The Original Reds

Chapter 29

In the early years of the twentieth century, there were no Russian Oligarchs, or Middle Eastern Oil Magnates, to turn to if your football club was in financial difficulties. You stood or fell purely on what you had in the bank. Sadly, in Workington’s case, this amounted to nothing.

On the 28th June 2011 the club made the following announcement;

‘The Directors of the Workington AFC Company Limited, as the result of further consideration of the financial position on Monday night, decided to recommend the liquidation of the company, and a special meeting of the shareholders has been called for Monday evening next to consider the recommendation.

The Company is between £1,500 and £1,600 to the bad. The Directors are responsible to the bank for nearly £1,000 of this sum, 14 having signed guarantees for £70 apiece, and it is through the pressure of the bank that the step proposed has become inevitable’.

No Knight in Shining Armour came over the hill, the shareholders agreed with the proposal, and the club went into voluntary liquidation.

So, twenty-seven years after Fred Hayes and a few other like-minded individuals had come together to introduce organised football to Workington, the club ceased to exist. One can only imagine how Fred, who was the President of the Cumberland Football Association at this time, must have felt.

One can point at a number of reasons as to why the club failed – the extra expense of moving to the Lancashire Leagues, over-stretching their resources by playing in both the Combination and the North-Eastern League.  But the bottom line is that the area was in an industrial slump, and, after the initial surge of excitement of playing teams from outside Cumberland, the attendances were never high enough to make ends meet. 

After the club had been wound-up, Workington were without a Senior Football Club. On the 12th July an application was received from Workington AFC to join the Derwent Valley League. The League committee said yes and called Workington ‘one of the most important clubs in the county’. However, it never happened. Two Workington clubs did play in this league later that year, Workington Central (who played at the old Ashfield Ground) and Workington Marsh Mission, but neither of them were anything to do with The Original Reds.

It took another ten years before a Workington Reds team were to again see the light of day. It is rather ironic that, when the club we know today were formed in 1921, they played in the same league, and in the same stadium, as the original Reds had done a decade earlier.

Workington AFC 1884 to 1911


Cumberland Association League Winners: 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1893/94
Cumberland Senior League Winners: 1894/95, 1895/96, 1897/98, 1903/04,

County Cup Winners: 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1907, 1908, 1910
County Cup Finalists: 1886, 1892, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1909, 
Workington Town Champions: 1894, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 
Infirmary Shield Winners: 1900, 

FA Cup 1st Round: 1908/09, 1909/10

I hope all of the many, many hours spent in lockdown researching the early history of the club has been worth it, and that you have enjoyed reading it.

I would like to thank Paul Armstrong for getting the articles on the website, Ray Lord for the additional Burnley information, and Morris McLuckie for providing much of the background material, and photograph, for the very personal ‘McLuckie Connection’ chapter. 

I would especially like to thank Steve Durham for all his tolerance, friendship, help, guidance, cross-checking and proof-reading. The club is lucky to have him.

John Norman

July 2020

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