When Everton travel to meet Aston Villa on 26 October 2013, they will add weight to what is the most repeated fixture in the top flight of English football. The two clubs have, to date, met each other on no fewer than 196 occasions.

The first of these encounters took place on 22 September 1888 at the Aston Lower Grounds (later to be known as Villa Park) in Birmingham and it led to the first suspensions, handed out by the games governing body, to two players who were registered with their organisation. One of them was the Everton full back, Alexander Dick.

Always known as Sandy, Alex Dick was born, 29 December 1864, in the Ayrshire railway town of Kilmarnock. In 1881, then 16, he was living at 7 High Glencairn Square with his parents and their six other children. He gave his occupation as that of an Iron Turner. Around 1884 his footballing talents first came to light while he was playing for Kilmarnock Athletic on their ground at Holm Quarry and it was from here that he was invited to sign for a now defunct Liverpool based football club who played under the name of Stanley.

He accepted the terms offered to him and, in 1885, he captained his new club when he first played for them on their home ground at Walton Stiles. Sandy proved to be a robust and fearless wee character with an uncompromising style of play that was to earn him, during his first season in England, the unsavoury nickname of Dirty Dick.

Nevertheless, he proved to be the most outstanding player in the Stanley team and served them well until the end of the season. However, before returning to spend the summer in his native Scotland, Sandy let it be known that he was open to offers from any other club who would improve the terms under which he had played for Stanley. His overtures reached the ears of the executive at Everton Football Club who promptly persuaded him to sign for them when he returned to England.

The football season was well underway when Sandy eventually arrived back in Liverpool and he made his debut on 9 September 1886, against a Derby County side who were visiting Anfield for the first time. He took up position at full back and joined his fellow Scotsman, Andrew Gibson, also from Kilmarnock, who was playing at the heart of the Everton defence. The match drew a crowd of 4,000 people to the enclosure who looked on as Everton beat Derby County by 4 goals to 1.

Sandy quickly formed a full-back partnership with the club captain, George Dobson, and took part in the FA Cup tie, which had been surrendered by Everton, against Glasgow Rangers. Eight weeks later, on a snow covered pitch, Sandy was in the Everton side when the famous Corinthians visited Liverpool during their Christmas tour.

There was an unusually large amount of journalists covering the game, many of them from the national press, some of whom were critical of a couple of tackles, made by Sandy, on the famous Corinthian football player, Doctor John Smith. The name of Sandy Dick was becoming well known throughout the land.

However, the change of climate, it would appear, was beginning to affect the health of the wee Scottish laddie who now had a prolonged absence from the Everton team. His time off prompted a Lancashire newspaper to print the following article

Wild rumours of the disappearance of Dick from the Liverpool football scene were afloat last week. He was done with Liverpool football. The place will know him no more. But it is likely that acquaintance so acceptably formed by the Kilmarnock full back with the Everton club is likely to be of a much longer duration. He has not been in best of health for some time and an acute attack of Neuralgia has inducted him to return home to recuperate on his native heath.
(The Football Field, 5 March 1887.)

It took a while for Sandy to convalesce so it was around the middle of March when he returned to Liverpool and began playing football again. He served Everton well during the remainder of the season and was rewarded with his first medal when the club lifted the Liverpool Senior Cup. The style of play shown by Alex Dick and Andy Gibson now encouraged the Everton executive to strengthen their team and, when the next season commenced, they had several new Scottish players in their team.

Rumours, once again, began to circulate around the football world and the whisper was that the Everton directorate were paying the Scots for their services. Things eventually came to head when Bolton Wanderers, following their FA Cup defeat, complained to football authorities that Everton had fielded several players who were not eligible to take part in the contest.

The FA committee, after investigation, found Everton guilty of paying certain players, Sandy amongst them, and punished the Anfield club by closing down their ground for one month. The new Scottish players then returned home but Sandy remained in Liverpool and, after serving out a suspension, he was registered as a professional football player with Everton. He then helped their depleted side through the rest of season and was still with them when, in 1888, they became founder members of the Football League.

Sandy Dick took part in the club’s inaugural match, against Accrington, where he partnered, at full back, a certain Nick Ross who had recently joined Everton from Preston North End. Everton won the game by 2 goals to 1. Dick then took part in the next league game, a 2-1 win at the expense of Notts County, before the Everton players next travelled to Birmingham for the purpose of taking on Aston Villa. The game had been in progress for about an hour when Sandy became embroiled in an altercation with an opposing player by the name of Denny Hodgetts.

He caught his opponent with a kick and then received a retaliatory blow in face before the two players were pulled apart by their teammates. The referee, Mr Fitzroy-Norris, then admonished both players but did not send them off the field. He did however, in his post-match report, inform the FA of the incident and it was they who decided to thoroughly investigate the matter. Sandy Dick was on his way into football history.

The Scotsman, however, was in the Everton side who, the following Saturday, travelled to the home of Bolton Wanderers at Pikes Lane. With the score standing a 2-2, they fell apart and slumped to a 6-2 defeat. It was a poor performance by an Everton rear-guard that was minus their regular centre-half, Jonny Holt. Nevertheless Holt was back in the side the following Saturday for the return fixture with Aston Villa at Anfield.

The clash between Dick and Hodgetts, which had occurred two weeks before, had now been well documented in the national press and was the main topic of conversation amongst the crowd of over 12,000 people who had assembled at Anfield. There was however, to be no repercussions from what had occurred in Birmingham. The two players, before the game commenced, shock hands and a local newspaper reported that

Previous to starting the game, Hodgetts, against whom hard things have been said, openly apologised to Dick for the treatment that player had been subjected to at Birmingham, and said he was sorry for what he had done.
(Liverpool Mercury)

Everton went on to gain their revenge for their previous defeat by beating Aston Villa 2 goals to 0. Sandy Dick, who was reported to have played well, had, during the course of the game, done nothing unpleasant.

