Eminent Victorians (Northern England)
The world's oldest football club and the first ever competition, the Youdan Cup, originated in Sheffield. Most teams in the north and midlands adopted the Sheffield Rules until 1878, when the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA adopted the FA rules completing the unification of the association code. Because of the importance of the city to the early development of the game there is a separate sub-section for the Shefffield clubs.
The Sheffield teams were essentially run by the middle classes while the players were working men from the steel and cutlery workshops that formed the mainstay of the local economy. Competition was limited to annual knock out tournaments and teams did not feel the need to compete for supremacy at least until The Wednesday, faced with mass defections of players, turned professional in 1887.
A more ruthlessly competitive movement developed across the Pennines in and around the cotton mill towns of Manchester, Blackburn, Bolton, Accrington and Darwen in the late 1870s. These were clubs set up and run by hard nosed businessmen with an eye for profit. They played in enclosed grounds where spectators could be charged admission and were aimed at attracting working men, who, due to labour reforms, now had Saturday afternoons free. Competition was intense and before long players were being offered illegal inducements to sign up. Players from Scotland, where the game was more advanced, were offered inducements in the form of jobs, housing and illicit cash payments to move south. These "Scotch Professors" had a considerable impact and led directly to the legalisation of professionalism in July 1885.
In the North-East the game also quickly took root in the coal mining communities, shipyards and heavily industrialised cities. Competition here was also fierce and many of the pioneering clubs went to the wall in the face of competition from those teams prepared to embrace professionalism.
While the middle class Sheffield clubs wilted in the face of the rising professional teams such as The Wednesday and Sheffield United, much of Yorkshire favoured the rugby code and it was not until the turn of the century that concerted efforts were made to establish the association game across the county.
Sources: Peter Ferrette, Pioneers of the North (P Joannou & A Candish 2009), Lost Teams of The North (M Bradbury 2016), Charles Alcock's Football Annuals 1868-1891 researched by Robin Horton.
Photograph: The Telegraph