ONE story that is perhaps not appreciated in the history of Merseyside sport is the early success of Sutton Harriers and their 1907 participation in a historic French running race.

Despite forming in 1899, Sutton Harriers, now known as St Helens Sutton Athletic Club, enjoyed a swift rise to success when they won the Northern Junior Championships in 1904, before eventually taking gold in the National Cross Country Championships two years later.

In the early 20th century, it was tradition that the reigning English National Champions would be invited over to France to race the French champions Stade Francais and the Parisian Athletic Club.

So when Sutton won in 1906, they travelled the following January in what is still the club’s most substantial moment.

The lavish trip saw the working-class men treated exceptionally, as they raced admirably for the Vie au Grande Air Cup, with over 10,000 Parisians lining the streets to watch.

Despite Stade Francais earning the team victory, Sutton’s Sammy Welding finished first individually, with teammate Joe Bailey taking second. Club figurehead at the time Bill Bailey came 10th overall.

Welding’s achievement put him right at the top of the best runners in Europe and he especially was greeted joyfully on his return to St Helens, with hundreds lining the streets to see the team and his individual trophy.

The chance to travel to France and be globally recognised among other world class runners put the club on the map and ensured a flood of national success soon followed.