Monday, 18 May 2020

Letter to British Newspaper Archive regarding Peter Manning's blog on his Crystal Palace book

Mark Metcalf 
NUJ and Sports Journalists’ Association member
07392 852561

Mark Metcalf is the world’s most published author of books on football clubs and players prior to World War I. 

Dear BNA, 

I am writing after I was recently alerted to a guest blog piece by Peter Manning from October 2018 on the BNA website.

I am particularly interested in the claim that:-

The overriding aim of the project and the book was to see if the newspaper archives could provide enough evidence to link the early Crystal Palace amateur football club of 1861 to today’s current professional club, making the current club the oldest professional football league club in the world.

I am sorry to say this but this, as I will show below, is frankly nonsense. I believe that Manning has set out to prove a point and he has failed to do so. Worse he has ignored evidence that he must seen that shows there is no link between the amateur football club of 1861-1875 and the professional club that was formed in 1905. 

I would therefore like to ask whether anyone at the BNA checks with authors of blog pieces as to their accuracy? Is there a process in place and if so can you send me a copy of it?

Can you send me the questions that the BNA asked Mr Manning about his work?

I ask this because I am deeply interested in the history of football and I am the most published author of books about clubs and players before WWI. 

History proven through newspaper archive  

I have also, in conjunction with many friends used the BNA for a very long time. One such occasion allowed myself and Robert Boyling, who worked until fairly recently at the British Library for many years, to confirm that Kenny Davenport was the scorer of the most important goal ever, namely the first ever League goal. 

This attracted significant publicity in 2013 and is now an acknowledged fact and has led to a plaque placed at the location where the footballer achieved his feat.

In recent years a book written by Clive Nicholson and myself and called FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE; the remarkable story of Fred Spiksley has attracted significant publicity eg see BBC article Spiksley scored 2 goals for his side, Sheffield Wednesday, at the 1896 FA Cup Final that was played at the Crystal Palace, an arena that no club called Crystal Palace Football Club played at from 1875/6 to 1905. 

About 6 weeks ago I heard that Crystal Palace FC were claiming they were the oldest League club in the world.

This was an issue that I am keenly interested in and, in fact, last year after Notts County, formed 1862, were relegated to the Conference, i was drawn into who was now the oldest as can be seen by this article

I had never heard of any previous claim by Crystal Palace and along with Clive Nicholson I started to take a look at the information on the club’s website and it referred to the work by Peter Manning. A little bit of digging by Clive at the BNA soon made clear that Manning’s claim was not standing up too well. A lot more digging has revealed it does not stand up to any serious scrutiny and that in some cases Manning appears to have ignored the most obvious articles disproving has claim and found obscure pieces that appear to confirm what he is saying.

Clive and myself thus put together a lengthy document on this. We have sent it to the football club and also forwarded a copy to Peter Manning. Copies have also been sent to the FA, various football clubs, media and TV. 

Following our press release (which is below)….,Some newspapers have already covered the issue - whilst others are now showing an interest.

We have asked Peter Manning and the CPFC owner Steve Parish to read our work, which is all based on primary sources materials from your own archives, and either disprove what we are saying or withdraw the claim. Neither has had the decency to even respond.

Our document is at and I think you will see it is very comprehensive. 

We would appreciate the opportunity to include it on the blog with the full right of reply to Peter Manning. In fact I would expect any author to be happy to engage in debate on their work if s/he feels that can stand it up to scrutiny. 

I have no wish to prevent anyone making available their work to the public but I contend that what has been written on the blog that you have published regarding Crystal Palace being the oldest league club is quite frankly nonsense. It does the BNA no good to allow yourselves to be the medium for unsubstantiated claims to be made. 

I am happy to speak to anyone at the BNA about this or to answer any questions you may have on the matter. 

Many thanks,

Mark Metcalf
A member of the NUJ and the Sports Journalists’ Association

Mark Metcalf & Clive Nicholson  @SpiksleyBook     07392 852561 

Co-authors of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE: The remarkable story of Fred Spiksley, who was

CPFC 1861 or 1905?
Why the Eagles oldest League club claim is becoming grounded.

Second Press release - 12 May 2020 

In early May we released an eighty-four page document packed with primary/contemporary source materials showing that the claim by Crystal Palace Football Club (CPFC) to be the oldest League club was an own goal by the South East London club. This document has been downloaded over a thousand times. 

