The Forgotten Blue of Ruhleben Prison Camp

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, her ally Germany immediately closed her borders to prevent all British nationals from leaving the country. The date was June the 28th, 1914. They were then rounded up and placed in a civilian internment camp at Ruhleben race course on the outskirts of Berlin. Amongst them were several former professional footballers who, prior to the outbreak of war, had been helping to improve the standard of play at several German football clubs. It has been believed, by the certain historians, that three of these individuals had once played football with Everton before accepting a coaching position in Germany. There was however, a fourth who, unlike his former teammates, was the holder of Football League Championship winners’ medal. Perhaps the two most noted of the footballers, held at Ruhleben, were England internationals Steve Bloomer and Fred Spikesley. The latter had won a Football League championship medal with The Wednesday club of Sheffield. The three former...
Read More

 Archibald Leitch – The Man Who Shaped Goodison Park

At the start of the 20th Century, Goodison Park was arguably, England’s premier football stadium. Today, for better or worse, it is one of the most historic in the land. As you sit in your seat and look across the famous “Old Lady”, two of the stands you see can be credited to Archibald Leitch — stadium designer extraordinaire. Glasgow-born Leitch was an architect specialising in the design of industrial buildings when he was commissioned to design a new 80,000-capacity Ibrox Stadium for Rangers, the club he supported.  The resulting stadium was spectacular but tragedy struck in 1902 when fatalities resulted from a section of wooden terracing collapsing at an international fixture. As a safety measure, Leitch’s subsequent terrace designs were based on raised earthworks. In spite of the Ibrox disaster, Leitch remained very much in-demand. He was engaged south of the border in the early 1900s at the likes of Craven Cottage and Anfield Road where he then created the terracing for...
Read More

Nat, King of Goals…and Bowls

As with many players at Goodison in the 1930s, Jimmy “Nat” Cunliffe’s achievements are overshadowed by the Everton giant that is W.R. Dean. Yet his life in sport was a remarkable one. Plucked from non-league football Jimmy went on to win international honours. Not content with this, he subsequently embarked on enjoy a highly successful career in another sporting arena. Born James Cunliffe on 5 July 1912 to Mary and Peter (a coal miner), Jimmy grew up in Blackrod – a small settlement close to the current location of Bolton Wanderers’ stadium. Upon leaving school he started an apprenticeship as a plater in the boiler-making section of the nearby Horwich Locomotive Works.  The young man excelled at cricket, football and crown green bowls, confiding, years later, to the journalist Stork that most of his friends rated him as a better cricketer than footballer. In one season he had a bowling average of seven but preferred to pursue a career in football,...
Read More

Neville Southall – The Winding Road from Winsford to Goodison

A version of this article was previously published in When Skies Are Grey, the digital Everton Fanzine. The WSAG team are offering a discounted subscription rate to ToffeeWeb readers for a limited period via this link.  George Rooney was a boyhood Blue, growing up off Mere Lane and, later on, in Knowsley. The full-back represented Liverpool Schoolboys and joined Everton as an apprentice in 1962. Coming through the ranks with him at Goodison had been the likes of Gerry Glover, John Hurst, Tommy Wright, Jimmy Husband and Aiden Maher.Released by Everton after two years George joined Coventry City under Jimmy Hill but promptly suffered a broken leg. Laid up back home on Merseyside, George was lent Jimmy Husband’s extensive Buddy Holly record collection to listen to during his convalescence. George recalls what a great prospect Husband had been as a teenager: ‘Jimmy was a lovely lad and a hell of a player. He made such an impact when he got in the...
Read More

Charlie Leyfield – Everton, Wales and England

Charlie Leyfield had a long association with Everton as a player and trainer. He also can claim the unique distinction of being trainer to both the England and Wales national teams. Charlie was born on 30 October 1911 just south of the River Dee in Chester, the eldest of seven children. Attending Handbridge's St Mary's School, he excelled at football — initially as a centre-half and inside-forward but later as a fast, direct winger capable of going down the outside or cutting in. This led to selection for Chester Schoolboys representative team at the age of 13. Promoted to captain the following season, he was signed by leading local amateur side, Brickfield Athletic. Three appearances for, then, non league Chester FC followed, including in an FA Cup victory over Rhyl. Gifted with his hands, Charlie was a capable artist and, away from football, as apprenticed as a joiner to Cartmel Brothers in Willaston. On the pitch he became the first junior player...
Read More

