It has been 114 years to the day since a Salford priest scored five goals against Real Madrid in a 6-2 win for a team of trainee priests.
Father Edward Power, who was 22 at the time, lined up in a team of priests from the Royal English College in Valladolid against Madrid Football Club for a one-off match in April 28, 1907.
Madrid FC, who would be renamed Real Madrid in 1920, had just come off the back of a third straight Spanish Cup win and were known as the best team in Spain.
The Spanish champions scored in the first minute of the game in what they surely saw as a routine victory.
However, the Bolton-born Edward Power would ensure the hosts would not be in for an easy ride. Father Power scored a hattrick in the first half, two more in the second half and even had one disallowed with the priests coming out 6-2 victors.
The match report in La Correspondencia de España after the match was full of praise for the seminarians, stating: “The football played by the seminarians of Valladolid being one of study, precision and accuracy, it seems to all intents and purpose to have been learnt from a textbook.
“The seminarians did not waste a pass and all 11 players moved like one with one intelligence and one will controlling their every movement and thought.
“There is no doubt if this team played in the Spanish league, it would have won it for sure.”
Tony Flynn, a local historian, discovered the story in the Eccles Journal which recalled Father Power’s death in 1965 and mentioned the famous match, he did some digging for Salford Online.
He said: “I got in touch with the Salford Diocese and asked if they knew anything more about Edward Power. They gave me more information about his life and how he became an army chaplain, serving in the trenches in the First World War.
“I found this fascinating character and the more I looked into him, the more interesting he became.
“That was it really, it was quite a quirky story and attracted quite a bit of attention.
“Who knows how his life would have panned out, whether he was that great a footballer or were Madrid that bad a team? But he must have had some skills, Madrid were no slouches.”
From five-goal poacher to parish priest – Father Power’s life:
Father Edward was born in 1885 in Bolton and went to Spain for priest training in 1904. He was ordained in June 1910 at the age of 25 by the Archbishop of Valladolid. He then went to Chorlton in 1910, before going to Salford Cathedral until 1917.
Power served in the First World War as an army chaplain in the trenches for the final year of the war and was discharged from the army in 1920.
After the war, he returned to Lancashire as a curate, assisting priests in Ramsbottom in 1920 and Bury in 1923. He was also based in Swinton in 1923 and Moorside until he retired in 1940. He died at the age of 80 in 1965.
Father Linehan, who was in goal and captained the side to victory, was another priest who served in the First World War. He was based in Dardanelles, Mesopotamia and Gallipoli around the Mediterranean, and later became a priest in Salford too.
A reunion 50 years later:
Manchester United played Real Madrid in a European Cup game on April 25 1957, with the surviving priests invited to meet the players after the game. Father Power and Father Linehan were both in attendance.
Tony Flynn added: “It was nice when he was taken onto the pitch at Old Trafford in 1957 when Madrid came over, Real Madrid still remembered these priests that pummelled their football team.”
It was reported that Santiago Bernabéu, the President of Real Madrid at the time, who also played in the historic match 50 years before, said to Father Power: “That game changed the whole history of football in Spain by showing us how football should be played.”
When that group of priests stepped on to the pitch 114 years ago, they surely had no idea of the impact they would have on Spanish football, according to the words of Santiago Bernabéu.