A.F.C. Darwen

A.F.C. Darwen
AFC Darwen
AFC Darwen.png
Full name Association Football Club Darwen
Nickname(s) The Salmoners
Founded 1870 (as Darwen) (reformed in 2009)
Ground The Anchor Ground
(Capacity: 4,000)
Chairman Ted Ward
Manager Dennis Hill
League North West Counties League Division One
2010–11 North West Counties League Division One, 13th
Home colours
Away colours

A.F.C. Darwen is a football club from Darwen in Lancashire, North West England. The team, formed in 1870 as Darwen F.C., currently play in the Division One of the North West Counties League. They play their home games at the Anchor Ground.



The club originally played rugby football as well as cricket. It adopted Association rules in 1875.

In October 1878, at their Barley Bank ground, Darwen played a representative team from Blackburn under floodlights. This is believed to be one of the first, if not the very first instance of their use in football. The game was a huge success (not only because Darwen won 3–0) but the experiment was not repeated in that era.

Darwen was the first club from the North of England to achieve any success in the F.A. Cup, reaching the quarter finals in 1879. They caused controversy in this competition by signing two professional players, Fergie Suter and James Love, both from Partick Thistle, a Scottish club based in Glasgow. This is believed to be the first involvement of professional players in English football. One London club proposed that "no side which does not consist entirely of amateurs, as defined by the rules to be drawn up by the committee, be entitled to compete in the Challenge Cup competition". The motion was defeated and Darwen travelled down to the Oval to play the great amateur side Old Etonians in the quarter–final. They needed to make the journey three times, drawing 5–5 and 2–2 before losing 6–2 in the second replay.

An FA Cup regulation of that time ruled that the final three rounds of the competition were to be played in London. This was changed following Darwen's experiences in 1879, and entries were subsequently grouped by region.

Two years later, in 1881, Darwen went one better and reached the semi–finals of the FA Cup. They beat Romford 15–0 in the quarter–final.

In 1891 Darwen were elected to the Football League as it was expanded to 14 teams. In March 1892 they lost 12–0 to West Bromwich Albion, and this winning margin has never been surpassed in the League's top division (although it was equalled in 1909 when Nottingham Forest beat Leicester Fosse by the same score).

Darwen finished bottom of the League in their first season, and were relegated to become founder members of the Second Division. Ironically, 14th (out of 14) in 1891–92 remains their highest ever placing in the Football League.

In 1893 they finished in third place and were promoted back to the First Division via the test matches, but they were relegated again in 1894. They remained in the Second Division until 1899, when they did not apply for re–election. They had spent eight seasons in the League, two of them in the top flight.

During their last season as a League club, in 1898–99, Darwen suffered 18 consecutive defeats. This remains a record, although Sunderland narrowly avoided equalling it in 2003, when they lost 17 consecutive League games (15 in the F.A. Premier League and two in the Football League First Division) before beating Preston North End 2–0 at Deepdale.

After leaving the Football League the club joined the Lancashire League. It was also in 1899 that they moved to the Anchor Ground, which has remained their home ever since.

In 1902 they won the Lancashire League title, remaining unbeaten all season. Two years later they joined the Lancashire Combination, and they played in this league for the following 70 years (apart from a break during and immediately after World War I).

Darwen won 5 trophies in the three years from 1930 to 1933, including the Lancashire Combination title (1931 and 1932). In the 1931–32 season FA Cup, they beat Football League side Chester City in front of a 10,000 crowd at the Anchor Ground and were rewarded with an away draw at reigning league champions Arsenal in the 3rd round. Darwen lost by 11 (eleven) goals to 1 but Arsenal were so impressed with Lancashire sportsmanship that they presented their visitors with a set of their own red strip, which Darwen have worn more or less ever since

They were champions of the Combination four times, and following the fourth title in 1976 they joined the more prestigious Cheshire County League. Six years later, in 1982, they became founder members of the North West Counties League. They won the League Cup in its inaugural season. They spent three seasons in the Second Division in the mid–1980s, and were relegated again in 1998 on account of ground regulations. They have remained in the Second Division ever since.

