|Full name||Nelson Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Admirals, Blues|
|Founded||23 October 1882|
|Ground||Victoria Park, Nelson|
|Capacity||1,500 (150 seated)|
|League||North West Counties League Division One North|
|2019–20||North West Counties League Division One North (season abandoned)|
Nelson Football Club is a football club, based in Nelson, Lancashire, England. Established in 1882, the club played in the Lancashire League, Lancashire Combination and Central League before becoming founder members of the Third Division North of the Football League in 1921. They were Division Three North champions in 1922–23 and were promoted to Division Two. However, they were relegated back to the Third Division North after a single season.
In 1931 the club lost their Football League status and dropped back into the Lancashire Combination, where they played until folding in 1936. They were reformed after World War II and rejoined the Lancashire Combination, playing in the league until it merged to form the North West Counties League in 1982. They dropped out of the league between 1988 and 1992, playing in the West Lancashire League. Although the club left the league again in 2010, they returned the following year, and are currently members of the North West Counties League Division One North, playing home matches at Victoria Park.
On 21 October 1882, members of Nelson Cricket Club travelled to Burnley to watch a football match between the recently formed Burnley Football Club and Blackburn Rovers' second team. The match, played at Burnley's Calder Vale ground, ended with Blackburn winning 10–0 and inspired the cricketers to form a football club of their own. A meeting was held on the following Monday 23 October at the Victoria Hall on Scotland Road; John Greenwood presided over the meeting and enrolled around 25 members to the newly formed Nelson Football Club.
Nelson were founder members of the Lancashire League in the 1889–90 season, finishing in 4th place. They were Lancashire League champions in 1895–96, winning 22 out of 30 games, scoring 105 goals, and runners-up two seasons later in 1897–98. However, the club folded during the 1898–99 season and their record for that season expunged when they were expelled by the Lancashire FA. They rejoined the Lancashire League in the 1900–01 season, finishing 6th. In 1901–02 they joined the Lancashire Combination. In 1903–04 the league expanded with two divisions, and Nelson played in Division One. However, after finishing 18th in 1906–07 they were relegated to Division Two, where they stayed for just one season before being promoted back to Division One. The club closed down in 1916, when bailiffs were called in they remained closed during World War I until they reformed in 1918 joining the Central League in 1919–20 where they stayed for just two seasons.
In 1921, the club joined the Football League as a founder member of the Third Division North.Their first league game, a 2–1 defeat to the now-defunct Wigan Borough attracted a record attendance of 9,000 on 27 August 1921. And their first season in the Football League, 1921–22, ended with a 16th-place finish, although they struggled with comparatively low attendances.
The following season, 1922–23, proved to be the most successful in the club's history, when they finished as champions of the Third Division North, earning promotion on 24 April 1923 with a 2–0 home win over Wrexham and were promoted to the Second Division, the first and only time the club played in a national league.In preparation for the new season in the Second Division the club went on a pre-season tour to Spain in the summer of 1923, winning two of their games, beating Real Oviedo 2–1 and Real Madrid 4–2 making them the first English team to beat Real Madrid in Spain. Their stay in the Second Division was short-lived as they finished 21st (out of 22) in 1923–24 and were relegated back to the Third Division North. They were though the first team to score at high-flying Blackpool and also beat eventual champions Leeds United at home. They struggled though all season with their first away win not coming until March when they beat Manchester United. The following season they finished as runners-up to Darlington on their return to the Third Division North, but it was to be the last time the club seriously threatened to gain promotion back to a nationwide league.
