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A club minutes book dating back to 1888 – the year the Football League was formed - has been unearthed and is estimated at £500-800 on August 31 at the Sporting Memorabilia auction in Etwall.

It is a Derby County directors’ minutes book dated February 6, 1888 to June 3, 1889. The Football League, the oldest league in the world, was formed in April, 1888 and DCFC were one of its 12 inaugural members.

The book has been discovered amid a vast collection of 25 boxes of football memorabilia gathered by the late Gerald Mortimer, a respected sports journalist. He was Derby County correspondent for the Derby Telegraph from 1970-2002. Other items on sale include rare programmes, matchday tickets, personal letters from famous managers, including Peter Taylor.

Trailblazing dozen

The Football League was formed with 12 clubs: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Each club played the other twice, home and away, and two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw (a system not changed to three points for a win until 1981).

The minutes book features fascinating details. Far from the grappling and play-acting evident at the World Cup, one player even took the time to write a detailed and humble letter of apology for not being available for a game. In fact, such was his concern, he insisted it be included in the club’s minutes.

The names on the teamsheet are also redolent of a different era. Instead of a Costa, Lukaku, De Bruyne, Firmino or Van Dyck, the County team against Aston Villa includes hearty English names such as Bakewell, Higgins, Morley and Latham.

Football has certainly changed for the better over the years judging by one particular note which reads that ‘each member of the committee has a ticket to admit one lady to ground and pavilion’, however, ‘Balcony - no ladies to be admitted’.

Minutes takers got bored in 1888 CREDIT Hansons.jpg

Doodle from the 1888 Derby County FC directors' minutes book on offer in Hansons' August 31 Sporting Memorabilia auction estimated at £500-800.

Bringing order to chaos

Hansons’ football valuer Alastair Lofley said: “This is how it all began – the football structure at the heart of a game loved across the world today. Before the Football League was formed, chaos reigned with teams trying to organise their own fixtures haphazardly.

“The Football League was launched to bring order to the chaos – and it did. Players were allowed to have professional status in 1885 and that was closely followed by the launch of the Football League and set fixtures.  Today, all football fans look forward to the release of the fixture list and it all started in 1888 with those 12 teams.”

Derby County were founded in 1884 as an offshoot of Derbyshire County Cricket Club and there are many references to the cricketing links. At that time, the Rams played at the cricket club’s Racecourse Ground.

Mr Lofley, a Rams fan himself, said: “Being invited to become part of the inaugural Football League was a great honour for Derby County and I’m pleased to say that on the first match of the season – September 8, 1888, Derby came from 3–0 down away to Bolton Wanderers to win 6–3. We also beat our big local rivals Nottingham Forest 3-0 that season, though ultimately Derby finished 10th out of 12 teams.”

Collecting relics from the early days

Early football memorabilia is often in high demand from collectors, with the FA Cup and anything connected to Manchester United being particularly popular.

Sports specialist Graham Budd set a record for any football programme sold at auction in his May 2013 sale. The earliest-known surviving FA Cup final programme - Old Etonians v Blackburn Rovers, played at Kennington Oval on March 25, 1882 - shot past the £20,000-25,000 estimate to hit £30,000.