Clarence Berry, the rugby-playing goalkeeper of Everton

Clarence Herbert Berry, who joined in 1908 and played for the club until 1912, was the first Rugby League player to switch codes and sign for Everton

Tony Onslow 26/08/2019 2comments  |  Jump to last

Reported to be around six feet tall, Clarence Herbert Berry was the first man to sign for Everton having previously played Rugby League football at senior level. He had been born, 4th of October, 1886 and was the fourth child of Frank and Alice who then ran a grocery business on Buick Street in Warrington. Berry had begun to serve an apprenticeship as a pattern maker when he began his football career, playing under association rules, for a local amateur team with the name of Warrington Albion. He then switched codes and signed for Warrington Rugby League club on their home at Wilderspool.

Berry made his Warrington debut on the 25th of February, 1905 in a home game against Swinton where his second-half penalty kick won the game for his side. He made another 6 appearances but was not selected to face Hull Kingston Rovers in Rugby League Cup final at Leeds. Warrington lifted the trophy, for the first time, with 6-0 victory. Over the next two seasons, Berry made over 40 first-team appearances but once again failed to appear in the 1907 cup final as Warrington beat Oldham 17-3 on the Wheaters Field home of Broughton Rangers in Salford. He then decided to switch codes and approach Everton.

It is most likely that Berry was granted a trial with the development XI and then given a chance to display his talents on 25 February 1908 when he kept goal at Goodison Park in a Lancashire Combination game against St Helens Town. His side won 5-1. When the club executive met, on the 18th March, the following words appeared in the club minute book… The Secretary was instructed to offer Berry an engagement on the best possible terms. Berry was at first reluctant “take up” lodging in Liverpool, as demanded in his contract, but agreed to do on the 23rd of September, 1908 and signed for a wage of £3 per week.

Nevertheless, the place under the Everton crossbar was held by Irishman Billy Scott and Berry had to wait until he was “called up” for international duty to make his Football League debut. This occurred on the 13th February, 1909 for a 2-2 draw with Bury at Gigg Lane. He again deputised for Scott on the 20th of March when Chelsea visited Goodison Park. Everton beat the Londoners for the first time by 3 goals to 2.

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Clarence remained at Everton until 1912, during which time he made one more Football League appearance on 10th February, 1912 in a 3-2 home win over Sheffield United and the following week was put on the transfer list for an asking price £300. The Everton minute book records that the club were about to sign William Hodge from Kilwinning Rangers along with John Caldwell, who was at present under contract with Tottenham Hotspur. Clarence Berry remained in to reserve pool of players but, as the season reached its conclusion, the price of his transfer had dropped to £150. He did, however, represent the senior X1 on one further occasion.

Early on the 30th of March, the Everton party assembled at Fleetwood in order to catch the ferry to play a match against Linfield in Belfast. Berry, despite being selected to play against Northern Nomads, was ordered, post haste, to join the party when it became known that Billy Scott would not be sailing. (The reason given was Ptomaine poisoning). The game, which took place at Windsor Park, ended in 0-0 draw. When his contract expired, Berry returned home and signed for Lancashire Combination side St Helens Town. He remained there for one season before ending his career playing the rugby code for Warrington.

During his time with Everton Clarence Berry had married Elizabeth Oakes and the 1911 census finds the couple living at 24 Sutton Street in Warrington. He listed his occupation as that of a pattern maker and not a professional footballer. They later moved to 359 Thelwall New Road in the Grappenhall area of Warrington where Clarence Berry lived until his death on the 8th of October 1954.


Neil Dowson, Warrington RLFC.

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Reader Comments (2)

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Alan J Thompson
1 Posted 27/08/2019 at 17:07:27
Thanks for that, Tony. I sometimes wonder if it is just the practices of yore or the way you write that makes them so interesting. It would have been nice to read more about Clarrie Berry personally as he sounds something of a character. 3 Quid a week in 1908 and nearly 60 years later I started on 3 pounds 10 shillings per week.
Kieran Kinsella
2 Posted 30/08/2019 at 16:23:00
Interesting article Tony. Kilwinning Rangers? what a name. Had to Google them to see they're actually a Scottish team of some type.

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