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

Back in May 1923, Nelson FC became the first English club to topple the European giants on Spanish soil.

This is the Nelson FC side that toppled Real Madrid


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

The North West Counties minnows have been celebrating the centenary of that famous 4-2 win — while trying to get the European kings to offer a rematch.

Lifelong fan Peter Smith — a football reporter on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday — said it was a huge achievement for a club of their size.

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

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

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“When the third division north was formed, Nelson were founder members.

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

“So effectively we were the first team to play European football.

Real won the return match a couple of days later 4-1 and Santiago Bernabeu — who their stadium is named after — played in both games.”


Nelson won the first game thanks to a double from former Manchester City forward Dick Crawshaw, along with goals from Joseph Eddleston and Bobby Hutchinson.

Current player-manager Darren Thornton has been working since last year to try to organise something with the Spanish giants.

He said: “I was unaware of the story myself until I joined last season. We’d be up for a rematch.

“I started on it prior to Christmas — we had some responses from realmadrid.com. There was a moment when I thought something might come of it.

“We’ve been pushing some buttons just to get some kind of response.”

Nelson FC come from humble surroundings


Nelson FC come from humble surroundingsCredit: Ben Lack

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