Updated: Jan 10, 2021
In 1964, Rangers FC moved a controversial motion to remove five clubs from the Scottish League, on the basis that they were the poorest-supported clubs over the previous three seasons. The plan was fought and ultimately defeated but it is interesting to note that in 2019 three of the clubs, Brechin City, Stenhousemuir and Stranraer are not even in the bottom tier of Scottish football and Albion Rovers were a level 3 club as recently as last season. Berwick Rangers, the fifth club intended to be ejected from the League, provided their own response to the drastic plan three years later when they defeated their Glasgow namesakes in the Scottish Cup’s most sensational result – although in the case of Berwick the new Scottish pyramid system may soon achieve what Rangers failed to do.
Nowadays, continued membership of the Scottish Professional Football League is based solely on merit, as has been the case in England for many years. This season’s National League, level five of the English football’s pyramid, contains seven clubs who have played in the English Football League (EFL): Barnet, Barrow, Chesterfield, Dagenham & Redbridge, Hartlepool United, Leyton Orient and Wrexham. In addition, there are three ex-EFL phoenix clubs in the National League: Aldershot Town (Aldershot FC), FC Halifax Town (Halifax Town AFC) and Maidstone United. There are even three ex-EFL clubs currently playing at the sixth level (National League South and North): Stockport County, Torquay United and York City.
It’s all part of an ever-changing EFL scene in which sixteen of this season’s twenty-four League Two clubs have at one time been promoted from the Conference/National League: Cambridge United, Carlisle United, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Crawley Town, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Grimsby Town, Lincoln City, Macclesfield Town, Mansfield Town, Morecambe, Newport County, Stevenage, Tranmere Rovers and Yeovil Town.
Absent from that list is Notts County, founded in 1862, continuous members of the Football League since it was formed in 1888 and as a result the oldest club in the League and thus the oldest League club in the world. It’s a proud title Notts may be forced to relinquish next Saturday. At the time of writing the Magpies are on the brink of relegation from the EFL for the first time in their history, despite a 2-1 win over Grimsby Town at the week-end. Notts must now beat Swindon Town away and hope that Macclesfield Town lose at home to Cambridge United on the final day of the season to stay up.
If Notts land in the National League. “the oldest club in the League” title should pass to Stoke City whose badge proclaims “1863” and their website lays claim to be “the world's second oldest professional football club”. It’s not exactly a confident assertion as elsewhere in the Potters’ official website there’s an admission that “some record books say City were founded in 1863, although many details remain sketchy.”
In fact, there is no apparent record of any match being played by the then Stoke Ramblers until 1868 and if Stoke’s 1863 claim remains in doubt then, ironically, the club who could take on Notts’ “oldest club in the League” title will be one definitely founded in 1865 …Nottingham Forest!