Prior to the formation of The Football League in 1888 there had been a kind of primordial soup of teams playing each other on an ad hoc basis, either in the FA Cup or in friendly fixtures.
The need for a more regular income stream became even more pressing when in 1885 the FA first allowed professionalism. So when William MacGregor of Aston Villa made his proposal to the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion he was pushing at an unlocked door, and things quickly progressed to the League's formation.
Commencing on 8 September 1888, twelve teams took part in the 22 game season, playing each other twice on the familiar home and away basis. Preston North End were crowned Champions on 5 January 1889 with three games still to play and they eventually won the League by eleven points from Aston Villa having not lost a single game. Following Villa were Wolves, Blackburn, Bolton, West Brom, Accrington (NOT Stanley!), Everton, Burnley, Derby, Notts County and Stoke.
In total there have only been 23 teams entitled to call themselves Champions of England (this compares with 42 teams that have won the FA Cup). Currently, Manchester United have the most League titles (Football League and Premier League combined) with 20.
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