Winding up

On 22 December 2003 Carlsberg Tetley tried to wind up Darwen Football and Social Club. The club avoided liquidation on that occasion. On 14 April 2008 another winding up petition was brought by The Bee radio station in respect of £8000 owed for advertising. Plans were made for Blackburn with Darwen Council to buy the Anchor Ground. Following two further petitions for liquidation brought by Thwaites Brewery and ING Lease UK and their refusal of an offer of 25p in the pound, on 14 May 2009 Darwen Football Club was wound up in the High Court. The 134 year old Darwen FC therefore ceased to exist. However, almost immediately, there were plans for a new Darwen football club to be formed. This was achieved before the start of the 2009–10 season as AFC Darwen, but the reformed club had to start at Step 7 (Level 11) of the football pyramid and apply for admission to the West Lancashire League, which was granted and they entered straight in at the Premier Division. This league sits only one level lower in the pyramid than where they had been previously in the North West Counties League Division One.

League and cup record


  • 1879–80 – Winners of the first ever Lancashire Cup competition defeating Blackburn Rovers in the Final.
  • 1880–81 – FA Cup semi–finalists (after beating Romford 15–0 in quarter–finals)
  • 1889–90 – Founder member of Football Alliance
  • 1891–92 – Elected into Football League
  • 1892–93 – Not re–elected into First Division, but elected as a founder member of Football League Division Two. Promoted after Test Match
  • 1893–94 – Relegated after Test Match
  • 1899 – Did not seek re–election to Football League
  • 1899–1900 – Joined Lancashire League
  • 1901–02 – Lancashire League Champions
  • 1902–03 – Lancashire League runner–up (on goal average)
  • 1903–04 – Joined Lancashire Combination Division One
  • 1905–06 – Lancashire Combination runner–up
  • 1909 – Relegated to Division Two
  • 1914 – Left Lancashire Combination
  • 1920–21 – Rejoined Lancashire Combination
  • 1930–31 – Lancashire Combination Champions
  • 1931–32 – Lancashire Combination Champions (2nd time)
  • 1963 – Relegated to Division Two
  • 1965–66 – Promoted to Division One
  • 1967 – Relegated to Division Two
  • 1967–68 – Lancashire Combination Division Two runner–up
  • 1971–72 – Lancashire Combination Champions (3rd time)
  • 1973–74 – Lancashire Combination runner–up (on goal average)
  • 1974–75 – Lancashire Combination Champions (4th time)
  • 1975–76 – Joined Cheshire County League
  • 1982–83 – Founder members of North West Counties League
  • 1984 – Relegated to Division Two
  • 1984–85 – Escaped relegation due to Padiham having 2 points deducted
  • 1986–87 – Promoted to Division One
  • 1998 – Demoted to Division Two due to ground gradings


  • Best league position: 14th (of 14) in (only division) Football League, 1891–92; or 15th of 16 in 1893–94 in the 1st Division of the Football League.
  • Best (post–war) league position: 5th in North West Counties Football League (then level 8), 1988–89
  • Best FA Cup performance: semi–final, 1880–81. (Post–War: 4th qualifying round, 1946–47)
  • Best FA Trophy performance: 2nd round replay (three times) in 1972–73, 1978–79 and 1981–82.
  • Best FA Vase performance: 3rd round 1990–91


Notable former players

  • Joe Smith (player–manager), formerly manager of Blackpool for 23 years, guiding them to victory in the famous 1953 FA Cup Final
  • Horace Fairhurst, former Blackpool player who died as a result of a head injury sustained during a game

England internationals

Four Darwen players were capped for England.

The full list of England players (with the number of caps received whilst registered with Darwen F.C.) were:[1]


  • Darwen at the Football Club History Database

External links

Coordinates: 53°42′42.38″N 2°28′38.25″W / 53.7117722°N 2.4772917°W / 53.7117722; -2.4772917

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