IN 1958, two men noticed that a number of children were just having random kick abouts on Saturdays and decided to organise a football league.
Tom Lee and Horace Freear put together one league consisting of 12 teams of players aged 14 and under - there were no substitutes, no off-side rules and players didn’t have to be registered to compete every Saturday.
Fifty years on and the Accrington and District Junior Football League is still going - but is now organised to almost perfection.
And it needs to be as there are around 130 teams from Under nine’s to Under 16s (and strict rules to govern the age groups), 2000 children playing football every Saturday morning, meticulous checks on coaches and a competitive but enjoyable atmosphere for all involved.
It has certainly come along way and one of those founder members, Horace Freear, at 88, is still overlooking the league he watched grow from just an idea.
"I am very proud with the way it has grown," said Horace, who has been involved in the league in various roles over the half century.
"Horace is still the first person to get the fixtures when they come out," said fixtures secretary Graham Snowden.
"His eye sight might be going but he can tell me if I have done anything wrong!
"And he will still go down to the playing fields and watch various games. He has no official capacity but is still very much involved."
And Horace has attended all the league’s annual presentation evenings - except one!
"He has attended 49 so far and has missed only one. He can’t remember why he missed that one - he thinks he might have been in hospital.
"He looks forward to it every year," said Steve Lee, president of the league.
It was Steve’s dad, Tom, who wandered around the playing fields in the area in 1958 watching children having games of football among themselves.
He realised there was a need for a league to give them a chance to play regular football as the only other way to play organised football was at school.
He called on Horace, a steeplejack, who was knowledgable about local football and that was the beginnings of the Accrington and District Boys Football League.
It took many months of hectic preparations but the first season kicked off in November 1958.
Tom was the secretary, Horace the treasurer and Harry Calvert, a former Football League referee, was made the chairman.
Steve, Tom’s son, played in the first games in November 1958 turning out for St Augustines, aged just eight, scoring two goals.
"I remember playing in that first game in 1958.
"In those days it was really the unknown. There was no off-side and no substitutes and no real templates - it was just get on with playing!" he said.
And from small acorns .....
The league grew and grew over the years and they even organised an Inter-league game where they played Cregagh Boys in Belfast - whose side included a certain young player called George Best.
And, despite the death of Tom in 1977, other people continued to get involved and the league has expanded beyond Horace’s wildest dreams.
And they can brag a host of talent which has come through their ranks.
Premiership star David Dunn (Blackburn Rovers) played in the local league as a young boy as did Brett Ormerod (Oldham), Richard Chaplow (Preston) and Anthony Pilkington (Stockport) to name but a few.
And it stopped being limited to just Accrington with teams from Burnley, Rossendale, Blackburn and the surrounding area wanting to join the well-organised event over the years.
Others have taken over the labour of love from Horace and how much they enjoy it, is shown by their long service.
Secretary Alan Greenwood has been involved with the league for 20 years in various roles as has treasurer David Westwell.
Graham Snowden has the tricky task of organising all the fixtures and has done that for around 25 years while Registration Secretary Andy Breckell has been involved in the league since the 1970s.
"I wouldn’t ask Alan’s wife how many hours he puts into the league!" said Steve.
"I wouldn’t like to say but he has built it up from three to eight sections and must take a lot of credit."
And they reached the milestone of their 50th anniversary this year,
The played a game against a touring Castle Island side in August and there has been a competition for every age group in the league to celebrate the event.
This has gone on over eight weeks at Witton Park and every player involved has received a special 50th anniversary commemorative medal.
The finale of the event is tomorrow when they hold a sportsman’s dinner at the Poplar Club with guest speaker, ex-Liverpool ace Jan Molby.
The fact so many children in East Lancashire are enjoying Saturday football is testament to Horace, Tom and Harry’s hard work all those years ago.