English football historian, author and researcher Gary James has published a new paper that examines the history of the sport in Manchester and reveals, for the first time, that there was another football club operating in the area during the 1860s, making that team the oldest in the region, not Manchester City (founded in 1880 as St. Mark’s) nor Manchester United (founded in 1878 as Newton Heath).
The paper, which is entitled The Emergence of an Association Football Culture in Manchester 1840–1884, is available as a free download today only. The 20-page historical document was written by scholars Gary James and Dave Day.
The name of the team that James and Day uncovered is Hulme Athenaeum. According to the authors, Hulme was the first club in the Manchester area, indeed the first in Lancashire, to call itself an association football club when it founded its football team in 1863 — 15 years before Newton Heath was founded, the club that would eventually become Manchester United.
By 1873 or soon thereafter, the club known as Hulme Athenaeum had folded.
It’s hard to imagine a time when soccer didn’t exist in Manchester, but by 1875, almost all association football had ended. Just a few years later, the clubs that we now know as Manchester United and Manchester City were formed, and the rest is history.