Birkenhead Park Preview

Date: 21 September 2017

Preston Grasshoppers welcome to Lightfoot Green for a second consecutive home game a team from the Wirral, this time in the shape of long time opponents Birkenhead Park whom Hoppers have had forty nine fixtures with across one hundred and thirty six years.

By Mike Forshaw.


Copy of This Weekend at Hoppers

After a prolonged journey across the M62 last Saturday Hoppers found their opponents equally difficult with only a tenacious second half performance giving them a share of the spoils.

Our visitors this Saturday were established in 1871, a couple of years after ourselves. They played in the Upper Park, part of Birkenhead Park, (where we can assume they derived their name), and have resided there ever since.

The Park, not the rugby club, set in 125 acres, was opened in 1847 and is recognised as the first publicly funded park to be opened in Great Britain. It was also influential with the project, which developed the now world famous Central Park in New York.

Getting back to rugby matters. The first meeting between today’s adversaries we have uncovered, took place on the 15th October 1881, some ten years after both clubs were formed. The result that day was a victory for the Hoppers by 2 Goals, 2 Tries and 6 Touch Downs to nil. A brief description of these terms – Goals were converted tries, and touch-downs described the defending team being caught in possession of the ball behind their own try line and having to ‘touch down’. It was sometimes referred to as a ‘Rough’ or ‘Minor Point’. A modern day score-line would convert to twenty four points to nil. The records show the return fixture, played at the St Anne’s Ground, resulted in a draw. Even though the home side crossed Hoppers line and scored a try, the only scores that counted in winning the game during those early years of the sport, where converted tries, Goals, hence the draw.

Fixtures continued until our penultimate season during this era, with a final fixture on the 14th February 1885. We have no record of a score for this game and it could even have been a Second Team fixture.

We have records of seven fixtures during this time, with the first of these being Preston Grasshoppers one and only victory! Of the remainder, ‘Park’ where victorious on three occasions with the remaining three being drawn.

Any assistance with missing results, or contradictions of the above from my counterpart at the ‘Park, would be most welcome.

The two club’s paths didn’t cross again until the 2nd December 1950, at the Upper Park Ground and annual games took place up until 1996 with five games cancelled and a missed season spoiling the sequence. The next, and last season the two clubs met was back in Hoppers last term at this level when they completed the double over the Cheshire side.

This last meeting between Hoppers and ‘Park’ was over in the Wirral a week after the visitors had secured the League Championship title at Sheffield. The game threw up a couple of unusual occurrences. With the points already in the bag ‘Skipper’ Rich Morton wrestled the kicking tee from Luffy’s grip to take over the duties. John Peterson thought this such a good idea he joined the goal kicking club to convert the next try!

The playing record between ourselves and Birkenhead Park stands in the visitors favour by twenty nine victories to fifteen with five drawn games and the previously mentioned cancellations. There have only been a handful of League encounters with Hoppers winning all three played to date.

The 1869 Club have a poster on the noticeboard for a trip with the usual lunch stop en-route to Kendal’s new ground next Saturday. As usual, everyone’s welcome with the fare £15 and accompanied juniors travelling for free. The coach departs at 11:15 and will leave Kendal around an hour after the final whistle.


Congratulations to Danny Madden who made his one hundredth league appearance for Hoppers last Saturday at Hull.

Skipper ‘PJ’ Millea got on the score sheet for the first time last week at the Ferens Ground whilst Sam Stott’s success off the kicking tee in the last home game notched up his first points for Hoppers along with Olly Trippier crossing the try line for the first time in the blue and white. Another name to add to the list of Hoppers debutants came in the game against Wirral with Alex Isherwood coming off the bench that day.

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