The 1904-03 season saw Birkenhead FC win the Combination League a feat yet to be reached by Tranmere Rovers. After only five years this new club had already surpassed their local rival. Yet today we don’t stand in the terraces shouting ‘Super Red Army’ or c’mon Birkenhead FC, so what happened to the team which appeared to have taken the title of the true Birkenhead team?

In 1904 the Birkenhead teams were at their strongest with the Birkenhead News stating ‘It is only the talent of genius and the remarkable combative spirit that has brought Birkenhead to ambitious heights.’ It is difficult to fully assess the team from newspaper reports alone; however from match results it was clear how strong the team was as they had won the league with a few games to spare.

By becoming the Combination champions one would imagine a rosy future for the new Birkenhead club, however inherent problems at Birkenhead FC would spell their end. Since its first game way back in the summer of 1899 Birkenhead relied on stealing fans from Tranmere Rovers to keep the numbers in the ground high enough to survive. In the first few years of Birkenhead’s history they draw large enough crowds to keep the club afloat, however as the seasons went on, even with success, the fans trickled back to PrentonPark.

This slow loss of fans at first wasn’t too big a problem but the club knew they needed to improve gate numbers if they wanted to move higher in the leagues. With this in mind the club moved from BedfordPark to the Engineer’s Parade ground in the heart of Birkenhead at the start of the 1900-01 season. They hoped a more central location would attract more supporters.

By 1906 the club’s low attendance was starting to affect the game and the club struggled to get the quality players they needed due to lack of funds. At the end of the 1905-06 season they had lost five games in a space of eight days, one game finishing 13-5 to Harrowby. The Birkenhead News were optimistic stating ‘Still the Birks have been very unlucky, but live in hopes of better days to come.’

During the summer of 1906 Birkenhead lost several of their key players and struggled to find replacements. On the other side of Birkenhead however Tranmere had made several new signings and were predicted to have a good season.

Although Birkenhead were struggling they still managed to put on a good performance when they played Rovers in December 1906 but lost 3-2 in a close game. However Birkenhead’s overall form was slipping especially after the defeat to Birkenhead North End. This was a huge blow to Birkenhead FC as Birkenhead North were several leagues below.

 

 

For the next couple of seasons Birkenhead slipped further and further down the table and by the 1908-09 season they were second to bottom. The club were defiant though and moved the club once again to Birkenhead North End’s old ground on Cavendish Street in Birkenhead.

The 1909-10 season began very poorly with a 7-0 thrashing from Crewe Alexander in front of a small crowd at the new ground. Soon after this defeat they played Tranmere Rovers which was a game described in the Birkenhead News as the ‘…supremacy of the borough…’ match. Although a crowd of around a thousand were in attendance this one off bumper crowd could not sustain Birkenhead FC. Birkenhead lost the game 6-1.

The season continued to go down hill as by October Birkenhead were still without a win. The second match against Rovers took place in December by which time Birkenhead had still failed to win a single game and questions were now being raised about its survival.

Birkenhead FC’s final game was to be at home against Chester. Less than a 100 fans were in attendance to see Birkenhead lose. Their next game was away to Crewe Alexander but the club had no money to pay for the travelling team and so their position was untenable and the club was closed.

The Birkenhead News summed up the closing of Birkenhead FC very well ‘At last after many years battling against fate, the inevitable has happened and Birkenhead’s, one time team of all talents is no more.’

Tranmere Rovers regained not only the title of the best club in Birkenhead but also the only club in Birkenhead as their true and greatest rivals became lost in the past, like tears in the rain.

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