Following its release a number of Palace fans challenged our work and we have responded by answering their questions and examining information that has been used to challenge what we have previously written. We have also received a considerable amount of information from football fans in general and, in particular, Palace that strengthens our original work. We have now made available a revised document at:-


CPFC, generally acknowledged to have been formed in September 1905, is claiming that their start date is 1861. This would make them the oldest League Club in the World.

This is quite a claim and being very interested in football history we sought to see if it was true. Our examination was very thorough and originally resulted in a 84 page document. 

We followed the qualification requirements as outlined by Martin Westby in his England’s Oldest Football Club’s 1815-1889: A New chronological classification of early football published last year. 

We revealed no CPFC side was affiliated to the FA from 1875, when an earlier club formed in 1861 went out of existence, to 1905. 

CPFC were the Corinthians in disguise 

We showed that CPFC played no League or Cup matches between 1875 and 1905 and how the 3 games in the mid 1890s under the banner of CPFC all contained 8-9 players from Corinthian FC. On one occasion in January 1896 when these Corinthian players decided to play elsewhere the planned CPFC v The Wednesday match became Swindon Town v The Wednesday. 

We showed that the local and national press, which covered - and still does - extensively all football developments reported that moves to set up a CPFC in the mid 1890s always reported that this would be a new club. Claims by CPFC today that the failure at this time was due to the proposed club being barred from playing on the cricket pitch at The Crystal Palace were exposed as wrong. 

One mention in 115 years of a link? 

We showed that all articles in the year leading up to and including September 1905 specifically mention this was a new club. We showed how the 1905 claim of lineage back to 1861 comes up just once in a club handbook in 1906, subsequently being left hidden thereafter till well over a century later. 

We also show how the basis of many of CPFC’s claims largely consisted of linking facts elsewhere, such as the claim that as other professional clubs were set up out of cricket clubs then so were Palace. 

We sent all of this information to the FA, EFL, Nottingham Forest, the current oldest League club as they were formed in 1865, Notts County, now of the conference, formed 1862, plus Stoke City FC, who maintain an interest in the subject. We also sent it a number of media outlets and articles have subsequently been published on this in the Stoke Sentinel

We have also spoken to a number of journalists who are watching with interest any developments.

We have also sent the work to CPFC and made Steve Parish and @FYPFanzine aware of the work via twitter and we asking for their response.

New information sent to us over the last week shows that:-

1. The official CPFC supporters’ magazine from October 1947 states “to prevent misunderstanding, it should be pointed out that the Crystal Palace Club in existence before 1905 was a purely amateur concern and had no connection with the present club.”
2. Sydney Bourne was the first chairman of the current club. We have his original voice speaking to us from over a century ago. In his June 1906 letter to the Croydon Guardian he invites more investors to come forward saying, “we ask for the support of your readers, as shareholders, to help us with funds to pay the summer wages and to guide this the youngest of first class London clubs

3. The Crystal Palace Company did not own or run the 1861 CPFC. 

4.  The Crystal Palace Cricket Club did not merge with London County Cricket Club. It was, just like the 1861 football club, an independent sports club.

5.  Crystal Palace Rovers played a single match in 1883 and had a connection to the original CPFC. The 1895-97 team was a Corinthian side that played three exhibition matches, they were CPFC in name only and have no connection to either CPFC 1861 or 1905.

We feel sure that many CPFC fans would like to know more about the 1861-1875 club whilst understanding that it has its own independent history separate from that of the current club. 

We are asking CPFC to:

  1. Examine in detail the evidence we have provided 
  2. Consult their official historian, Ian King, about his reaction to our findings
  3. Withdraw the claim to be considered the World’s Oldest League Club, or engage an independent sports historian to review our findings and report back to Mr Parish
  4. Open a dialogue with us about how the club intend to proceed.

We have specifically asked the CPFC press officer to make sure that Steve Parish is forwarded and made aware that the document has been shared with the FA and is publicly available, with over 1,300 people having read it so far.

Everyone that is working with us on this would like to reiterate that our only interest is the integrity of the history of football and determining the correct historical narrative.

Kind Regards 
Mark Metcalf & Clive Nicholson 

Co-authors of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE: The remarkable story of Fred Spiksley and which is the base for a Rough Jersey documentary on the early history of professional football 

Mark Metcalf is a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association and is acknowledged as the man who co-found that Kenny Davenport was the scorer of the first League goal in 1888. Mark works on a freelance basic for the PFA in mounting plaques to former greats to such as Frank Swift. Mark has had published more books about football clubs and players before WWI than anyone else. 

For more details, interviews and comments please ring Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561 

We welcome views on this work and they can be sent to

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