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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

So-called football purists often hark back to football 'how it used to be', before it was infused with commercial razzmatazz and played out under a global media spotlight.

There's much talk of the uncomplicated joys of football's early days; the sepia-tinted image is very much of sporting gents taking on their counterparts from nearby towns, going toe-to-toe for 90 minutes then sharing a ginger beer or two afterwards - all in the name of jolly good fun.

But a perusal of Everton's history books unearths a tale that, had it been played out in today's controversy-hungry world, would have Twitter abuzz and the Sky Sports News yellow bar rotating at break-neck pace.

It surrounds the Club's first ever FA Cup tie which, fittingly, pitted them against Bolton Wanderers - the Lancashire outfit who are the current side's fourth round opponents on Saturday.

The first match was played on 15 October 1887 at Wanderers' Pike's Lane ground. It ended in a fairly uneventful 1-0 win for the home side, with Bob Roberts getting the only goal.

That would only be the start however.

Reebok Stadium

Everton protested that Bolton's Robert Struthers was ineligible for the tie. Their protest was upheld and a replay on home soil was ordered.

The Merseysiders, then playing at Anfield, drew the game 2-2 (George Farmer and Robert Watson were the Blues’ goalscorers) but even this match wasn't without its controversy - the home side hotly contested the validity of the visitors' first goal.

The Everton minute book from the time read: "Everton v Bolton Wanderers drew in first round (undecided) of English Cup at Everton on 29 October - team Jolliffe, Dick, Dobson, Higgins, Gibson, Murray, Cassidy, Farmer, Goudie, Watson, Izatt, referee Mr R. P. Gregson. Protest lodged against first goal allowed the Wanderers as the ball was not put through."

Alas there were no goals in the replay at Pike's Lane a fortnight later, though, unsurprisingly, there was more disagreement, Everton arguing that extra-time should be played to settle the tie once and for all. "Secretary reported that Everton - Bolton Wanderers drew at Bolton. Wanderers refused to play extra time," the ledger read.

Bolton’s refusal meant a fourth meeting between the sides, back in Liverpool, a week later. And Everton finally triumphed, 2-1, thanks to goals from Watson and JH Goudie.

Still, that was not the end of it. After the game, Bolton lodged an appeal with the Football Association claiming seven of Everton's players were technically 'professional' and as such were ineligible to play.

The FA were concerned. "Secretary reported that Messrs Gregson and Lythgoe, on behalf of the FA, took away treasurer's and secretary's books," said the minutes. In the meantime the Blues continued in the competition, losing 6-0 in the next round to Preston North End.

Finally the FA decreed that Dick, Weir, Izatt, Murray, Cassidy, Goudie and Watson were indeed 'professionals' and promptly dished out a month's suspension to the Club.

That season's competition was eventually won by Aston Villa, who defeated Midlands rivals West Brom in the final at The Oval. The photograph above was taken at that game. Note the lack of goal nets and the 'umpire' standing at the far post

The report read: "Secretary reported that the Council of the FA found Everton Club guilty of professionalism in the cases of Dick, Weir, Izatt, Murray, Cassidy, Goudie, Watson and suspended the club until 5 January 1888 and adjudged these men professionals."

In reality it meant little as there was no league play (the Football League was yet to be founded) but Everton protested without success at the weight of the sentence.

Bolton were reinstated and offered the chance to take on Preston themselves, though they probably wish they hadn’t bothered. North End dished out an even more brutal 9-1 thrashing and a saga to rival any of its modern day contemporaries finally found its conclusion.  

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