Sudell the manager of a local factory, became the secretary of
Preston North End. Sudell decided to improve the quality of the
team by importing top players from other areas. This included
several players from Scotland.
Over the next few years players such as John Goodall, Jimmy
Ross, Nick Ross, David Russell, John Gordon, John Graham, Robert
Mills-Roberts, James Trainer, Samuel Thompson and George
Drummond. He also recruited some outstanding local players,
including Bob Holmes, Robert Howarth and Fred Dewhurst. As well
as paying them money for playing for the team, Sudell also found
them highly paid work in Preston.
In January, 1884, Preston North End played the London side,
Upton Park, in the FA Cup. After the game Upton Park complained
to the Football Association that Preston was a professional,
rather than an amateur team. Sudell admitted that his players
were being paid but argued that this was common practice and did
not breach regulations. However, the FA disagreed and expelled
them from the competition.
Preston North End now joined forces with other clubs who were
paying their players, such as Aston Villa and Sunderland. In
October, 1884, these clubs threatened to form a break-away
British Football Association. The Football Association responded
by establishing a sub-committee, which included Sudell, to look
into this issue. On 20th July, 1885, the FA announced that it
was "in the interests of Association Football, to legalize the
employment of professional football players, but only under
certain restrictions". Clubs were allowed to pay players
provided that they had either been born or had lived for two
years within a six-mile radius of the ground.
Under the leadership of Major William Sudell, Preston North End
became one of the best clubs in England. In the first round of
the FA Cup in 1887-88, Preston beat Hyde 26-0. This is the
highest score ever recorded in the competition. Jimmy Ross, who
had developed a good partnership with centre-forward John
Goodall, scored seven of the goals against Hyde.
Preston played West Bromwich Albion in the final that year.
According to reports, Preston was much the better team and Bob
Roberts, the WBA goalkeeper made good saves from Fred Dewhurst,
Jimmy Ross, John Goodall and George Drummond. Dewhurst did
eventually score but WBA won the game 3-1.
In March, 1888, William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa,
circulated a letter suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most
prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away
fixtures each season." The following month the Football League
was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Preston
North End, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley and Everton)
and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts
County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton
Wanderers). The main reason Sunderland was excluded was because
the other clubs in the league objected to the costs of
travelling to the North-East.
The first season of the Football League began in September,
1888. Preston North End won the first championship without
losing a single match and acquired the name the "invincibles".
The top goal scorers were Jimmy Ross (21), John Goodall (20) and
Fred Dewhurst (12).
The Preston North End team that won the Football League title in 1888-89.
George Drummond, Bob Holmes, Robert Howarth, William Sudell, John Graham and Robert Mills-Roberts are in the back row.
John Gordon, Jimmy Ross, John Goodall, Fred Dewhurst and Samuel Thompson are sitting on the bench.
Preston North End also beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 to win the 1889
FA Cup Final. The goals were scored by Jimmy Ross, Fred Dewhurst and
Samuel Thompson. Preston won the competition without conceding a single
Preston North End also won the league the following season but finished
second to Everton (1890-91) and Sunderland (1892-93).
Preston's top players were persuaded to sign for other clubs: John
Goodall (Derby County), Jimmy Ross (Liverpool), David Russell
(Nottingham Forest), Samuel Thompson (Wolverhampton Wanderers), whereas
Bob Holmes, George Drummond, Robert Mills-Roberts, James Trainer and
John Graham retired from full-time professional football.
In 1893-94 Preston finished third from bottom (14th). That season
William Sudell was sent to prison for embezzling £5,000 from his
employers. It is believed he later emigrated to South Africa where he
became a successful football reporter.