|This Web Site is dedicated to the Memories & Spirit of the Game as only Ken Aston could teach it...|
|Enjoy, your journey here on... KenAston.org|
|Ken Aston Referee Society ~ Football Encyclopedia Bible|
Anna Connell: The Founder of Manchester City 1880
Administrators and Managers
|Source - References|
|Source - References|
(1) Peter Lupson, Thank God for Football (2006)
Of all the famous football clubs founded by churches, only one can claim to owe its origin to the initiative of a woman. That unique distinction belongs to Manchester City. It was a remarkable young woman, Anna Connell, a clergyman's daughter, who took the first important step that was to lead to the creation of one of the great football clubs of England. When she started a Working Men's Meeting at St Mark's Church, West Gorton, in 1879 out of concern for the rough, tough types who lived there at the time, she could hardly have guessed that her charitable action was to have lasting repercussions for the world of football.
(2) Mike Rowbottom, The Independent (25th October, 2007)
Photographs of many faces stare down at Peter Lupson as he works in the study of his home near the Wirral. Some are of his family. Others belong to people long dead who have nevertheless loomed large in his life as he has spent the last 11 years writing a book which offers English football an opportunity to examine its soul.
These grainy black-and-white reproductions of Victorian visages are nothing less than a gallery of the game's founding fathers, to whom Lupson's recently published Thank God for Football (Azure, £9.99) pays painstaking tribute.
In researching his work, this 61-year-old languages teacher has established that 12 of the 38 clubs which have played in the Premier League can trace their origin directly back to churches or chapels. He has also traced the lives of those responsible for starting the teams, in the case of six of them, all the way to their graves, which he has located in various stages of disrepair.
Last month, Tottenham Hotspur, having been alerted to the fact that their originator, John Ripsher, lay in a pauper's grave in Dover, became the first of those six clubs to honor their beginnings, setting up a smart new headstone which acknowledges the role played by this former bible class teacher from All Hallows Church.
Other clubs mobilizing to spruce up their founders' resting places include Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and Swindon Town, while Everton have just been alerted to the current whereabouts of Benjamin Swift Chambers, responsible for their creation as St Domingo FC.
Honoring graves is one thing; honoring ideals another. It is Lupson's fond hope, nevertheless, that these acts of piety may yet prompt football's influential figures to reconsider some of the principles which inspired the graves' inhabitants.
The teams in question were instituted in the spirit of "muscular Christianity", a concept that was developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century which emphasized the importance of serving others and striving in a physical sense as part of the Christian's duty.
Fostered in public schools, and popularized in Thomas Hughes' 1857 book Tom Brown's Schooldays, this ideal was instilled in a generation of young clergymen who emerged from universities and took up positions in urban communities where working men were in danger of being lost in a mire of poverty, drunkenness and gang violence. In Tottenham, in Fulham, in Southampton, in Swindon, in Everton, in Bolton, in Manchester it was time to "play up and play the game".
"There were four key ingredients of character which it was believed the games field could develop," Lupson says. "Courage – which they called 'pluck', not ducking the hard challenge – fair play, unselfishness – you played for the team – and self-control. So football was seen very early on as a moral agent."
Thus, when a new rector arrived at St Mark's, in West Gorton, Manchester, in 1879, he encouraged his 27-year-old daughter, Anna Connell, to take on her own hard challenge.
"At that time, West Gorton was an area of tremendous deprivation," Lupson says. "There was overcrowding, squalor, poor sanitation and poverty, and the ways in which the men of the community sought refuge from this was drink and gang warfare, which was called 'scuttling' in that era.
"We are talking about 500 people at a time involved in fighting. The local press reported 250-a-side – we are talking about warfare. Anna was grieved by seeing these men live such wasted lives and wanted to do something for them that could reverse the direction they were going in."
Miss Connell knocked on every door in the parish – by Lupson's estimation, that meant 1000 doors – to spread word of the weekly working men's club she was setting up in the parish hall. The first week, three people turned up. But soon, with the help of two churchwardens who worked at the local ironworks, that number became 100.
Playing sport was a natural adjunct to other activities such as singing, discussion and bible recitations. That meant, in the first instance, cricket. But soon the men wanted to keep fit in the winter for their cricket, and decided to do so through football.
"They called themselves St Mark's West Gorton FC," Lupson says. " Anna's father, Arthur, was the first president, and that club exists today because of Anna Connell knocking on all those doors and not giving up, and it's called Manchester City."
|+-+ BACK TO TOP +-+|