Bruce Rankin at Everton

“…Everton are fortunate in having a brilliant substitute in Rankin, who seems to improve at every appearance and has a host of admirers.”

Liverpool Echo 1st September 1905

“An easy-moving, graceful-looking wing forward, clever on the ball and a player who could let fly with a useful telling shot.”

Who’s Who of Everton by Tony Matthews 2004


ruce Rankin was born in Liverpool on 5th July 1879. However, a number of sources, including Everton FC, have Bruce down as having been born in Scotland in 1880; even two of his daughters believed that he had been born there. His father, also Bruce Rankin, had been born in Liverpool too, but his mother, Sarah Hind, was a native of Dumfries in Scotland. Perhaps it was his mother's Scottish ancestry that made him claim that he had been born in Scotland.

As a youngster, Bruce played at inside-right for a number of local teams, including Kirkdale FC, one of the top teams in the 1 Zingari League at that time. Whilst at Kirkdale, he represented Lancashire against Cheshire.

Bruce at Everton

1901/02 Season

Bruce joined Everton in 1901, not as a football player but as Assistant Trainer, on wages of 25shs a week. His appointment was recorded in the minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors on 2nd May.

Four months later, Bruce was selected to play for Everton's reserve team at right-half against Glossop on Saturday, 14th September. On 30th October, the Board of Directors resolved that Bruce be employed as a player with an increase of 5shs in his wages.

Bruce continued to play for the reserves until 1st February 1902 when he was called on for his first team debut for the league game away to Sheffield United. He had a fairly quiet game in the scoreless draw, although he did get a couple of mentions in the match report in the Football Echo.

That was Bruce's only appearance in the first team that season. He returned to the reserves, primarily at outside-right. In the close season, he re-signed for the following season for 50shs a week, an increase of £1. The maximum weekly wage for a footballer at that time was £4.

1902/03 Season

Bruce was appointed captain of the reserve team for the coming season - surprisingly perhaps, as he had only been a player for less than a year.

Everton had lost their first three games of the season, when they had to make three enforced changes for their next game, against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molyneux on 20th September. Bruce replaced the injured Jack Sharp, an Everton legend, on the right wing. The game ended 1-1, giving Everton their first point of the season. Bruce scored Everton's goal, his first for the senior team.

He must have been extremely disappointed to learn that he was dropped for the next game in favour of Sharp, who had recovered from injury. This was to be the story for much of Bruce's time at Everton - understudy to Sharp.

Bruce did not play again for the first team until 15th November, when he again replaced Sharp, who was suffering from an injured tendon, in the away game against Sunderland. Everton lost 2-1, watched by 10,000 spectators. He had fairly quiet game, although he did strike the upright with his corner.

Sharp was still injured so Bruce kept his place the following week at Goodison Park against Stoke City. Everton suffered their second successive defeat, this time by 1-0.

Bruce then had a run of five games in the first team over the Christmas and New Year period, but at outside-left rather than on the right wing. This sequence started with the game on 13th December against West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park. Everton won 3-1 before 15,000 spectators. Bruce played well, getting a number of positive mentions in the match report.

He then played four games in 13 days: against Notts County (away) on 20th December, losing 2-0; against Grimsby Town (away) on Christmas Day, which resulted in a goalless draw; against Bolton Wanderers at home on 27th December, winning 3-1; and finally, against Bury (away) on New Year's Day, a 4-2 defeat.

His next game in the first team was on 31st January 1903 against Sheffield United at Goodison Park. He was again selected on the left wing and, before a crowd of 16,000, he scored the only goal of the game in the second half.

He was back in the first team two weeks later, on 14th February, replacing Jack Sharp, who was absent on international duty for England. Everton lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa before a crowd of 20,000. Bruce won a penalty when one of the Villa defenders handled his shot. Everton's Abbott sent the spot kick straight at the keeper, throwing away the chance of a point.

Bruce made his FA Cup debut the following week against Manchester United at Goodison Park, again in place of Sharp. United were in the Second Division at this time, and Everton emerged 3-1 winners in front of a crowd of 15,000 spectators. Everton were then knocked out in the next round of the Cup by Millwall from the Southern League.

He played for the first team on three more occasions before the end of the season: against Stoke City (away) on 21st March, a game which Everton lost 2-0; against Newcastle United (away) on 1st April, Everton losing 3-0; and on 4th April, against Sheffield Wednesday at Goodison Park in a 1-1 draw.

