October, 1875, and the annual meeting of members:
Wigan Observer, FRIDAY OCTOBER 8th, 1875
WIGAN FOOTBALL CLUB - A general meeting of the members of this club was held on Monday evening at the Dicconson Arms. Mr. T. Wall occupied the Chair, and there was a moderate attendance. It was decided to carry on the club during the ensuing season, and that matches should be arranged with Southport, Bolton and Rock Ferry. Mr. A. Peck was appointed hon. secretary in place of Mr. J. F. Leigh Clare, who had resigned. Mr. J. Sayer captain, from vice, as E. H. Woodcock had also resigned.
Wigan had now lost their captain, solicitor E.H. Woodcock. Woody (probably his nickname) had missed several matches during the 1874/75 season and resigned probably from age, retiring. The answer isn't known but one could also speculate that with the meeting only having a 'moderate attendance', interest was beginning to decline. Regular three-quarter back Clare had also resigned from his post but still continued to play. Only one match had been recorded by the end of the 1875 season, a fixture against Chorley and exciting game for the gentlemen as a number of ladies were present. Unusually.
FOOTBALL - Wigan v. Chorley. December 18, 1875.
Capital weather favoured the football players who journeyed to Chorley on Saturday last to play their first match of this season and a considerable number of spectators was present including several ladies. There being little or no wind the choice of goals, which was won by the Wigan captain, made no appreciable difference in the play. The "ball" was started by John Lawrence, for Chorley, and the forwards following up well, it was kept at the Wigan end of the ground for a short time. The Wigan players, however, working well together gradually carried the ball to the Chorley end and a touch in goal was the result. Nothing of moment happened until half time, the game being principally a succession of scrimmages, the Chorley forwards being considerably heavier than their opponents. On changing sides, the game became more lively, the Chorley captain making several capital runs, but the smart tackling of the Wigan backs prevented him from securing a touch down. Some sharp play from a throw out gave Wigan a chance and Sowter kicked the ball over the goal line and followed up quickly, but one of the Chorley backs just touched down before him. Just before the end of the game a loose scrimmage occurred in the middle of the ground, and on being kicked away the Chorley umpire, seeing Peck, of the Wigan team, off side, called out to that effect and several of the Chorley team foolishly stopped playing, but Pennington following up carried the ball over the line and gained a touch down. This was converted into a goal by a good kick by Clare. "No side" was then called, the game being counted as a victory for Wigan by one goal, two touches in goal, and one touch down to nothing. The Wigan team were overmatched forward as several of their men would persist in sneaking behind the scrimmages instead of going boldly into them but the play of the backs made up for this deficiency. The Chorley team played well together, but their backs were with one or two exceptions lamentably weak. John Lawrence, for Chorley, and H. Leach, for Wigan, perhaps most distinguished themselves.
Wigan - as usual, playing one short (I think the Wigan Observer is fed up of this now so made this sort of comment when mentioning the teams) J. Sayers (capt.), Pennington, Pickering, Williams, Nicholson, Marsden, Berridge, Twining, Peck (forwards); J. Wall and Sowter (half backs); Leech (three quarter back); H. Wall and Clare (backs)
Despite the lure of ladies being present, Wigan still didn't have a full team. This brings us to the end of 1875 but of course, the story continues and will be on site in time. The recruitment of players, to even get a full team together most of the time led into events which occurred in 1876 when The Wigan Football Club folded and merged with Up Holland FC, but that is to come.
The winter weather was quite harsh going into 1876 but Wigan tried their best to complete their fixtures. Saturday 8th January, 1876, saw the arrival of Up Holland Rugby Club to Upper Dicconson Street in quite snowy conditions, as the Wigan Observer reports from the 14th January edition.
FOOTBALL: WIGAN v. UPHOLLAND
On Saturday last a football match was played between the above named clubs, but in consequence of the frosty nature of the weather, and the ground being covered with snow, only a small muster resulted. Only six representatives of the Wigan team put in an appearance, but eleven men turned up for the opposite side.
The Wigan team, however, not to disappoint the visitors, tried conclusions with them, and the result was two tries, two touch downs, and the touch in goal to nothing. The game ought hardly to be called a match as the Wigan team were so overmatched in numbers; but, according to the rules of football, it counts as a win for Upholland.
To-morrow (Saturday) provided there is no frost, a match will be played on the Wigan ground between Withnell and Wigan.
Not a good turnout from the Wiganers yet again, just six members turned up, whose names are unknown. Still, Wigan had a game against Withnell to look forward to on the 15th. Sadly, the weather won and there was no record of this match taking place in the 21st January edition of the Observer. Withnell? For those that don't know, it's a small village north east of Chorley,or just off the A675 on the Bolton - Blackburn road. It seems remote today, but a railway passed through between Chorley and Blackburn before the days of Dr. Beeching. Their home ground was situated next to the cricket ground in neighbouring Brinscall village.
As you can tell from these early years, there was no emphasis for striving to play regular matches each week. Up to this point, Wigan had by now played two matches of the 1875/76 season, recorded matches anyway. Wigan had one more game agaist St Helens on the 24th March which came as, as unexpected, a win at home.
Cricket, that old chum of rugby fellows, was gaining strength again in Wigan after the members forking out a large sum to get their ground in good nick. Dual-sportsmen were still having fun with the willow as G.H. Sowter, E.R. Walker, H.T. Byrom, J. Sayer, J. Knowles and H. Wall (amongst a few more) were still heavily involved with the Cricket club, their main recreational sport. Sadly, for the Football Club, fortunes were dwindling. For the rest of the season, no records of matches could be found. But research is ongoing, as always to fill in gaps.
Rugby in Wigan was struggling.