On this day: First Football League matches take place

OTD: First Football League matches take place
© Getty Images
Back on this day 126 years ago, the first ever Football League encounters were played.

Back in 1888, football in England was in an uncertain place. Three years earlier, the professional game had been legalised, but numerous disputes over fixtures meant that plenty of matches were cancelled.

So, when Scotsman William McGregor, who was a director on the board of Aston Villa, proposed a league to add some structure to proceedings, 12 clubs accepted the invitation.

The first round of encounters were played 126 years ago today, with 10 of the 12 sides featuring on the opening day of the campaign.

To this day, there remains a dispute as to who scored the first ever Football League goal. For many years it was believed that either Jack Gordon of Preston North End or Villa's Gershom Cox, who put through his own net, had taken that honour, but another name has since cropped up.

Due to confusion as to what times the matches got underway, it is now thought that England and Bolton Wanderers winger Kenny Davenport actually broke the division's duck in the second minute of his side's meeting with Derby County.

Davenport would go on to find the net again later in the encounter, but it wasn't enough to prevent his side from being defeated 6-3 by their visitors.

Elsewhere, Everton overcame Accrington Stanley 2-1 and West Bromwich Albion won 2-0 away at Stoke City, while Wolverhampton Wanderers and McGregor's Villa played out a 1-1 draw.

There was also a big victory for Preston, who defeated Lancashire rivals Burnley 5-2. That victory would mark the start of a successful season for Preston as they went the whole term without losing a single fixture, which in turn saw them win the title from Villa by an 11-point margin.

Liverpool's Michael Owen celebrates scoring his team's third goal against Leeds during their Premiership clash at Elland Road in Leeds on 3 February 2002
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds85211431117
2Wolverhampton WanderersWolves8521138517
3Cardiff CityCardiff8521127517
4Preston North EndPreston843193615
5Ipswich TownIpswich7502128415
6Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd850386215
7Middlesbrough8422105514
8Bristol City83411510513
9Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds8341107313
10Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest84041113-212
11Queens Park RangersQPR83231212011
12Norwich CityNorwich8323812-411
13Aston Villa8242109110
14Fulham824287110
15Derby CountyDerby73131111010
16Millwall823311929
17Hull City82241415-18
18Reading722367-18
19Burton Albion8224615-98
20Barnsley7214811-37
21Sunderland8134712-56
22Brentford8044712-54
23Birmingham CityBirmingham8116412-84
24Bolton WanderersBolton8026416-122
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