The story of Nelson FC: The first English team to beat Real Madrid in Spain

In the 1923-24 season, Lancashire side Nelson FC became the first-ever English team to beat Real Madrid at their home ground.

In the same season they also went to Old Trafford and beat Manchester United.

Now Nelson fans each season get to witness ‘El Hotpot‘ as they call it, when they face AFC Darwen in the North West Counties League Division One North.

The Admirals could only now dream of a match with the 13-time Champions League winners.

The 1923-24 Nelson FC squad that defeated the great Real Madrid. (Photo by/Lancashire Telegraph)

Their chances of ever facing the Red Devils again are slightly higher, but again remain very slim and very unlikely.

However, this was a reality nearly 100 years ago when Nelson went on a pre-season tour to Spain and beat Real Oviedo 2-1 as well as Los Blancos 4-2.

This was on the back of earning promotion after winning the Third Division North.

Despite their success, they were relegated the following season, but did manage to leave a mark on history with their achievements.

The club take pride in their feat and those memories aren’t lost for those who follow the club closely.

It’s a fact of honour and a piece of history that will never go away.

Robert Carson, a former journalist, spoke to Sporting Weekly and told us that his grandfather, Harry Clegg, was a goalkeeper for Nelson that season.

“He came from Burnley, he signed up at the start of the First World War,” said Carson.

“In the biggest army its ever had, he fought as a boxer as a middleweight and then after he was a goalkeeper as well.

“He played for Nelson when they won the Third Division North.

“Their reward for winning that was a trip to Spain and he played for the team that beat Real Madrid 4-2.”

On May 15 1923 in Campo de Ciudad Lineal, which was Real Madrid’s stadium at a time, Nelson made history.

It would be another eight years on from 1923 that the Spanish giants picked up their first-ever league title in Spain.

United however, had already won two league titles by this point as well as a number of domestic trophies.

For Nelson, the 1-0 win at Old Trafford on March 8 1924 made a poor campaign a memorable one, having picked up two massive successes against two giants of football history.

Many of the stories told by Carson are ones passed down from his mother.

She was not someone who was really interested in sport, although if it wasn’t for her, this story may not have been told.

The fact that Nelson were the first-ever English team to beat Real Madrid hasn’t always been well known.

If it wasn’t for Carson’s mother speaking out a few years ago, it could have remained that way.

“About 15 years ago, Arsenal beat Real Madrid in Spain and there was a story in the national newspapers and on TV about Arsenal being the first English team to beat Real Madrid in Madrid,” said Carson.

“There were some family pictures of my grandad that my mother had supplied to Nelson, and the chairman put the media in touch with my mother, and she told them that Arsenal weren’t the first team to beat Real Madrid away.

“It was Nelson.”

The story of Nelson FC beating Madrid and United away in the same season could have never been known, but thanks to Carson’s mother, the story lives on nearly a century later.