HISTORY books tell us that the Football Association created ‘association rules’ football (soccer) in 1863 but initial uptake was quite slow, particularly in outlying, lesser populated areas, writes Brian Walder.

Strangely, though Minehead was the most populated neighbourhood in West Somerset, several smaller communities fielded teams prior to Minehead Association Football Club’s existence.

Dunster had played against Mr Mildon’s School team (from Alcombe) in February 1885 and Porlock’s first game appears to have been against Mr Rawle’s Tanyard XI.

The roving press reporter commented that “though the teams played up hard, both were somewhat fond of handling the ball, probably from having been previously accustomed to rugby rules”.

Selworthy and a St Decuman’s XI (based in Williton) had also played organised matches before the end of 1887.

The final game of 1888 was again at Porlock’s Rectory Field, where Porlock 2nd XI hosted Brendon in a game that was goalless.

A further 0-0 draw was recorded when Selworthy hosted Porlock at Holnicote on February 2, 1889.

Another instance of association football taking place was reported at Exebridge, on the other side of the county, where a 1-0 victory was achieved by visitors Dulverton.

On Thursday, October 17, 1889 “a meeting was held at Phillips’s Assembly Rooms in Minehead, at which it was unanimously decided that a football team should be formed to represent the town, playing under association rules”.

It was further agreed “to commence operations as early as possible in the season”, announced the subsequent edition of the newspaper.

Before the end of the year the first game was played against Selworthy, which Minehead won by a solitary goal.

The first organised competition, the West Somerset Cup, was competed for during the 1895/96 season, and two years later the West Somerset League commenced.

Though Minehead won the West Somerset League in seasons 1904/05 and 1906/07, it was 1911/12 which was the club’s first stand-out season.

The league had six clubs that season, equalling the highest number of entries since its conception - Alcombe, Dunster, Minehead, Porlock, Watchet and Williton.

Minehead’s first two games were against Watchet, who even by then had become fierce rivals.

The first game was at The Recreation Ground, which Minehead had started playing at in 1900, where a 200-seater grandstand had been built.

Minehead won 4-0, with Harry Sully scoring twice, and Archie Burgess and Perce Beckett once each.

All three players played important roles in the club’s pre-WWI history.

Burgess (part of the well-known family of builders) was a successful all-round cricketer for Minehead Cricket Club, and he reportedly hit a six with his first ball on debut for Somerset County Cricket Club.

In the return fixture three weeks later, Watchet’s Red and Blacks took their revenge, winning by the odd goal in five; Sully and Burgess scored Minehead’s goals.

After this one defeat Minehead went on to win their remaining six league games, also receiving two walkovers when Williton were unable to raise teams.

As well as convincingly winning the West Somerset League, Minehead were also very successful in friendlies and four cup competitions.

The Somerset Charity Cup started in late October and brought a comprehensive 7-0 win at Crewkerne.

November’s semi-final was at Yeovil Town, who would go on to win the Somerset Senior League that season.

The hosts had in their ranks Johnny Hayward, scorer of 548 goals in his career, but Minehead won the tie 2-1 thanks to goals from Sully and diminutive striker Bertie Reed, who remains to this day the fifth highest goal-scorer in Minehead’s history.

The final pitted Minehead against Peasedown St John (from near Bath), with the match played at Yeovil on December 30.

It finished goalless, meaning that a replay took place at Weston-super-Mare the following Saturday.

On this occasion Peasedown were no match for Minehead, who won 4-0, with the goals shared equally between Burgess and Charlie Kirkpatrick.

A week after the final, Minehead started their pursuit of the Somerset Senior Cup, at the time the biggest cup competition in the county - find out how they got on in next week’s County Gazette.

This is The West Country:

Footnote: The above picture has recently been professionally digitally enhanced from a postcard produced back in 1912. I am told these are the colours that the software detected, hence me not referring to Minehead’s 1911/12 side as The Blues. During my research I had found references of Minehead wearing green kits, and have now delved back into the history and found a comment in the local press from October 1904 that “for the first time, the home eleven turned out wearing red shirts with black facings, the new colours being a welcome change to those which had hitherto been worn by the club”... further confirmation that Minehead have not always been The Blues!