The forerunners of Leicester City FC
Leicester City Football Club's outstanding performance in the Premier League has taken the world by storm, making Leicester one of only six teams to win.
Margaret Maclean from the University's Special Collections has written an article about the forerunners of LCFC, examining The Wyvern, a rare Leicester-based Victorian periodical published between 1891 and 1906, which contains fascinating details of the early history of Leicester Fosse Football Team, the forerunners of City (known to their supporters as 'The Fossils').
The Wyvern charts Fosse’s journey from a small non-league club, struggling to find a permanent ground and to attract decent crowds, to a high-performer in the Second Division of the Football League with an enthusiastic fan-base.
In the article she outlines how Leicester Fosse was started in 1884 by a group of former pupils of Wyggeston School, who met in a garden shed behind Fosse Road. The club makes its first appearance in the Special Collection's holdings of The Wyvern against this background in October 1891, by which time they had begun to compete in the Midland League.
Mirroring LCFC's own rising reputation this season, for the 1892/3 season, Fosse moved to the Walnut Street ground and new players were brought in to strengthen the team. They faced Mansfield in the first fixture in September 1892 and the The Wyvern makes clear how much support the team had now amassed:
‘This will be the first crucial test which the new combination has undergone, and the men will … have the best wishes of all interested … there can be no room to doubt not only that public enthusiasm is rapidly increasing, but that these enthusiasts are quite prepared to watch and study the play, notwithstanding the summer-like weather. Popular taste has been educated up to its present pitch.’
The team, with its new squad of professional players, enjoyed a very successful season in 1893/4. Their cup tie against Blackpool South Shore on 27 January 1894 was a milestone. The Fosse won 2 – 1 in a very exciting match, played in a ‘tremendous gale’, and were drawn against Derby County in the next round on 10 February. This was a huge occasion, with an ‘enormous crowd’ and gate receipts of about £440.00. Fosse put up a ‘really brilliant defence’ and put the ball in the net twice, only to have the goals disallowed. After extra time, the game ended in a 0 – 0 draw with the replay to take place on 17 February.
But, in spite of their Cup exit, Fosse ended the season 2nd in the Midland League and were elected to the Football League, to play 1894/5 in Division Two.