What would the English Premier League look like at the end of the 2012/13 season if its football clubs had retained their original Victorian names and colours? The league title would have been won by a works’ team of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Newton Heath would be joined in the Champions League by local rivals West Gorton St Mark’s, and by Dial Square, who finished above Hotspur FC courtesy of a last day win at Stanley FC.
The Victorian Premier League contains only 16 teams. Four current Premier League clubs (Chelsea, Swansea City, Norwich City and Wigan Athletic) didn't exist in the Victorian era, so they’re missing from our league table. Only three clubs (Aston Villa, Reading and Queens Park Rangers) retain their original Victorian names – and the latter two have been relegated. They will be replaced next season by promoted Riverside AFC (Cardiff City), and possibly by Watford Rovers (depending on the play-off final result), but not by Hull City or Crystal Palace, neither of which existed in Victorian times.
Only Reading have retained the exact same colours and shirt design – blue and white hoops - with the teams now known as Arsenal, Southampton and Everton also keeping pretty much the same colours. The Merseyside derby might have caused some confusion. St Domingo’s FC (Everton) and Everton FC and Athletic Grounds Ltd (Liverpool) both played in blue and white.
Finally, while all 16 clubs in this table were formed in the Victorian era, only only one can claim to have existed 150 years ago, when association football was first created. Stoke City was founded as Stoke Ramblers in 1863, the year that the Football Association was formed.
UPDATE: This article was originally posted at the end of the 2012/13 season. For the 2016/17 season, Fulham St Andrew's, Aston Villa, Stanley FC, Reading and Queens Park Rangers can be removed, and Boscombe FC, Burnley, Leicester Fosse, Middlesbrough and Watford Rovers can be added to the 'Victorian Premier League'.
Table shows first recorded names and colours. For much more on the origins of football and top clubs from the UK and abroad see the brand new Victorian Football Miscellany.
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The Victorian Football Miscellany, packed with trivia, facts and anecdotes, available as book and ebook. More details.