The future of Bolton Wanderers is in doubt.
Yes, one of the founder members of the Football League is facing liquidation as the club’s 145-year history hangs in the balance.
Bolton’s roots, along with 11 other teams, can be traced back to 1888 and a letter from Aston Villa secretary William McGregor, who decided football needed some organisation, having been professional since 1885.
Penning the letter to Bolton, Blackburn, Preston and West Brom, McGregor’s intention was to get rid of the uncertainty which football found itself in during the 1880s.
According to the EFL, mismatches were commonplace and less well-run clubs routinely pulled out of fixtures at a late stage. Poor weather also compounded the situation and Villa once endured five consecutive blank Saturdays.
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McGregor invited what he saw as the key participants in a possible new competition to meet on 23 March in Fleet Street, London and requested input from the other clubs, wondering which other teams they might care to nominate to be part of this historic league.
“I beg to tender the following suggestion… that 10 or 12 of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season,” he wrote.
Bolton suggested Wolves, Accrington (who folded in 1896) and Burnley, Notts County, Stoke, Derby and Everton also became involved by the time the 12-club Football League was formed at a meeting in Manchester on 17th April.
A further meeting took place at the Royal Hotel, Manchester, on 17 April. It was there that the name ‘The Football League’ was born.
Preston’s representative, Major William Sudell, suggested the name, with McGregor’s offering – ‘Association Football Union’ – deemed too similar to the Rugby Union.
On 8 September the first ever Football League matches were played and Bolton scored the first ever league goal.
Preston were the first ever winner, going the entire 22-game season unbeaten. They also won the FA Cup and subsequently became known as the ‘Invincibles’.