Football in 1996

12 days of Manchester: Six is the number of towns that have a football league team

  • Today is the sixth day of Christmas
  • There are six towns/cities in Greater Manchester that have a professional football team
  • A quick look into how their seasons are going

With 2019 just a whisper away and the football league season just over the mid-point we can say with reasonable cerainty how well or badly each team’s season is going. So let’s have a look at the sport in the north west.


Manchester, famously, has two big teams, both of which have won the Premier League in recent years, one of which won it last season.

City may have bottled their chance to repeat that feat, 10 points behind leaders Liverpool, which they can cut to seven if they beat Southampton later on today. Their biggest test comes on January 3rd, however, when they face Liverpool. Lose that match and their title race is over, win it and they are right back in it. They are still on for all competitions, though, having qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, the semi-finals of the League cup and the FA cup is still yet to be drawn. I’d put money on them to walk away with some silverware this season.

Eithad Stadium
Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium

United have not had a great start to the season and while the fans of many clubs would be over the moon with residing in the top half of the top tier, with the squad, money and manager United have at their disposal, it has been a little embarassing. On top of that, Jose Mourinho was sacked on the 18th of December following a 3-1 defeat to league leaders and arch rivals, Liverpool.



Their inability to close out games has left them languishing in mid-table and they were dumped out of League cup on penalties by Championship side Derby County. They have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, however, so not all is lost, but they will need a remarkable turnaround of form to claim a spot in the competition next year.


Bolton Wanderers survived in the Championship by the skin of their teeth last season and currently do not look as if they will be so fortunate this time around. They currently languish in 23rd, their last league win coming at the end of September, against a Derby team fresh from beating Man United at Old Trafford. They will have to do a lot in the January transfer window to inject some energy into the side if they are to have any chance of survival.

It seems, though, that the money isn’t there given the players were not paid their wages in November at the time they should have been and were eventually paid personally by chairman, Ken Anderson so it would be a hopeless optimist that would predict Bolton to be playing any higher than League One next season.

Bolton Wanderers statue
Nat Lofthouse statue, outside Bolton Wanderers FC. Credit: David Dixon


Wigan Athletic have only won three more games than Bolton but sit in the more comfortable position of 16th. The Latics could turn their season around quite easily from here. If they pick up some good form they would have an outside chance at the playoffs. If they start to struggle, however, they would be sucked into a relegation battle. Bolton’s financial trouble and Ipswich’s poor form make them both look like gonners so Wigan should have a fairly straightforward mid-table finish upon which to build next year, although they did lose to Ipswich, giving them their first home win of the season, even though it didn’t lift them off the bottom.

JJB Stadium
Wigan’s JJB stadium during a match. Credit: Bill Boaden


The lone Greater Manchester club in League One, Rochdale survived narrowly last season and currently sit 19th, only four points above the relegation zone. Their second round FA Cup exit to Portsmouth meant they couldn’t revisit their dream run from last year when they reached the fifth round, taking Spurs to a replay. They are still in the Checkatrade Trophy, however, and face either Oldham or the Man City U21s in the next round.

Spotland stadium Rochdale
Rochdale’s Spotland stadium. Credit: Boothman


After much doom and gloom for Greater Manchester teams, Bury can finally bring us some positive news. Despite being conclusively relegated in last place in League One at the end of the last campaign, they currently sit fourth in League Two, two points away from automatic promotion. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Luton and so only have the league to focus on until the season’s end, barring the Checkatrade trophy, where they play Accrington Stanley away in January.

Gigg Lane, Bury
Bury’s Gigg Lane stadium. Credit: Martin Thirkettle


Oldham Athletic were a Premier League side until 1994. They were relegated from Division One, as it was known then, in 1997 and managed to maintain a 21-year stint in the third teir until being relegated on the last day of last season, when they needed a win, but could only draw with Rochdale. The two sides might well be playing each other next season, if Rochdale’s form flounders and Oldham’s doesn’t change.

Oldham are only two points from the playoffs, but they have made the FA Cup third round and are still in the Checkatrade trophy, so their depth will be necessary if they are to make any reasonable push towards League One.

Boundary Park, Oldham
Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park stadium