The history of football is replete with tales of brothers who played the game. Stories of their similarities, differences and achievements vary, but none perhaps come near to the story of Archie and John Goodall. “Who?” I hear you say. You may well ask. Their names are hardly known now – perhaps outside of Preston and Derby – but the exploits and successes of the Goodall boys, around the turn of the nineteenth century, surely far exceed anything managed by football-playing siblings ever since. Born a year apart, in 1863 and 1864 respectively, they set a number of firsts-ever achievements and records, many of which stand to this day.
The Goodall’s father was a Scottish soldier, a corporal in the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, serving in the British Army. As such, although the family home was in Scotland, military assignments took Goodall Snr, and his family, on many journeys. All of which explains why John was born in London, and Archie in Belfast. This quirk of their father’s profession would also mean them playing for different countries – neither of which was Scotland. So, what was so special about John and Archie Goodall?
Well, to start with there’s certainly a case to be made for John Goodall being labelled the first true star of the English game. How so? Well, let me list a few of his achievements. Firstly, he was a key player in the Preston North End team – labelled ‘The Invincibles’ back in the 1888-89 season, way before a north London club was granted the sobriquet more than a century later – that went through the inaugural Football League season undefeated. Additionally, scoring 20 goals that in that term, he was the first league top scorer. He was the first man to manage Watford, and to this day, remains the oldest player ever to turn out for them, aged 44. A teetotaller, whilst at Preston, he also had the unnerving habit of walking his ‘domesticated’ pet wolves around the pitch at half-time to give them exercise. But there’s so much more to his story.
Younger brother Archie, as with his brother, was also a teetotaller and non-smoker, and competed in that first league season too, playing for Aston Villa, whom he had joined for then extravagant fee of £100 from Preston North End, where he had briefly played alongside his brother. They would do so again later, in the colours of Derby County. That however came after they became the first brothers to play for different countries. John for England and Archie for Ireland, Strangely, despite the closeness of their birth dates, their international careers did not overlap. There was therefore never the chance for them to play against each other for their respective countries of birth. John won the last of his 14 caps in 1898, and Archie the first of his ten, the following year. As with his brother, Archie not only also moved into management, his post was with Wolverhampton Wanderers, but also remains the oldest player ever to turn out for the Molineux club, aged 41.
When John was two years old, and Archie a mere toddler, the family returned to Scotland, eventually moving to Kilmarnock, where football first became a key component of the brothers’ lives. At the time, with the game still in its infancy, styles were developing differently across the nation. In Scotland, there was very much an adherence to what today may be termed as a ‘passing game.’ As a gifted forward, this suited John’s natural abilities well, and he quickly prospered, playing for Kilmarnock Bairns and then moving on to Kilmarnock Athletic where he debuted at 17.
Four years later, he moved south of the border to Great Lever FC in Bolton, Lancashire. Bringing his Scottish footballing heritage with him, he then had the more robust English tradition welded onto his game, giving him a style, that made the technique of many of his teammates appear one dimensional in comparison. At the time, it may have looked like a strange move, to leave Scotland and travel to Lancashire, but as with players in today’s game, money was very much a driving factor. Although nominally still amateur, this was a rule more observed in theory than practise and clubs with the best funding accumulated the best players. Money stuffed into a boot was nothing unusual. These were the days of unashamed ‘shamateurism’ as football struggled to free itself of amateur shackles.
As mentioned earlier, John Goodall would later play for Derby County, it’s somewhat ironic therefore that his debut for Great Lever, in September 1884, was against that same club who were playing their first ever fixture as a club. Great Lever triumphed 6-0 with Goodall netting four times. He would make it up to Derby later, but before he travelled to the East Midlands, Goodall would move to Preston where he would enjoy some glorious times.
Preston North End were very much one of the foremost teams of English football at the time. Driven on by their chairman, William Sudell, they sought out the prime talents in the country to turn the club into the most successful of the time. In such circumstances, John Goodall would inevitably be a targeted acquisition, and in 1885, as professionalism in the game was made legitimate, Goodall moved to the club.
