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The year of 2 Evertons and a right of way through the middle of Anfield

Researching the history of football 100 years ago, there are some clubs that just seem to be boring, mundane and everyday, but some which sparkle with life.  Everton is one of the latter.

Not that the life was all good and jolly – rather as we look at football 100 or more years ago life at Everton seems to have been nothing but disputive, argumentative, and vitriolic.  If you think from reading past notes about Arsenal that we had our ups and downs, you should read the history of Everton.

So, the next match for Arsenal 100 years ago was Everton away in the next round of the FA Cup.   Everton had already been beaten by Woolwich 1-0 at home in the League in 1909/10 – only the second win of the season at that point, so there was some hope of at least getting a draw out of the game.

But Everton had pedigree and history, and had to be taken seriously.

They had entered the league in its first year as part of the Northern cabal that dominated the game – the cabal whose power remained until Arsenal finally broke it in their famous assault in 1919 (see the last article).

Everton had won the league in 1891 and then started a civil war that defined the club for years to come.  John Houlding was President of Everton, and like Henry Norris who took over Arsenal in 1910, he was a Unionist (the party that morfed into the Conservative and Unionist Party of modern times).

This was absolutely not the political party of the common man, nor even most of the middle classes who owned football clubs.  While the working man either had no vote or looked with interest at Labour, the middle classes tended to vote Liberal – and indeed the Liberal party had won the election at the start of 1910, and so formed the government.   The Unionists were the party of the landed gentry.

However unlike Norris, who simply poured his own money into football, Houlding was making a fortune out of Everton being the owner of the ground, and regularly jacking the rent up by huge amounts.  He had also awarded himself the exclusive right to sell food and drink in the ground.  He was, to use the common phrase, milking it.

But the fun really started when the man who owned all the land next door started building a road through the main Everton stand and proved he could legally do so, by showing the right of way documents.

At the time Everton were playing at Anfield (where ever that is) and the Committee accused the top dog of knowing that the right of way existed, and thus working in collusion with the neighbouring land owner to force the club to buy the land.  (A typical Unionist ploy).

Now Houlding pulled a trick that really ought to be writ large in every history of football.  It turns out that no one had registered the name “Everton” properly.  So he registered Everton F.C. and Athletic Grounds Ltd and then wrote to his buddies in the (even then) corrupt Football League to claim that this was the “real” Everton, and that they would now be taking on all the matches of that club.

There is no clear record of a Football League reply, which suggests that as usual everything was done behind closed doors, but almost immediately the old boy registered yet another club…  Liverpool F.C. and Athletic Grounds Ltd.

In 1892 Everton moved out of Anfield, and Liverpool moved in.

Everton appeared in the Cup Final in 1893, and 1897, losing both games, before winning the trophy in 1906 and being beaten again the following year.  As noted before, this was way ahead of Woolwich Arsenal, who had made the semi-final twice by 1910, but had gone no further.

The 1-0 home win earlier in the 1909/10 season gave Woolwich Arsenal a spot of hope, but the Cup record of Everton gave cause for concern.  Our main hope was that someone else might pop up with a digger and start to scrape out a right of way, halfway through the match.

You can read more about the history of Arsenal in 1910 in Making the Arsenal

(C) Tony Attwood 2010

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