EACH week during the close season, Citizen football reporter Tom Parker will take a potted history look at the performance of the Football League, the oldest football league in the world.

We shall concentrate on how Preston North End performed and then bring in the other teams as the story unravels down the years.

THIS week we look at the formative years of the Football League and it was Preston who were dominating the scene.

In the white hot atmosphere of Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, Preston North End came within a whisker of returning to the top flight division of the English football league, a league that they had helped to create back in 1888.

William McGregor, a far-seeing and inspirational director of Aston Villa called a meeting at the Royal Hotel in Manchester on April 17, 1888 to discuss the possibility of forming a league from the interested clubs.

Over their ham and cheese sandwiches, black pudding and pickles all washed down by brown ale, they drew up a plan to play home and away fixtures thus, the Football League was on its way.

Absolutely no one who attended that meeting could possibly have envisaged that they were embarking onto a road that would become the wonderful game that we have today. Certainly no one could have thought for just one moment that it would last so long and that over that long time span to today's game that there would be so few changed to the original rules.

Twelve clubs emerged to start the league, Preston, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Bolton, Burnley, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa.

Note. Not a mention of Manchester United or Liverpool or Arsenal. They would come later.

The first season of the league was a walk-over for Preston as they won the league at a canter. They played 22 matches, won eighteen of them, drew the other four finishing with forty points which was eleven points clear of Aston Villa in second place.

Only once in the season did Preston fail to score and that was against Accrington.

For good measure, Preston went on to complete the double by winning the FA Cup without conceding a goal in the competition.

Preston's route to the final went like this: First round -- Bootle 0, Preston 3; Second round -- Grimsby Town 0, Preston 2; Third round -- Preston 2, Birmingham St George's 0; Semi-final -- Preston 1, West Bromwich 0; Final -- Preston 3, Wolverhampton 0.

Not surprisingly, the League Championship trophy and FA Cup successes quite properly earned Preston the title of "The Old Invincibles" something that is still referred to this present day.

Next week, we shall look at the events running up to the first World War in 1914 when so much happened to indicate that the world of football had put so much in the daily lives of men, women and children throughout the country.

Football was dominating the domestic entertainment arena, games were being played in front of large audiences and the names of footballers and their performances were the talk of pubs, homes, school playgrounds across the nation.