When Notts County were relegated from League Two at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, it barely registered with the wider footballing world.
But maybe it should have, because that demotion meant that the oldest football club in the UK – founded in 1862 – could no longer claim the distinction of being the most senior in the Football League.
And that has set forth an extraordinary tug-of-war between a number of clubs for the honour.
Officially the oldest club in the UK, and quite possibly in the world according to historians, is Sheffield FC, who played their first match of a sport closely akin to football back in 1857.
But they are a separate entity to either Sheffield United or Sheffield Wednesday, and so neither the Blades or the Owls can lay claim to being the oldest Football League club in the land.
The first official English First Division, in name only, was held in 1888, and so in theory any of those sides could lay claim to being the oldest. Accrington Stanley, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Derby, Everton, Preston, Stoke, West Brom and Wolves were the originators of the beautiful game back then.
Crystal Palace don’t appear on the scene until 1905, but their story is indelibly linked to the formation of English football even if they didn’t actually compete as a team themselves.
And that’s why representatives of the Eagles are so eager to plant their flag outside Selhurst Park declaring Crystal Palace to be the oldest Football League club in England.
The Good Old Days
There are writings that detail Crystal Palace’s existence way back in 1862, although they were more known for their cricketing exploits than their football in those early days.
Administrators at the club are said to have helped to draft the original rules for the FA Cup, and they even reached the semi-finals of the competition prior to any involvement in an official league.
But Palace disappeared from football for more than twenty years, in a decision that was reportedly to help preserve the integrity of their playing surface for their cricketing compatriots.
There are other clubs throwing a spanner into the works of the Eagles. Stoke City’s club crest says that they were formed in 1863, although there is no formal documentation to prove as such.
Nottingham Forest meanwhile, just up the road from originators Notts County, believe that they were formed in 1865, although they weren’t involved at the top end of the English game until much later.
However, the Tricky Trees have received official confirmation from the EFL themselves that their case stands up to scrutiny.
“We can confirm that Nottingham Forest are the oldest club,” the Football League confirmed. “There appears to be some misinformation online, regarding Stoke’s foundation date.”
You have to go back to 1824 to see the first semblances of a footballing outfit of any kind. The Foot-Ball Club, as they were known, were formed in Edinburgh and played a sport along the lines of the beautiful game – although some rather near-the-knuckle rules, such as being able to pick the ball up, pushing one another and shin kicking, were said to be prevalent as well as 20-a-side matches on huge pitches.