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A History of Everton Reserves


The old Central League was the mainstay of reserve football for many years from 1911. 
But at ToffeeWeb, we go right back to the very roots of Everton's second-string...

 

 PAGE CONTENTS

 
 Everton Swifts 1886-87: Where they the first Everton Reserve Team?
 Everton Athletic 1890-91: The first trophy
 The Combination 1891-99: Everton – Champions all the way!
 Lancashire Combination 1899-1911: Everton – Champions 5 Times
 Central League 1911-81: Everton – Champions 4 Times
 Central League - Division 1 1981-90: Everton – Runners-Up just once
 Pontins Central League 1990-96: Everton – Relegated! Promoted & Runners-Up
 Pontins Premier League 1996-99: The last gasp of the Central League
 FA Premier Reserve League 1999-12: The new Reserves/Under-21 FA league
 FA Premier Under-21 League 2012-16: The FA Under-21 League
 FA Premier League 2 2016-__: The new FA Under-23 Development League
 

 EVERTON SWIFTS AND EVERTON ATHLETIC

 
Reserve teams have been around since the earliest days of organised football.  In the late 1800's, clubs like St Domingo's were originally formed solely for the benefit of the players � pleasing the fans came later.  Playing members of the earliest clubs paid a subscription, turned up at the appointed time, and got a game.

Initially, games with other clubs were a rarity and, when they occurred, the clubs usually agreed to play two games simultaneously.  The best players would play at one club's home ground, and the second team would play at the other ground.  So the pattern for first-team and reserve-team football was established.

But it took some time before it was organised into leagues we would recognise today.  And the reserve teams often took on other names. There are records of some matches played in 1886-87 by Everton Swifts.

The first season of the Liverpool and District League was 1889-90.  Its second season, 1890-91, featured a team called Everton Athletic � probably yet another name for the Reserves:

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1890-91    19     8    2    9    51   43    18    9th  

An interesting precursor to the imminent split in 1892 that briefly spawned a new club in Liverpool, called Everton Athletic and Football Grounds Limited before the FA forced that name to be changed to "Liverpool".  

 

 THE COMBINATION

 
One of the other leagues to be established in 1890 was The Combination.  The Combination was unusual in that contained teams covering a modest geographic range:
  • Gorton Villa
  • Denton
  • Hyde
  • Witton
  • Macclesfield
  • Chester
  • Northwhich Victoria
  • Wrexham
  • Leek
  • Burton Swifts
  • Staffs County (Stoke)
  • Derby St Lukes

Everton Reserves joined The Combination in 1891, where they began a remarkable record, with three successive championships:

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1891-92    22    17    2    3    99   20    36    1st  
      1892-93    22    18    2    2   107   13    38    1st
      1893-94    18    15    2    1    77   19    32    1st

In 1894-95, Everton Reserves switched to the Lancashire Combination, and were duly crowned Champions of that competition also:

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1894-95    24    20    3    1   137   33    43    1st  

Look at that goal-scoring record � an average of almost six goals in each game!  The next season, they returned to The Combination, continuing where they had left off:

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1895-96    14    11    2    1    54   12    24    1st
      1896-97    18    14    3    1    61   14    31    1st
      1897-98    24    15    5    4    65   25    35    1st
      1898-99    28    23    4    1   112   18    50    1st

In the words of Everton historian, Thomas Keates: "The Superiority of our Reserves to the teams they opposed was overwhelmingly demonstrated by the single and aggregate results of the matches played, as shown in detail by these tables." (History of the Everton Football Club, 1878 - 1928).

 

 LANCASHIRE COMBINATION

 
In 1899, Everton Reserves switched back to the Lancashire Combination, where seeds of decline started to take root: they only managed 5 Championships over the next 12 seasons:
       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1899-00    30    20    4    6    78   28    44    3rd  
      1900-01    34    29    2    3   114   22    60    1st
      1901-02    34    24    3    7    86   35    51    2nd
      1902-03    34    16    7   11    74   54    39    6th
      1903-04    34    26    6    2   114   32    58    1st
      1904-05    34    13    8   13    49   41    34    9th
      1905-06    38    14   10   14    64   63    38    8th
      1906-07    38    24    5    9    90   47    53    3rd
      1907-08    38    26    7    5   109   38    59    1st
      1908-09    38    23    8    7   104   51    54    1st
      1909-10    38    22    8    8    87   39    52    1st
      1910-11    38    21    7   10    82   35    49    2nd

Everton Reserves, along with a host of other reserves teams, left the Lancashire Combination in 1911 to join the new Central League.