It was with Preston that Goodall enjoyed a couple of other records. Firstly, he played in the FA Cup tie against Hyde, when his club ran up a 26-0 victory, which remains the largest winning margin in English football, although surprisingly, Goodall only found the back of the net once himself. He also played in Preston’s remarkable run of 42 consecutive victories. Another record that still stands to this day in English football. The run was finally ended in the 1888 FA Cup Final with a 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
That loss was a mere blip in the club’s progress though, as the following season, during the first league programme, Preston went through their entire run of matches undefeated in both league and FA Cup. Yet another record yet to be equalled. Throughout the season, Goodall only missed a single game, and ended as the league’s top scorer. In the same season, unsurprisingly, Goodall was also selected for his international debut, as England defeated Wales 5-1.
With Preston now the ‘the club’ in England, and Goodall installed as the first real national star of the game, it was a major surprise when he left the club in 1889 to join Derby County. Brother Archie joined at the same time. Other than describing the transfer as “strange” or “unexpected,” I can find no record of any explanation for the move, other than a reference to the brothers becoming tenants of “The Plough” pub in Derby. In footballing terms neither club seemed to gain much advantage. Initially, Preston seemed undamaged by the loss of their star payer, going on to retain the league title the following year. It would be their last championship however.
Goodall would stay with Derby for the next eleven years and although the new club established themselves, they failed to win a single trophy in the time Goodall brothers played there, although they finished as runners-up once and in third place in the league once. They also lost in two FA Cup semi-finals, and one final, although John Goodall missed that game through injury. Had he been fit to play the match may well have had a different outcome. With John Goodall being the player that he was however, he did set another record that has yet to be bettered, when he scored in six consecutive games for the club.
He was also looked up to as a mentor by many younger players for his attitude and application to his profession, earning him the nickname, “Johnny Allgood.” The extent of his influence is illustrated in the words of Steve Bloomer, who came to be known as one of the best players ever produced by the club. Talking of John Goodall, Bloomer remarked, “Goodall took the greatest interest in me when I was a kid. He coached me, secured me for Derby County, played with me and never failed to give me valuable hints and advice.” He was also effusive about Goodall’s talent, “Johnny Goodall was a wonderful footballer, brilliant captain and Nature’s gentleman, but little did I think when all the fuss was made over his arrival from Preston what an influence for good was being brought into my life. I always maintain that no player has ever known as much about football and its methods than this old friend of mine.”
Goodall stayed with Derby until he was 37 yeas old, at which time it seemed he realised it was time to ease things down a little. Not wanting to retire though, he moved to the ill-fated Merseyside club New Brighton Tower. The club’s owners had signed Goodall as part of a group of former internationals with the idea that they would take the fledgling club into the First Division. It was a club with big ideas but very limited following. The gamble failed, and New Brighton Tower collapsed – the club, not the actual tower you understand – shortly afterwards.
Unfulfilled by his mere six appearances for the Merseyside club, Goodall then moved to Glossop North End, if the club’s name carried echoes of the glory times at Preston, the reality was less appealing. Eight goals in 35 games across three seasons perhaps illustrated the strengths of the club and a player now 40 years of age.
In 1903, with Glossop proving less than ideal, Goodall took up the opportunity to become player-manager of Watford, then in the Southern League Division Two. He quickly showed that his mentoring time with Derby was an apt illustration of his ability as a manager. In his first season he took Watford to promotion. He then followed that up with an ‘invincible’ season in Division One of the Southern League, with the club winning no less than 18 of their 20 games and drawing the remaining pair. In 1907, at 42 years of age, with 62 games and 14 goals behind for Watford, Goodall finally decided to hang up his boots so that he could concentrate on management.
