The Club's humble beginnings in the pioneering days of St. Domingo's FC began at Stanley Park. By 1882 though, crowds of over 2,000 began to watch the games, which created problems for the Club. It was then decided to rent a field off Priory Road from a Mr. J. Cruitt of Coney Green.
Everton constructed a small stand and a dressing room at Priory Road but the first game played there was a huge disappointment to the Club. It was played between a Liverpool representative team and Walsall and yielded gate receipts of just 14 shillings (70p). Things got better and the Club's first ever success came on Priory Road when Everton defeated Earlestown in the final of the Liverpool Cup in 1884.
However, Everton's cup win had repercussions for the Club. Mr. Cruitt became fed up of the noise and unruly supporters on his land and told the Club to find another ground.
Everton then moved to Anfield, where they won their first ever championship.
As with their previous two homes, Everton did not own Anfield. The land was owned by local brewers, the Orrell brothers, who leased it to the Club for an annual donation to Stanley Hospital. There was much work to be done to turn the area into a football ground.
Everton officials and players, helped by the fans, took up spades, hammers, nails and barrows and turned what was a pasture on Anfield Road into a playable ground.
The first game to be played on Anfield was between Everton and Earlestown on 27 September 1884 (a full six years before Liverpool Football Club was formed!)
Everton became a professional football club whilst at Anfield and played their first Football League fixture against Accrington Stanley at the ground on 8 September 1888.
In the 1890/91 season, Everton won their first championship, playing in front of crowds of up to 20,000!
Once again, success soon brought trouble. The Club's president, John Houlding, had bought the ground and was now eager to extract more rent in view of the larger crowds the Club was attracting.
On 25 January 1892, George Mahon, who had grown tired of Houlding's demands, told members of the Club that he had an option to buy Mere Green Field, situated on the north side of Stanley Park.
It was described as having 'degenerated from a nursery into a howling desert.' It was to become Everton's new home. It was to become Goodison Park.
Upon arrival at Goodison, the first jobs were to level the land, provide drainage and build stands to accommodate up to 50,000 spectators.
Two uncovered stands were constructed, each accommodating 4,000 and a covered stand on the Goodison Road side of the ground was built which held 3,000. On its completion in 1892 it was the finest ground in the country, boasting hot-water boilers, large double baths, a referee's changing room and even a press stand!
Lord Kinnaird and Frederick Wall, both FA officials, officially opened Goodison Park on 24 August 1892. 12,000 people came to the opening ceremony.
The first game at Goodison was a friendly between Everton and Bolton Wanderers.
A press report stated that 'it appears to be one of the finest and most complete grounds in the kingdom' and Goodison was chosen as the venue for the Bolton Wanderers - Notts County FA Cup Final of 1894.
The rest, as they say, is history - but here's a few snippets of information about Goodison Park.
Did You Know?
- During World War One, Goodison hosted a baseball game between the New York Giants and Chicago Whitesox.
- Goodison was the first ground in England to have dug-outs after the club copied an idea from Aberdeen who they visited for a pre-season friendly in the 1930's.
- With the completion of the Gwladys Street Stand in 1938, Goodison was the only British football ground to have double-decker stands on all sides.
- Goodison was the first ground in the country to install undersoil heating.
- The famous stadium has staged more top flight games than any other ground in England.
- Everton's record attendance of 78,299 came against Liverpool on 18 September 1948, at Goodison.
- Goodison is the only league ground in the country to have hosted a World Cup semi-final (in 1966). Indeed, during the tournament, greats such as Pele, Eusebio and Yashin graced the famous turf.
- During its history, Goodison has hosted many FA Cup semi-finals and finals.
- Goodison has staged many important international matches, including England's first ever defeat on home soil, when the Republic of Ireland beat them 2-0 in September 1949.
- Goodison is the only ground in the world to have a church (St. Luke the Evangelist) in a corner of the stadium.