 

 THE CENTRAL LEAGUE

 
The Central League started up in 1911-12 with 17 teams from the North and the Midlands.  Its compliment in the south was the London Combination, later to be called the Football Combination (no connection to the Lancashire / Northwest variety).
       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1911-12    32    14    8   10    66   51    36    3rd
      1912-13    38    18    5   15    79   68    41   10th
      1913-14    38    20    9    9    83   57    49    1st
      1914-15    38    14    6   18    71   77    34   12th
      1915-16                                              
      1916-17           Central League suspended           
      1917-18             during World War I               
      1918-19                                              
      1919-20    42    19    8   15    83   66    46    8th
      1920-21    42    21    6   15    85   74    48    8th

The Football League's Division Three (North) was formed in 1921 and amongst its founder members were all the local clubs who were at that time playing their first teams in the Central League:

  • Crew Alexandra
  • Southport
  • Rochdale
  • Stalybridge Celtic (who curiously played in the Southern League for 1914-15)
  • Nelson
  • Tranmere Rovers

The composition of the Central League was relatively stable for the next 60 years, with 22 reserves teams from the north of England imitating the structure of the Football League's First Division.  This is the record for Everton Reserves, who won the Championship on just three more occasions:

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1921-22    42    19   13   10    76   58    51    3rd
      1922-23    42    23   11    8    96   63    57    3rd
      1923-24    42    14   18   10    68   72    38   12th
      1924-25    42    27    6    9    90   49    60    2nd
      1925-26    42    14   12   16    73   62    40   16th
      1926-27    42    18    9   15    81   71    45    9th
      1927-28    42    16   10   16   108   90    42   13th
      1928-29    42    18    4   20    88   94    40   13th
      1929-30    42    15    6   21    85   96    36   14th
      1930-31    42    19    4   19    98  100    42   12th
      1931-32    42    17    4   21   100   86    38   13th
      1932-33    42    20    8   14    94   65    48    6th
      1933-34    42    16    8   18    83   90    40   13th
      1934-35    42    22    8   12    96   75    52    3rd
      1935-36    42    20    4   18    85   79    44   11th
      1936-37    42    15   15   12    85   81    45   10th
      1937-38    42    31    3    8   109   44    65    1st
      1938-39    42    20    7   15    69   74    47    6th
      1939-40                                              
      1940-41                                              
      1941-42           Central League suspended           
      1942-43             during World War II              
      1943-44                                              
      1944-45                                              
      1945-46    40    12    4   24    72   99    28   20th
      1946-47    42    18    8   16    79   75    44   10th
      1947-48    42    22    8   12    87   63    52    5th
      1948-49    42    18    4   20    49   58    40   13th
      1949-50    42    13   14   15    45   49    40   13th
      1950-51    42    19   11   12    77   74    49    5th
      1951-52    42    25    8    9    86   47    58    2nd
      1952-53    42    16   13   13    73   65    45    8th
      1953-54    42    24   10    8    90   46    58    1st
      1954-55    42    21    9   12    72   46    51    6th
      1955-56    42    24    9    9    82   50    57    3rd
      1956-57    42    20    9   13    88   65    49    6th
      1957-58    42    22    9   11    89   56    53    2nd
      1958-59    42    11    9   22    61   83    31   18th
      1959-60    42    15   13   14    72   62    43   10th
      1960-61    42    12   11   19    60   79    35   18th
      1961-62    42    13   12   17    62   69    38   15th
      1962-63    42    20   11   11    80   60    51    7th
      1963-64    42    17    7   18    77   59    41   11th
      1964-65    42    26    8    8   103   50    60    2nd
      1965-66    42    24    5   13    92   62    53    4th
      1966-67    42    26    7    9   100   50    59    2nd
      1967-68    42    24   10    8    93   45    58    1st
      1968-69    42    21    7   14    54   50    49    6th
      1969-70    42    20   12   10    75   42    52    5th
      1970-71    42    22   12    8    69   41    56    3rd
      1971-72    42    25    9    8    82   41    59    2nd
      1972-73    42    20    9   13    55   41    49    7th
      1973-74    42    20   11   11    68   41    51    4th
      1974-75    42    19   10   13    51   38    48    5th
      1975-76    42    18    8   16    70   57    44    8th
      1976-77    42    15   14   13    51   46    44    9th
      1977-78    42    19   15    8    54   39    53    4th
      1978-79    42    18    7   17    50   49    43   13th
      1979-80    42    20   10   12    73   46    50    6th
      1980-81    42    17   11   14    58   53    45    8th
      1981-82    42    30    3    9    98   32    63    2nd  
  

