Were Nelsons the first team into Europe from this area, did they create the path that clubs like Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur would soon follow?
The first edition of the European Cup took place during the 1955-56 season with 16 teams, none of them from England. Following Wolverhampton Wanderers successful run of friendly games against top European sides and especially when they defeated Hungarian champions, Honved, 3-2, and manager Stan Cullis declared them as “Champions of the World” UEFA finally conceived a tournament in Paris in 1955 to be known as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
The 1955-56 season proved to be very interesting as Lancaster Lads Club Old Boys who had won promotion from Division III got off to a good start in the higher sphere by winning their first 4 games including a 3–0 away victory at featured side, Nelsons, who also drew at home to another fancied side, Galgate, before inflicting a crushing defeat on Skerton Athletic by 18 goals to one. Nelsons beat Skerton Athletic by a similar score in the Junior Charity Cup 2nd round before a giant killing act against Division I side Dry Dock United in the 2nd round of the Senior Challenge Cup beating them 5–2. By December it looked like the undefeated Lads Club Old Boys were odds on to win Division II with Galgate and Nelsons vainly trying to close the gap. Nelsons proved that their run of good form was no fluke by travelling to the Recreation Ground, Galgate and winning by the odd goal in seven.
Saturday April 14th 1956 was a great day in the life of a young Lancaster footballer whose ambition was to become a professional player. 17 year old George Atkinson of 1 Castle View, Skerton, ran out onto the lush turf at Wembley Stadium to act as a ball boy in the Amateur Cup Final. It was the first time that a player from The North Lancashire League, or even this area, had received such an honour. George played for Primrose Juniors and had attended Skerton Secondary School where he captained the first team.
Back Row (L-R)
John Cross, A Walmsley, Peter Simpson, George Atkinson, Bill Parkinson, Alan Dixon, Brian Huntington
Front Row (L-R)
Ray Denver, P Pedder, Peter Bleasdale, G Mawson
By late March 1956, Lads Club Old Boys had completed their fixtures and Nelsons knew they had to win their final two league games at home to Grange and Lansil to clinch the Division II title. Before that though they played the Lads Club in the semi-final of the Junior Charity Cup on the Far Moor and came out on top by 6 goals to 3. Nelsons duly won their final two league games and secured the title by beating Grange 12–1 and Lansil 4–1 and then prepared for the final of the Junior Charity Cup against Lansil on the Far Moor. A superb performance by Nelsons and especially flying left winger, Jimmy Woods, with a hat-trick saw them emerge victorious by 5-1.
One week after completing a memorable cup and league double Nelsons travelled to Holland to play the Club Huis Te Werve. This created a North Lancashire League record because as far as officials could ascertain it was the first time since the formation of the league that a club had travelled abroad to play a representative game. The game had been arranged by the Shell Chemical Company Ltd, Manchester and the managing director of Nelsons Silk Ltd, Dr W. J. Sedgewick. The party of 31, comprising twelve players and supporters along with trainer, Walter Pye, left Lancaster by coach on Thursday, April 26th, for Ringway Airport, Manchester. From there they flew in a privately chartered plane to Amsterdam where they stayed at the Central Hotel. On Saturday morning they travelled by train to The Hague, where Dutch team officials met them and took them onto Te Werve.
Before the match Fred Blondell, captain of Nelsons Sports Club, presented an autographed football to the captain of the Dutch team who, in turn, presented a pennant in green and white, the Te Werve club colours, lettered and fringed in gold.
The two teams were evenly matched and the game was fast and exciting. Te Werve led by 2-0 after 30 minutes but five minutes before the interval Fred Blondell reduced the lead with a well-taken goal. Although Nelsons fought hard the Dutch defence held their attacks and the score remained at 2-1 to the home side when the final whistle sounded. The visitors were then entertained by Te Werve where Mr Van de Berg presented them with membership badges of the Te Werve Football Club. A memorable day concluded when Dutch and English joined hands to sing “Auld Lang Syne” before the visitors left for their return trip to Amsterdam and their flight to Manchester.
Back Row (L-R)
Walter Pye (trainer), T. Sumner, John Armer, R. Clement, K. Cardwell, G. Hall,
Anthony Armer, Alan Armer, A. Skelton (secretary)
Front Row (L-R)
Alan Morris, Fred Blondell (captain), Jackie “Tiger” Wilkinson, Ron Pye, Jimmy Woods