A special year for a very special Scottish club. Say what now? You heard me. A Scottish club. How can this be? When all of your players are Scottish, it is hard to fight on the coincidence of Liverpool happening to be in Lancashire.
It is hard to imagine this happening, in the 21st century. Maybe in American sport, where the link between a place and a sports club has been long broken. Not in the UK, since major ructions were caused by Woolwich Arsenal moving to North London in 1913 and more recently, Wimbledon to Milton Keynes. We start with a football war which had unforeseen consequences. Anfield was the home of Everton FC. You read that right. Everton FC. Their success and increasing attendances led to increased profits. Profits of which the owner of the stadium, John Houlding, wanted a bigger share. Everton refused to pony up more cash and left Anfield for good. Anfield 1892: the stadium without a team.
What was the solution? Create a new team called the Everton Football Club and Athletic Grounds Company. Nice try, Mr Houlding, but no coconut. The English Football League banned the name. Everton FC of the new Goodison Park were judged to be the only club entitled to the word ‘Everton’. So - Liverpool FC was invented, wearing blue and white halves, until 1894.
In the aftermath of John Houlding’s nightmare scenario, the owner of Anfield Stadium gave the new Liverpool Board £500 to buy a team of players. Technically John McKenna was just a Board Member and William Barclay was Secretary. In those days that meant he was team manager. By the way, the English Football League had rejected Liverpool’s 1892 application from a club which was only weeks’ old. Instead, Liverpool joined the Lancashire League and won it at the first attempt.
Why were they called the ‘Team of the Macs’? Here is the team lines and birthplaces for the first ever Liverpool game in the Lancashire League 3 September 1892: Sydney Ross (Edinburgh), Andrew Hannah (Renton), Duncan McLean (Renton), Joe Pearson (Lancashire his only game for Liverpool), Joe McQue (Springburn), Jim McBride (Renton), Tom Wylie (Maybole), Jock Smith (Kilmarnock), Malcolm McVean (Bonhill), Jonathan Cameron (Glasgow), Andrew Kelvin, (Kilmarnock). In the next game, Pearson was replaced by James Kelso from Cardross, who was, in turn replaced by John Miller from Dumbarton for the third ever competitive game.
Liverpool won the League at the first attempt, on goal difference from Blackpool. The Team of the Macs had succeeded by the skin of their Merseyside teeth. Champions, on 36 points, but with a better goal difference than Blackpool and only one point in front of third placed Bury. They applied to join the EFL and this time, got lucky. Accrington had resigned, leaving one space. Even better, Bootle FC of Liverpool (Andrew Watson’s old team) had resigned, leaving the City one team short.
Here is a cracking fact which shows that William Barclay was important, but not crucial, in the chaos surrounding the foundation of Liverpool. The Liverpool website says:
Barclay apparently knew nothing of the club’s successful application for membership of the Second Division in 1893 until he received a telegram instructing him to travel to London to arrange the fixtures for Liverpool’s debut season as a member of the League. McKenna, not Barclay, went to the capital as Liverpool’s representative. That single incident indicates how much more involved McKenna was really with policy and key decisions.
Liverpool were not alone. Look at Sunderland for another example of a team packed to the rafters with Scots. It was clear that immediate success could only be guaranteed by heading north of the Border and getting yourself some professionals who knew how to play the Combination Game. No Scotch Professor, no party.