Salford City Reds – A Brief History
Salford Rugby League Football Club was actually founded
in 1873 by boys attending the Cavendish Street Chapel in
Hulme, Manchester. Using a local field, the boys organised
matches amongst themselves before transferring to nearby
Moss Side. In an effort to recruit members from outside,
the school link was broken in 1875 and the name Cavendish
Football Club adopted. At the same time, they moved to a
new base on the Salford side of the River Irwell at Throstle
Nest Weir, situated in Ordsall. Two seasons on and another
move came to the west side of Trafford Road to a ground
known as the Mile Field that gave easy access to the Clowes
Hotel on Trafford Road for changing facilities and as a
headquarters, an arrangement that continued until 1889,
when they transferred to the nearby London & North Western
Hotel on Cross Lane. Cavendish spent one season (1877/78)
at the Mile Field, their next home being a field north of
the former Manchester Racecourse, the ‘celebrated’ New Barnes.
Their first season there (1878/79) was the last to be played
under the Cavendish logo.
It was the influence of Archie Sutherland, then club secretary,
that brought about a name change to Salford in 1879. The
first match as Salford was at Dewsbury on 4 October 1879.
The following week heralded the first home match at New
Barnes against Widnes, on 11 October 1879. The result was
a draw at one try each. One hundred years later, on 14 October
1979, Widnes visited Salford in a special Centenary Match,
the result, fittingly, another draw at 16-16.
One other Salford-based club had a crucial role in the
early development of the Salford City Reds - the Crescent
Football Club. Salford were struggling to attract support
amidst claims there were few local players in the side and,
in 1881, they almost disbanded. An initial meeting of the
clubs broke up without agreement but, a few weeks later,
Salford persuaded the Crescent contingent to attend a second
meeting at the Clowes Hotel, the Crescent representatives,
to Salford’s relief, agreeing to a merger. The alliance
placed Salford firmly on the rugby map with many former
Crescent players blossoming. It was an exciting period and,
during the remaining 15 years as members of the Rugby Union,
seventeen Salford players were selected for Lancashire,
three by the North of England and two (Harry Eagles and
Tom Kent) for England itself. From that 1881 merger, only
62 matches were lost from 263 played in the remaining nine
years of the decade.
At the clubs 1883 Annual General Meeting, an historic decision
took place. Until then, Salford jerseys had been amber,
black and scarlet hoops, the members voting to adopt the
famous red jersey.Having enjoyed individual honours to date, the club took its
first award for team effort in 1892/93, as the first side
to win the Lancashire Club Championship.
It is well documented that the 1895 close season brought
the biggest shake-up rugby has known. Whilst the leading
Lancashire and Yorkshire clubs formed the breakaway Northern
Union (known as the Rugby Football League from 1922), Salford
remained loyal to the Rugby Union along with Swinton. A
special meeting was called by club members on Thursday,
16 April 1896, to discuss ‘the desirability or otherwise
of joining the Northern Union’, the resolution being carried
with only three votes against.
The first competitive Northern Union (Rugby League) match
played by Salford was on Saturday, 5 September 1896, with
a visit to Widnes. The Reds, competing in the Lancashire
Senior Competition, did not get off to the best start, losing
10-0, and only three matches were won in the League that
season. Form did improve, third place being reached in 1898/99.
In 1900, Salford met old rivals Swinton in the Northern
Union (later ‘Rugby League’) Challenge Cup final at Fallowfield.
The result, after a keenly fought contest, was a 16-8 win
for the Lions.