100 years of soccer at Anfield

September 22, 1984
A remarkable milestone in the history of Merseyside soccer will be reached during the next few days … exactly 100 years of soccer at Anfield.

The first game on the Anfield Road ground took place on Saturday, September 28, 1884. Although the stadium is now associated word-wide with Liverpool Football Club, it was the proud new home of Everton a century ago.

Everton developed from the St. Domingo Church F.C. which was formed in 1878. For the first four years of its existence the club played in Stanley Park which had been opened in May, 1870.

The actual park pitch was situated at the Anfield Road end of the area between the Vernon Sangster Sports Centre and Arkles Lane.

The club members had to mark out the pitch before the game and to carry the goal posts from the park-keeper’s lodge. This was in Mill Lane at the end of the fine stone terrace which extends along the southern border of the park.

As the team became more successful the need arose to find a permanent ground. The team was attracting crowds of up to 2,000 but could not make any charges to spectators in a public park.

For the 1883-84 season the club were allowed to use a field in Priory Road adjacent to a large house named Coney Green, belonging to William Cruitt, a successful cattle salesman. The field is now covered by the eastern part of the Anfield Cemetery and a garage, with Stanley Park Comprehensive School occupying the site of Coney Green.

Unfortunately this move was not as successful as the Everton officials had hoped. The gate-money for the first game was only fourteen shillings and it proved to be a long walk from the then existing public transport.

However, by various fund-raising efforts and donations, the club was able to erect railings around the pitch, accommodation for both sitting and standing spectators, and a small dressing room for the players.

It was a blow when they were refused permission by Mr. Cruitt to continue using the new ground – apparently because he found the football crowds disturbed his domestic peace!

Everton were able to move to the Anfield Road ground, although it was described as being in Walton Breck Road, principally due to the efforts of their president, John Houlding.

He lived in Stanley House, which is a fine detached Victorian residence situated in Anfield Road opposite to Kemlyn Road and Skerries Road.

The house backs onto Stanley Park and overlooks the area where the St. Domingo Church team first played and may well explain why he became associated with the club.

Houlding, a brewer, owned two public houses including the Sandon Hotel, adjacent to Houlding Street, which was used as the headquarters of Everton Football Club.

The present ground, in fact, consisted of two fields belonging to the brothers, John and Joseph Orrell, who were also brewers.

John had built a house facing onto Anfield Road with a cottage and stables at the back extending on to the park present club car park.

The other field, which is the present pitch, and had been used as the cricket pitch, belonged to Joseph.

John Houlding arranged that he should be the club’s representative tenant. This was to prove to be a very crucial decision.

Humble stand.
The members and players worked extremely hard in developing the ground during the summer for the start of 1884-85 season. The pitch was railed off and a hoarding of boards was fixed upon the existing walls.

It is described that “the spectators stood on the intervening sods, a very humble stand crouncing on the east side for officials, members, pressmen and affluents.”

There was very little publicity given to the first game at Anfield and it seems to have taken place with no celebrations. The first visitors were Earlestown.

The teams were:
Everton: Lindsay (goal), Marriott, Morris (full backs), Pickering, Preston (half-backs), Richard, Parry (right wing), Gibson, Whittle (centre), McGill, Higgins (left wing).
Earlestown: Appleton (goal), R. Green, J. Green (backs), Duxbury, Barker, Whalley (half-backs), Holcroft, Rider, Ellison, Harrison, Ferguson (forwards).

Everton’s 2-2-6 formation may raise some eye-brows today among football managers but perhaps it led to what the average fan longs for – attractive football, and explained the overwhelming victory.

It was a particularly fine afternoon and after Everton had won the toss Earlestown kicked off at 3.50 p.m. There was said to have been a bumper crowd present but as this was given as only about 1,000 it gives some idea of the previous poor attendances at the Priory Road ground.

Earlestown attacked at the start of the game before Gibson shot against the Earlestown goalposts and Richards, following up, was able to cross the ball for Higgins to score the first ever goal at Anfield.

Shortly afterwards Gibson scored a second goal so that Everton were leading 2-0 after only ten minutes. Whittle put Everton further ahead just before the interval.

After the restart Everton laid siege to the Earlestown goal for long periods before Richards scored an excellent fourth goal. Whittle scored the fifth goal just before the end.

Everton went from strength at Anfield and became a founder member of the Football League in 1888.

However, in 1892, problems which had existed between the club and John Houlding for several years concerning the rent of the ground came to a head. Consequently Everton left Anfield and bought the field which became Goodison Park and “King John of Everton” was left to form his own team to play on Anfield – Liverpool Football Club.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: September 22, 1884, ; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited


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