A group of members of St. Mark’s Church of England, West Gorton, Manchester, founded the football club that would become known as Manchester City, for largely humanitarian purposes. Two church wardens, anxious to overturn the tide of unemployment, drunkenness and loutish behaviour of Gorton’s young men in East Manchester, formed St Marks (West Gorton) in 1880. All men were welcome to join, regardless of religion.
At the outset, it was multi-sport endeavour, with rugby and football played on alternate weekends, as well as a cricket team in the summer.
A group of football clubs grew up at that time around the Gorton area, while the St Mark’s side taking the name Gorton AFC in 1884, following an unsuccessful merger with neighbouring side Belle Vue.
The team’s first recorded match occurred on 13 November 1880, against a church team from Macclesfield. St. Marks lost the match 2–1, and only won one match during their first season in 1880–81 season, with a win over Stalybridge Clarence in March 1881.
The First Manchester Derbies
In the early years of St Mark’s’ existence, several of their players had played for other teams while also turning out for the church side.
The ‘Gortonians’ had established themselves in the northern football scene, picking up victories in various cup competitions against local rivals. Newton Heath, who became Manchester United, faced the Gorton side numerous times throughout the 1880s and 1890s.
Newton Heath dominated the early period of this rivalry recording a 3-0 victory in the first-ever Manchester derby in 1881, and was described by the Ashton Reporter as “a pleasant game”.