Murmurs from the Mersey (February 10, 1900)

February 10, 1900
The poor are said to be especially kind to each other because of their misfortunes. By the same token, Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers should be on excellent terms indeed; they are both in hot water for the same offence – “poaching.”

The water is rather hotter for the “Livers” than for the Rovers. Liverpool has been fined £25, one of their directors, Mr. John McKenna (the vice chairman), has been suspended, and the chairman, Dr. Houlding – son of Alderman Houlding, J.P. – has been severely sensured by the Football Association as “particeps criminiz.” Whew!

William Houlding

The “crime” in which they shared was that of “approaching” Evans, of the Ilford club, without permission. Towards the end of last year, when the Liverpool defence was going “rocky,” Mr. McKenna went south “on a holiday.”

John McKenna

It was not exactly a suitable time for “holidaying,” and people put two-and-two together when the report spread that Evans had been solicited by a Liverpool agent. Ilford is in the South. But time passed; nothing more was heard of the matter; it was officially denied by Liverpool; and we accepted the denial.

Now the axe has fallen. The interim, of course, has been spent by Ilford in the accumulation of evidence. They did not, naturally, relish the idea of being robbed of their best back. And Evans himself was highly indignant.

He is, or was, a public school boy, or something of the sort; at any rate, an unadulterated amateur, with a detestation of professionalism as hearty as “Pa” Jackson’s.

And, of course, he rubbed it in when he had the chance,

Football is the only industry I know where a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work is considered by some people to be degrading!

I am glad that my old friend, Secretary Tom Watson, is not mixed up in the business. He had a close shave. He went to Scotland, and it was because of his insuccess that a more “discreet” agent went South – Mr. McKenna, the former secretary of the club. A noted “poacher” in his time, Secretary Watson has not done much in that line since he came to Liverpool.

He prefers to leave it to a man on the spot.

Times have changed since he went fourth “hunting for men,” and made som mant captives of his bow and spear for Sunderland.

The international agreement was not then in existence; the prohibition of “poaching” applied only to League clubs; they could and did prey upon other clubs unpunished.

But what scope is there for enterprise now when every club ground bears the signboard: “Notice. Trespassers will be prosecuted. By order.”

I am glad, I repeat, that Secretary Watson has not been caught climbing the fence. It would have spoilt his blameless record as a poacher. There would have been something horribly lowering in the spectacle of the Prince of Secretaries “nabbed” for approaching an unknown like Evans of Ilford.

Fancy Charles Peace run in for snatching a “wipe”: that would be a parallel case. Faugh!

Of course, it makes no difference to Liverpool who the agent was. They have been caught; they have been fined; they have been censured.

It is a lucky thing for them that they have not been suspended as well!
(Source: Lancashire Evening Post: February 10, 1900)

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