 CENTRAL LEAGUE � DIVISION ONE

 
In 1982, the Central League expanded to 32 teams and split into two divisions.  Everton were ridding high in Division 1:
      Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1982-83    30    17    8    5    47   20    42    3rd
      1983-84    30    16    3   11    53   35    51    5th
      1984-85    34    16    3   15    73   59    51    9th
      1985-86    34    12    6   16    36   44    42   13th
      1986-87    34    17    8    9    58   31    59    5th
      1987-88    34    14    5   15    57   46    47    8th
      1988-89    34    19    7    8    70   35    64    2nd
      1989-90    34    16    5   13    58   53    53    8th
  

 PONTINS CENTRAL LEAGUE

 
Sponsorship began in 1990, with Pontins adopting the Central League, and Everton Reserves are tempted to drift off on their own holiday by the sea:
      Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1990-91    34    16    5   13    59   51    53    5th
      1991-92    34    10    7   17    44   67    37   15th

Everton Reserves were relegated for the first time ever... but they bounced right back into the top flight:

      Pontins League, Division 2

      Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1992-93    34    21   10    3    78   44    73    2nd

The best season for Everton Reserves in the Pontins League (1994-95) coincided with the year that the senior team won the FA Cup, and preceded one of the best early seasons for Everton in the new FA Premier League:

      Pontins League, Division 1

      Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos
      1993-94    34    12    7   15    54   50    43   13th
      1994-95    34    17   10    7    63   32    61    2nd
      1995-96    34    14   10   10    50   41    52    7th
 

 PONTINS PREMIER DIVISION

 
The Central League was reorganized in 1996, with Pontins reassigning the 13 top teams from the old Division 1 to form a new Premier Division for the reserves.  Everton Reserves did not impress in the new structure:
       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos  ToffeeWeb Links
      1996-97    24     8    6   10    31   42    30   10th  Everton Reserves
      1997-98    24     9    6    9    33   32    33    7th  Everton Reserves
      1998-99    24    11    5    8    35   28    38    5th  Everton Reserves

With the development of new Youth Academy league competitions under the umbrella of the FA at Under-17 and Under-19 levels, then at Reserves/Under-21 for Premier League clubs, the make-up of the historic Central League followed that of the Football League some years earlier.  The Central League and the Football Combination were subsequently made up of reserves teams from the Nationwide Football League Divisions.  
 

 FA RESERVE/U-21 PREMIER LEAGUE (North Section)

 
The FA extended their revitalisation of youth football to form a new Premier League for the reserves, with an emphasis on Under-21 players.  The league was split into two sections (North and South), initially with 13 teams each.  Everton Reserves started poorly in the Northern Section of this new structure, but then came good in the second season, winning the league in fine style:
       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos  ToffeeWeb Links
      1999-2k    24     7   10    7    44   40    31    9th  Everton Reserves
      2000-01    22    14    2    6    35   22    44    1st  Everton Reserves
      2001-02    24     8    8    8    30   30    32    9th  Everton Reserves
      2002-03    28    12    7    9    44   36    43    6th  Everton Reserves
      2003-04    26    10    8    8    37   33    38    7th  Everton Reserves
      2004-05    28     8   11    9    23   34    35    8th  Everton Reserves
      2005-06    28    10    8   20    31   35    38    8th  Everton Reserves
      2006-07    18     3    7    8    18   25    16    9th  Everton Reserves
      2007-08    18     4    4   10    21   31    16    8th  Everton Reserves
      2008-09    20     5    7    8    19   25    22    8th  Everton Reserves
      2009-10    18     5    3   10    17   30    16    9th  Everton Reserves
      2010-11    19     4    3   12    23   34    15    4th  Everton Reserves
      2011-12    22     9    8    5    38   29    35    3rd  Everton Reserves

Subsequently, in recent years, the role and even the name of the Reserves has come more and more into question, with a thinner and thinner first-team squad, and younger and younger support players from Everton's Youth Academy who can in no way be considered as true "reserves".  This progressive diminishment of the Reserves was accelerated in 2006 with the decision to remove from the FA Premier Reserves League all clubs whose first teams were not in the FA Premier League proper.  Hence the reduction to 10 teams (north section) and only 18 games in the season.

