In the early years of football clubs tended to stick to their local area for players. The idea of teams being improved by seeking out better players was unusual, although in Lancashire a trend for looking to Scotland for players had begun in the 1870s. Of course, two players from Partick, Fergie Suter and Jimmy Love, were amongst the first players to be tempted with a move to a new club, and this eventually led to players being paid for playing, and hanselled the idea of professional football.

However, this approach wasn’t universally popular, and many in Lancashire deplored the idea of clubs using their financial muscle to buy success and import players, often, as the example below shows, for single games.

In January 1880 the Athletic News published a letter for a disgruntled supporter after Blackburn defeated Turton in the Lancashire Challenge Cup.

Sir,—By your permission, I wish to write a few lines respecting the Blackburn Rovers v. Turton match (cup tie), played on Saturday. Much as the loss, for a time, of Messrs. F. and J. Hargreives is to be regretted, would it not be as well for the Rovers to provide substitutes from their own club, or else change their name to “English and Scotch” Rovers, instead of heading to Scotland? I did not witness the play,but I am assured that if the Rovers had not played [Hugh] McIntyre and P. Campbell, of the Glasgow team, they would have been beaten by Turton, who played all their own men. Is it not quite time that clubs in Lancashire should cease to send to Scotland for men to come and try to win for them the cup, which., if won by them, would surely not be creditable? Winning the cup by these means would be an honour scarcely worth competing for.

What is there to prevent any of the other remaining clubs left in the cup ties to make” about half a dozen Scotch players, of equal reputation to the two I have just named, members of their club, and play them in their future ties ? Perhaps some abler pen than mine will take up this subject, and try to check this growing evil before any of the other ties are played. Let each club play its own men, then great indeed and worthy will they be of the honour due to them. The Rovers may well win their good matches, and even the cup, trying those tactics and nobody to say “nay” to them. Why does not the Association step? in The Rovers will stand as good a chance as any other club left in for the remaining ties of the cup if they will discontinue the disreputable practice of borrowing men whose abilities exceed that of any other two of their players.

Yours respectfully, W. Accrington, January 10th, 1880.

[The above letter is only a fair sample of four other communications we have received, all on the same subject. Our correspondent is wrong in stating that the Rovers sent to Scotland specially for the two players named, for one of them, Mr. Campbell, has resided in Liverpool for some time past.—ED. A.Ne]

The following week a meeting of the Lancashire Football Association decided that Campbell and McIntyre had not been eligible to play for Blackburn and the game was ordered to be replayed. A new rule was also established which disallowed any player who was a playing member of two teams, or who had not been a member for a clear month before a competition, or if he resided outwith Lancashire.


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