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History Of Goodison Park

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

Everton v QPR
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Goodison Park was the first major football stadium built in England. 

Only Scotland had more advanced grounds; Rangers opened Ibrox in 1887, while Celtic Park was officially inaugurated at the same time as Goodison Park.

Everton's ground-breaking development at Mere Green was to set the trend for football stadia throughout the country. The Blues initially spent up to £3,000 on laying out the ground and building stands on three sides. Kelly Brothers of Walton built two uncovered stands each for 4000 people, and a covered stand seating 3000, at a total cost of £1,460.

Outside, hoardings cost a further £150, gates and sheds cost £132 and 10 shillings whilst 12 turnstiles added another £7 and 15 shillings to the bill.

GOODISON PARK 1905

The ground was dubbed Goodison Park and was opened on 24 August 1892, by Lord Kinnaird and Frederick Wall of the Football Association. Somewhat confusingly, the 12,000-strong crowd saw a short athletics meeting followed by a selection of music and a fireworks display.

Everton's first game there was on 2 September 1892 when they beat Bolton 4-2.

The publication 'Out Of Doors', reported in October 1892: "Behold Goodison Park! No single picture could take in the entire scene the ground presents, it is so magnificently large, for it rivals the greater American baseball pitches. On three sides of the field of play there are tall covered stands, and on the fourth side the ground has been so well banked up with thousands of loads of cinders that a complete view of the game can be had from any portion.

"It appears to be one of the finest and most complete grounds in the kingdom, and it is hoped that the public will liberally support the promoters."

A year after moving into the new home, in 1883, Everton were FA Cup finalists. They were then runners up again in the First Division in 1895. The ground hosted its first FA Cup final in 1894 when Notts County beat Bolton, watched by a crowd of 37,000. At this time,  Everton were the richest club in the country, and regular league gates such as the 30,000 which attended in February 1893 were still regarded as enormous.

Despite the revolutionary initial developments, however, it was not long before Goodison Park was improved even further. A new Bullens Road stand was built in 1895 at a cost of £3,407 and the open Goodison Road side was covered for £403, according to the records from the time.

Meanwhile, competition in the city was reaching peak levels. Everton were again runners up in both the league and FA Cup, while across Stanley Park, Liverpool won their first championship in 1901.

The Goodison Park of today really began to take shape after the turn of the century, beginning in 1907 with the building of a double-decker stand at the Park End, costing £13,000. In 1909, the large Main Stand on Goodison Road was built. Costing £28,000, it housed all the offices and players' facilities and survived until 1971.

GOODISON PARK 1905

At the same time another £12,000 was spent on concreting over the terracing and replacing the cinder running track. A reporter from ‘Athletic News' wrote in the summer of 1909: "Visitors to Goodison Park will be astonished at the immensity of the new double-decker stand". The architect was Archibold Leitch, and the front balcony bore his criss-cross trademark, which can still be seen on the Bullens Road stand opposite.

Having regained its status as the best equipped ground in the nation, Everton hosted the 1910 Cup Final replay between Newcastle and Barnsley. A massive 69,000 attended. Then on 13 July 1913, Goodison became the first league venue to be visited by a ruling monarch, when George V and Queen Mary came to visit local schoolchildren at the ground.

It certainly wasn't just football that took place at Goodison though! During the First World War it was used by the Territorial Army for drill practice. Soon after, the US baseball teams Chicago White Sox and New York Giants played an exhibition match at the ground. One player reportedly managed to hit a ball right over the Main Stand.

The next big change took place in 1926, when at a cost of £30,000 another double-decker, similar to the Main Stand, was built on the Bullens Road Side opposite. Again, Leitch was the architect.

In the 1930s, Everton borrowed an idea from Aberdeen, who they had visited for a friendly. Pittodrie was the home to what were reputedly the first ever dug-outs for coaching staff. Having adopted the idea at Goodison Park, it soon spread to other venues, and now the covered dug-out is a feature of almost every ground worldwide.

