Inside the amazing story of 10th tier Nelson FC who beat star-studded Real Madrid 100 years ago.. and dream of rematch

IF Pep Guardiola needs inspiration on how to beat mighty Real Madrid on Wednesday night, he could look some 35 miles north to East Lancashire.

As early as May 1923, Nelson FC became the first English club to defeat the European giants on Spanish soil.

This is the Nelson FC team that toppled Real Madrid


This is the Nelson FC team that toppled Real MadridCredit: Collect

The North West Counties Minnows are celebrating the 100th anniversary of that famous 4-2 win – while also trying to woo the kings of Europe to a rematch.

Longtime fan Peter Smith – a football reporter on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday – said it was a huge achievement for a club of his size.

Nelson is on the outskirts of Burnley and has a population of just over 30,000.

Smith said: “It’s a great story, but one that’s largely ignored.

“When the Third Division North was formed, Nelson was a founding member.

“They won it in 1922-23 and the prize for winning was a tour of Spain.

“That’s how effectively we were the first team to play European football.

“Real won the second leg 4-1 a few days later and Santiago Bernabeu – after whom their stadium is named – played in both games.”


Nelson won the first game thanks to a brace from former Manchester City striker Dick Crawshaw, as well as goals from Joseph Eddleston and Bobby Hutchinson.

Current player-coach Darren Thornton has been working to organize something with the Spanish giants since last year.

He said: “I didn’t know anything about the story myself until I got involved last season. We would be ready for a second leg.

“I started doing this before Christmas – we had some answers from There was a moment when I thought something might come of this.

“We pushed a few buttons just to get an answer.”

Nelson FC comes from humble backgrounds


Nelson FC comes from humble backgroundsCredit: Ben Lack

Zack Zwiezen

Zack Zwiezen is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Zack Zwiezen joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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