“I always said we had the best two teams on Merseyside – Liverpool and Liverpool reserves,” once said Bill Shankly, one of Liverpool’s most successful managers, rather sardonically.
It may have been a light-hearted dig at Liverpool’s nearest of neighbours on the other side of Stanley Park, Everton, but Shankly would have done well to remind himself how the club where he truly made his name as a manager initially came to pass.
Because, in many ways, without Everton, there would have been no Liverpool, and certainly no Liverpool reserves.
Anfield’s Original Tenants
Formed in 1878, Everton initially played their football in the southeast corner of Stanley Park, before moving on to land at nearby Priory Road in 1882.
As the only football club in the city, Everton’s early success drew enormous crowds, causing noise so great that it almost became unbearable for nearby residents on matchdays.
As a result, in 1884, a friend of Everton member John Houlding, John Orrell, agreed to let the club become tenants at the stadium he owned. That ground was called Anfield.
They got off to a great start there, too, winning 5-0 against Earlestown in their first ‘home’ game at the stadium now renowned for being the home of their arch-rivals.
The following year, Houlding purchased the land on which Anfield was situated from Orrell, effectively becoming Everton’s landlord by charging the club rent, which rose from £100 to £240 a year by 1888, and continued to increase until Everton left the ground for Goodison Park 1892.
The club deemed this unacceptable, and a dispute between Houlding and the club’s committee led to him attempting to gain full control of the club by registering the company as ‘Everton F.C. and Athletic Grounds Ltd’.
Everton left Anfield for Goodison, a new ground, in 1892; Houlding attempted to take over Everton’s name, colours, fixtures and league position, but was denied by The Football Association. Instead, he formed a new club, known as Liverpool F.C.
A Tale Of One City (And Two Clubs)
As well as his interests in Everton, Houlding was a staunch member of the Conservative Party and had was involved in other business, such as his ownership of a successful brewery.
By contrast, much of the Everton board at the time was made of the Conservative’s opposition, the Liberal Party, which was another factor as to why the club departed Anfield for a change of scenery on the other side of Stanley Park.
So, as much as rent issues were obviously a factor, differences in political standpoints could also have had as much to do with the split into two football clubs in Liverpool.
Interestingly, though, after Houlding died in France in 1902, his coffin at his funeral was carried by players from both clubs, perhaps highlighting that, while there is undoubtedly a fierce rivalry between Liverpool and Everton, it is a derby that does not carry the same animosity as elsewhere; hence its nickname ‘the friendly derby’.
Certainly, it is an animosity unmatched between Liverpool and Liverpool reserves, no matter what Mr Shankly would have had you believe.
Where Else Has This Sort Of Split Happened?
Besides Liverpool and Everton, perhaps the most obvious example of this is in Spain in the early 1900s.
It was 1905 when the first football club in Seville was formed, under the name of Sevilla FC. Two years later, they were joined by Sevilla Balompié, a club founded by students from the nearby Polytechnic Academy.
But an internal split in Sevilla FC in 1907 caused the formation of Betis Football Club, who then merged with Sevilla Balompié in 1914 to become known as ‘Real Betis Balompié’.
It is still the full title of the club more commonly known today as Real Betis, who have remained fierce rivals with Sevilla ever since.