Football: Liverpool Story Part 2

When the Football League was founded in 1888, Anfield was one of League’s original grounds. On September 8th 1888 the very first Saturday of League football, Anfield welcomed as visitors Accrington to play not against the ‘Reds’, but the ‘Blues’ of Everton Football Club.

The blue and white quartered shirts of Everton FC made quite a name for themselves at Anfield winning the League Championship in 1891, but this is to run ahead slightly. Both teams owe their existence to a Reverend Chambers of the then newly constructed and now, totally demolished, church - St Domingo, and to John Houlding - Tory MP and Mayor of Liverpool who ultimately caused Everton FC to leave Anfield and who created Liverpool Football Club.

St Domingo’s football team was a strictly amateur affair created amid the belief that young lads could better be kept on the path of religious well-being through a healthy passion for competitive team games. After only a year or so of enthusiastic play in Stanley Park, they renamed themselves Everton Football Club in honour of the location of their founding church.

The St Domingo’s team met however not at Church, but the Queen’s Head Hotel in Village Street adjacent to “Ye Anciente Everton Toffee House”. From this Everton F.C. gained their curious nickname of “The Toffees”. In adopting the name Everton, the team ensured that they would permanently struggle to be located with confidence by those from outside of the city and lead to Royalty asking “Tell me, from which part of the country is the city of Everton?” nearly a century later.

The fledgling Everton played in a number of locations but settled in a greenfield site between Anfield Road and Walton Breck Road. So was born one of the great names in world football - Anfield. The team prospered and became financially sound with astute guidance from their President Mr John Houlding. John Houlding was a brewer, local council member and later Mayor of Liverpool.

Despite this he has become a largely forgotten figure in the city, although a bronze plaque outside the Directors’ Lounge in Anfield and a fine oil portrait hanging within the Club museum preserve his likeness.

For a man responsible for the development of Everton and the creation of Liverpool Football Club, it is amazing how little he is remembered. There are however a few landmarks in the area where Houlding was known as “King John of Everton”. The very short ‘Houlding Street’ has on it’s corner the ‘Sandon’ pub. This pub was once owned by Houlding and he led many meetings of Everton Football Club from here in the bowls pavilion that existed to the rear. The place was also used as a dressing room by the players for many years. Both Everton and later Liverpool football teams were first photographed in front of this bowls pavilion.

It can be questioned whether Everton would have been one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888 without Houlding’s assistance. He brought Everton to Anfield in 1884. They previously rented a little field in Priory Road, north of Stanley Park, but they were unwelcome because of the noisy crowds on match days.

So Houlding went to his friend and fellow brewer, Mr. Orrell, who owned a place in Anfield Road and conducted the business to get a new home ground. But it was from this point on that criticism of the club President started to grow from some members of the Everton board, building up to a crisis in 1892.
It was not the rent alone that annoyed the board members. Houlding also wanted only his sparkling ales to be sold at the ground, and he of course profited very considerably from this arrangement. However it was still John Houlding that helped the club out when they need money to buy players and rebuild the ground.

The Sandon’s use as dressing room was an arrangement that really only suited Houlding as he again benefited from his players drinking his products. A letter in the Liverpool Echo in January 1892 suggested that Houlding didn’t want the club to move out of the pub.
The writer says: “It’s a disgrace that at a big club such as Everton, players have to walk through hordes of people on match days.”

The conflict on how the club should be managed and conduct its business came to a to a head in 1889-90. The rent at Anfield went up again. Everton FC paid 100 in 1884. By 1889-90 Houlding was charging them 250. Houlding had many practical and realistic solutions on how they could solve this situation. One was to transform Everton into a plc. On the 15th of September 1891 he chaired a meeting about the issue.

to be continued