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I've gathered from an earlier question that Gryffindor probably played the final game of the season during Philosopher's Stone with six players. Amflare found this helpful quote:

"Now, listen here, you lot," [Wood] said, glowering at them all, "we should have won the Quidditch Cup last year. We’re easily the best team. But unfortunately, owing to circumstances beyond our control..."
Harry shifted guiltily in his seat. He had been unconscious in the hospital wing for the final match of the previous year, meaning that Gryffindor had been a player short and had suffered their worst defeat in three hundred years.
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 7, Mudbloods and Murmurs).

Wood's response when Professor McGonagall introduces Harry to him also heavily suggests that at that point Gryffindor had no Seeker at all.

"Potter, this is Oliver Wood. Wood - I've found you a Seeker."
Wood's expression changed from puzzlement to delight.
"Are you serious, Professor?"
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 9, The Midnight Duel).

McGonagall surely wouldn't have bothered to show Harry to Wood if Gryffindor already had a Seeker in place, even if Harry was uncommonly good. Common courtesy would demand that that Seeker should be given at least a game in which to prove themselves before Harry was given a chance. Furthermore, Wood is delighted and disbelieving when McGonagall tells him that she has uncovered a Seeker. Not a good Seeker (she hasn't told him how talented Harry is yet), just a Seeker. All of this suggests that Wood was totally desperate because he hadn't appointed a Seeker and that Harry was the answer to his prayers.

Am I correct in this assessment? If I am then why did Gryffindor not have a Seeker already?

Players are appointed through trials at the start of the year. Wood had two vacancies to fill: Seeker and Chaser. We know that he appointed Katie Bell at the trials that year. If Wood appointed Bell through the trials why didn't he also appoint a Seeker? It's the most important position on the team, after all. A team without a Seeker may as well not bother turning up. We know that Wood was replacing a very talented Seeker in Charlie Weasley so his standards were probably quite high. But surely any captain would prefer to have a poor/average Seeker than no Seeker at all?

Why didn't Gryffidor already have a Seeker in place by the time Harry joined the team?

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    Harry and Katie Bell are not in the same year - Harry was the first 1st year "in a century" to be appointed to a team. She was in her second year in PS - where is the info that he appointed her / there was a vacancy at Chaser coming from? – NKCampbell Sep 29 '17 at 14:14
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    Minor point: I think the fact that McGonagall hadn't mentioned Harry's talent is irrelevant. Wood likely would have taken her introduction as an indication of said talent-- she's the head of Gryffindor House and has a known interest in winning the Quidditch Cup. – PlutoThePlanet Sep 29 '17 at 14:14
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    If no one goes out for the position then youve got no seeker. Not that hard to peice together. We see tryouts in later books as a massive affair but thats because of people trying to get close to Harry. – Himarm Sep 29 '17 at 14:25
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    @NKCampbell Well spotted! I'd got my facts confused. Katie is a second year in PS, so was appointed the year before. – The Dark Lord Sep 29 '17 at 14:40
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    @NKCampbell Actually, I was half-right. Katie and Harry were in different years but joined the team at roughly the same time. She's a second year in PS (as she's still around in HBP) so in order to keep the no first year rule she must have joined that year, not the year before. – The Dark Lord Sep 29 '17 at 15:39
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Harry was identified by McGonagall prior to the trial:

Note, in his welcome speech, Dumbledore states:

"Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of term"

On Thursday of his second week*, when Harry snatches the Remembrall from Malfoy and is taken by McGonagall, he thinks:

"Professor McGonagall was sweeping along without even looking at him; he had to jog to keep up. Now he'd done it. He hadn't even lasted two weeks"

The situation with Madame Hooch's class and Harry occurred within the first two weeks of term, prior to the trials. Thus, McGonagall 'found' their seeker, and nobody was displaced since Charlie Weasley had graduated.

There was later ample time and opportunity for practice since the season doesn't start until mid-November.

* Further details on days:

"Friday was an important day for Harry and Ron. They finally managed to find their way down to the Great Hall without getting lost"

and Hagrid writes to Harry:

"Harry, I know you get Friday afternoons off, so would you like to come and have a cup of tea with me around three? I want to hear all about your first week."

In the next chapter "The Midnight Duel" we are told that flying lessons start on Thursday. Given that we have already been shown the previous full week, the next Thursday in question must be in the second week of term. We can then assume that Quidditch trials are on Saturday or Sunday. Thus - Harry is identified on the Thursday prior to the trials.

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    This is a great observation, and it makes a lot of sense. But how do we know that the trials hadn't already been held on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of that week? Dumbledore just says "the second week" without specifying when. – The Dark Lord Sep 29 '17 at 15:34
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    It makes sense that it was on the weekend for a couple of reasons: 1) scheduling - would they really schedule extracurricular tryouts during a time when people should be in class? What about students that don't have days off (Harry and Ron have Friday, but that doesn't mean other students have the same time off during the school week) 2) We've seen trials (later of course, but nonetheless) - in HBP, the Gryffindor trial is held on a Saturday according to Ron – NKCampbell Sep 29 '17 at 15:39
  • @NKCampbell I consider all your points in 1 to be invalid as these are concerns real school teams face and deal with and manage to have practice and events during the week. Not that your answer is wrong. Just the comment is faulty. – jpmc26 Sep 29 '17 at 21:19
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    @jpmc26: Hogwarts is a boarding school. You don't have to fit tryouts into a weekday, because everyone's around on the weekend too. That early in the school year (near the equinox), sunset is still late enough that you could have trials after classes end for everyone, so it wouldn't be impossible to do it in late afternoon/early evening. But without artificial lighting, any later would be right out. – Peter Cordes Oct 1 '17 at 4:03

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