In the spring of 1880, the FA announced they had selected T Brindle of Darwen at full back for England's matches against Scotland and Wales. He was originally only chosen to face Wales, but a withdrawal led to him playing both games. Darwen's first internationalist, he is pictured above, circled, in a Boy's Own Paper supplement of 1881.
Newspapers around the country duly reported T Brindle in the team lines, and every reference book since then has gone with that name; in fact, a number of who's who publications, histories and wikipedia describe him as Thomas (or Tom) Brindle.
The trouble is, Darwen did not have a player of that name.
Darwen team lines for matches around that time consistently list W Brindle at full back, including the famous 1879 FA Cup ties against Old Etonians which brought him to national attention. He played for Lancashire, and in September 1880 W Brindle was elected captain of Darwen. He continued to play for the club until 1882.
He was a top player, deserving of international recognition, and his name was actually William Brindle. He is a difficult man to research as there are few references to him in the press apart from match reports, but from what I can establish he was born in Darwen in 1853 and worked in a paper mill. In the 1871 and 1881 census he is living at Hollins Row in Darwen with his parents and younger sister but then disappears from census records.
However, I found a reference to him in the Paper Maker and British Paper Trade Journal of 1 September 1916, which says:
WILLIAM BRINDLE, who was so well known as one of the best full-backs in Association football, and who was a tower of strength to the Darwen Football Club, left the service of Messrs. Potter & Co., Hollins, a short time ago to seek his fortune in America as a paper maker, and has now taken full charge as manager of the Spring Lawn Mills, Pennsylvania.
Whether he returned from Pennsylvania or settled there, I have been unable to establish and I invite other researchers to come up with some answers.
The question has to be asked, how did the FA make the mistake in the first place? I can only guess that they were familiar with the Darwen club president Tom Hindle, a well-known football administrator and founder of the Lancashire FA, and somehow got the two mixed up.
It seems extraordinary that the mistake was never spotted and has been perpetuated for such a long time. Hopefully the records can now be amended, albeit 135 years late, to give William Brindle his place in English football history.