The Football League journey of the founding members

In 1888 twelve clubs from the Midlands and the North West of England took part in the first ever Football League season. Preston North End, Aston Villa, Wolves, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, West Brom, Accrington, Everton, Burnley, Derby County, Notts County and Stoke City will forever be remembered as founding members of the Football League. It’s interesting to note that Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are nowhere to be seen, many of these clubs didn’t enter the Football League until much later.

The geographical location of the founding members is also interesting. West Bromwich Albion were the southern-most side in the division whilst Burnley were the northern-most. The longest journey any side would have to make is 109 miles (from West Brom to Burnley). Compare that to the 409 miles between Plymouth and Newcastle and you can soon see just how geographically localised the first Football League was.

Historical league positions of the founding members of the Football League

The above chart shows the progression of the twelve founding members of the Football League. This season (2010/2011) there were seven founding members in the Premier Division (Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers,  Everton, Stoke City, West Brom and Wolves). This is the highest number since the 79/80 season when seven clubs were part of the  It means that around one third of the current top flight clubs were also members of the first ever top flight Football League season.

The all time low for the founding members came in the 1986/1987 season when only two clubs (Everton and Aston Villa) were in the top flight. That season Everton won the title. Aston Villa weren’t so lucky and finished rock bottom of Division One. They were replaced by Derby County for the 1987/1988, thus keeping the number of founding members at an all time low of two for another season.