What are the oldest clubs in the Premier League?
Some controversy remains over which of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League is the oldest, with London and the Midlands disputing claims.
There is some debate over the identity of the oldest club in the Premier League right now. Since 2020, Crystal Palace have laid claim to being the longest-standing team not only in the English top flight, but also domestic and world professional soccer - but it’s an assertion that is disputed.
Palace slide foundation back nearly 50 years
Palace, who have been ever-present in the Premier League since 2013, had formerly placed the year of their establishment in 1905. This actually made the Eagles one of the youngest clubs in the English soccer pyramid.
In 2018, however, a differing version of the team’s past was put forward by the soccer historian Peter Manning, in his book Palace at the Palace: A History of the Crystal Palace and its Football Club. According to Manning, Palace were in fact founded in 1861.
The claim is based on evidence that the professional Crystal Palace side that began life in 1905 is linked to the amateur Palace team that was among the English Football Association’s founding clubs in 1863. Previously, it was generally accepted that the two teams were not connected.
Two years ago, Manning’s research persuaded Palace to officially rewrite their history books, and in June this year the Londoners changed their club crest, replacing the foundation date 1905 to 1861.
Older even than Notts County?
If the current Crystal Palace really were founded 162 years ago, that would make them the Premier League’s oldest club by four years, ahead of newly-promoted Nottingham Forest, who were established in 1865.
Indeed, it would mean Palace are the oldest club across the four divisions and 92 clubs that make up English league soccer. Not only that, but it would make them a year older even than Forest’s city rivals Notts County, who now languish in EFL League Two - the fourth tier of English soccer, but have long been recognised as the oldest professional club on the planet. (Curiously, it is thanks to Notts County that Juventus wear their iconic black and white strip - Tom Gordon Savage, a Nottingham-born businessman based in Turin began supplying the new kit through his contacts back home in 1901).
Some historians doubt “absurd” Palace claim
Not everyone is convinced by Palace’s revised year of foundation, however. Soccer historians Mark Metcalf and Clive Nicholson have branded the club’s 1861 claim as “slightly absurd”, adding that it “is ultimately reduced to a short note in 1906 in the CPFC club handbook” and “appears never to have been mentioned again anywhere by CPFC [until] very recently”.
They concluded: “It is possible to forget your own history but that really is a serious memory lapse.”
Forest, Villa, Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool...
Elsewhere among the Premier League’s oldest clubs, there appears to be less debate over the year they were born. Forest, who returned to the Premier League in 2022 after a 23-year absence, were formed by a group of players of the hockey-like sport shinney, and contested their first official match in March 1866, against Notts County.
Founded in 1874, Aston Villa are the next-oldest current Premier League club. One of the 12 clubs that created the English Football League in 1888, Villa came into being when members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel’s cricket team opted to set up a soccer side, because they needed a sport to play in the winter months.
Also among the Football League’s original members, Wolverhampton Wanderers were established three years after Villa, while Everton and Manchester United - clubs that have never missed a Premier League season - were both founded a year after Wolves.
United, whose 20 English league titles make them the country’s most decorated soccer club, were initially known as Newton Heath, before adopting their current name in 1902. Everton meanwhile was the first club to be founded on Merseyside. The club was formed in 1878 - 14 years before Liverpool and six years before Tranmere Rovers (originally known as Belmont Football Club) came into being on the other side of the River Mersey. The Grade II-listed lock-up on Everton Brow has featured on the club’s badge since 1938.
Premier League’s oldest clubs: at a glance
|1.||Crystal Palace||1861 (disputed)|