On the 8th September 1888, the very first Football League games were played in England. Consisting of twelve teams, the first day’s table – if one had been printed – would have featured West Bromwich Albion at the top based on the calculation of ‘goal average’ that acted as the tie-break criteria. However, under the modern rules of ‘goal difference’ that was introduced in 1976, Derby County would have been top of the table on the first day.
The Football League was the brainchild of William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa, who hoped to provide a system whereby all the member clubs would play a guaranteed number of games each season rather than rely on ad-hoc arrangements. The idea was simple: each member of the League would play a home game and an away game against every other League team. Two points would be awarded for a win and one point for a draw and, at the end of the season, the team with the highest number of points would be declared the Champions of England.
Twelve teams made up the very first Football League, and Preston North End finished the season without suffering a single defeat. They became the first ever League champions, and also won the 1889 FA Cup which made them the first ever team to win the League and Cup double.
Based on post-match reports that reveal the delayed kick-off times of each of the matches, it’s now generally accepted that the first ever Football League goal was scored by Kenny Davenport against Derby County just 2 minutes after the match began.