It is the summer of 1887 and the Everton team pose, at the Sandon, with the trophy they had just won after beating Oakfield Rovers by five goals to nothing. Two of these goals had been scored by a man, sitting left of the centre row, who has recently moved to Merseyside from Scotland. His name is George Spink Fleming and he is destined to etch his name in to the record books of Everton Football Club.
Written by: Tony Onslow.
George Fleming, along with his twin sister Jemima, was born on the 4th of November 1859 in the Forfarshire town of Arbroath. His Father is the owner of a Grocery Store that is situated at 72, Marketgate. The 1881 census tells us that the family has moved to number 80 Marketgate and George, now age 22, lists his occupation as that of a Bank Clerk. He is also playing football for the leading club the area.
The above photograph, taken 1882, shows the Arbroath football team in their recently acquired Maroon shirts. George Fleming is clearly depicted sitting in the middle row. The local newspaper tells us that he had begun playing football, on High Common, for Arbroath High School before taking part in the first match, played by the present Arbroath club, against Our Boys (Dundee), at Woodville. The club later moved to their present home, at Gayfield, in 1882. On the 15th of November 1884, at this location, Arbroath took on Rangers in the fourth round of the Scottish FA Cup. The Glasgow side, from the start, tore into their opponents and quickly built up a 3-0 lead. Marshall then pulled back a goal back and George Fleming, shortly before the break, made the score 3-2. The Glasgow giants, who were reduced to ten men, now began to struggle. Arbroath curtsey of Crawford, then drew level, and amid scenes of tremendous joy, took a 4-3 lead which they held until the final whistle. At the close of the game Rangers took exception to the width of the Gayfield pitch holding that it was not the required width and, after much measuring, decide to lodge a protest. The Scottish FA found in their favour, and ordered the game to be re-played at Arbroath. Rangers won by eight goals to one.
George Fleming, during the summer of 1885, then left Arbroath to take a job at the Bank of Liverpool where he would spend the rest of his working life. He has also joined Everton Football Club.
George Fleming made his Everton debut, 22-08-1885, against Darwen at Anfield and first scored for the club, five weeks later, against Rossendale. He took part in the famous Liverpool Cup tie, away at Bootle, when the number of spectators was recorded, for the first time on Merseyside, at being over five figures. Fleming also took part in the game against Glasgow Rangers, drawn as an FA Cup tie, where Everton scratched to allow him, and other ineligible players, to take part in the game. He ended his first season on Merseyside by helping Everton to win the local knockout.
He rejoined the Everton club next season and took part in the marathon FA Cup tie, which led to their suspension, against Bolton Wanderers. Fleming remained with Everton through out the rest of a rather uneventful season and was on the club register when they became founder members of the new Football League. He represented them in the opening fixture against Accrington.
The match took place at Anfield and it attracted a crowd, the largest of the day, of over 12,000 people. George Fleming took up position in the home forward line. The game had been in progress for about an hour when George Farmer crossed the ball to Fleming who headed himself in to the record books by becoming the man to score the first goal, for Everton Football Club, in a Football League match. He then added a second as they won the game 2-1. Fleming, nevertheless, made only three more appearances for Everton before being replaced by Edgar Chadwick who had joined them from Blackburn Rovers. George Fleming, it was reported, then joined Gorton Villa before returning to Everton where he became a member of club committee. In May 1891 he tendered his resignation to concentrate on his career within the banking industry.
He is missing from 1891 census so, it must be assumed, that he was lodging somewhere in Liverpool. George Fleming next appears in the record books when, on the 17th of July 1900, he married Margaret Crawford at the church of St John in Waterloo. His wife, who resides at 40 Great Mersey Street, is the daughter of a Scottish born Iron Foundry owner who employs over one hundred people.
The 1901 census finds the couple living at 33 Cavendish Road, Crosby where they employ one servant while the 1911 census lets us know that they have moved 59 Winstanley Road, Waterloo and they now have two sons. David, who is nine years old and Noel who is one. However, the census does not reveal that the head of the household suffering from ill health and he died, on the first of April 1912, at his residence. George Fleming, who scored the first Football League goal for Everton Football Club, was later buried at Anfield cemetery in Liverpool.
Additions to the article:
In the Arbroath Herald on the 12th April, 1912 – the information about his death was published.
As we can see in his native town George was known as ‘Joe Fleming’. One week later on 19 April – the same paper published his obituary.