November 11, 1899
Liverpool’s ambition to be the first to spoil the beautiful symmetry of Sheffield United’s League record, laudable though it be, must now be classes under the list headed “unreliable.” Those surprise – I mean memorable victories over Notts County and Manchester City had aroused the waning confidence of the Liverpool boys, and not a few of them looked upon the Blades as likely to furnish easy if unwilling victims.
Then again, the task set Liverpool was made, comparatively speaking, much easier by reason of the absence of Ernest Needham and Walter Bennett. Deprived as United were of Needham’s services, Liverpool knew for a certainty that they would have to face the regulation eleven, and not twelve men, for it is a well-known fact that with Needham in the team United are looked upon as playing twelve and not eleven men.
Not a few enthusiasts go even further, and aver that with Needham in the team the United can be looked upon as playing six forwards, four half-backs, and three backs, or thirteen in all. This is really too bad of Needham. Why, if he is playing half-back, should he interfere with the forwards and back divisions? Shame, I say! But Needham or no Needham, the United Blades refused to be blunted, and gave quite as much as they received.
But after all is said and done, can it be looked upon as otherwise than good business to take a solitary point out of the leaders of the League tourney? I think not. No other club has hitherto managed to go one better, and as Liverpool can hardly look upon themselves as the first club in the land, they cannot surely fee downhearted at their failure to annex the maximum number of points. Half a loaf is better than none at all, and Liverpool should feel thankful for small mercies. What little there was between the teams was in favour of Liverpool, and on the form displayed they should not be long in working their way clear of the crowd congregated at the foot of the League ladder.
Despite the excellent show of the Anfielders against Sheffield United. I am still of opinion that the team at present representing them can be greatly strengthened. There is a great and apparent weakness in the full-back division, and the sooner it is strengthened, the better for Liverpool’s goal record. Both goals were directly traceable to weak play of the backs, and whilst I am perfectly aware of the fact that Billy Dunlop in form is as good a left back as any in the League. I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that taken as a whole the Liverpool back division is a weak and ineffective machine. At half-back there is little or no fault to find, but forward something might be done to place things upon a first-class fighting footing. This is, of course, much easier said than done. First-class forwards, like angels’ visits, are few and far between; but I sincerely hope that at least a couple of first-class men will be netted ere long, as it is a patent to the veriest novice that the present crowd could be greatly strengthened by the judicious admixture of a little new blood.
The team is, I admit, strong enough to beat the majority of League clubs, but we want a team that will go further than that and at last equal the performances of last season’s Liverpool team, and that is what we have not got.
Much has been said and much written in the Liverpool v Sheffield United League match. Exception has been taken to the legality of the second goal obtained by Tom Robertson, and Mr. Barker has given us his views upon the matter, through the medium of a sporting contemporary. Mr. Barker gives his reasons for allowing the goal, and they are, to say the last about them, strange, not to say peculiar. I think I know a little about the offside rule, and with all due deference to Mr. Barker, I must candidly admit that in my estimation Robertson, when he received the ball preparatory to scoring the goal, was at least twenty yards offside. Mr. Barker must have peculiar notions regarding the offside rule, as immediately preceding Robertson’s goal he twice pulled up that worthy for offside when to nine out of ten people present the man was yards onside. But then, of course, different people have different opinions about the offside rule, and perhaps it is just as well.
(Lancashire Evening Post: November 11, 1899)