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The footballers who dared to play for Liverpool and Everton

The footballers who dared to play for Liverpool and Everton

When footballer Tom Wyllie became the first player to sign for Liverpool, he helped to spark one of football's great controversies against his old team Everton

In his new book, Crossing the Park: The Men Who Dared to Play for Both Liverpool and Everton, football historian and writer Peter Kenny Jones casts a spotlight on the players who have played for both clubs on either side of Stanley Park and the Merseyside Derby.

This extract covers the story of Tom Wyllie, known as the first player to officially sign for Liverpool and scorer in the first Merseyside derby – a game that was full of huge controversy.

Tom Wyllie—Liverpool’s first player

Stat card for footballer Tom WyllieTom Wyllie was Liverpool's first signed player, who famously put Liverpool ahead of his old team Everton at the Merseyside Derby

His stay at both clubs was brief but was again silverware-laden, as he followed up Everton’s First Division title with a Lancashire League triumph with Liverpool. However, Wyllie’s golden Merseyside day was easily during the first Merseyside derby.

The attacker had enjoyed a solid maiden and solitary Liverpool campaign, but it was to culminate in the Liverpool Cup Final. It was a game shrouded in controversy after Everton appeals over inept refereeing displays, something that will come up in later Merseyside derbies too!

The first Merseyside Derby

The first derby between Everton and Liverpool took place on 22 April 1893 at Bootle’s ground on Hawthorn Road, in front of 10,000 people. Everton were in the First Division and thus considered more likely to win, but John Houlding was out to prove that he had built the best team in the city once again.

The golden moment for Wyllie was to come just after the half-hour mark. John Miller found his Scottish team-mate, who fired the ball low into the back of Dick Williams’s Everton net. Wyllie had put his new team ahead against his old.

"Wyllie had put his new team ahead against his old"

The controversy was to follow as Herbie Arthur, from Blackburn Rovers, who had been handed the difficult job of refereeing the match, denied the Blues a penalty.

It had been a heated affair, with silverware, bragging rights and the determination to either upset or reward John Houlding all acting as obvious reasons for both sets of players to be determined to claim victory.

Controversy

The match remained tight after Wyllie’s opening goal and in the final moments Everton were awarded a corner.

As the ball looped in, a goal-line scramble ensued before the whole Blue side of the city appealed for a penalty after an apparent handball by a Liverpool defender.

By all accounts, Arthur lost control of the match and, after consulting his two linesmen, he decided on the bizarre conclusion that a drop ball should be given for the debated infringement.

"Arthur decided on the bizarre conclusion that a drop ball should be given for the debated infringement"

Liverpool managed to get their boot to the ball first and, as it was cleared up the pitch, the full-time whistle was blown.

That was far from the end of the drama though. A beaming Houlding was readying to parade the trophy on a four-horse-drawn carriage from the ground to the Sandon, but he wasn’t permitted the chance to gloat in front of his old colleagues.

Pete Goodison stood at Everton stadiumPeter Kenny Jones, author of Crossing The Park, outside Everton Football Club

Official appeal

Everton were so appalled by, as reported by the Cricket and Football Field, the "general incompetency of the referee" that they didn’t allow for the trophy ceremonies to begin.

They were convinced that either Duncan McLean or Matt McQueen had handled the ball. The ambiguity over which man had done it didn’t exactly help their claims, but their complaints didn’t allow for the trophy to be given out.

The Liverpool FA met the following Monday to agree on what should be done, with there still being no official winner decided. It was a unanimous decision inside the Neptune Hotel in Clayton Square, where the Reds were named the winners.

Andrew Hannah was handed both the Lancashire League trophy and Liverpool Cup, before Houlding could proudly and finally display them inside the Sandon.

Stolen trophy

The willingness of the Conservative Party member to show off his riches in the middle of the city was rewarded in quite an unsavoury manner, with both trophies being stolen.

In September 1893, as reported by Daily News, "burglars forced open the door of the shop with a jemmy, and took away the prizes, which are of considerable value".

The trophies had been stolen from a pawnbrokers, where they were stored, in Paddington, Liverpool. With the police unable to find the culprits, Houlding had to fork out £127 (around £13,000 in today’s money) to replace the two trophies.

"The trophies had been stolen from a pawnbrokers, where they were stored"

As for Wyllie, he stayed in the Lancashire League and moved to Bury. Liverpool’s eventual relegation from the First Division was ultimately decided by the Scot’s new club, as their victory over the Reds in a test match (play-off) in April 1895 saw Bury promoted in place of the Anfield club.

Wyllie played two seasons in the First Division before moving to Bristol City. When he retired from football he became a newsagent in Bedminster, Bristol, then became an insurance agent, before his death in Glasgow in 1943.

Courtesy of "Old Liverpool FC in Colour". Liverpool squad picture 1892/93–featuring Andrew Hannah (back row three in from the left), Duncan McLean (back row three in from the right) and Tom Wyllie (front row far left)

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