However, Everton did reach the final of the Lancashire Cup, knocking out Glossop, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers. They faced Bury in the final, only days after Bury had won the FA Cup at Crystal Palace when they beat Derby County by six goals to nil. They went on to add the Lancashire Cup to their collection with a 1-0 victory over Everton. Bruce played in the final and in the earlier rounds.

The highlight of Bruce's season, however, was his selection for the North v South on 26th January 1903, an international trial, played at Tottenham Hotspur's ground. Watched by 11,000 spectators, the North defeated the South 2-1. Immediately after the game, the selectors chose the England team to play Ireland on 14th February, but Bruce was not included.

This had been an extremely successful season for Bruce. He had played 14 games for Everton's first team and had been selected to play for the North against the South in an international trial. He clearly had a promising future.

He was re-signed by Everton in April for the following season and his weekly wage was increased by £1 to £3.10shs.

1903/04 Season

Unfortunately, despite the promise shown during the previous season, Bruce did not play for the first team until the final third of the season. He was kept out of the first team by the English international, Jack Sharp, and winger Harold Hardman, an amateur signed from Blackpool during the close season.

His first appearance was at inside-left in the away game against Nottingham Forest on 27th February. Everton won 4-0 and Bruce scored one of the goals. Almost two months later, he appeared against Derby County, in his usual position at outside right on this occasion, as Sharp was rested. Everton won 1-0 and Bruce had an excellent game. Two days later, on 18th April, he played at Goodison Park, this time in a 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion when he scored one of the goals.

Having managed only three first team games that season, Bruce must have been extremely disappointed, particularly as he would have been full of hope following his success of the previous campaign.

He was a regular for the reserve team, which topped the League by six points from Accrington Stanley. A league winners' medal for the reserve team would have been poor consolation for Bruce.

1904/05 Season

This season, Bruce got an early opportunity to show his worth. He replaced the injured Sharp in the fourth game of the season against Newcastle at St James Park on 17th September. Everton lost 3-2, watched by 25,000 spectators, although Bruce had one of his best games, according to the match report.

He continued in the first team for the next two games - a 1-0 home win against Preston North End and a 1-0 away defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough. Bruce received an excellent review in the match report for the latter game.

Sharp returned to the first team on 8th October, but was unable to play the following week against Bury away, and was replaced by Bruce. On a sunny afternoon, before a crowd of 10,000 spectators, Everton won 2-1.

Bruce kept his place the following week against Aston Villa at Goodison Park. Before a crowd of 25,000 spectators, Aston Villa were leading 2-1 in the second half, but Everton managed to score twice to win 3-2. He continued in the first team against Blackburn Rovers on 29th October. Blackburn scored the only goal of the game after 50 minutes, so Everton were unable to maintain their good run.

Sharp was fit again for the game against Nottingham Forest on 5th November, so Bruce returned to the Reserve team.

He returned to the first team for the away game against Derby County on 27th December for his third game in four days, having played for the Reserve team on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Everton beat Derby 2-1 with the winning goal coming 20 seconds from the final whistle.

He continued in the first team against Preston North End at Deepdale on 21st January, not on the right wing this time, but partnering Sharp, who had returned after injury. Everton could only manage a 1-1 draw, despite leading at half-time.

Sharp was missing from the first team for the next game, against Middlesbrough at Goodison Park, on 28th January and Bruce replaced him at outside-right. A crowd of 15,000 saw Makepeace gain a 1-0 victory for Everton with a second half penalty. Everton were now top of the First Division, equal on points with Sheffield United, but having played a game less.

The following Saturday, 4th February, Everton faced Liverpool at Anfield in the First Round proper of the FA Cup. Once again, Bruce lost his place to Jack Sharp. He returned to the Reserve team for the next few weeks, but was restored to the first team against Sheffield Wednesday at Goodison Park on Saturday, 11th March, when he took Hardman's place at outside left. Everton won 5-2, having been awarded three penalties.

For the next few games Bruce was back in the Reserves. However, Sharp had been injured whilst on international duty on Saturday, 1st April and Bruce took his place for the next three League games. The first of those was at Goodison Park on Wednesday, 5th April against Woolwich Arsenal. Everton scraped a 1-0 win, which put them at the top of the League, two points ahead of Newcastle and one ahead of Manchester City.

