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.



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