The Lost Professional of Everton FC

It has now been a long accepted fact that both George Dobson and George Farmer were the first two players to be employed as professional footballers by Everton Football Club. However, it is quite possible to believe that the same gratuities offered to these two players might well have extended to reach a third man. His name was Job Wilding and he came from Wrexham. Both Dobson and Farmer first came to Liverpool during the Easter of 1885 and, having had a trail period with Everton, were invited to return to the club next season. Dobson returned alone and took up residence, but Farmer, who did likewise, almost certainly arrived back on Merseyside accompanied by Job Wilding. Both men, in course of the previous season, had played international football for Wales. Wilding and Farmer had made their international debut, 14 March 1885, against England in a match that was played on the Leamington Ground in Blackburn. The visitors proved a match for...
Read More

The Good Doctor of Everton

When William Baxter moved to Liverpool from Clitheroe, he opened his own business, as a Chemist and Druggist, at 259 Great Homer Street in Liverpool. Some years later he married a local girl with whom he began to raise a family. James Clement Baxter, the second child to bless this union, was born in 1857. He attended his local school, dedicated to St Frances Xavier, where he proved to be a bright pupil. He quickly moved on to the school's college, run by the Jesuit Order, from where he won a place to study medicine at the King and Queens University in Dublin and qualified on 6 February 1879, to practice medicine. James Baxter, having returned to his native town, set up a consulting room, along with his cousin Austin Hughes, at 102 Robson Street in Everton. Six months later, he married the daughter of an Irish born Merchant who was now established as Liverpool Cotton Dealer. The lady of his choice...
Read More

The First Everton Scot

The Life and Times of an Everton Goalkeeper It was the winter of 1880 and the football players of Everton were trouping off their pitch on Stanley Park having just been soundly beaten by the parishioners of St John's Church in Bootle. Later that year they were approached by a young Scotsman who, having just moved in to the area, asked them if he might be allowed to join them in their “kick about” matches on the park. The Everton players agreed and welcomed him in to the fold. The new arrival then commenced to demonstrate his considerable football skills to the Everton players who quickly offered him the role of both club captain and coach. The newcomer's name was Jack McGill. The newspapers of the time state that McGill was an ex-Rangers player while John Keats, the famous Everton historian, tell us he was born in Ayrshire.  This however, is not correct. John McGill first saw the light of day, 25...
Read More

In Search of John Houlding

This article is not intended to either praise or condemn John Houlding for the role he played in the decision made by Everton Football Club to move away from Anfield. It is merely an effort to try and throw some light on this "larger than life" character who played a big part in the establishing the game of Association Football in his home town of Liverpool. Local records reveal that John Houlding was baptised on 4th August 1833, at St Martin-in the-Field church and that he was the second of three sons born to Thomas Houlding, a cow keeper, and his wife Alice.  The family resided at 19 Tenderden Street where the income from Thomas Houlding's occupation enabled him to provide his children with a good standard of education and a comfortable home in which to live. The 1851 census revealed that John Houlding was still living in Tenderden Street where, along with his younger brother William, he listed his occupation as...
Read More

International Football arrives on Merseyside – Tony Onslow  

The first international football match to take place on Merseyside occurred on the 24th of February 1883 where England took on an Irish side who were making their first excursion to mainland Britain. The match was arranged under the guidance of the FA secretary Charles Alcock who decided to stage the game on the new home of Liverpool Cricket Club at Aigburth. He had attended Harrow Public School and would have been acquainted, through the “Old Boy” network, with other Old Harrovians who lived on Merseyside. One such person was Percy Bateson. Born locally in 1862, Percy was the son of wealthy cotton broker who had, on leaving Harrow School, become acquainted with the association game while attending Edinburgh University. On returning home he played firstly for Bootle before becoming the secretary of the present day football club on its formation in 1882 which played under the name of Liverpool Ramblers. Alcock was based in London and would have certainly needed...
Read More