With a population of little over 10,000 it was unlikeley that a town of that size, nestling in the hills on the west of the Pennines would ever be able to support a professional sporting organisation. However, since 1919 that is exactly what it has managed, often against all the odds, to do! The town is called Mossley, a name shared by it's Association Football Club, and this is the beginning of it's story.

It is unfortunate that the early years of football in Mossley are rather poorly documented, but it is known that during the 1880's Rugby Football was the town's major sporting activity and Mossley boasted a team in the Rugby Football Union The team, which played at Luzley, a small hamlet on a hill on the North side of the town, survived until the late 1890's before the ever increasing popularity of the Association game took it's toll and the Rugby Club was forced to disband.

Before the split between amateurism and professionalism in rugby football took place in 1895, there was no organised competitive structure in the sport outside of county and international matches. Club matches did take place but only by invitation, much like friendlies today only on a home and away basis.

Details of this period in the sport are pretty scarce but it is known that sevaeral Mossley players represented the county and one, Abe Ashworth, played for England after he'd moved to Oldham. In fact Abe Ashworth's move from Mossley to Werneth was one of the contributing factors to the split.

Mossley accused the Oldham side of paying him to play for them (a strict no-no in the amateur game) and an investigation by Lancashire RU revealed that Werneth had offered him a new job as an iron dresser on £1-7s-0d, an increase on the £1 he was earning as a weft carrier in the Mossley mills. Ashworth was banned sine die and Werneth were suspended. After a huge outcry though the suspensions were lifted and the ball towards full professionalism in the sport began rolling.

A regular fixture around this time was Mossley vs. Oldham but in 1893, after the last few meetings had 'degenerated into a roughhouse', Oldham refused to play Mossley again. Other clubs then took Oldham's lead and soon there was next to no opposition for Mossley to play against; a situation that forced them to turn to association football.

Mossley Rugby Club - 1893

The earliest recorded Association Football team in Mossley was established around 1898 when a team known as Mossley Britania played in the Ashton & District League Federation. They were joined the following season by Mossley Albion and Mossley Amateurs, the latter of which survived into the 1990's, along with Mossley Ramblers who played in the Oldham & District League and a club named Mossley United who entered several local cup competitions.

1903 saw the formation of another Mossley team known as Park Villa who entered a couple of local cup competitions and played friendlies, twelve months later a change of name saw them become Mossley Juniors, the forerunners of Mossley AFC.

Mossley Juniors FC entered the Stalybridge & District League in 1904 having took over the old Rugby ground at Luzley. They opened their first competitive season in poor style as they were hammered 9-1 at Dunham Villa. The following week they faced another new Mossley club, named Mossley Volunteers, and the Juniors recorded their first win by 2-1. Other teams encountered that season were Gee Cross Lads, Mossley Ramblers, Hurst St.John's, Earnshaw Ramblers, Shaw Hall United, Littlemoss, Mossley St.Joseph's and Hurst MNC Reserves. At the end of the season two players H & P Wood were selected to represent the League in a challenge match against the champions Earnshaw Ramblers. The Juniors finished the season with a record of;- played 20, won 6, drawn 1, lost 13, goals for 32 aganst 51, with 13 points.
The 1905-06 season opened with a 7-0 victory over Dukinfield Villa but form deteriated over the rest of the season and the Juniors managed only three more wins, over Mossley Volunteers, Ebenezer Baptist and Mossley St.Joseph's.
Mossley Juniors entered the Oldham & District League for the 1907-08 season and played in Division Two of that competition against such teams as Townfield, Heyside Lads, Hollinwood Catholic, Greenacres Lads and Waterhead United. Players who appeared for the Juniors that season included Harry Thwaite, E.Pritchard, P.Wood, L.Shaw, R.Worsnip, G.Tarr, B.Dyson, Harry Garside, C.Hall, Tom Swift, George Booth, C.Stead, C.Hobbs, M.Capstick, J.Swift, Bob Britland, Joe Wood and Jack Flaherty.

The West End Amateur League was entered for the 1908-09 season and the Juniors managed 3rd position having competed against Roaches Athletic, Stalybridge St. Peter's, Millbrook MNC, Manchester Road, Hurst St.John's, Ashton United (not the present one), Moorside Wesleyans, Dukinfield Albion, Dukinfield St.Mary's and Ashton Baptist.
It was 1909 and Mossley Juniors, under the guidance of founder and club secretary James T.Howarth, dropped the name Juniors and became known as Mossley Association Football Club, entering the Ashton & District League Division Two.

The first game as Mossley AFC was played on 4th September 1909 away to the unlikely named Ashton Independant Methodists Mens Class, a game Mossley lost 2-1, but a week later recordeed their first win 2-1 against Dukinfield St. Mark's. Mossley finished the season joint top along with Ashton St. Peter's 2nd XI but lost a title deciding play-off 3-2. However, the Club won it's first trophy defeating Ashton IM 3-1. Amongst Mossley's other opponents that season were Hyde United.

Mossley AFC - Ashton Junior Cup Winners 1909-10

Ashton League officials were concerned about the disbanding of several clubs in mid season and so it was decided to discontinue the the 2nd Division for the following season. Mossley were duly elected to the First Division.
It was however to be an inglorious first season in the now one division Ashton & District League with the team finishing 14th out of 15 clubs and failing to make progress in the cups. Of the players - team captain Frank Jackman, Harry Laming (later Mayor of Mossley), Jepson Shaw and Dick Whalley were the pick and it was consiedered by secretary James T.Howarth that new players would have to be brought in to improve the team for the following season.

