Chit chat with “Gideon Grump” (football agents beware)

March 20, 1899
The report that Southampton have been approaching Steve Bloomer has caused quite a panic in Liverpool football circles. I went round to Goodison Park the other morning, unaware of the news, and intending merely to have my usual weekly chat with Mr. Molyneux. To my surprise a small army of men were feverishly tarring the hoardings and letting in iron spikes at the top, interspersed with pieces of broken glasses; boards were being hung out conspicuously, labelled “Trespassers beware,” and the secretarial office bore the unsocial notice “No admittance except on business.”

I tried and found the door locked. After knocking for some time a small grated panel was slowly opened, and Mr. Molyneux peeped cautiously through the orifice. “Who’s that? Oh, it’s you, Grump, is it? Well, what do you want?” I explained. “Won’t you let me in, Mr. Molyneux?” “No, I can’t have people loitering about here. After what has happened we must be careful. How do I know you’re not a poacher, eh? A wolf in sheep’s clothing?” “A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Mr. Molyneux!” “Well, it does seem hard that honest men should be treated like rogues and I must confess that you are a harmless sort of chap” – confound his impudence – “but human nature, as you know, is fragile; the best of us are apt to succumb to temptation, and how am I to know that you are not a poacher, like the rest of them? Tell me that?”

Richard Molyneux, Everton F.C.

Indignation held me speechless. He went on, “Now, are you going to clear out? If you don’t I shall be compelled to use” – and here Mr. Molyneux produced a Colt’s revolver and inserted the gleaming barrel between the iron grating, at the same time clicking the hammers significantly. “You know I’m an old Bisley man, and I give you three seconds to make yourself scarce. One, two – “Would you murder me? I gasped. “No, I’ll do something far worse” – and his face wore a threatening expression. “Good heavens, man.” “Yes,” he scowled, and laughing cruelly, hissed the ominous words between his teeth, “I’ll stop the free pass!”

From Goodison Park I hurried round to Anfield Road, feeling sure of a different reception from my old friend, Mr. Tom Watson. Ah! I thought so. Mr. Watson had just run over from St. Annes, where the team were training, on a matter of business. He was in his office, the door of which was flung invitingly open, and I noticed none of the formidable preparations to resist poaching that were all too much in evidence at Goodison Park.

“Welcome, old man, welcome!” said Tom genially, “and how does the world wag? What’s fresh this morning, eh?” He can’t have seen it, I thought, and he shan’t, and I took up a paper and pretended to glance through its columns.

There was the fatal news in the most prominent part of the paper, double leaded, with a small plea headline: “Southampton approach Steve Bloomer. Sensation in football circles.” I felt sick, and must have turned pale, for Tom said. “Hullo? Something startling?” No, nothing,” and my trembling fingers tried to tear the wretched rag to pieces. “Hold on! What are you doing? Let me see that paper?”

Steve Bloomer, Derby County F.C.

The game was up. One glance, and he rushed to the door and shouted, “Bill, shut the gates.” Bill is the groundsman. “Are any of the men on the field?” “Yes, sir, three of ‘em, playing at leapfrog.” See that they are secured at once! Telegraph to Mr. McKenna to keep the rest of the team under lock and key at St. Annes. Well circumvent these poachers yet. And now, Mr. Grump, I’ll trouble you to leave the premises at once.”

I expostulated, feebly reminded him of our long acquaintance and of the unshaken faith we had in each other’s intergrity. I might as well have spoken to a post. “That’s all right,” he said, “but I have my employers’ interest to consider. I cannot allow the team to be tampered with. So be off!”

Tom Watson, Liverpool F.C.

And as I left the gates were thrown heavily to, and I heard the shooting of bolts and the rasping of locks, and I knew that Anfield Road would soon be in the same state of armed defence against the inroads of football agents as Goodison Park.
(Athletic News: March 20, 1899)


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