Grassroots Football Images & Memories

Steve Bloomer was an English footballer and manager who played for Derby County, Middlesborough and England during the 1890s and 1900s. Bloomer remains a legend at Derby County and the club anthem, Steve Bloomer's Watchin', is played before every home game. On 17 January 2009 a bust of Bloomer was unveiled next to the home dugout at Pride Park Stadium.   During his career Bloomer was a prolific scorer for both club and country.  Although possessing only a slight frame, he was a menace to defenders due to his quick thinking.  He was also able to shoot powerfully and accurately with either foot and his speciality was the daisy cutter – a low shot, hit with great power, speed and accuracy.  In 536 English First Division games he scored 317 goals and, after Jimmy Greaves, he is the second highest all-time goal scorer in the first division. He also scored 28 goals in 23 appearances for England.  In his last international against Scotland in 1907 he scored a stunning goal.

Bloomer also played baseball for Derby County Baseball Club and helped them become British champions three times in the 1890s. This is where the name of Derby County football ground originated and was known as the “Baseball Ground”.  After retiring as a footballer he became a coach and worked with clubs in Germany, The Netherlands and Spain.  During the First World War he was interned at Ruhleben, a civilian detention camp.  The highlight of his coaching career came in 1924 when he guided Real Unión to victory in the Copa del Rey.  In 1923 he became coach of Real Unión in Spain and subsequently guided them to victory in the 1924 Copa del Rey.  During the 1920s the Copa was effectively a play-off to decide the Spanish champions.  Teams qualified by winning their regional titles and Real Unión represented Guipuzcoa.  Nine other regional champions also qualified and in the first round of the competition Real beat Seville FC, the champions of Andalusia, 3–1 on aggregate.  In the semi-final they faced the Catalan champions, FC Barcelona, coached by another Englishman, Jack Greenwell.  Despite this Real beat FC Barcelona 5–1 after a replay and went on to beat Real Madrid, the champions of central Spain, 1–0 in the final.  After returning to England he served as player-coach with Derby Reserves, worked as a newspaper columnist and as a groundsman at the Baseball Ground.  In late 1937, while severely ill, Derby County paid for him to go on a cruise to Australia and New Zealand.  He died three weeks after returning home in April 1938.  His funeral took place on the afternoon of Wednesday 20th April 1938 at Derby Cathedral.  Steve was born at Cradley Heath in 1874 and became a wonderfully versatile player who became a prolific goal scorer.  He was a great believer in temperate living and ascribed his success on the field to this viewpoint.

He was quoted as follows, “A man must look after himself to be any good.  You cannot live well and then turn out twice and sometimes more during the week and feel fit for your work.  Before you can start training properly and make a serious effort to become a first- class player you must knock off cigarettes or any other form of smoking and don’t be tempted by alcohol”.

The ideas of Steve Bloomer are still relevant today over 100 years later and still people try and say that football has changed.  The game has never changed and it is only the environment and people around it that brings the game into disrepute.

Football was in my family, my father Alf played a lot of football and one of my earliest memories was in 1945 listening to Raymond Glendenning commentating on Chelsea against Moscow Dynamo, a game that ended 3-3.  In 1947 the first football arrived at Caton School and we used to play football on the field behind the school near the allotments.  My dad took me to watch Preston North End play Sheffield United with Jimmy Hagan in 1945-46 in League North I think and I still remember Tom Finney taking the ball to the corner flag and putting his foot on it and challenging the defenders to come and get it.  Unfortunately I then went to a school at the top of East Road and they played with the wrong shaped ball.  When I was 17 I went into the RAF in February 1954 and played 11-a-side football for the first time.  I was posted at Cosford and Ron Flowers of Wolverhampton Wanderers and England was also there.  When I moved to Henlow I came across another international, cricketer Peter Parfitt who was also an excellent footballer.  My last move was to RAF Weeton on a course and I got weekends off so I would ask Frank Wimlott if I could get a game for Caton Reserves.  Frank was caretaker of the Victoria Institute in Caton and a leading light on the football committee.  When I finally left the RAF in July 1959 I could take up playing fulltime for Caton United and I really enjoyed the comradeship of my teammates and the friends I made in football have lasted a lifetime”.

Derek Irving (Caton United)

I remember us having to drag a metal wheeled trolley supporting a dustbin containing water from Heysham Village to the "Club House" to fill the open boiler for our communal bath.  Looking back on it, our commitment was admirable as I think we lost all our matches in my first season”.

Bob Bradshaw (Heysham)

The England team pictured in 1895 before their match against Scotland
with Steve Bloomer sat 2nd from the left on the front row

A rare photograph showing engineers laying the cables for undersoil heating at Goodison Park in 1957.  It wasn’t until March 1957 that Manchester United’s floodlights were installed.  Arsenal had blazed the trail for night-time football when they hosted a friendly under lights during season 1951-52.  The Football Association was initially sceptical but this attitude was not unusual from football’s governing body.

The Arsenal boot room in the 1950’s showing the boots that we were all familiar with

1955. Another Wembley Stadium where dreams came true.


1963. Spurs returning the cup to the Football Association.

1964. Ron Greenwood on the underground with the FA Cup.

1950. A street scene that was replicated
in thousands of cities & towns.

1950. Lacing a football.

1957. Taking down the posts after a game
and looking forward to the next one.

1962. Hackney Marshes with around 100 football pitches.

1949. Wolves fans locked out of a
semi-final replay at Goodison Park.

1938. Stan Matthews of Stoke City trying to keep warm
as the braziers attempt to thaw out a frozen pitch.

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Design: David Ainsworth