Leigh RMI: Remember Them?

By Pete H

It’s not unusual, every so often, for an unknown team to come from nowhere and become your equals; Leigh RMI being an example. You could point at sides like Yeovil Town or Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion popping up in the Championship too. Or Barnsley in the Premier League. Gosh – that’s a long time ago. But the Railwaymen will be our case in point here; a relative one at that too. Because no doubt some still can’t cope with the idea of us in the Football League either…

Who are Leigh RMI Football Club?

At the start, they weren’t called Leigh and they didn’t play in Leigh. The start of the line is 1896; the club one of two to be set up at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s workshops. This one? The locomotive works in Horwich was where it all started. The other club of the two? Well, they started at the Newton Heath carriage and wagon works. It’s fair to say that club went onto make something of themselves. Does the name Manchester United ring a bell?

Obviously, starting life in Horwich meant their name – to start with – was Horwich RMI. And the RMI stands for Railway Mechanics Institute, by the way. In 1917, the Railwaymen secured a spot in the Lancashire Combination league. And there they’d stay until 1968; runners-up in 1929 the best position they could manage. After switching to the Cheshire County League in 1968, they’d soon become founder members of the North West Counties League in 1982.

That didn’t last long either.

Why do we know the Railwaymen?

One year after signing up to the NWCL, the Railwaymen switched tracks; entering the Northern Premier League. Four times between 1983 and 1995, they had points lopped off for a variety of reasons (we think). According to the FCHD, “rule breaches” is the official term. But what was so important about 1995? Well, we’ll tell you – clearly. That was the year the club moved to Leigh. And that was also the year that Leigh RMI put itself on the non-league football map.

The move to Hilton Park (home of Leigh Centurions RLFC) would be a catalyst for their growth. But they had to start one step back after relegation to the NPL Division One the same summer they moved. Within another five years, though, the Railwaymen had not only made up the lost ground. Nope – they kicked on even more; promotion to the NPL Premier Division in 1997 then followed up with the NPL title in 2000. And, with it, came a place in the Nationwide Conference.

What is our record against them?

Leigh’s first season in the top flight of non-league football was actually a huge success. The end of the 2000-1 campaign had them sitting in fifth; a point behind Southport in fourth and a place that would earn them a playoff spot these days. But, as for our head-to-head record, we started pretty much as we intended to go on. A 3-0 win at home in the first few weeks of the season was followed up by a 4-1 win at Hilton Park in the latter stages of the campaign.

Our record against the Railwaymen is almost a snapshot of our overall fortunes at the time. We only lost twice to them in total. The first time came in April 2002; 1-0 at home as Wayne Turner’s side no doubt had one eye on our FA Trophy exploits. The second was a few months later; a 2-1 away defeat as Wayne Turner’s Boro’ hurtled towards the bottom of the table. If you wanted the clearest sign that Turner’s reign at Broadhall Way wasn’t good, losing twice to Leigh RMI is it.

After that, GW picked us back up and so too did our form against the Railwaymen. Our victories were often convincing; 3-1, 4-0, and 3-1 the first three that GW recorded. The last one of them to come in the league would be on 23 April 2005. By this point, the Railwaymen were rooted to the bottom of the table and this would be their last appearance in the Conference. And they stayed up the season before only because two clubs higher up the table were ejected instead.

Boro’ won 2-0 on that afternoon. The win saw us secure a playoff spot at Morecambe’s expense.

Leigh RMI: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 11 — W 9 — D 0 — L 2 — F 27 — A 9 — Pts 24 — WR 82%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 3-1 Leigh RMI, 13 January 2007

What happened to them?

It was almost a double disaster for the Railwaymen as they came so near to a second successive relegation. They held on in Conference North, however, for another three seasons. It was during this time that we actually squeezed in one last meeting for luck. Our path to the FA Trophy Final under Stimmo included a Round Two tie at home to the Railwaymen. As the head-to-head up to that point would suggest, it was a formality for us; Boro’ winning 3-1 to ease through.

The end of the 2007-8 season saw the Railwaymen drop out of the Conference North. It was also a time where things weren’t going so well off the pitch either. That summer, the club rebranded; calling itself Leigh Genesis ahead of their return to the Northern Premier League. And a move to the new Leigh Sports Village was also heralded. But delays saw their main backer leave and the money pot run dry. It wasn’t until March 2009 that they finally managed to move home.

The 2009-10 season showed promise in the Northern Premier League Division One North. But it also attracted the attention of other clubs – including Chorley, who swooped in for the manager and several players. The Railwaymen then left the Sports Village behind and moved in with one of their neighbours for the 2010-1 campaign. Yet, time was running out – and it was a disastrous campaign. In the short term, it meant relegation to the North West Counties League.

In June 2011, however, the club confirmed it wouldn’t be taking up its place in the NWCL. With no home ground to speak of, the intention was to go further down the ladder. It wasn’t until 12 months later that senior football was revived under the Leigh Genesis name.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Leigh RMI club profile

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