Goodison enjoyed another royal visit in 1938, when George VI and Queen Elizabeth, (the mother of current Queen Elizabeth II), came to Everton and saw the new Gwladys Street Stand, just completed for £50,000. Goodison Park thereby became the only ground in Britain to have four double-decker stands and was newly affirmed as the most advanced stadium in Britain.

Goodison Park suffered quite badly during the Second World War, because of its proximity to Liverpool's docks, and the Club received £5,000 for repairs from the War Damage Commission. Shortly after the work was completed, Everton enjoyed their highest ever attendance, 78,299 for the visit of Liverpool in Division One, on 18 September 1948.

Another familiar footballing adornment arrived at Everton in October 1957. The Goodison Park floodlights were switched on for an Everton v Liverpool friendly on 9 October.

A year later the Club made another revolutionary move, spending £16,000 installing 20 miles of electric wire underneath the pitch. The system melted frost and ice most effectively, but the drains could not handle the extra quantities of water, so in 1960 the pitch was dug up and new drainage pipes laid.

Goodison as it was for the 1966 World Cup

The 1960s, like the 1930s, saw Everton win the Championship twice and the FA Cup once, and in 1966 Goodison Park staged five games in the World Cup, including that memorable quarter final between North Korea and Portugal and the semi-final between West Germany and the Soviet Union.

No other English venue apart from Wembley staged so many World Cup games.

The next ground development took place in 1971, when the 1909 double-decker Main Stand on Goodison Road was demolished to make way for a massive new three-tiered Main Stand. The old stand had cost £28,000 and was then considered immense. The new stand cost a huge £1 million and was nearly twice the size, and was the largest in Britain until 1974, when Chelsea opened their mammoth East Stand.

Because the Goodison Road Stand is so tall, the floodlight pylons were taken down and lamps put on gantries along the roof. The old-fashioned Bullens Road pitched roof was replaced by a much flatter modern roof and similar gantries installed there also.

When the Safety of Sports Grounds Act came into effect in 1977, Goodison Park's capacity was greatly reduced from 56,000 to 35,000, mainly due to outdated entrances and exits. As a consequence, Everton had to part with £250,000 in order to boost capacity back up to 52,800. The 1986 figure stood at 53,419, of which 24,419 were seated.

In the early 1980's the original corrugated roofing of the Gwladys Street Stand was replaced by blue cladding, giving the roof a rich colourful look. Then, in 1987, the pitched roof was replaced by an upturned sloping roof extending out over the terracing below, which joined the roof of the Bullens Road, creating a continuous roof on two sides of the ground.

The next development was the conversion of Goodison to an all seater stadium, following the Taylor Report, in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

A shot of the church at Goodison from 1970

This required the conversion of the paddock, enclosure and Gwladys Street terracing into seated accommodation. The Park End terracing remained temporarily but was only opened for big games. The reason for this was the intended redevelopment of the Park End. This came to fruition in the early part of 1994.

The last time spectators stood on the terrace was on 19th January at the FA Cup 3rd Round replay against Bolton. The old stand was pulled down during February, with construction beginning soon after. The new Stanley Park End stand is a single tier cantilever stand with a capacity of 6,000. The stand was opened on Saturday 17 September 1994 by David Hunt MP. A contribution of £1.3M was also given by the Football Trust.

The completion of the Park End brought Goodison Park's capacity up to 40,100, a figure exceeded at the time by only the projected capacities of Old Trafford and Anfield, neither of which were in such a confined area as Goodison Park.

The Park End under construction

During the Premier League years there have been only superficial changes to the ground. The Club's focus has been on securing a new permanent home, with plans for a ground on the city's King's Dock in the late 1990s eventually falling foul of spiralling development costs.

A painstaking search for an alternative culminated with plans submitted as part of a three-way partnership with Knowsley Borough Council, Tesco and the Club for a retail and ground development in the Kirkby area of Merseyside.

In 2009, following an extensive review process, the plans were rejected by government.

Goodison remains largely unchanged since the development of the Park End stand - although terraced housing behind the new stand was purchased and demolished in the late 1990s to accomodate additional parking and the erection of a marquee that provides additional matchday hospitality facilities. The ground capacity is now 39,572.


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