In the penultimate feature of our series on short lived Football League lives, PAUL McPARLAN goes to the seaside to recall the club set up to fulfil a financial requirement.
It is the quiz question that often catches out football history buffs. Which seven clubs from the Merseyside area have played in the Football League? Most people can name six (Everton, Liverpool, Tranmere, Southport, New Brighton and Bootle). However, the one that is often overlooked is New Brighton Tower F.C. and just as Accrington Stanley have no direct connection with founder members of the Football League, Accrington F.C. so New Brighton Tower have no link to former league team New Brighton F.C.
The formation of New Brighton Tower F.C. has some similarity to the creation of Thames F.C. In the case of both clubs there was a sports venue that was under used and a club was formed to play there. It’s hard to imagine now but in the 1890’s the town of New Brighton on the Wirral was an incredibly popular tourist destination attracting thousands of day trippers from Liverpool and the industrial towns of the North West. Many visited the newly constructed New Brighton Tower complex, which featured the impressive New Brighton Tower, which some considered the equal of the more famous Eiffel Tower. At the time, it was the tallest structure in England.
Beneath the Tower complex, the Tower Athletic Grounds were constructed but apart from a few events in the summer, it was not used for most of the year. So in early 1897, the New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company announced its intention to create a Football League club with the clear aim of achieving First Division status. So, in quite unique circumstances, a group of businessmen decided to create a football club for purely commercial purposes.
Unlike most clubs at the time, New Brighton Tower had substantial financial reserves to call upon. Unsurprisingly, there was a great deal of resentment shown to this team who intended to buy their way to the top. Although members of the Cheshire F.A. they joined the Lancashire League in 1897 and bought a number of famous international players including Alf Milward, an England international, from Everton.
Initially, the new team drew record crowds of up to 12,000 at some of their away games but struggled to match those attendances at home. New Brighton Tower won the Lancashire League and were then elected to the Second Division of the Football League.
Most fans now referred to the team as the “Towerites” due to the fact they played at the Tower ground and gates had at least increased to four figures. Wearing their kit of white shirts with blue trimmings and blue shorts the first League game ended with a 3-2 victory over Gainsborough Trinity. Their first league loss was not until January when they were defeated by Newton Heath (later known as Manchester United). However, they stumbled towards the end of the season finishing in fifth place. Of more concern were the poor attendance figures, several home fixtures drew crowds of less than 2,000.
The next season was one of underachievement and declining attendances. The team finished in tenth position and crowds had dropped below 1,000. The financial support given to the club demanded that they achieve promotion to the First Division if the football project was to remain viable.
1900/1901 was to be the “do or die” season for the team. Wearing a new kit of salmon pink shirts with black trimmings and white shorts, the final league campaign started with high hopes as an influx of players were brought in to create a squad of twenty professionals. The home record was impressive, and in January they beat the eventual division winners Grimsby 5-0 and moved to third position. The final league game was a 1-0 home victory against Woolwich Arsenal and the team finished in fourth position. For a number of teams this would have been considered a relatively successful season. However, the team was still failing to draw sufficient support, with crowds rarely exceeding 3,000. It seemed that most locals preferred to travel to Everton or Liverpool for their league football fix.
In August 1901, the fixtures were published for the new season. The Towerites were due to play Burslem Port Vale on the 7th September. But rumours were circulating of the club’s continued viability. Then on the 4th September the club gave notice that they would be unable to fulfil their fixtures. The dream was over. New Brighton Tower were no more. The football club had suffered heavy financial losses, it had failed as a business proposition and therefore closure was the only option.
As a footnote, the Tower itself was dismantled in 1919. The tower ballroom at the base was destroyed by fire in 1969. After the Cavern Club in Liverpool, this was the venue the Beatles played most on Merseyside. New Brighton F.C. spent the last five seasons of their Football League career playing at the Tower Ground from 1946 till 1951.
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