BACK when the Football League was just an idea being bandied about between the biggest clubs in England, Bolton Wanderers were not even the biggest club in their own town.
The likes of Astley Bridge, Great Lever, Gilnow Rangers and Turton could lay claim to being top dogs in this district but, in 1888, Wanderers’ name was etched in stone as one of the 12 founder members of the new football league competition, half of which were from within the historic boundaries of Lancashire.
Footballers back then were not the Ferrari-driving, property-collecting types found today.
A century and a quarter ago players were expected to hold down a regular job in a factory before being paid to play on a Saturday.
And one such man — Bolton born and bred Kenny Davenport — would, according to newly-unearthed evidence, go on to make history.
An inside right who would go on to play twice for England, scoring two goals in a 9-1 win over Ireland, James Kenyon Davenport had no clue whatsoever what an indelible mark he had made when he put the ball between the posts two minutes into a game against Derby County at Wanderers’ old Pikes Lane ground.
He had been born a stone’s throw from Pikes Lane in Deane and had acted in those early days as a “fixer” for Scottish, Irish and Welsh players coming down to play in the new professional ranks, helping them to integrate into jobs in factories in the area.
Davenport played 150 games in all guises for the club and returned from a spell at Southport to coach the reserve team of the day.
Back in his day there were no goal nets, no offside rule, referees would only prowl the sideline and substitutes were unheard of.
Not everything has changed, though. As if to set precedent on the pain that would accompany being a Wanderers fan for the years to come, the club did not even win their opening game despite taking a 3-0 lead — the first two goals coming from Davenport. They lost in the end 6-3.
A week later they led Burnley 3-0, and lost 4-3.
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.