Arguably the greatest manager of them all, Herbert Chapman recognised the greatness of Steve Bloomer when he said, “In an idle moment I wrote down this team of old players to amuse myself in comparing them with the chief players of today (1930s)”.
His team was: Sam Hardy; Bob Crompton, Jesse Pennington; Ben Warren, Charlie Roberts, Ernest Needham;
Jockie Simpson, Steve Bloomer, Albert Shepherd, George Holley, Fred Spiksley
“It goes a long way to convince me that football has lost its personalities. We have now few of such giants. But I doubt very much whether the public would today be satisfied with the old football, with all its precision and deliberate accuracy. It does not fit modern tendencies. It would be out of tune with the bustle and excitement of everyday life. Spectators want a fast-moving spectacle, rapier-like attacks that have the spirit of adventure, and ever more goals. But I would do an injustice to the old-timers if I did not believe that they would have been able to accommodate themselves to modern requirements. Their natural ability would have ensured this.”
Can I suggest to anyone reading this piece on Steve Bloomer that they “google” the names of Herbert Chapman’s team to discover that even old-timers could play the game?
Steve Bloomer was the most prolific marksman of his day. An inside forward with a deadly accurate shot, Steve began his career as an 18-year-old with Derby in 1892. He ended his career at the age of 40 in 1914 at the same club, although he did have a four-year spell at Middlesbrough. These 22 years yielded a remarkable 353 League goals in 598 appearances. It was not until the 1936-37 season that Bill “Dixie” Dean set a new mark, and only a handful of players have outscored him since. Bloomer’s record 28 goals in just 23 games for England stood even longer until the 1950s. The Football Association presented him with a portrait of himself when he won his 21st cap, which was a record at the time. After hanging up his boots, Steve took a coaching job in Germany in 1914 (bad timing) and was interred for the duration of the First World War. The anthem Steve Bloomer's Watching' is played at every Derby home game and there is a bust of him at the Pride Park Stadium. Bloomer also played baseball for Derby County Baseball Club and helped them become British champions three times in the 1890s.
Steve was one of the legendary figures of the game and known as “Paleface”. Sometimes criticised for being selfish and looking too nonchalant. Don Davies of the Manchester Guardian (who died in the Munich disaster in 1958) recalled that when, as a schoolboy, he watched Bloomer, he saw “a portly individual with close-cropped hair and a great white moon of a face apparently bored to death by the proceedings. Near the end, it is true, Steve kicked disdainfully at a ball rolling towards him and through turning his back immediately was the only player on the field who did not know he had scored. Steve Bloomer in his prime walked to his place in an England side as uncontestably as Don Bradman later walked into Australia’s cricket team.”
As well as his scoring record for Derby County and Middlesbrough he scored 28 goals in 23 appearances for England - a record that stood for nearly 50 years.