Another two-games-and-done superstar today, though John Aitken, who made both of his appearances in 1895-96, can at least lay claim to an achievement that eluded Alf Ainsworth. He scored a goal! Hooray!
Newton Heath were in Division Two; it would be another seven years until the name was changed to Manchester United, ten until promotion to the top flight, and fifteen until the move to Old Trafford. Football was still in its formative days, which perhaps explains the one minor peculiarity of Aitken's brief career: he played two games, a mere three weeks apart, and yet both were against the same opposition, Crewe Alexandra, home and away in the league.
Things were more chaotic back then. Crewe were the first and fourth games of the season; the two games against Newcastle were a week apart; and they were bracketed on either side by the games against Liverpool. By contrast, the away game against Loughborough fell second in the season, on the 14th of September, but the reverse fixture wasn't played until the 4th of March. But if the fixture list was all over the place, United's results were disappointingly predictable. At Bank Street, they won 12 games out of 15; on the road, they lost 11, including a 7-1 gubbing away at eventual champions Liverpool. Eventually they finished a respectable, unexciting 6th.
Loughborough FC don't exist anymore: they were relegated from the Football League in 1899-00, failed in their bid for re-election, and were wound up soon afterwards. And there are a couple more names from that division who have been lost to the march of time. Burton Swifts and Burton Wanderers have both gone — they merged in 1901, then the resultant Burton United folded in 1910 — and so, too, have Darwen FC, one of the original northern professional sides. They slipped out of the Football League in 1899, though they kept going in regional football until 2009. Yet Liverpool are still with us? There's no justice.
Aside: Darwen have been succeeded by AFC Darwen, which means that British football has retained one of its finer nicknames: The Salmoners. And these days the good people of Burton have got an Albion to watch, though the downside is that they have to put up with a genuinely appalling crest, one of the worst in the country. Look at this thing. Designed by a five-year-old
As for Aitken, well, as you may have guessed from the muddle of tangential nonsense above, we don't know that much more. He was born in Dumfries in 1870, he was on the winning side in both of his Newton Heath games, and nobody seems to know when he died. Maybe he never did. Maybe he's out there still. Thinking about Crewe. Biding his time. Watching. Waiting.
John Aitken (1870 - unknown)
2 appearances (1895-96), 1 goal, 0 honours