Western League

The Western League had its origins in the Bristol and District League, founded in 1892 (two years before the Southern League) by teams in and around Bristol. The founder members included Eastville Rovers - later to become Bristol Eastville Rovers and then Bristol Rovers. The league was dominated in its early years by Warmley who were champions four times in the first five seasons, including the first two season after it became the Western League in 1895. The following year saw Bristol South End - later to become Bristol City - join the league.

Reading, together with Swindon, first joined the league in the newly formed Professional Section in 1897. However they played for only one season before transferring to the United League and then to the Southern District Combination. By 1899, the Western League Division 1 had dwindled to just four clubs - Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town and Bedminster - a number that dropped still further when Bedminster merged with Bristol City.

In 1900 there was a major influx of Southern League teams, including Reading, into the Western League. In effect it became a subsidiary tournament for Southern League teams, the fixtures generally being played mid-week. According to league rules, teams were meant to put out a full-strength team. However often weaker elevens or reserve teams were fielded, putting the clubs into conflict with the league.

Growing fixture commitments caused the league to be divided into two sections in 1906, the two winners contesting a play-off to decide the league champions. This continued until 1909 when the first division was disbanded, leaving just the second division, containing some genuine West Country (and Welsh) teams, to continue.

The following table gives the champions and runners-up until the First World War, including the play-off results from 1906-09:

                         Champions                 Runners-up
    1892-93  Bristol     Warmley                   Trowbridge Town
    1893-94  Bristol     Warmley                   St George*
    1894-95  Bristol     Hereford Thistle          St George*
    1895-96  Western     Warmley                   Eastville Rovers*
    1896-97  Western     Warmley                   Bristol South East*
    1897-98  Western     Bristol City              Swindon Town
    1898-99  Western     Swindon Town              Bristol St George
    1899-00  Western     Bristol Rovers            Bedminster
    1900-01  Western     Portsmouth                Millwall Athletic
    1901-02  Western     Portsmouth                Tottenham Hotspur
    1902-03  Western     Portsmouth                Bristol Rovers
    1903-04  Western     Tottenham Hotspur         Southampton
    1904-05  Western     Plymouth Argyle           Brentford
    1905-06  Western     Queen's Park Rangers      Southampton
    1906-07  Western     West Ham United      1    Fulham               0
    1907-08  Western     Millwall             1    Southampton          0
    1908-09  Western     Millwall             2    Brighton & Hove Alb  1
    1909-10  Western     Treharris                 Bristol City Res
    1910-11  Western     Bristol City Res          Bristol Rovers Res
    1911-12  Western     Welton Rovers             Barry District
    1912-13  Western     Bristol Rovers Res        Cardiff City Res
    1913-14  Western     Cardiff City Res          Bath City

             * Bristol City previously known as Bristol South End
             * Bristol Rovers previously known as Eastville Rovers
             * Bristol St George previously known as St George

Reading's best performance was finishing third in 1897-98 and 1901-02.

The Western League continues to this day as one of the feeder leagues into the Southern League.

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