The following week, in the game with Notts County, he was back in the news again. The match took place at the former home of the Nottingham club at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. Everton were trailing 3-1 when it was reported that

Dick had given mortal offence for resorting to his old doubtful tactic of giving a knee.

This in turn was followed by a confrontation with certain members of the crowd who, when the final whistle sounded, invaded the field and attacked the Everton full back. He was struck on the head with a heavy stick and fell to the ground but was rescued from being further injured by the police and club officials.

Sandy failed to recover from the assault and missed the next two league games, back-to-back wins over Derby County, before returning to the Everton side as they gained a revenge victory, beating Bolton Wanderers at Anfield by 2 goals to 1. Alex Dick, along with Denny Hodgetts, was then summonsed before the Football League disciplinary committee in Birmingham to answer a charge of foul play.

A second meeting was required, which took place in Nottingham, before judgement was passed and both players were found guilty. The Everton man, who was sentenced first, was suspended from playing football for a period of two months, while Hodgetts was suspended for one month. Alexander Dick thus achieved the distinction of being the first player to be suspended by the Football League. He then had to wait until the beginning of February before being recalled to the Everton side for the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers. He held his place for the next game, against West Bromwich Albion, which was to be his ninth, and final, Football League match for Everton.

Sandy, in the meantime, had taken up residence at 101 Thirlemere Road in Liverpool where he caught the eye of a 19-year-old young lady who lived at number 66. Her name was Emma Stafford; she and Sandy were married on 30 August 1889, at St Saviours church in Everton. The health of Alex Dick however, once again, was giving cause for concern. The club appeared to be certain that he would soon recover because they registered him in preparation for the forthcoming football season and, as it approached, a local newspaper, The Liverpool Mercury, mentioned that Sandy was mending fast.

Nevertheless, his return to good health must have taken some time because it was the first week of October before he was considered well enough to be selected for the Everton second eleven in a home game against Birkdale. The match attracted a crowd of over 1,500 spectators. The Liverpool Courier, who covered the game, reported that

When their old favourite, Dick, put in his appearance for the first time this season, the enthusiasm of the spectators knew no bounds.

The match proved an easy one for Everton who were leading 8-0 when Sandy received a leg injury and, to a great cheer from the crowd, played out the last few minutes by replacing Joliffe in the Everton goal as they went on to win by 9 goals to 0. The injury however, was to put an end to the professional career of Alex Dick who never played football for Everton again.

He later ran a public house at 41 Whitefield Road in Everton and played football for an amateur side that represented the local Licensed Victuallers. Sandy maintained his connections with Everton but chose to remain at Anfield when they decided to up sticks move to their present day home at Goodison Park. The new residents, Liverpool FC, offered him the position of club trainer and he took part in the clubs internal practice matches. He also represented the club in a pre-season friendly game against Queen of the South Wanderers and remained at Anfield for one season. Alex Dick then retired from the game.

The 1911 census revealed that Sandy had returned to his trade as an Iron Turner, living with his wife Emma at 271 County Road in Walton. The couple had four children. He had reached the age of 60 when the news of his death reached the ears of the Liverpool public. The Liverpool Echo, dated 4 June 1925, reported that

He had a long and painful illness and his death yesterday was in the nature of merciful release.

His funeral service, which was well-attended, took place in the chapel at Anfield Cemetery; Mr J Fare was there to represent the Everton directors while W H Parry, Andy Gibson and J W Platt paid their last respects on behalf of the club’s former players. This wee man from Kilmarnock, the first player to be suspended by the Football League, was then laid to rest at Anfield Cemetery in Liverpool.

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Reader Comments (10)

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Peter Hall
1 Posted 19/09/2013 at 23:47:22
Thank you, Tony, that was really interesting 0 how did you pull all that information together?

I bet he's got lots of surviving relatives around here!

Harold Matthews
2 Posted 20/09/2013 at 00:52:30
Thanks, Tony. Great story!

Sounds like Big Dunc was born in the wrong era.
Derek Knox
3 Posted 20/09/2013 at 01:02:08
Good read Tony!

Although it can't be disputed in the many years that have passed, Everton have had a few other 'dicks' on the books!

At least we've got a squad with no 'dicks' now! That again is subject to opinion!

Derek Thomas
4 Posted 20/09/2013 at 05:21:28
Also, it gives hime 2 more claims to fame, the 1st player to play for both clubs and if you take his time with Stanley into account the 1st player to play for 3 local senior-ish clubs...( I don't count the rs as a proper club )
John Keating
5 Posted 20/09/2013 at 08:00:42
Smashing yarn!

Wish he was playing now and down to mark the cannibal in the derby match!!

Bob McEvoy
6 Posted 20/09/2013 at 11:52:48
Tony...smashing stuff. God knows how you pulled it all together.

Minor point: I thought Aston Villa played at Perry Barr when the Football League started.

Eugene Ruane
7 Posted 20/09/2013 at 11:40:09

(Anyone who hasn't read the ESPN piece 'Are football supporters ever happy?' should. Very entertaining and informative.)

Vince Furnier
8 Posted 20/09/2013 at 12:27:03
A great read and well researched. Thanks for sharing that with us Tony.
Mike Gaynes
10 Posted 20/09/2013 at 18:47:21
A professional-caliber article, Tony... this must have taken days to write. Thanks for sharing a lovely read with us.
Joe Shields
11 Posted 30/09/2013 at 12:37:46
Thanks Tony.

I really enjoyed reading your article.
Will look out for your next installment with great anticipation.

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