In 2010-11, the North section was split into Groups A and B, each team playing 19 games under some more bizarre fixture changes in response to Fulham, Birmingham and Newcastle pulling their sides out of the League. Everton were bottom of the five teams in Group B for most of the season until they moved up with only their 4th win of the season.

The reserves represent the often overlooked and commonly maligned flipside from the glamour of first-team professional football.  Yet this history demonstrates the roots of Reserves football can be traced right back to the earliest years of organized league football, at a time when Everton held absolute supremacy over all their local rivals at this level.  With the latest incarnation, however. the "reserves" tag has finally been discarded...

  
 

 FA PREMIER UNDER-21 LEAGUE (Group 1)

 

On 3 August 2012, in line with the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan, it was formally announced that the Premier Reserve League would cease to exist,  replaced by a new Professional Development League 1, to be commonly known as the FA Barclays Premier Under-21 League. A similar U18 league was also created. Teams were ranked according to the categorising of the club academy (a categorisation that would be re-assessed every three years). Everton are a Categroy A team.

It marked the beginning of a new era for the increasingly irrelevant Reserves, whose history stretches back to an age that pre-dated the formation of the Football League in 1888.  The Under-21s were designed to represent the end product of the Academies being strongly promoted at Premier League clubs to address the increasing dearth of decent English players coming up through the ranks.

The competition was not optional, and participation from all 20 Premier League clubs therefore confirmed (although Wigan, QPR and Swansea were initially in Professional Development League 2, sitting outside of the U21 Premier Reserve League). The new FA Premier Under-21 League format included 17 Premier League sides and six Championship sides. Participating clubs were split into three National Groups for the first stage of the season, the 8 best then playing in an Elite Group for the second stage, with two Qualifying zGroups of 7 teams each beneath them. .

These seasons started to see more detailed internet coverage of all teams at the excellent Youthawk Wiki site (season links included below). 

       Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos  ToffeeWeb Links
      2012-13    26    12    8    6    37   30    44    4th  Everton Under-21s
      2013-14    21     8    6    7    28   29    30   11th  Everton Under-21s
      2014-15    22     8    3   11    32   37    27   10th  Everton Under-21s
      2015-16    22    10    7    5    35   27    37    3rd  Everton Under-21s
      

In the first season, Everton finished 4th in Group 1 and just missed qualification for the Elite Group but won their Qualification Group 1 in the second stage and did get into the playoffs where they beat Newcastle Utd fell at Spurs, who had the best combined league record but lost the Playoff Final to Manchester United.

The format changed in subsequent seasons:

  • In 2013-14, 22 teams play each other once in a combined league, either home or away, before the top four teams progressed to the Knockout Stage.
  • For 2014-15, those clubs that finished in the top 11 remained in the top tier, while the bottom 11 sides were split off into Division 2.
  • In 2015-16, the two 11-team divisions were unchanged but a 4-team playoff was introduced for the 2nd place promotion from Division 2.
  • However, with a high turnover of young players and very few able to step up to the senior squad, the revamped Under-21s took a while to really raise the profile of the Academy among most rank-and-file fans, whose focus remained firmly on the senior squad and the excitement of new foreign players injected every six months via the far more interesting transfer window.

     

     FA PREMIER LEAGUE 2 (Division 1)

     

    Premier League 2 debuted in the 2016-17 campaign as the new top tier of the Professional Development League. It was rebranded from the previous Premier Under-21 League, with the age range changed from Under-21 to Under-23. Clubs were also still permitted to field three 'over-age' outfield players and one 'over-age' goalkeeper. The match calendar was set to be fixed at the start of the season with no movement of match rounds permitted; clubs will only be permitted flexibility regarding on which weekend day (Friday to Monday) the games would  be played.

    Promotion and relegation of two teams would continue to apply, with the teams finishing 11th and 12th in Division 1 relegated, with the team finishing top of Division 2 automatically promoted. Those teams finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in Division 2 would compete in a promotion playoff.

    In the first season of Premier League 2, Everton did superbly well under David Unsworth to clinch the Division 1 Championship trophy:

           Season      P     W    D    L    GF   GA    Pts   Pos  ToffeeWeb Links
          2016-17    22    15    3    4    48   21    48    1st  Everton Under-23s
    

    With a financial incentive to retain young players and very few able to step up to the senior squad, the revamped Under-23s attained greater visibility for the second string, with the recognition that an effective production line could pay for itself through the sale of promising youngsters to the lower leagues if they did not make the highly competitive Premier League grade.

     
    Michael Kenrick
    ToffeeWeb Editor

    © ToffeeWeb 2017

      

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