Alan Bartlam takes a look back at when New Brighton tried to take on the powerhouses of English football.

Going back to 1898, Tranmere Rovers' biggest rivals would have been just around the corner from Prenton Park.

On tip of the Wirral sits New Brighton and it was here at the start of the 20th century that league football was being played by New Brighton Tower FC.

The club were formed in 1896 and moved immediately into a ground adjacent to the New Brighton Tower (hence their name).

What made this so unique was that at the time it had a capacity for almost 100,000, and thus one of the largest stadiums in Britain.

The development included the actual tower, which when opened in 1900 and was the tallest building in Great Britain at 189 metres tall, looking out over the Mersey and modelled on the Eiffel Tower. With a ballroom at the bottom, the whole area was THE place to be seen in Merseyside.

Wirral Globe: New Brighton TowerNew Brighton Tower

The club won the Lancashire League in only their second season and were elected to the Football League in 1898, taking their place in the newly expanded Second Division.

Their record in the first season was good – finishing 5th and just three points off second place and promotion. One of the reasons for this success was the club’s intention to sign up as many of the top footballers in the country as they could.

After all, who else could offer the bright lights that New Brighton could at the time? The Football League were aghast at such behaviour and strongly rebuked the club.

Wirral Globe: New Brighton Tower

Did it have any affect? Not really. The club continued to try and offer the best salaries and in the following season they gambled on promotion to the top tier of English football.

The local authorities were desperate to make New Brighton an all year attraction to rival, if not beat Blackpool amongst others and saw a successful football team playing during the winter months as key to this strategy.

Unfortunately the gamble didn’t work as less than 1,000 spectators on average saw the club finish in tenth place and then in fourth in 1901. The consortium that had been bankrolling the club admitted failure.

They simply could not keep going, so it was with some relief that the Football League accepted their resignation in September 1901 with their position being taken by Doncaster Rovers.

In 1921 a new club was formed after the demise of South Liverpool FC and two seasons later a second incarnate of New Brighton were elected into the Football League 3rd Division North, following a hugely successful start to the new club.

Initially they played at Sandheys Park off Rake Lane close by but after the Second World War games were played back at The Tower, although by this stage the capacity was a shadow of its former self.

In 1951 the club finished bottom of the Third Division North and were voted out of the league in favour of Workington. Their best attendance was 15,173. They played in white shirts and navy shorts.

The club returned to the Lancashire Combination, still using the New Tower Athletic Ground.  They reached the dizzy heights of the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in early 1957 and won the championship two seasons later. They later joined the Cheshire County League in 1965.

Today nothing is left of one of Great Britain’s biggest ever football stadiums bar a memory.

The Wirral has returned to a one proffessional club area but for a couple of glorious years, one Wirral town tried twice to break the mould of English football and basically failed.