The Short Life of an Everton Blue

Isaac Roberts would play just once for Everton in February 1889

Tony Onslow 29/08/2020 11comments  |  Jump to last

Standing at the rear of the tall buildings that today run along the thoroughfare of Dale Street are the remains of the uniquely named Ryleys Gardens. However, this once squalid and narrow court was inhabited by many destitute immigrants who had arrived in Victorian Liverpool hoping for a new start in life. Ryleys Gardens was also the birthplace of a man who played one competitive game for Everton.

Isaac Roberts was born in August 1868, the fourth child of Isaac, a mariner, and his wife, Leah. The couple had married at Holy Trinity church having moved to Liverpool from Mostyn in Flintshire where they both had been born. According to the 1881 census the family had relocated to Lavrock Bank in Dingle where the 13-year-old Isaac was working as a shop boy/messenger. He began playing football for Aigburth Vale on Fulwood Park before signing for Stanley around 1887 on their home at Walton Stiles.

The new signing quickly found a regular place in the club half-back line and sometimes filled the position of goalkeeper. Roberts appeared in the inaugural FA Cup campaign which the club entered as Liverpool Stanley where his side received a 5-1 home defeat by the Bolton-based Halliwell. On the 9th of January, 1888, he was part of the Stanley side who defeated Everton 3-0 at Walton Stiles and took part in the return game, played on the 29th of May, when the sides drew 1-1 at Anfield.

Next season he again took part in the FA knockout which saw the Walton Stiles club eliminate both Workington and Astley Bridge. However, due to the cost involved, they declined the offer to play the next round against Belfast-based Cliftonville and withdrew from the contest. Isaac Roberts continued to perform well and was eventually approached by Everton to play in a Football League match.

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The game took place on the 9th of February 1889 at Anfield against Wolverhampton Wanderers. John Holt had been “called away” to play for the Lancashire FA against Staffordshire and Roberts took his place at centre half. The home crowd, who numbered around 6,000, watched Edgar Chadwick give Everton the lead but two late goals saw the visitors return home with both points.

Ike Roberts then returned to Stanley where he took part in the 1889 Liverpool Cup final. The match against Bootle took place on the Liverpool Athletic Club ground in Fairfield and his side were beaten by 3 goals to 0. He then slowly drifted away from the game for a “life on the ocean waves”.

The 1891 census finds Isaac living with his Widowed Mother at 365 Beaufort Street in Dingle where he lists his occupation as a sailor. When she died, he took up lodging at 23 Frank Street. Isaac Roberts was living at this address when he passed away on the 14th of January 1896 and was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery.

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Reader Comments (11)

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Paul Birmingham
1 Posted 29/08/2020 at 00:05:00
Superb story, and as, ever Tony, and very sad too, in this case.

I work around the City, it always strikes me, the scale of the old buildings and their grandeur and the surrounding streets, and their history, and also the many Pubs, that are now also history, around the back streets.

In many ways, so much to be thank full for, but to build a new future, as EFC, we must rise from Ashes of previous history, and build a new era.

Dave Abrahams
2 Posted 30/08/2020 at 10:24:29
It’s a so sad about these narrow squalid courts and the poverty that surrounded them, even sadder that they were inhabited by families right up to the mid fifties, one tap and one toilet for around eight families who lived there.

I am also intrigued by where Holy Trinity church was situated, I’m thinking of St. Anne Street, and the fact he was born off Dale Street might mean that’s where he was baptised.

John McFarlane Snr
3 Posted 02/09/2020 at 18:51:50
Hi Dave [2], there is a Holy Trinity Church on the corner of Breck Road and Richmond Park. I believe it may be in a state of disrepair.
Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 02/09/2020 at 19:03:34
John (3) yes I know that church, so that is possible, the one in St Anne Street is not far from an entry called Trinity Walk, that is why I thought it could be the church.

Anyway John, how are you, looking forward to the new season? These new signings might buck all of us up. I hope you are okay and getting out a bit more than you did during the lockdown, which put years on most of us.

Will Mabon
5 Posted 02/09/2020 at 19:24:45
A great story - thanks. I've spent maybe ten years threatening to allocate a couple of days to exploring such parts of the city. I'll do it eventually.

Strange to compare the structural quality of these old buildings, squalid as some became, and in the disrepair they are, with the trash that's thrown up now.

The grandeur Paul describes, when things were undertaken with pride and the best intentions, you can almost feel it. Long gone days.

John McFarlane Snr
6 Posted 02/09/2020 at 22:21:22
Hi again Dave [4],

I'm OK and I trust that you too are in the best of health, I am looking forward to the new season, but I will not return to Goodison until I'm satisfied that it's safe to do so. I know that there are some who mock me for not watching the televised games that were played behind closed doors; my stance has not changed and I will only attend when there is no restriction on attendance figures. I have principles that I adhere to and no amount of snide comments can influence them.

Dave Abrahams
7 Posted 03/09/2020 at 09:41:20
John (6), I'm glad you are okay and looking forward to the new season. I didn't miss football as much as I thought I would and I understand your point of view about not going until there is no restriction on full attendance at the game.

I will be looking at the pros and cons of going but admit I am now eager to watch the resurgence of our team and hopefully they will give us something worthwhile to watch and cheer. Best wishes John and good health.

Brian Williams
8 Posted 03/09/2020 at 09:53:28
Dave and John Snr.

You watch we'll go and bloody have a miracle and win the league this season without us being able to attend a single game.

And some on here will say "typical Everton that." ;-))

Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 03/09/2020 at 10:42:42
Brian (8), that would do my head in, but I would love it to happen!!
Andy McNabb
10 Posted 04/09/2020 at 13:28:38
Thanks Tony.

I really enjoy these insights I to our history. I also envy you gentlemen your knowledge of the city. I must confess, my scant visits these days from the other side of the world simply involve visiting the Grand Old Lady, my grandparents' graves in Anfield Cemetery and then back off to the relatives in Rainhill.

On our last visit in 2019 (Everton 2-0 Burnley) even my aunt who has lived on Merseyside all her life said she now struggled to drive round Liverpool centre, such has it changed

You have inspired me to spend a couple of days next time we are back, having a really good mooch around the city. Any suggestions of places to start (apart from L4) would be appreciated. I will certainly have a look over Bramley Moore Dock. You never know, there may be something to see by then!

Dale Rose
11 Posted 04/09/2020 at 13:40:22
Very interesting article. There are some really good writers on here. Hats off to you.

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