Liverpool FC’s Founding
On the 12th of March 1892, President of Everton John Houlding, and Everton Football Club went their separate ways. Many issues surrounded the split, most importantly regarding Everton’s rent at Anfield and Houlding’s apparent desire to make the greatest profit out of the club. Houlding had helped Everton make great strides in their development, helping them get into the Football League as well a playing a massive role in moving the club from Priory Road to Anfield. Problems however arose with Everton board members about the level of personal profit Houlding was making from the club. The Sandon Pub was owned by Houlding and was used by the Everton players and fans. Houlding’s ales were the only drinks allowed to be sold at the ground and to the players and this certainly grew hostility among the local press.
This was the context for the dispute over the rent. Houlding wanted to sell the ground and surrounding land to Everton and make the club a PLC but the board members felt that the price was too high. Houlding felt that the ground would pay for itself over time and that it would be a great way of developing the club further. He did not want to see the club go under and felt an interest free loan to buy the land would suit all parties. The board however felt that such a sale was only in Houlding’s interest to maximise profit and a long term rent deal was really better for the club. For this to be workable in Houlding’s eyes, rent had to be set at a high price, over double what it was a decade before, something Everton board members flatly refused to pay.
On March 12th 1892, Houlding unexpectedly turned up to a board meeting chaired by an opponent George Mahon who offered his seat to the President. Houlding, feeling he had lost the battle for control, exclaimed “I’m here on a trial, and a criminal never takes the chair,” and left with 19 other members. The vast majority of the board and the players however left to build a new ground north of Stanley Park.
So what were Houlding and his allies going to do with an empty ground? The solution was to found a new club but it was not initially called Liverpool FC. Two months previous in January 1892, already knowing that a split was inevitable, Houlding had attempted to set up a ‘new’ Everton under the name “Everton Football Club and Athletic Grounds Company plc,” registering the name in London on the 26th January. He hoped to steal the name away from the ‘old’ Everton due to the fact they were not a plc company. The attempt was not successful though as a Football Council meeting in early February declared there could not be two clubs with the same name in the league.
So on the day of the split of 12th March, at Houlding’s home on Anfield Road, Houlding’s friend William E. Barclay suggested the name of Liverpool. Barclay was Houlding’s first secretary at Everton and the former president agreed to his suggestion, after failing to acquire the name Everton FC. Barclay became the first secretary of the newly formed Liverpool Football Club but he was one of the few who had made the switch from Everton to Liverpool. Most of Everton’s board and players stayed loyal to the Toffees and Houlding & Barclay had to start all over again from the beginning with new players and backroom staff. An entire club had to be formed but what helped was the name they adopted. “Liverpool” encompassed the entire city, and they utilised local representations including the Liverbird emblem and the city’s colour red. On the footballing side, an Irishman John McKenna stayed loyal to Houlding and he built an entire new team.
As a manager and administrator, McKenna utilised a £500 loan from Houlding to purchase 12 Scottish players. His knowledge of the game brought in some talented footballers from north of the border and the club were denoted the “Team of all the Macs” due to the surnames of the players. McKenna was a tremendously important person in the club’s genesis, and he would later become President of the Football League and Vice-President of the FA.
Liverpool’s initial application to the Football League was rejected and they started off life in the Lancashire league. Their first match at Anfield was played on the 1st September 1892 in a friendly against Rotherham which they won 7-1. Unfortunately few people turned up to watch the match compared to the 10,000 who watched Everton on the same day. The team was not deterred on the pitch though as two days later they beat Higher Walton 8-0 in their first competitive match in the Lancashire league. In their first season they won the League title, the Liverpool District Cup and the Reserve Cup, an impressive treble considering they had only been in existence for a short period of time.
It would not be long though before they were a fully fledged Football League member and they played their first game in the Division Two on 2nd September 1893, away at Middlesbrough Ironopolis. Goals from Joe McQue and Malcolm McVean in the second half sealed victory for the visitors in their first game in league football. The best moment of the season came in October as they thrashed Boro on the return fixture 6-0 in front of 6,000 supporters at Anfield. Success continued during the season and they finished top of the league, eight points ahead of Small Heath, to gain promotion to the top flight. It was an unhappy first season in Division One though, as they were relegated, but they bounced straight back at the first time of asking and established themselves as one of the top teams in England. Under legendary manager Tom Watson, they won their first league title in 1901, 17 more championships were to come over the next century.