Liverpool Giant Killers

Liverpool have many a time been on the wrong end of an FA Cup upset, but the fact they have been in the top division for most of their history means they have rarely been giant killers themselves. Only three times during their Division 2 days did they beat teams from the top flight, the first occasion being in 1893-94 when Preston North End were defeated at Anfield.

After being elected into Division 2 of the Football League following their Lancashire League success of 1892-93 Liverpool easily coped with the step up and would earn promotion after remaining unbeaten all season. In the FA Cup they beat fellow Division 2 side Grimsby Town 3-0 in the 1st round but despite their league form, Preston would see them competing against a completely different level. They had not finished outside the top two in the first five seasons of the Football League and although they were in the bottom half of the table this time around, they had shown their strength in the 1st round of the cup, thrashing non league Reading 18-0.

The tie of the round was undoubtedly league champions Sunderland at home to current runaway leaders Aston Villa, but the game at Anfield was next in importance. On 10th February, the morning of the game, the Liverpool Mercury predicted that play ‘promises to be of the keenest kind’ with Preston seeking to ‘regain lost prestige.’ Liverpool had demonstrated their ability by beating top flight Burnley and Newton Heath at Anfield earlier in the season and the Mercury believed that there was a ‘fair prospect that they will again carry their flag in triumph.’

Such was the interest in the game that the gates were locked some time before kick-off with 18,000 inside Anfield giving Preston a warm sporting reception when they took the field. They became more vociferous though when Andrew Hannah won the toss to determine ends and roared with approval when Joe McQue was the first to try his luck on goal, but his shot from distance was over the bar. After slowly working their way upfield by winning  series of throw-ins Preston earned a free kick but they failed to get it on target.

In the fourth minute Liverpool took the lead in bizarre fashion when the ball pinged around the box and when Bob Holmes kicked clear, it rebounded off David Henderson’s legs into the net. Preston responded strongly and spent long periods in the Liverpool half, but they were unable to get any shots on target to test keeper Billy McOwen, although one effort from William Greer skimmed the crossbar.

David Henderson
David Henderson

After weathering this storm the game turned into a tense midfield battle with little side giving much away, but Hugh McQueen did manage to get in a shot that bounced back off the bar. Then shortly before half time Malcolm McVean made it 2-0 out of nothing, scoring with a cross-shot that deceived keeper Jimmy Trainer. Straight from the restart Preston pulled a goal back when Jimmy Ross converted John Cunningham’s cross.

Malcolm McVean
Malcolm McVean

When the second half started a Preston onslaught was anticipated but Liverpool’s half backs were able to keep them in check, and from a long clearance by Duncan McLean McVean almost scored a second. However Preston did find an equaliser, Frank Becton scoring after some good build-up play.

When the second half started a Preston onslaught was anticipated but Liverpool’s half backs were able to keep them in check, and from a long clearance by Duncan McLean McVean almost scored a second. However Preston did find an equaliser, Frank Becton scoring after some good build-up play.

Neither side was happy to settle for a replay and the game was end to end, with Liverpool finding the all important winning goal, Henderson scoring after a good run and pass by Frank Gordon. Preston tried their best to get back into it, while Liverpool remained dangerous at the break and there was an almighty cheer when the whistle went to confirm Liverpool’s victory.

Liverpool were unable to continue their giant killing in the next round, when they went down 3-0 to Bolton Wanderers at Pikes Lane. However they were promoted at the end of the season following a test match victory over Newton Heath. Preston had to play a test match to avoid relegation themselves, beating Notts County 4-0. Liverpool’s only FA Cup other victories against teams in a higher division have been against Everton in 1954-55 and Chelsea in 1961-62.

Liverpool Win the Cup But Have to Wait for Trophy

When Liverpool won Liverpool Senior Cup in 1892-93 they had to wait a few days for the trophy. This was due to an appeal by beaten finalists Everton who felt crucial refereeing decisions had gone against them.

Liverpool beat Chester and Bootle to reach the final, which was played on 22nd April 1893. It was the first time that Liverpool and Everton had ever met and a large crowd of 10,000 gathered at Bootle’s Hawthorne Road ground. Liverpool were at full strength, but Everton fielded a mixture of first teamers and reserves as they had a friendly against Scottish side Renton at Goodison Park on the same day.

It was cynically suggested by some that Everton had done this to ensure any defeat against Liverpool could be excused as they did not play their strongest side. However the fact that the crowd at Bootle was five times higher than at Goodison indicated that for the fans, this remained the most important game.

After winning the toss Liverpool chose to play with the wind in the first half and Hugh McQueen had a shot well turned away for a corner by keeper Richard Williams. The first half was mainly one-way traffic with Williams making some fine saves, including one from a firm header by Tom Wyllie. Everton’s keeper also saved with his feet from McBride and when he was finally beaten by Matt McQueen, the shot went just over the bar.