Jimmy Hampson played for Nelson between 1926 and 1927. On 10 April 1926 a record attendance of 14,143 at Seedhill, saw a 2–2 draw with Bradford Park Avenue.For a town with a population of under 40,000 the attendance were considered impressive. They reached the second round of the FA Cup in 1926–27, beating Stockport County at home 4–1 in the first round, before losing 2–1 away to Ashington in the second round. That season they finished 5th, however the club then started to struggle in the league and finished in last place in 1927–28, conceding 135 goals, and they were also struggling financially and found themselves £6,500 in debt. They were though re-elected to the league. In 1930–31 they reached the second round of the FA Cup for a second time. In the first round they beat Workington 4–0 then lost 2–1 to York City in a replay after a 1–1 draw. However, they again struggled in the league, dropping to last place on Boxing Day 1930, where they stayed for the rest of the season. After finishing bottom of the league for a second time, they failed to win re-election and were voted out of the Football League after a second vote, following a tie. They were replaced by Chester City. The club's last game in the Football League was a 4–0 defeat to Hull City on 2 May 1931. The club then dropped back into the Lancashire Combination where on 7 August 1936 they folded again after incurring a big loss. Hastily reformed as Nelson Town, the "new" club entered the local Nelson & Colne League in time for the 1936–7 season and duly lost their first fixture at Seedhill against James Nelson SC 3–2. After completing two seasons in local football the club announced after their final game at Gargrave in 1939 that the following season would see them return to senior football in the West Lancashire League. Sadly only two games were played before events in Europe dictated a seven-year absence of League football in Nelson.
Following the Second World War, the club was reformed in 1946, and immediately rejoined the Lancashire Combination finishing 11th in 1946–47. The following season they were runners-up and for the next few seasons the club continued to do well both in the Lancashire Combination and cup competitions. A 4th-placed finish in 1947–48 was followed by the club being crowned champions in 1949–50, scoring 125 league goals, when they also won the Lancashire Combination Cup. They were runners-up in 1950–51, when they lost out on the title on goal-average, while scoring 120 goals. Also in 1950–51, Nelson won the Lancashire Combination Cup again and reached the second round of the FA Cup. Although the first time the club did so a non-league club, meaning they started the competition in the first qualifying round where they beat Lancaster City 5–2. They then beat Leyland Motors 4–1 in the second qualifying round, followed by victories over Bacup Borough (2–0 in the third qualifying round) and Hyde United (3–0 in a replay in the fourth qualifying round). In the first round they beat Witton Albion 1–0 before losing 3–2 to Port Vale in the second round. In 1951–52 they were champions for a second time, this time scoring 139 goals with Joe Fagan, who went on to manage Liverpool, as manager. A 5th-place finish in 1952–53, Fagan's second and final season in charge, was followed by a 3rd place in 1953–54.However, despite finishing as champions twice, each time they applied to re-join the Football League they narrowly failed. In 1954–55 they won the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy. They won the Lancashire Combination Cup for a third time in 1959–60. In 1960–61 they were runners-up in the Combination, the closest the club came to winning the title again. However, in 1965–66 they finished 21st (out of 22) and were relegated to Division Two. The Lancashire Combination lost many of its clubs to the newly formed Northern Premier League in 1968. However, Nelson remained in the Combination. In their final season in the Combination, 1981–82, they finished 3rd.
Nelson became founder members of the new North West Counties Football League, joining the Third Division. They finished 10th (out of 18) in their first season, 1982–83. The 1986–87 season saw a 4th-placed finish. The following season the Third Division was scrapped, and Nelson were moved up to the Second Division, finishing in 16th. However, due to the poor state of their Victoria Park stadium, and problems with getting it up to the standard required by the league, the club were forced to drop down to the West Lancashire League, where they played in the Second Division and remained for four seasons from 1988–89 to 1991–92. They struggled though with a highest place finish of 15th. They were re-admitted to the North West Counties Second Division for the 1992–93 season after Victoria Park was upgraded, although they finished 17th (out of 18) in their first season. In 1996–97 they won the Division Two Trophy. In 1999–2000 they finished 3rd. In 2000–01 they finished in the third and final promotion place on the final day of the season above Atherton Laburnum Rovers. However, Atherton were granted a replay of their final game as their opponents had fielded an ineligible player. Atherton won the replayed game to snatch away third spot from Nelson. In 2005–06 they again finished 3rd and were promoted to the First Division, the club's first promotion in 83 years.
They finished 20th (out of 22) in 2006–07 and 20th (out of 20) in 2007–08 although they were not relegated. In 2008–09 the First Division was renamed the Premier Division; Nelson finished in 17th position out of 22 despite winning just three home games, The Blues fared much better on the road to finish 16 points clear of bottom club Atherton Collieries.On 15 July 2010, the North West Counties League announced that Nelson had resigned from the league with immediate effect. Nelson F.C. continued to operate junior teams, however, and made an application to rejoin the North West Counties League for the 2011–12 season, which was later approved by the FA. Mark Fell was appointed 1st team manager in November 2012 after Michael Morrison and Robert Grimes were sacked. Fell led the side to 10th in the NWCFL. In Fell's first full season in charge, Nelson were crowned champions of the NWCFL Division One, being promoted to the Premier Division in the process.
