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this day in history 1888

First football league matches are played

League Of Their Own

When football began in the 19th Century, it was a bit of a mess. First it was dominated by amateurs, then professional clubs formed, but still only played in cup competitions and friendlies with no real organisation. That was until 1888, when the canny secretary of Aston Villa got in touch with a few other teams and suggested they form some sort of ‘league’. And so, on this day, the first league matches were played. Baggy shorts and all. It was a day of firsts. The wonderfully named Gershom Cox scored the league’s first own goal in Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw against Wolves. Preston beat Burnley, starting an unbeaten run that wouldn’t be equalled until Arsenal’s valiant effort in the ’03-’04 season. And over 10,000 punters headed to Anfield to see Everton, who played at the ground at that time. They beat Accrington 2-1. This whole idea of a ‘league’ proved to be so successful that it grew and expanded into first and second divisions involving 28 teams in 1892.