The game was rough at times, with Hugh McQueen being reprimanded by the referee for what the Liverpool Mercury described as a ‘jumping charge.’ In the 35th minute John McCartney conceded a free kick for holding, but Everton wasted the opportunity and gave possession away.  From the breakaway John Miller passed to Wyllie (below) who scored with a fine low shot. Before half time Everton scored from an indirect free kick and the goal was disallowed, then there were protests that Joe McQue had committed a foul but instead a ‘throw up’ (that era’s version of a drop ball) was granted.


In the second half Everton took advantage of the wind and had a number of chances, but their shooting was poor. On one Liverpool breakaway Wyllie had a shot well saved by Williams, but it was generally a backs to the wall job in the second half, with the defenders clearing the ball as far away as possible rather than try to play the ball out.

a contentious moment in the last few minutes when a scramble took place in the goalmouth following an Everton corner. There were appeals for a penalty when it was claimed that a Liverpool player had fisted the ball away. controversial moment. The referee Herbie Arthur was persuaded to consult with his linesmen but they both agreed there had been no handball and a throw up was awarded. As soon as this had taken place, the final whistle sounded.

Everton were so furious at the refusal to give a penalty that they immediately lodged a complaint to the Liverpool County FA officials, citing the ‘general incompetence’ of the referee. It was decided not to award the cup pending a hearing at the Neptune Hotel in Clayton Square (situated where Tesco is now) two days later. The Mercury reported that they: ‘After a lengthy debate decided that the protest be not sustained.’

On Wednesday 26th April, when Liverpool took on a Lancashire League XI at Anfield, they were presented with the cup by Mr A. B. Hull from the Liverpool FA, as well as the Lancashire League trophy. Both cups though were stolen in September from a pawn shop in Paddington where they were on display. The club had to pay £130 to replace them.


Liverpool FC Affiliated to Football Association After Objection Dropped

On 25th April 1892 Liverpool Football Club was granted membership of the Football Association after Everton officials opposed it due to a disagreement regarding fittings at the Anfield ground.

The fallout from the rent dispute that led to Everton quitting Anfield and John Houlding (below right) setting up his own club was a bitter one. Houlding had invested a lot of his own money into ground improvements and felt if Everton were leaving, then they had no right to take anything with them. On 11th April 1892 Houlding obtained an injunction at the Chancery Court of Lancashire preventing the Everton committee removing any of the fittings, pending a resolution.

At the FA hearing Houlding made submissions for his new club Liverpool to be accepted as members of the FA, but there was an objection from new Everton chairman George Mahon (below left). He stated that although Everton weren’t against Houlding’s club, there remained a dispute over the fixtures and fittings at the Anfield ground.  The Liverpool Mercury reported on 26th April that : ‘After a long discussion the committee arrived at the following decision – “The new club to pay Everton the sum of £250 for the whole of the fixtures on the present ground.” The club was then affiliated as the Liverpool club and the dispute settled.

George-mahon    john houlding


The Picnic & Sports Day That Started It All

On 20th August 1892, two weeks before Liverpool Football Club’s first competitive game in the Lancashire League, a social outing of the newly assembled squad led helped them bond together prior to the forthcoming campaign.

Organised by Mr J.J. Ramsay and billed as the first annual picnic of members of the club, fifty players and officials took the ferry over to Woodside at 1.30pm. There they were met by wagonettes that took them on a pleasant hour long drive through Bidston, Moreton, Meols and Hoylake to West Kirby where they stopped at the Ring O’ Bells hotel.

Ring O Bells in 1912
Ring O Bells in 1912

The rest of the afternoon saw the players engage in a series of athletics contests on an adjoining field. Amongst the events were races over 100, 200 and 440 yards, a hop, skip and jump, dribbling contest and tug o’ war.  No player won more than one event with Joe Pearson proving to be the fastest by winning the 100 yards while John Miller was the best dribbler.

After the events the party had what was described by the Liverpool Mercury as a ‘knife and fork tea’ before William Houlding, son of club founder John, handed out prizes to the earlier winners. He then made a speech welcoming the players who had come down from Scotland, and mocking those that had predicted that Houlding would only be able to form a parks or junior team. He made a statement of intent by saying that the new club ‘intended to make themselves felt in the football world,’ leading to a chorus of ‘hear, hear’ from those present.

The party then re-boarded their wagonettes for the journey back to Woodside and the ferry over to Liverpool, having bonded well in readiness for the season ahead.

Ring o Bells West Kirby credit Peter Hodge Wikicommons
Ring O Bells today (photo by Peter Hodge)