Nelson originally played its home matches on a pitch behind the Golden Ball pub moving to the Park Ground by the 1890s.They moved to Seedhill around 1905 where the club had a small wooden stand and a small covered enclosure behind one goal, with grass banking around the rest of the ground. In 1922 a large 2,000 capacity wooden stand was built. The club's highest attendance at the stadium was 14,143 for a Third Division North match at home Bradford Park Avenue on 10 April 1926.
Nelson played their final home game at Seedhill on Sunday 28 March 1971 when a crowd of over a thousand gathered to witness the first Sunday fixture at the stadium. They were duly rewarded with an eight-goal thriller as Clitheroe were beaten 5–3. Seedhill, having hosted the Nelson Admirals speedway team between 1967 and 1969, latterly became a well known stock car venue before its eventual demolition around 1980 when the M65 motorway cut through the area. The site of Seedhill remains clearly visible today.
Nelson moved to Victoria Park (known locally as "Little Wembley") in time for their opening home fixture of the following 1971–72 Lancashire Combination season, when the Nelson Leader reported a "good crowd" attended to see them lose 1–0 to the recently reformed Accrington Stanley on 28 August 1971. Victoria Park now has a capacity of 2,000, with 1,700 standing. It is bordered by trees on two sides in surrounding parkland. Along one side there is a low-roofed wooden stand with seating in the centre section. The side opposite has the dugouts with a grass area. Behind one goal are the clubhouse and changing rooms at the top end of the ground.
In January 2009 Nelson launched an appeal, the "£10K Floodlight Appeal", to help improve the floodlighting facilities at Victoria Park.In October 2013 the dugouts at Victoria Park were replaced and improved to meet a league ground grading requirement.
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The 1921–22 season was the 41st season of football played by Nelson. It was their first season as a professional club, and their first in the Football League Third Division North, after the restructuring of the English league system. The side ended the season in 16th place in the division, finishing behind Barrow on goal average. The campaign started on 27 August 1921 with a 1–2 defeat by Wigan Borough, which was attended by a then record crowd of 9,000 at Seedhill. Nelson's first win in the Football League came on 3 September 1921, when they beat Wigan Borough 4–1 at Springfield Park. The season ended with a 0–0 draw at home to Tranmere Rovers on 6 May 1922. By the end of the campaign, the side had a league record of 13 wins, seven draws and 18 defeats, giving them a total of 33 points.
The 1924–25 season was the 44th in the history of Nelson Football Club, and their fourth as a professional team in the Football League. The campaign saw the team return to the Third Division North, having finished in the relegation zone of the Second Division in 1923–24. Despite losing only one match all season at Seedhill, Nelson's home ground, the team struggled in away matches. Nelson ended the campaign on 53 points, with a record of 23 wins, 7 draws and 12 losses, and finished as runners-up to Darlington in the league table. Nelson reached the Sixth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, beating non-League Winsford United before being knocked out of the competition by Coventry City. The team progressed past the first round of the Lancashire Senior Cup with a win against Wigan Borough, but were defeated in the following round by Blackburn Rovers.
For the 1927–28 season, Nelson Football Club played as a professional outfit in the Football League for the seventh consecutive campaign. Nelson finished last out of 22 teams in the Third Division North, with a record of 10 wins, 6 draws and 26 defeats, corresponding to a tally of 26 points. As a result, the club was forced to apply for re-election to the League at the end of the season. The application was successful, with Nelson retaining their berth in place of Durham City. Due to the departure of Percy Smith to Bury, Nelson did not have a manager installed during the entire season. The team played inconsistently throughout the campaign from the outset, losing the opening two matches before winning four consecutive games during September 1927. Nelson suffered several comprehensive defeats during the 1927–28 season, including a 1–9 defeat to Bradford City, a 0–8 loss away at Stockport County and a 1–7 reverse against Accrington Stanley. In total, the team conceded 136 goals in 42 league matches, one of the highest totals in Football League history.