The arrival of winger Jackie Darley, new captain Jim Davies and goalkeeper Billy Jackson along with the goalscoring exploits of Jack Flaherty and Frank Jackman proved inspirational for Mossley who produced an excellent season to win the Ashton & District League title losing only one League game with a record of; Played 26, won 18, drawn 7, lost 1, goals scored 76 against 19, points 43. Mossley were also runners up in both the Ashton Challenge Cup and Lady Aitken Cup. It was to be Mossley's, then nick-named 'The Luzleyites', last season at the Luzley ground as they moved to a new ground more central to the town, a disused cricket field and former tip named Seel Fold, part of the Stamford Estate.

1912-13 season was Mossley's first at the new ground with headquarters at the 'Highland Laddie Hotel' next door to the ground. It was also Mossley's first season in the white strip that coined the nick-name 'The Lilywhites'. Previously the team had played in claret and sky blue. On the field it proved to be a case of 'always the bridesmaid' as they were runners up in the League, Ashton Junior Cup and Lady Aitken Cup. One interesting feature about the early days of the club was that it wasn't uncommon to play two matches on the same day, and it was unfortunate for Mossley that it was on one such day that they had to play the two cup finals.

The 1913-14 season was another fine one for Mossley AFC, finishing runners up in the League to Droylsden and winning the Lady Aitken Cup in a twice replayed final against Droylsden with over 13,000 spectators attending the three games at Hurst Cross. 360 minutes football had been played before Councillor W.Scholes was able to present the 'beautiful Challenge Cup', presented by Lady Aitken to the Ashton & District League, to Mossley captain Arthur Sugden. Gate receipts for the three games were £168 12s 4d.

Marcroft was the leading scorer with 25 goals and the 3,000+ that witnessed the home fixture with local rivals Mossley Celtic was a new record for Seel Fold, while 3,595 saw the Ashton Junior Cup final which Mossley lost to Ashton St.Peter's at Hurst Cross.

Mossley AFC - Ashton & District League Lady Aitken Cup Winners 1913-14

Mossley had a new team captain for the 1914-15 season in Arthur Burman and enjoyed another exellent season winning the Ashton & District League and also the Manchester Junior Cup beating Middleton in the final and the Lady Aitken Cup beating Denton St.Lawrence 2-1. Jack Cockcroft was the leading scorer with over 25 goals including five in a 7-0 win over Abbey Hey.

Mossley AFC - Ashton & District League Champions, Manchester Junior Cup Winners, Lady Aitken Cup Winners 1914-15

After four successful seasons in the Ashton & District League the Mossley club decided it was time for a new challenge and they joined the South East Lancashire League for the 1915-16 season. With new centre forward John McMenemy scoring at will Mossley made a great start to the season and were leading the table by four points when on the 1st January 1916 it was decided at a meeting of the Mossley AFC committee to disband the club for the remainder of the season due to the war.

The following season the club re-formed in the belief that the war would soon be over and they entered the Manchester
Amateur League and again made a great start with McMenemy's goals again a highlight. Unfortunately it was to be another incomplete season.

At a meeting of the Mossley AFC held at the Highland Laddie Hotel on 22nd January 1917, it was decided to disband the club for the duration of the war. There had been a loss of several pounds on the season's workings, mainly through other clubs failing to fulfill their engagements. Several members of the team and also of the committee, had been 'called to the colours' and it was felt that the best thing to do for the present was to close down.

No League tables were issued for the Manchester Amateur League but the member clubs at the beginning of the season were:- Armstrong Whitworth, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Edge Lane Athletic, Heaton Park, Mersey Athletic, Mossley, New Moss Colliery, Openshaw, Partington Steel Works, Siemens, Westinghouse and Woodhouses.

At a meeting held on 11th December 1918 it was decided to re-form Mossley AFC now that the war was over. The decision was taken to join the Manchester Section of the Lancashire Combination for the season to begin on 4th January 1919. Oddly enough Mossley were unable to resume on that date as heavy snow prevented the scheduled home game against Hurst from taking place. Average crowds for the season were around the 2,000 mark and the club had had a very prosperous half season commencing with a balance in hand of £26 and finishing up with a balance of £76 on the right side. Jack Flaherty and Jack Cockcroft were regular marksmen as Mossley finished runners up in the section to Stalybridge Celtic. Altrincham, Hurst, Monk's Hall, Witton Albion, Northwich Victoria and Marple completed the section line up in a season that ended on 19th May.

A general meeting held at the end of the season suggested that the committee needed to decide what League to enter for the 1919-20 season. It was decided to rescind an earlier decision to rejoin the Combination and to explore the prospect of joining a new League for Cheshire that had been muted.

A special meeting convened by the Cheshire Football Association was held at the Mosley Hotel, Manchester and several clubs were invited to join a new League to be known as the Cheshire County League. Mossley were one of several clubs not invited at the time but who applied later and were accepted.

It was decided at a later meeting of the Mossley AFC committee to become a professional club for the first time and to employ as many professional footballers as finances would allow.

The rest, as they say, is history!

Mossley AFC - Cheshire County League Runners up 1919-20