2 games and 15 goals in 3 days: Liverpool’s barnstorming debut in English football

19 June 2017

Liverpool FC came into existence in March 1892, but they would have to wait six months to play their first official game. That came at Anfield on Saturday, September 3, 1892.

They faced a team called Higher Walton in the Lancashire League, in front of a crowd of 300 and thrashed them 8-0.

However, on the Thursday before, John Houlding’s new creation would warm up with a friendly game against Rotherham Town. The game may have been lost in the mists of time, but for a report filed in the Liverpool Mercury.

The official attendance is unknown, however there are suggestions that up to 200 may have turned up. Entrance was probably free, but supporters would have to pay one penny for the official matchday programme.

Liverpool, playing in blue and white, won the toss and were straight at the visitors from the first whistle. Within minutes they were a goal up through John Miller; then Andrew Kelvin hit a brace, with his second and Liverpool’s third coming from a free-kick.

Rotherham had been blitzed early on and it seemed to spark them into life. They mounted a series of attacks on Liverpool’s goal, with at least two efforts going very close, but the defence was equal to it and the visitors soon ran out of steam.


Then the ‘Anfielders’ rushed into a five-goal lead, with two goals from Tom Wyllie. Half-time couldn’t come quick enough for the away side and they’d have been desperate for the break.

After the restart Rotherham had the wind at their backs and attempted to restore some pride. This is how the Mercury described their attempted fightback:

“Langdon missed an easy chance a moment later, and for the next few minutes the home defenders had a very anxious time. Leather and Pickering in turn sent in capital shots, and the Liverpudlians were somewhat lucky in keeping their position intact.”

Liverpool woke up, though, and Kelvin missed a sitter as they threatened to run riot. The visitors’ penalty area was under siege and eventually it caved in, with Miller adding his second and Wyllie his third. Liverpool then hit the crossbar, before Rotherham snatched a late consolation.

The final score was 7-1 and Liverpool’s footballing story had truly begun. The local paper gave Merseyside’s newcomers a report card that said ‘good, with room for improvement’:

“As a team the 11 played well together, and are sure to improve with more practice. Ross, in goal, had little to do, but in the few cases in which he had to handle, he showed great coolness and courage. The backs played well together, thoroughly understanding each other, and showing great resource when pressed.

The trio of halves could hardly be improved on, McBride in particular playing a brilliant game. Forward the combination is sure to improve in time, but Smith showed a slight tendency to keep the ball too long, much to the detriment of his comrades.”

Improve they did. Liverpool won the Lancashire League in their first season and captured the Liverpool Senior Cup at the expense of their neighbours Everton, beginning a journey that would take the club to the pinnacle of European and world football.


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