At the turn of the millennium, one of the greatest football stories was born when the ‘smallest club’ to ever reach the top of the non-league pyramid secured promotion.

Leigh RMI, previously Horwich RMI, where they were based between 1896 and 1994/95, realised their previous ground Grundy Hill would not be suitable for the club’s lofty ambitions to climb the divisions.

The Leythers moved seven miles south of their former Horwich home to Leigh where they ground shared with Rugby League club Leigh Centurions at Hilton Park.

A supporters club said this following the controversial move: “Horwich’s traumatic move to Leigh involved a far greater leap than a mere six-mile journey south west. Unsigned boundaries were crossed. Horwich is football and Bolton Wanderers; Leigh is Wigan and  Rugby League.” 

At first the move appeared a success following two promotions in three seasons, and the club made a name for themselves by forcing Fulham to a replay in the second round of the FA cup in 1999 after drawing at Craven Cottage. Promotion to the Conference Premier occurred two years later, and the club managed to reach the fifth tier for the first time in their history, with average crowds of around 150 fans and just a £3,000 playing budget.

They finished fifth the following year but were relegated in the 2003/2004 season after finishing second from bottom. The club never really recovered from this moment, as the gates continued to fall, famously taking just one away fan to Dagenham. Chairman Dominic Speakman withdrew his financial backing from the club after a failed move to Leigh Sports Village left them without a home ground. 

Taking a year out from fixtures in the Northern Premier League Division One North (Level 9), the club re-launched the senior team under the name Leigh Genesis for the 2012-2013 season in the South Lancashire Counties Football League, a men’s Sunday League. Speakman had previously said he wanted Leigh in the Football League by 2013. The club still remains in the eleventh tier.

It’s fair to say it’s been a whirlwind century for Leigh so far, and unlikely that you’ll ever see a club get to the fifth tier and make the 1st round of the FA cup twice in four years with such limited resources and backing. They exceeded any expectations they could’ve possibly had, but did relocating to a rival town prevent the chance of any long term success?