John Goodall stayed at Watford until 1910, when he decided to take a little French leave in with Roubaix in the north of the country, near Lille. Coming out of retirement, he played for two years with the club, before returning to Britain as player-manager of Welsh Southern League side, Mardy, where he stayed until 1913. At the age of 50, he finally retired from both playing and management. In his career, he had played 370 club games and scored 150 goals, adding 12 for England in just 14 international appearances. He had been his country’s top scorer in two seasons, and also captained them on a few occasions. By almost any measure, it had been a full and glorious career.
If John Goodall had been the studious type and sort of model professional that could mentor players, brother Archie was cut from a slightly different cloth and although he also enjoyed a successful footballing careers, descriptions of him being ‘rumbustuous’ and ‘cussed’ suggest that the siblings may well have differed somewhat in an outlook to life and football.
Archie Goodall also began his career in north-west England, playing for Liverpool Stanley, Everton and St Judes as a youth player, before joining Preston North End, and his brother, in 1987 as Sudell accumulated his squad. Unlike brother John though, Archie would miss out on the glorious first league season with the club, when he moved on to Aston Villa later in the same year. In Birmingham, where he scored seven goals in 14 appearances playing as, what was termed at the time, an inside-right. The following season though, he again moved on, this time to Derby where he would team up with his brother once more. As with John, Archie set down some roots in the East Midlands, staying with Derby until 1903.
By now, Archie had been converted to a centre-half, where his robust physique could best serve the club. He still managed to net a half-century of goals in just more than 400 club games though. Unlike brother John, Archie’s time with the club many not have been all sweetness and light. I’ve read reports that suggest his strong personality often got the better of perhaps any sounder internal counsel. For example, one report has him refusing to play extra-time in a United Counties Cup Final, as his contract only required 90 minutes playing time of him. Another has him suspended from the 1899 FA Cup Final for an attitude described as “insubordination” and for “inattention to training.’”
In 1899, just as brother John’s international career was ending, a new regulation regarding non-resident nationals, gave Archie the opportunity to play for Ireland, and he won the first of his 10 international caps wearing the green of his country of birth as they went on to win that year’s Home International Championship. He, along with John, thus became the first brothers ever to represent different countries. In 1903, Archie scored the first goal in a 2-0 victory over Wales, making him the oldest player ever to score for Ireland at the age of 38 years and 283 days.
In 1903 Archie joined Plymouth Argyle, but it would be a short and tempestuous time with the Devon club. Not long after arriving, a number of disputes between player and club emerged, leading to Archie Goodall appealing to The Football Association over the validity of his transfer. Some reports suggest that Archie quickly realised he had made a mistake with the move, and engineered a way out.
After leaving Plymouth, Archie moved into the chair not so long ago vacated by his brother as player-manager at Glossop. Again, it was a short stay though, before a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Midlands, where he played his final league game, as a centre forward, at 41 years and 153 days of age in December 1905, making him the oldest player ever to represent the Molyneux club.
Many descriptions of Archie Goodall may suggest an unfavourable comparison with his brother, in terms of temperament, but that may be unjust. Reading between the lines, he appears to be a man whose enthusiasm and desire may sometimes have got in the way of his better judgement. For all that though, it’s perhaps telling that he was club captain at Derby for a number of years, suggesting that stories of less than moderate behaviour may have been the exceptions rather than the rule. After retirement, Archie Goodall put his physical attributes to a different use, touring as a ‘strongman’ touring Europe and North America, before working as a singer in musical halls around London.
The stories of John and Archie Goodall read like something form a 1950’s Boy’s Own comic strip, where brothers leave home to conquer the footballing world in their individual ways, but cross paths many times, helping each other on the way. The difference is of course that this story is true. There are of course stories of many other, probably more famous, brothers that have played gloriously over the years; the Charltons come immediately to mind. Are there, though, any brothers though that pioneered so many things, set so many records, and played for so long? Perhaps at least in that sense, the story of John and Archie Goodall is unique.
(This All Blue Daze article was originally produced for ‘The Football Pink’ website).