THE strange history of a village football team which once played Manchester United is the subject of a study by a local historian.

Peter Holme, of Hoghton Lane, Higher Walton, has a soccer fanatic's dream job, working as a volunteer researcher at the National Football Museum, Preston.

And during his studies into Higher Walton Football Club he made a few surprising discoveries about the team that plays on the King George V fields, off Higher Walton Road.

Mr Holme, 56, a former chemistry teacher at Broughton High School, said: "The most amazing thing was that this small village that I was living in was playing teams I never expected them to play against.

"Big teams that are huge today like Manchester United, Liverpool and Blackburn.

"The only team they didn't play was Preston North End, although they did play against the reserve team and lost."

It was while volunteering at the Deepdale museum that Mr Holme was contacted by a local asking about Higher Walton FC.

He discovered the club, formed in 1882, played small teams such as Brindle before joining the Lancashire Cup in 1883 and the FA Cup a year later.

Mr Holme said: "Massive numbers of people were watching these games particularly around this area. It is the heartland of football.

"It's this area that started the idea of club professionals and large numbers of spectators. I can imagine Higher Walton was carried along by this."

But the heady days of football fame came to an end and Higher Walton began playing in the Preston and District League at the end of the 19th century and are still there today.

People with information or pictures of Higher Walton FC can call Mr Holme on 01772 336184.