They were formed following a meeting at a local pub in 1876 and went on to play an integral part in the shape of modern day football.
Twelve years later Accrington FC – known affectionately as the Owd Reds – were one of only 12 teams chosen to join the first ever Football League and forever cement their place in the history books.
During their first season the fledgling club played 22 games, winning six, drawing eight and losing eight to finish in a respectable seventh position.
Over the course of the 1888/89 campaign they played in their first League derby matches against Blackburn Rovers – their second game of the season finishing a thrilling five all draw – and took the first points off the legendary Preston North End team known as the ‘invincibles.’
However, their League status was short-lived, being relegated in 1893 and then resigning from the league rather than play in the second division and later folding in 1896.
The Owd Reds played their games at Thorneyholme Road - where the cricket club bearing the town’s name now stands - and received national recognition with players George Haworth, Joseph Morris Lofthouse and James Whitehead all being called up for England duty, sharing seven starts between them.
To commemorate the club’s first ever league game, Stanley were presented with a specially commissioned blue plaque ahead of their pre-season friendly with Everton which recreated the opening day match up on September 8, 1888.
They were also selected for a special round of opening League fixtures, playing away to Newport County in the first game of this season.
Stanley fan and radio presenter Stephen Lowe said he was ‘very proud’ about Accrington’s place in Football League history and that it was ‘magical’ for Stanley to be part of the celebrations.
He said: “Our place in football league history is very important and also having a football league club in Accrington is a massive honour for the town.
“There are only about 70 odd teams that aren’t in the Premier League and there are big towns around us like Chorley that are crying out for a league team.
“People say that the team that joined the football league in 1888 isn't who we are now. But it’s my town team and the DNA of the club today runs from those humble beginnings at Thorneyholme Road to where we are now.
“The fact that the football league chose to commemorate and honour Stanley shows we are the same team.
“People around the world this year will have seen and read a lot about the history of the Football League and every time they are reading something we were a part of.” Mr Lowe, who was born and raised in Accrington, said matchday habits haven’t changed at Stanley since the days of the Owd Reds and hailed the club's unique history.
He said: “I still stand on the terraces and have a pint with my mates before the game and that’s probably the same thing they were doing 125 years ago.
“We have more history than some Premier League clubs and have had more ups and downs than a big dipper. You only need to look at this season so far.
“Other teams may have gone on to be more successful but we have a special place in people's hearts.”
Former Bullseye presenter and Accrington Grammar School pupil Jim Bowen said he was delighted to see Accrington in the league 125 years on.
He said: “It makes you very proud to think 125 years ago they were one of the founding members and there at the start of it all.
“£They are one of the reasons football is the way it is today. I’m delighted they are surviving in the league which in this day and age is very good. I remember supporting the club at Peel Park in the 1950s. You always have a soft spot for your first team and it’s always the first result I look out for on a Saturday.”
Former England cricket captain and Stanley non-executive David Lloyd added: “We’re very proud to be part of that original 12. The Football League and Accrington are institutions that everybody knows.
“We are always part of a good quiz question as not many can remember the original 12 clubs.
“It’s great to play a wonderful part in that history.”
Report on Stanley's first ever league game away at Everton – published in the Accrington Observer, September 1888
‘THE Reds again visited Liverpool district on Saturday to play the first of their League matches with Everton.
Great interest was taken in the encounter, not merely because it was a League fixture, but owing to the fact that Bootle, the great local rivals of Everton, defeated the Reds the previous week, and there were about 10,000 spectators. The afternoon was beautiful, fine and the ground was in capital order, the improvements which had been effected since last season being a surprise to the visitors.
Unfortunately the Reds were again suffering from a weak team, the absence of Allin causing Chippendale to play on the left wing, while the half-back position was filled by Jonathan Wilkinson.
They were twenty minutes late too in arriving, and it was nearly half-past four when the teams faced each other.
The visitors’ captain won the toss and planted his men with the backs against the sun.
In the first minute Accrington had conceded a corner from a splendid shot by Farmer, but the advantage was of no service to the homesters and Accrington broke away, only to be repelled by Ross
Farmer and Chadwick now made play along the left, Stevenson deprived them, and Lofthouse darted off on the right.
The ball was beautifully met by Dick and Holt, and Chadwick shot in very finely. Fleming made a good attempt but a corner was the only result. The pace was exceptionally fast at this time.
A big return by Holt and McLellan kicked over his head, almost bringing about the downfall of his own goal. Horne hit the sphere out and Farmer headed just over, the ball dropping on the crossbar.
Pretty passing by the visitors threatened the home charge, but Dick cleared and Waugh was loudly cheered for a grand exhibition of dash and judgement which enabled his side to carry the war into the enemy’s territory where Chadwick had hard luck in not scoring.
Waugh next gave Fleming a chance which he failed to make use of. Jones held out signals of distress as he limped badly.
Lofthouse and Bonar came well up and the latter screwed a cross, but Dobson cleared a free kick to Accrington, and Haworth tried a long shot, which came to nothing, the ball passing harmlessly over.
Accrington now came well up and Ross headed the wrong way, letting Chippendale in, but he screwed wide.
Ross frustrated a couple of excellent attempts by Chippendale and Holden and Everton replied by a couple of shots from Lewis and Dobson.
A pretty shot by Lofthouse gave Smalley his first chance of handling the ball, which he did in his usual style. Dick cleared and Chadwick made a fine run down the field but was cleverly checked by Stevenson. The pace cooled down and Accrington, by pretty combination, looked like obtaining something tangible.
The ball was returned and the five Everton forwards raced off in line, finishing with a screw from Farmer which just went outside. Chadwick now missed a splendid cross shot by Fleming. Again Everton came with a rush but luck was against them and half-time arrived with a blank shot, neither side having scored.
The game was resumed at quarter-past five, Accrington now having the benefit of the breeze and for a few minutes play was confined to the home end Ross received and Horne had to use his hands in saving a shot by Lewis. Dobson fouled Bonar in a very dirty manner and the referee at once awarded a free kick, but the leather was worked behind.
McLellan saved two dangerous rushes, and Holt sent in a nice effort, which Holt just saved at the cost of a corner.
A second followed, and a good scuffle took place. Lofthouse darted off but was pulled up by Dobson.
This gave the ball to Ross who sent up. Waugh got it and passed to Farmer who shot across and Fleming headed the first goal amidst tremendous cheering and waving of hands.
From the kick-off Accrington spurted up and a most excited scuffle followed in front of the home goal.
Fleming and Waugh then dribbled along the right, Waugh centred and Chadwick shot in hard.
Horne rushed to hit the ball clear, and in doing so came into collision with Lewis and unfortunately fractured a rib.
He was assisted off the field. M Lennan went into goal and Howarth full back. Dobson sent the ball to the left, Farmer centred and Fleming added a second goal. From the kick-off Lofthouse had a possible chance but shot wide. Smalley had to fist out and then Accrington got two corners, from the second of which Holden headed against the bar and the ball passed over.
At length, from a return by Pemberton, Holden scored. Everton made a desperate rush from the kick-off, the ball just going over the bar. Holden came with a rush and Smalley made a wonderful save, Accrington claiming he was through the posts when he stopped the leather, but without success.
Ross cleared by Accrington pressed severely, shot after shot being saved at the Everton citadel, but Smalley and the backs defended finely, the Ross resorted to kicking out very frequently and Accrington could not draw.’
Final score: Everton 2 Accrington 1
Accrington team :