CLUB bosses say they are “gutted” — after new research revealed Turton FC may not be Lancashire’s oldest football club.

Academics have uncovered evidence of a team known as Hulme Athenaeum, which dates back to 1863, eight years before Turton FC was founded.

The club, which is believed to have been founded more than a decade before any organised football clubs in Manchester, folded in the 1870s.

Gary James, a member of the sports and leisure history group at Manchester Metropolitan University, discovered the team.

Mr James has been researching the period for more than 20 years and uncovered the story of Hulme Athenaeum through extensive research at archives across the country.

Dave Yates, vice-chairman of Turton FC, said: “I was gutted about it when I found out. I’m incredibly proud to be involved at this club and I feel this is a bit of a spoiler.

“I’m a bit cynical about this information. It seems amazing that, after all these years, a new Manchester-based team has been discovered.

“I’ve no problem accepting a group of lads getting together to play football, but I would like to see some evidence of how much of a ‘team’ they were.”

Because it was the only club in the area in the 1860s, Hulme Anthenaeum’s players were forced to travel to find opposition in Sheffield and elsewhere.

Although Hulme Athenaeum folded in the 1870s, many of its members went on to help form a second club, Manchester Association FC, and remained involved in football through subsequent teams in Manchester.

Mr James said: “The club was very much aimed at ordinary Mancunians, which was unusual for the time.

“In the 1870s several prominent football clubs, most notably Turton, were developing in Lancashire and there was a very vibrant football culture, with lots of teams playing against each other, but in the 1860s that didn’t exist yet.

“With a lack of local competition, Hulme couldn’t survive, and rugby remained the dominant sport in Manchester.

“Hulme’s story should not reduce the significance of Turton. Turton may not actually have been the first club, but they do remain very important pioneers in the development of the game.”

Turton FC’s former pitch in Chapeltown, now owned by Old Boltonians, is thought to be the oldest football ground in the world, having staged a match in 1830.