by Stuart Moriarty-Patten
A rivalry already existed between Everton and Liverpool even before the first official derby between the two teams on 13 October 1894. Everton viewed themselves as the true Liverpool club and were, in fact, the original tenants at Anfield. A rent dispute between the then club president and owner of the ground John Houlding and several other members of the board over a rise in the rent saw them leave in 1892 to set up home at Goodison Park. In response Houlding formed Liverpool FC whose home would be at Anfield.
There had been a previous clash between the two Merseyside teams 18 months before in the Liverpool Senior Cup final, which Liverpool won 1-0. This, however, was not recognised as an official match by the two clubs as Everton had fielded a weakened team mostly consisting of reserves as the club also had a fixture that day against Scottish side Renton.
Such was the importance that the Everton directors placed on this first derby against their upstart neighbours that the Everton players were offered, along with their normal win bonus, a silk hat valued at 20 shillings. The rivalry and excitement surrounding the game led the Liverpool Mercury to write of the great anticipation for this “long-looked for meeting” and a great game was expected but “not from a scientific point of view.” In other words they were expecting a typical blood and thunder derby game. That may sound recognisable to the modern fan but the colours would not be. The blues of Everton wore red, not settling on blue until the next season after experimenting with a number of colours previously including pink and black, while the reds of Liverpool were wearing pale blue and white halves, reminiscent of a faded Blackburn Rovers strip. They only adopted their red colours in 1896.
Everton were hot favourites to win the game. They had been one of the founder members of the football league in 1888, and were runners up in 1890, and league champions in 1891. They entered the derby game in hot form, having won all seven fixtures played so far that season, scoring 27 goals in the process while conceding only seven.
Liverpool had only entered the league the previous season in the newly formed second division, which they had won easily, winning 22 and drawing 6 of the 28 games played. They then gained promotion with a 2-0 victory in a play-off (or test match as they were then called) over Newton Heath (now Man United), who had finished bottom of the First Division. However, Liverpool had been finding life tough as a newly promoted club in the top division, and had yet to record a win that season by the time they met Everton.
Describing the build up to the game a correspondent, Mr. John Humphreys, wrote for the North Wales Chronicle
I never saw such a crowd. As early as one o’clock all streets, for miles around, leading to Goodison Park began to be thronged with men, women, and boys, all tramping to one place. As far away as the Pier Head every tramcar was loaded with excited intending spectators of the game, and these, together with a heterogeneous assemblage of omnibuses, wagonettes, drays, pony carts, hansom cabs, fourwheelers, and every imaginable description of wheeled vehicle, formed a huge possession stretching (to take one route alone) from the bottom of Scotland-road right up to the ground.
The game kicked off in front of 44,000 people packed into Goodison Park with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool amongst their number. The gate receipts were a record £1025 that beat the previous best set for Everton’s game against Preston two seasons previously. Everton’s Tom McInnes scored the opening goal of the game after 10 minutes. Liverpool matched their opponents throughout the game, but wasteful finishing meant they could not find the equaliser. Eventually, Scottish international Alex Latta scored the second goal after 60 minutes with claims for offside being turned away by the referee. With the weather taking a turn for the worse and a heavy rain setting in Everton gradually got the ascendancy. They had another goal disallowed for offside before Jack Bell, another Scottish international, netted late on in a gathering gloom, to give Everton a 3-0 victory.
Everton finished the season as runners-up behind Sunderland. Liverpool were relegated after finishing bottom of the division, and then losing 1-0 to Bury in the end of season test match. Although Liverpool won promotion straight away the next season, it was to be three years and five games after their first meeting before they finally beat Everton with a 3-1 win in 1897 at Anfield.