TURTON FC might no longer be able the region’s oldest football club — but its legacy in the North West is second to none, claims a leading academic.

Research carried out at Manchester Metropolitan University found a football team called Hulme Anthenaeum was set up in 1863 — displacing Turton FC, founded in 1871 — as the oldest club in Lancashire.

Bolton academic Peter Swain — a part-time lecturer at the University of Bolton — has carried out extensive research and written various papers on the history of football in the North West.

He said: “I have no doubt the research is correct, but the influence Turton FC has had on football is far greater than Hulme Anthenaeum.

“The claim is that Hulme Anthenaeum were playing association football in 1863. I have no doubt they were playing some form of football a long, long time ago.

“But there is a record of football being played in Turton as far back as the 1830’s.

“My argument is that football historians have been looking in the wrong place — they are looking backwards. We are talking about a period when football did not exist in the same form as it does now.”

Mr Swain highlighted Turton FC’s role in the English game.

Whereas Hulme Athenaeum folded in the early 1870’s, Turton FC went on to teach the rules of what we now know as ‘association football’ to Bolton Wanderers Football Club and Blackburn Rovers Football Club.

Mr Swain said: “Turton FC is of paramount importance to the history of football. Lancashire is the home of professional football, and many of today’s big teams in the region were introduced to association football by Turton.

“The club’s secretary, W.T. Dixon, introduced Turton to association football, so it all started there.”

And the academic who carried out the research at Manchester Metropolitan University , Gary James, agrees Turton are a “significant” club.

Mr James said: “Hulme’s story should not reduce the significance of Turton. Turton may not actually have been the first club, but they do remain very important pioneers in the development of the game.”

Mr Swain’s works include a paper entitled ‘Origins of Football’, which was recently published in the academic journal Sport in History, and ‘Cultural Continuity and Football in Nineteenth-century Lancashire’.