Beautiful Victorian Game; with This Season Still Young, a Football Historian Recalls the Brief Reign of New Brighton Tower FC, Who Found You Can't Always Buy Success. David Charters Reports
Byline: David Charters
WIDE boys with their pork-chop side whiskers and flashy fob chains strolled along the promenade, arm-in-arm with their molls, who had naughty garters and smiled with ruby lips.
And they stopped to kiss under the tower, which pierced the sky high above the wings of screeching gulls, having spent their money as though there would be no tomorrow, while the lazy old sun of late summer slipped behind the sea like a golden yolk.
This was the problem for the money men behind that great tower, standing like a sentinel over the resort. If they couldn't find some way of attracting crowds to the shores of the Mersey at New Brighton during the winter, there would be no tomorrows for any of them.
And then someone said a word which electrified them all.
"Football" was drawing huge crowds to stadiums all over the country. Across the river, Everton and Liverpool were doing particularly well.
Why shouldn't there be a third big football club on Merseyside?
So it was that the New Brighton Tower and Recreation Company decided to buy a football team to play on the athletic ground, already built in the shadow of their huge steel structure of 567ft 6ins These were men of ambition. When Blackpool tower (518ft) was finished in 1885, they decided to top it. New Brighton Tower opened three years later to great acclaim as Britain's answer to the Eiffel Tower of Paris (984ft), on which its design had been based. It cost a staggering pounds 120,000 and included extensive catering, sports and amusement grounds.
Now they wanted to build a football team in the same energetic manner, fuelled by the belief that money talks, an idea followed more than a century later by Roman Abramovic, owner of Chelsea.
New Brighton Tower applied for membership of the Football League.
But there was resistance to the wealthy newcomers and in 1897/98, they had to compete in the Lancashire League. However, they had bought Jack Robinson, the England goalkeeper, from Derby County and gained promotion into the Football League the following season.
Followers of today's game will be interested to note that among the other teams in that division were Manchester City, Woolwich Arsenal (later Arsenal), Newton Heath (which became Manchester United) and Small Heath (now Birmingham).
But New Brighton could field a strong team. Although details of the financial deals are now obscure, they lured a host of star players from various League clubs. They would be coached by the respected Jack Hunter, formerly of Blackburn Rovers.
Among these stars were the Everton players, Alf Milward, also an England international, and Smart Arridge, a Welsh international. Other big-names included the Scottish internationals Gow and Hamilton (from Sunderland), Dewar and Tearney (Blackburn Rovers), Hammond and Henderson (Sheffield United) and McEleney (Burnley).
The following season, the Towerites, as they were quaintly known, pulled off a major coup by securing the signature of John Goodall, another England international, who had played for Preston and Derby County.
However, the club's major problem was off the field. If it was to become prosperous, it needed a strong following. But the club had popped up like a mushroom and had not been pickled in the usual tragedies and triumphs understood by other fans. …