Bruce's next game was against Stoke City at Stoke three days later; Sharp was still an absentee with his injured shoulder. Stoke managed to gain a 2-2 draw with a disputed equaliser when the referee and linesman adjudged Everton's goalkeeper to have stepped over his goal line with the ball. Bruce did not have a good game, according to the press report.

Despite this, he kept his place on the right wing for the next League game, at home against Small Heath. Somewhat surprisingly, Everton were down 1-0 at half-time but, in the second half, they scored twice without any further reply from Small Heath. Again, it would seem that Bruce did not play well.

Everton then had three away games in four days at the end of April against Manchester City, Woolwich Arsenal and Nottingham Forest. Bruce did not play in any of those games. Everton lost 2-0 to Manchester City, but would be League champions if they won their remaining two games. Sadly, Woolwich Arsenal won 2-1 in the first of those games to deprive Everton of the League championship, for Everton won the Nottingham Forest game two days later. Newcastle United were champions with 48 points from 34 games, Everton were runners-up with 47 points and Manchester City were in third place, a point behind Everton.

In the close season, Everton embarked on their very first international tour. A party of 20 players and officials left Exchange Station for Budapest at 2.10pm on Thursday, 27th April. The journey took two full days, with overnight travel on the boat from Harwich to Hook of Holland and then on the train from Dresden to Vienna, finally arriving on the Saturday afternoon in Budapest, where they stayed at the Grand Hotel Royale.

The players who travelled were: Roose and Scott, goal; R. Balmer and Crelly, backs; Taylor, Booth and Abbott, halves; Rankin, McDermott, Young, McLoughlin, Settle and Hardman, forwards. Accompanying them were club officials Dr. Baxter, Dr. Whitford, and Messrs Baimbridge, Wade, Kelly and Cuff, as well as the trainer Mr. Elliott.

The day following their arrival in Budapest, Everton threw off any effects of their long journey from Liverpool to trounce local club side, Magyar Athletikai, 11-2.

The following afternoon, the party travelled by train to Vienna, where they played three matches. The first two, on 2nd and 5th May, were against First Vienna FC and an Austrian XI, both of which Everton won. Everton's first real test was on Sunday, 7th May, when they faced Tottenham Hotspur, who were also on tour. Some 7,000 spectators turned up to watch Everton beat Spurs and see them presented with a trophy in the shape of a tankard to commemorate their victory. Following a rest day in Vienna, the party travelled to Prague, where they defeated three local sides, before securing another win over Tottenham.

The players and officials arrived back at Lime Street Station in Liverpool on the afternoon of Friday, 15th May, following what club officials considered to be a very successful tour.

Bruce re-signed for the following season on the maximum weekly wage of £4.

1905/06 Season

Bruce played in the first match of the season on 2nd September against Middlesbrough at Goodison Park, as Sharp was unavailable because of his cricketing commitments with Lancashire CC. Everton won 4-1. Bruce had an excellent game, scoring Everton's third goal in the second half.

Sharp replaced Bruce in the next game, but he returned to the first team on 23rd September against Aston Villa at Villa Park at inside-right in the place of McDermott, who was dropped. Everton lost 4-0 before a crowd of 25,000. Bruce did not have a particularly good game, although he did hit the crossbar in the first half.

He was dropped from the first team again, and did not re-appear until 11th November when he replaced the injured Sharp against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Everton were losing by the only goal at half-time but were back on equal terms early in the second-half when Bruce went on an excellent run before passing to Settle, who equalised. Everton took the lead with quarter-of- an-hour to go, and then, four minutes from the end, Bruce scored direct from a corner. Despite conceding a goal in the dying seconds of the game, Everton won 3-2.

The following week, Bruce played at inside-left against Sunderland at Roker Park in what proved to be his last first team game for the Club. Everton lost 2-1 and Bruce did not play particularly well.

He played for the reserves until 27th January 1906. A few days later, West Bromwich Albion, who were then in the Second Division, entered into negotiations with Everton for Bruce's transfer. Eventually, the Everton Directors accepted an offer of £250 and, on 6th February, agreed to allow Bruce to go.

Bruce had been with Everton for four and a half seasons and, in that time, had made 37 League and one FA Cup appearances, scoring seven goals, as well as playing in a number of Lancashire Cup ties, friendly games and participating in the Club's first European tour.