the F.A. Amateur Cup where they were unlucky to lose to the holders Clapton in a game played at Ilford - just three miles from Clapton.  The choice of venue by the F.A. caused much indignation in amateur circles and considerable dissatisfaction within the Northern Nomads club. The belief was that, as the Nomads did not command a sizeable following, the choice of venue was made to meet the convenience of the supporters of Clapton.

The following season, the Nomads romped to victory in the F.A. Amateur Cup, defeating Furness Withy (2-0), Whitehall Printeries (5-2), Hallam (5-1), Crook Town (3-1) and Redhill (7-1) in the semi-final at Highbury, before 18,000 spectators, to set up a final against Stockton of the Northern League at Roker Park, Sunderland. Remarkably, in what everyone assumed would be a close affair, the Nomads cruised to another 7 – 1 victory – a record for the Cup Final!

In 1926/27, as the Amateur Cup winners, the Nomads gained the unusual distinction of being exempted from the qualifying rounds of the F.A. Cup and were drawn to play Crewe Alexandra in the 1st Round proper, only to lose 4 - 1 at Gresty Road.  

In 1930 the club, again, reached the semi-final of the F.A. Amateur Cup, losing 4 – 2 to Ilford in a replay, after a goal-less first game.

The Nomads decided to enter into league football again in 1933. The “first” team were elected to Lancashire Combination and moved from Stalybridge to the Eccles United ground at Bradburn Street, Patricroft for Lancashire Combination games. The second string eleven entered the Liverpool County Combination, playing most of their fixtures at Burscough.

Unfortunately, neither side found much success and both bounced around at the bottom of their respective divisions for 5 seasons before resigning their positions in 1938.

After one further season, playing friendly matches, the Northern Nomads disbanded in 1939.

In 1951, the Nomads name was revived, with the claim, "We just don't want a team. We are out for a first-class side capable of challenging the best in the country." The revival was inspired by the performances of Pegasus, the Oxford and Cambridge combined Universities side that had won the F.A. Amateur Cup. The new club quickly established itself, playing at Stalybridge Celtic, with the press now dubbing them, “the Pegasus of the North”. They won the Amateur Football Association Invitation Cup in 1953, defeating Pegasus in the semi-final and Cambridge City in the final.  

The club joined the Mid-Cheshire League in 1956 and won the championship in their first season and applied for election to Division Two of the Lancashire Combination for 1957/58.

In 1964, the Nomads resigned from the Combination and joined the Manchester League, with their “home” ground switched to Witton Albion. In 1966, the Nomads Reserves were also admitted to the Manchester League structure for a few seasons.

For the most part, the Nomads were a regular mid-table side, but suffered relegation in 1976/77. Two years later they won the Division One championship, only to finish bottom of the league again the following season. In 1984 they were runners-up to champions Maine Road, but folded the following year.

An attempt is currently underway to reform the old club, once again, for the 2019/20 season.